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.
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!
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
- Butter: Melted butter is the base of the shortbread crust.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Salt: Without salt, the crust would be too sweet.
- Eggs: Eggs are most of the structure. Without them, you have lemon soup!
- 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.
How to Make Lemon Bars in 5 Steps
- 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.
- Pre-bake: Pre-baking the crust guarantees it will hold up under the lemon layer.
- Prepare the filling: Whisk all of the filling ingredients together. No cooking on the stove!
- 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.
- 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 chewy brownies and adorable animal cracker cookies. 🙂
2 Guaranteed Tricks to Make the Best Lemon Bars
- 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.
- 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.
Want to kick it up a notch? Here are my lemon meringue pie and lemon cheesecake recipes.
Craving lots of texture with your bars? You’ll love my lemon crumble bars.
Plenty of lemon recipes to love on my site including these lemon crinkle cookies!Print
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 40 minutes
- Total Time: 3 hours, 50 minutes
- Yield: 24 bars
- Category: Dessert
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: American
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.
- 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 (spooned & leveled)
- 2 cups (400g) granulated sugar
- 6 Tablespoons (46g) all-purpose flour
- 6 large eggs
- 1 cup (240ml) lemon juice (about 4 lemons)
- optional: confectioners’ sugar for dusting
- Preheat the oven to 325°F (163°C). Line the bottom and sides of a 9×13 glass baking pan (do not use metal) with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on the sides to lift the finished bars out (makes cutting easier!). Set aside.
- 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 20-22 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned. Remove from the oven. Using a fork, poke holes all over the top of the warm crust (not all the way through the crust). A new step I swear by, this helps the filling stick and holds the crust in place. Set aside until step 4.
- Make the filling: Sift the sugar and flour together in a large bowl. Whisk in the eggs, then the lemon juice until completely combined.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Special Tools (affiliate links): 9×13-Inch Glass Pan | Glass Mixing Bowls | Spatula | Silicone Whisk | Juicer | Fine Mesh Sieve
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
Keywords: lemon bars
Reader Comments & Reviews
Looking forward to trying this recipe! Just wondering if there was a reason lemon zest wasn’t used as well? Thanks.
Hi Cherry, We prefer super smooth lemon bars here, but you definitely can add zest. We recommend 1-2 Tablespoons of lemon zest.
Hello! For some reason I can only read 5 reviews out of the 2000+. Can you please guide me to how I can read the others? Thanks!
Hi Amy, you can click the page numbers (in little circles) at the bottom of the comments section to see all the pages of comments. There are 40 at this time.
I already made some lemon curd and want to use it in a recipe. Can I use it here for the filling and just add some flour?
Hi Maja, we don’t recommend that. Lemon curd is too thin and won’t bake up properly. Best to follow the recipe as written for best results!
Hi Sally. I have made these lemon bars many times and they’re absolutely positively delicious (a hit everywhere I take them) however, the last few times, the shortbread crust was hard and crunchy. I am following the directions and definitely not over baking it, so I can’t figure out what I’m doing wrong. Any idea?
Hi Trish, we’re so glad you love these lemon bars! A hard crust could be caused by too much flour in the crust. How did you measure the flour? Make sure to spoon and level (instead of scooping) to avoid packing in too much flour into your measuring cups – or use a kitchen scale. You can read more about properly measuring baking ingredients in this post.
I really like your site and your recipes! However, I’d like to point out a grammar issue – I know I’m a pain….I think it should be spooned and leveled or spoon and level.
Keep up the great work you are doing!
I’m also a grammar nerd. No need to hang your head. I used to correct magazines in the doctor’s office.
Great easy recipe! Any reason not to use this recipe in a tart pan?
Hi Arlene! That should be OK. We’re unsure of the best bake time. If you’re using a 9-inch pan, you’ll have enough for 2 thin tarts. Or you may love our lemon tart recipe instead (you can leave off the blueberry swirl).
