Lemon Bars with Shortbread Crust

You only need 7 ingredients to make these lemon bars. The lemon curd filling is extra thick and creamy and sits on an irresistible butter shortbread crust. Always bake lemon bars at a lower temperature to avoid over-baking. They’re simply the best lemon bars and are perfect for picnics, bake sales, spring brunches, baby showers, and bridal showers.

Lemon bars with shortbread crust

Today I’m teaching you how to make lemon bars. I love this lemon dessert recipe so much that I published it in my 1st cookbook, Sally’s Baking Addiction. These are the best lemon bars and I don’t use that statement lightly. After 1 taste, I’m confident you’ll agree. Everyone needs this recipe.

The process is pretty simple and I’m walking you through each step in the video tutorial below. Pick up some fresh citrus and let’s get baking. Spring is in the air!

Lemon bars

Video Tutorial: Lemon Bars

These are classic lemon bars featuring a soft butter shortbread crust and a tangy sweet lemon curd filling that’s baked to the perfect consistency. The lemon layer is thick and substantial, not thin or flimsy like most other lemon bar recipes.

Only 7 Ingredients in these Lemon Bars

  1. Butter: Melted butter is the base of the shortbread crust.
  2. Sugar: Sugar sweetens the crust and lemon curd filling layers. Not only this, it works with the eggs to set up the lemon filling. If reduced, the filling will be too wet.
  3. Flour: Flour is also used in both layers. Like sugar, it gives structure to the lemon filling. These days, I add slightly more flour to the shortbread crust compared to my cookbook version. You can get away with 2 cups, but an extra 2 Tablespoons really helps solidify the foundation of the lemon bars.
  4. Vanilla Extract: I use 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract in the shortbread crust. Not many lemon bar recipes call for vanilla extract and I promise you it’s my best kept secret.
  5. Salt: Without salt, the crust would be too sweet.
  6. Eggs: Eggs are most of the structure. Without them, you have lemon soup!
  7. Lemon Juice: I highly recommend using lemon juice squeezed from fresh lemons. You can also use another citrus like blood orange, grapefruit, or lime juice.

Lemon bars crust and batter

Lemon bars with powdered sugar on top

How to Make Lemon Bars in 5 Steps

  1. Prepare the crust: Mix all of the shortbread crust ingredients together, then press firmly into a 9×13 inch baking pan. Interested in a smaller batch? See my recipe note.
  2. Pre-bake: Pre-baking the crust guarantees it will hold up under the lemon layer.
  3. Prepare the filling: Whisk all of the filling ingredients together. No cooking on the stove!
  4. Bake: Pour the filling on the warm pre-baked crust, then bake for around 20 minutes or until the center is just about set. I slightly increased the baking temperature from my cookbook version. Either temperatures work, but 325°F is preferred.
  5. Cool: I usually cool the lemon bars for about 1 hour at room temperature, then stick the whole pan in the refrigerator for 1-2 more hours until relatively chilled. They’re wonderful cold and with a dusting of confectioners’ sugar on top!

Prepared in only 2 bowls and a baking pan, clean up is a breeze. These lemon bars win 1st place every time because they’re the perfect balance of tangy and sweet. In fact, I made them for my friend’s baby shower last weekend and they were the first dessert to disappear. And that’s saying a lot considering the competition: homemade brownies and adorable animal cracker cookies. 🙂

Lemon bars

2 Guaranteed Tricks to Make the Best Lemon Bars

  1. Use a glass pan. Ceramic is fine, but glass is best. Do not use metal. I always detect a slight metallic flavor in the lemon bars when baked in metal pans.
  2. Use fresh juice. Store-bought bottles are convenient, but you miss out on a lot of flavor. You will definitely taste the difference! I have a super old citrus juicer, but I recently purchased this juicer for my mom and she loves it. Highly recommended.

White Air Bubbles on Top of Baked Lemon Bars

Do you notice air bubbles, perhaps even a white layer of air bubbles, on top of your baked lemon bars? That’s completely normal. It’s the air from the eggs rising to the surface. Some batches have it, some don’t. Regardless, the lemon bars taste the same and a dusting of confectioners’ sugar covers it right up!

Blood orange bars! See my recipe note about substituting flavors.

Lemon bars and blood orange bars

Want to kick it up a notch? Here is my lemon meringue pie recipe!

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Lemon bars

Lemon Bars

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 hours, 50 minutes
  • Yield: 24 bars
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

You only need 7 ingredients to make these lemon bars. The lemon curd filling is extra thick and creamy and sits on an irresistible butter shortbread crust. Always bake lemon bars at a lower temperature to avoid over-baking. See recipe notes for important tips. They’re simply the best lemon bars and are perfect for picnics, bake sales, spring brunches, baby showers, and bridal showers.