This is the only recipe I use! I’m an avid baker and have tried other recipes! This is the best! FUN TIP: you can make this a one bowl recipe! After miking the crust, wash that bowl quickly(doesn’t have to be perfectly clean) and use it to mix the filling! One bowl used!
The filling was amazing – finally a lemon bar that’s lemony enough for me! I was disappointed in the crust though. I’m not sure whether I overmixed it, underbaked it, or both, but I found it to be pale, overly dense, and generally underwhelming. I used the halved recipe but followed the ingredients and steps exactly. Next time I’ll try mixing a little less or mixing in some unmelted butter, and also baking it longer, until the whole thing is dark rather than the edges just starting to brown.
Love the lemon bars. Can I substitute the lemons with oranges.
Hi Pat, see recipe notes for orange and other citrus versions!
I’ve made this recipe 3-4 times and it’s always a hit. But I’m wondering if I can add cream cheese frosting to them?
Hi Diane, it might be a bit messy to spread cream cheese frosting on top, but you can certainly give it a try (or even pipe it on!)
How come there are only 6 TBSP of flour in the filling? Many other comparable recipes have 1 C of flour in the filling. I’m just wondering what the reason is and how this makes them differ from other similar recipes.
Hi Erin, I missed your question earlier this month. I haven’t tried any recipes with 1 cup of flour in the filling. I expect bars made with that much flour have a much firmer, even cakey-style lemon layer. These are soft and gooey, almost like a slightly solidified lemon curd.
AMAZING!! I’m definitely a lover of all things lemon and these are the best. It was my first time making these and they turned out perfect. My oven runs hot so I baked the crust for 15 minutes and the filling for 18 and they’re simply perfect. Thank you for another great recipe Sally!!
I love this recipe ! I just have trouble cooking the filling. Every time I add extra time but it’s still gooey when I serve it and it taste kind of eggy
Hi Megan, Lemon bars are meant to be on the gooey side. If the lemon bars taste eggy, they were likely over baked so we wouldn’t recommend putting them back in the oven. If you decide to make them again, we’d recommend slightly decreasing the bake time. Thank you for giving this recipe a try!
Nothing special. No better than any other recipe for lemon squares.
This is an easier recipe than I’ve used in the past. I have these same sieves, but granulated sugar is too large of a grain to go through the holes, as is table salt. I end up whisking the sugar and flour together thoroughly, and this seems to work. Like another reviewer, I also use lemon zest in the filling for an extra lemony taste. The old recipe called for sieving the curd to remove the zest, but I never did, and the zest was not detectable. Most recipes for lemon bars use an 8″ X 8″ square pan, and I just doubled the recipe, but now I have one expressly for the 9″ X 13.” Thank you for another 5-star recipe!
The filling was waaay too sour and I say that as a person who loves sour things. I might try the recipe again but with either more eggs or less lemon juice (1 cup was definitely an overkill, the bars were so sour it was unpleasant to eat them).
The cooking times in the recipe were also too short. The crust needed an extra 5 minutes and the filling needed an extra 10.
I have made this recipe before and it came out great. This time I am trying it with Splenda instead of sugar
The filling seems a little runny. Maybe the Splenda changed the consistency??
Hi Cindy, We’d love to help but we are not trained in baking with sugar substitutes. For best taste and texture, we recommend sugar in this recipe.
My bars ended up with a eggy layer on the top. I’d initially thought it was because I overmixed the egg, so I tried again but had the same results. Could this be due to the temperature/leaving it too long?
Hi Mel, if the lemon bars taste eggy and have a slightly eggy layer on the top like you mention, they were likely over baked. If you decide to make them again, we’d recommend slightly decreasing the bake time. Thank you for giving this recipe a try!
This was very, very good. I was so happy with the results. It will definitely be my go to for lemon bars.
I did cut the sugar down by a half cup, from two cups to one, and they were still plenty sweet enough.
This recipe was absolutely delicious! I am going to add some lemon zest next time to see if I can get a stronger and tangier lemon flavour. Thanks for sharing this recipe!
Would this crust work for banana cream pie in a 9×13?