Ingredients

Shortbread Crust

  • 1 cup (230g; 2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups + 2 Tablespoons (265g) all-purpose flour

Lemon Filling

  • 2 cups (400g) granulated sugar
  • 6 Tablespoons (48g) all-purpose flour
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 cup (240ml) lemon juice (about 4 lemons)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F (163°C). Line the bottom and sides of a 9×13 baking pan* with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on the sides to lift the finished bars out (makes cutting easier!). Set aside.
  2. Make the crust: Mix the melted butter, sugar, vanilla extract, and salt together in a medium bowl. Add the flour and stir to completely combine. The dough will be thick. Press firmly into prepared pan, making sure the layer of crust is nice and even. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until the edges are very lightly browned.
  3. Make the filling: Sift the sugar and flour together in a large bowl. Add the eggs and lemon juice and whisk until completely combined.
  4. Pour filling over warm crust. Bake the bars for 22-26 minutes or until the center is relatively set and no longer jiggles. (Give the pan a light tap with an oven mitt to test.) Remove bars from the oven and cool completely at room temperature. I usually cool them for about 2 hours at room temperature, then stick in the refrigerator for 1-2 more hours until pretty chilled. I recommend serving chilled.
  5. Once cool, lift the parchment paper out of the pan using the overhang on the sides. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and cut into squares before serving. For neat squares, wipe the knife clean between each cut. Cover and store leftover lemon bars in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
  6. Freezing Instructions: Lemon bars can be frozen for up to 3-4 months. Cut the cooled bars (without confectioners’ sugar topping) into squares, then place onto a baking sheet. Freeze for 1 hour. Individually wrap each bar in aluminum foil or plastic wrap and place into a large bag or freezer container to freeze. Thaw in the refrigerator, then dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving.

Notes

  1. Glass Dish: Use a ceramic or glass pan. I always detect a slight metallic flavor in the lemon bars when baked in metal pans.
  2. Halve the Recipe: Halve each of the ingredients to yield around 12 squares in a 9×9-inch baking pan. Same oven temperature. Bake the crust for 16-18 minutes and the bars for 20 minutes or until the center no longer jiggles.
  3. Sifting: More often than not, the flour doesn’t fully incorporate into the lemon filling unless it’s sifted with the sugar. As directed in the recipe, sift the two together before adding the eggs and lemon juice. I don’t always do this (and didn’t even do it in the video above!) but it’s preferred to avoid any flour lumps. If you have a sifter, it’s worth using. If you forget, it’s not a huge deal. Here is my favorite sifter. You use it again to dust the lemon bars with confectioners’ sugar.
  4. Lemon Juice: For exceptional taste, I highly recommend fresh lemon juice. Here is a wonderful inexpensive juicer if you don’t have one. Or use another fresh-squeezed citrus like grapefruit, blood orange, lime, or regular orange. You can slightly reduce the sugar if using a sweeter citrus. I recommend no less than 1 and 2/3 cup granulated sugar in the filling as it’s needed for structure.
  5. Room Temperature: Bringing the eggs and lemon juice to room temperature helps them mix easier into the flour and sugar. However, I never notice a taste or texture difference when using cold. Room temperature or cold, use whichever!

From Sally’s Baking Addiction cookbook

Keywords: lemon bars

Lemon bars

708 Comments

  1. This was my first time making lemon bars and it couldn’t have gone smoother! I didn’t have vanilla in the house so I improvised with substituting with vanilla flavored oatmilk in the shortcrust and they turned out delicious. Taking these to share at work tomorrow and will possibly make more for myself

  2. I give this 5 stars for sure. Easy and delicious. I added some of the lemon zest to give it that extra lemon zing. They came out so delicious!!

  3. Curious, could this same recipe be used to make smaller 4” lemon tarts? If yes, what would the bake time be?

  4. Hi Sally! I love all of your recipes and absolutely adore anything lemon. I made this recipe exactly as stated but realized that after baking the lemon bars for 20 minutes they were still so runny. I popped them back in the over for another 8 minutes and I thought that would be perfect but after resting the bars still came out wet and too jiggly. I wonder if other readers are getting similar results with the 20 min. baking time plus some? When I will make these bars again, I will bake them no less than 33-35 mins! Just a heads up to the other readers.

  5. I’ve honestly never tried a lemon bar before…I usually go for the chocolate desserts! Well, these will have me reaching for other citrus desserts in the future…they were delicious! I will definitely make them again!