I’m sure it could! Let me know if you try it.
I use this crust for pumpkin squares too. These are the best lemon bars I have ever had. Friends went crazy over them.
When cutting this down for an 8 by 8 or 9 by 9, cut down the recipe by 2/3, not 1/2. Halving it is just too little for the pan and the filling becomes hard and rubbery because it is so thin. Cutting it to 2/3 allows for a thick-enough crust and a lovely, unctuous lemon curd.
For some reason the top came out dark not nice and yellow like yours. Did I bake too long, too high a temperature? The taste was there just didn’t like the brown top. It was almost like egg on the top.
First time baking these and they were fantastic!
Can you sub in lemon curd instead of juice?
(Btw, Love your recipes!! They always turn out amazing!)
Hi Bri, Lemon curd (store bought or homemade) is too thin and won’t bake up properly. Best to follow the recipe as written for best results!
Can you do this substituting your strawberry purée. For the lemon juice?
Hi Kathy, we haven’t tried it so we’re unsure of how the bars would set up with that substitution. We do have a recipe for Lemon Strawberry Crumb Bars that you might be interested in.
Was wondering what to do with the extra strawberry purée I made. I may try and let you know how it turns out.
How many calories are these bars? Would 1 cup of sugar instead of 2 in the filling make a huge difference in the taste?
Hi Danielle, We don’t usually include nutrition information as it can vary between different brands of the same ingredients. Plus, many recipes have ingredient substitutions or optional ingredients listed. However, there are many handy online calculators where you can plug in and customize your exact ingredients/brands. Readers have found this one especially helpful: https://www.verywellfit.com/recipe-nutrition-analyzer-4157076
You can try reducing the sugar in your next batch, but we recommend no less than 1 and 2/3 cup granulated sugar in the filling as it’s needed for structure. Let us know what you try!
Question…I plan on doing a mini dessert tier tray with holiday muffin tins. All desserts are mini muffin sizes. Is there anyway to do mini lemon bars in a muffin tin? This recipe looks great hopefully it will work. Thanks!
Hi Ashley, we haven’t personally tried it but we’re sure you can! We recommend that you use mini cupcake liners so that they are easier to remove from the pan. You can also try to push the dough up the sides of the muffin tin to create the cups, if they don’t maintain their shape you can always press the middle down right after they come out of the oven. Let us know how it goes!
I’ve made this twice. Very tasty, but for some reason when I cut into it I discovered that the crust was on top! Maybe the oiliness from the butter helped the crust slip and rise up whilst the curd was cooking?
Bizarre! It means the texture’s a bit off. But still very tasty and the first time I made them they were perfect! I love this website!
Hi Courtney, Usually when the bars end up inverted it’s because we either over-baked the crust, or let it cool for too long. We have, however, found an easy trick to help prevent this. If you ever want to try this recipe again, use a fork to poke holes into the warm crust after you take it out of the oven. This helps the topping stick to it and holds the crust in place (below the filling). Hope this is helpful!
I have had this happen. It was always because I let the crust cool. You need to add the lemon filling while the crust is hot. I now put it on the crust within minutes of taking the crust out of the oven.
Lemon Upside-down bars -still yummy. The filling soaked through the crust because I had to wait before putting it in the oven. I poked the crust, but maybe that just helped the filling soak through.
Taste is very good. Cooking times listed seem way too short. Lemon filling does Not seem to cook enough to be firm on top. Very messy when cutting apart.
Best lemon bars ever! I followed the recipe, except I added 1 tablespoon zest to the lemon layer. I put the zest in my food processor along with the flour and sugar and didn’t need to sift, which is a major pain for me. These were a special request from a neighbor and he flipped over them. Will definitely make again, this is now my go-to for lemon bars. Thank you Sally for another incredible recipe.
Absolutely adore this recipe, it turns out perfectly every time without fail, even with gluten and dairy free substitutes! My favorite thing to bring to parties
What gluten and dairy free ingredients worked for you in this recipe?