  6. Oh my! These are delicious. I cut the recipe in half – bit mistake. I made them earlier in the day and they are almost all gone! Guess I’ll just have to make more. Oh, and bonus – as long as I had fresh squeezed lemons, I made candied lemon peel. Sally, you’re the best!

  7. The lemon bars were super easy and quick! My favorite lemon recipe is your cooked lemon curd recipe and this is a very close 2nd best!

  8. This recipe was quick, easy, and delicious! I used to have a go-to lemon bars recipe but this one came together quickly and I loved the shortbread crust. Will definitely make again!

  9. I’ve been looking for “THE” Lemon Bar recipe for quite a while now, and here it is!! These were by far the absolute best. I see people asking about zest, because you really want that full lemon bite that should come with a tasty LB. trust this recipe, no zest required. Filling is beautiful smooth & creamy, and has the wonderful lemon bite. Another perfect recipe Sally, thank you!

  10. I made these and they were oh my gosh! They were the best lemon bars ever!
    The filling was super citrusy and the shortbread crust was so, so good I could eat it without the filling! I reduced the sugar a bit and it was great! For anyone else who is reducing sugar, I recommend reducing the lemon juice a little bit. It might be a little too sour.

  11. I love any recipe with lemon i tried it and it has an amazing test thank you for the share i wanna try it with oranges can you give me the sugar amount in grams thank you

  12. Absolutely delicious and I can’t believe how easy it is to make this. We really enjoyed March Baking Challenge, thanks again for yet another great recipe xx

  13. These lemon bars are delicious! I love that the curd layer does not have to be made on the stove and you use the whole egg. The buttery crust and sweet-tart curd are to die for!

  14. I madden these yesterday evening with my two toddlers. They turned out so delicious. Especially love the shortbread crust!

  15. These are sooo good! They were faster and easier than I expected and the perfect balance of tart and sweet.

  16. These were so good and dangerously easy! I made a lime variation, because it’s my fave citrus. They we’re pretty tart, but I love a good zing every now and then. I would love to try with grapefruit too!

    Here’s how they looked https://www.instagram.com/p/Bul4qfwnWa_/?utm_source=ig_share_sheet&igshid=1rdsa3a4bk5bb

  17. Made these on Saturday, never made lemon bars before so was super excited. However, maybe it was me but I think maybe I overbaked, they were very firm, a lot of pics look nice and soft. They also weren’t as yellow as some i’ve seen. The top was kind of whitish looking. Also.. anyone else think they smelled slightly eggy? They tasted very lemony but the smell kind of put me off.. maybe i’m not a lemon bar person.

    1. Hi Maria! Thank you so much for trying the recipe. It sounds like the lemon bars were over-baked. You can even try reducing the oven temperature to 300°F (149°C).

  18. I made key lime bars instead of lemon, and they were so good! My 6 year old gave them “two thumbs up!”

  19. These lemon bars are delicious! The shortbread crust goes so well with the sweet and tart lemon filling. We enjoyed them warm after an hour of cooling!

  20. Easy recipe that taste great! My first time making homemade lemon bars and everyone in the family love them. The tartness of the lemon was not too much and the shortbread crust is perfectly buttery. Such a fun baking challenge!

  21. Yes! I make lemon bars all the time and I can’t wait to try this new recipe that is for sure to work like all you other ones.

  22. These are the absolute best lemon bars I have ever made or tasted. The recipe was super easy to follow and baked up perfectly. Thanks Sally!

  23. Came out of the oven smelling and looking beautiful but as they cooled a big ugly split appeared right down the middle of the bar? Any idea what may have caused this? Baked for exactly 20 minutes. Tastes wonderful, just not as pretty as I had hoped!

    1. Hi Jenna! Lemon bars are egg-heavy, so if the mixture was over-whisked or over-beaten, there will be too much air trapped inside. Hence, the splitting. Likewise, if cooked eggs experience drastic temperature changes, they will create large cracks on the surface. (Think like cheesecake.) If you decide to try the lemon bars again, I suggest cooling completely at room temperature, then chilling in the refrigerator for about 1 hour.

  24. It was my first time making lemon bars but these are definitely the best tasting. I love how tart it is, and that it has a good thick crust. My coworkers loved it too!

  25. Such an easy recipe to make and it tastes amazing! Next time I make these bars I am gonna try it with the blood oranges.

  26. This was my second time making lemon bars. The first time I made them, I used an non-Sally recipe and they were TERRIBLE.

    I tried again with Sally’s recipe over the weekend and they turned out perfectly!!! Beautiful, tangy and tasty. I’m so pleased to have a new recipe in my arsenal.

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