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
The recipe came out as described meaning that every step was as expected thanks to your descriptors and notes. However it was SUPER sweet. I know bakery employees and pastry chefs look at me crazy when I ask “is the cake overly sweet?” But I know you understand and know what I’m talking about. There is a large amount of sugar in this recipe both for the crust and filling. Would reducing the sugar in the filling by about half affect the structure of the filling? If so could another egg yolk be added to make up for the sugar. Would greatly appreciate your suggestion as I hope to try making these again just not as overwhelmingly sweet.
Hi Becky, we’re glad you enjoyed these! You can slightly reduce the sugar if desired. We recommend no less than 1 and 2/3 cup granulated sugar in the filling as it’s needed for structure. No need to add another egg yolk.
Can I leave out the lemon stuff so it will just be a shortbread cookie?
Hi Eliana, here is our recipe for regular shortbread cookies.
I have made a lot of lemon bars in my time. But by far this is the best! thank you so much.
I have to say that these were divine. I followed the recipe to a tee and I would not change a thing!! Thanks so much for sharing this recipe!! This will be my go to recipe for lemon bars from now on!!
I love this recipe and have made it several times, but each time I make it, a white foamy layer forms on the top while it bakes. How do I prevent this from happening?
Hi Sara, if too much air is incorporated into the lemon filling mixture, it will bake up more foamy/spongey. Be careful not to over-mix or whip the filling when combining and be careful not to over-bake the bars. These tips should help! Some air bubbles are normal, see “White Air Bubbles on Top of Baked Lemon Bars” above. Thank you for giving these a try!
Simply the best I’ve ever tasted!! I sold upscale desserts for over 25 years and these are the very best!
I’m currently in the process of making these and the shortbread dough is very greasy. I measured the flour by weight rather than volume, so those might be misaligned. Has anyone else had a similar issue? I’m also using plant butter but I’ve used that extensively as a 1 to 1 with real butter without issue before.
Hi Matt! The dough can be a little greasy, but it bakes up beautifully. Did yours look like the shortbread dough in the video above? Make sure to let the butter cool before adding the other ingredients.
This recipe sounds delicious, I make a lot of lemon treats, my trick for deep lemony flavor is to press lemon zest into the sugar, especially when making lemon cookies.
I had some lemons languishing in the fridge and didn’t want them to go to waste, so I made these lemon bars. Only substitution was some tangerine juice because I didn’t have quite enough lemon. They turned out fantastic, and all my coworkers want to marry me now. Thanks for the great recipes!
Do you know if adding blueberries will mess up the lemon bars?
Hi Tina, we haven’t tested adding blueberries to these bars but let us know if you do! You may love these lemon blueberry cheesecake bars or this lemon blueberry tart.
I I am a huge fan and have learned and enjoyed so much that you’ve shared.
Please tell us what is YOUR liquid measurement for a large egg.
Can you substitute store bought Lemon Curd to pour over crust?
Hi Virginia, we don’t recommend it. Lemon curd is too thin and won’t bake up properly. Best to follow the recipe as written for best results!
I’ve made these a dozen times with my Uncle’s lemons shipped from Arizona. They are always requested every February.
I make a few changes: add lemon zest to both shortbread and filling.
I substitute 100% organic, cold pressed coconut oil for the butter in the shortbread and its wonderful!!
Thanks again for the recipe!!!
I’ve always shied away from lemon bars because they generally require a curd and it’s too time consuming. These, however, are amazingly easy and so delicious! My 9 year old and I baked them together. I even thought we over baked the bars, but after they cooled they turned out perfectly. Dare I say, better than any I’ve had at a bakery. Thank you, Sally for making this great recipe! I can’t wait to make them again!
Delicious!!!! I only had Ghee on hand and it worked great.
Crazy in love with this recipe. It’s a 11/10 from my entire family! Such a favorite among all of us. We bake a half batch in an 8×8 pan and they turn out perfectly every time. Thanks, Sally, for yet another hit!
This recipe was really good. I found it a little difficult to differentiate the timing of the shortbread and the filling. overall I thought it went well. Is there a way to store these for later?
Hi Carol, Cover and store them in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Or follow the instructions for freezing these bars. 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.
Used a glass 9x13in, in-oven thermometer stayed around 300F throughout the bake, but when I opened the oven at 20 min to check for jiggle I was hit by an overwhelming eggy smell. Might want to check on them earlier than later.
I have a question about the lemon filling. Other recipes that I have has baking powder in it but your recipe doesn’t. Why the difference?
Is it the same kind of “lemon curd” type filling? I haven’t seen a recipe with this same texture using baking powder. I don’t find it necessary. Flour helps thicken the filling; there’s no need for a leavener.
Hello Sally, my name is Erica and I work with adults with disabilities.
I am looking for a no bake lemon bar recipe that we can make together. I’m having difficulty finding an easy recipe, especially one without such heavy ingredients as cream cheese or condensed milk. I always get the best results and compliments with your recipes! Can you help us?
Thank you so much from myself and all of us at Hollister Day Program!
Hi Erica! Have you tried this recipe before? I do have a few lemon recipes with cream cheese and condensed milk, but this one doesn’t have either. There are quite a few eggs though. If you love lemon, here are all of the lemon recipes on my website.
Good recipe but the proportions were really off and nothing like the photo. I had a thick crust with a very thin lemon curd. I used the proper sized pan and measurements. Anyone know what causes this? I’ve never had this problem before. Still tasted great!
First time I made these the crust came out pretty soft for my taste. However, I have made these probably half a dozen times since, par baked the crust for closer to 26 or 28 minutes before pouring the filling on top–Perfection! Crisp, buttery crust with perfect curd every time. Love these!
The lemon bars came out tasting amazing. Perfectly sour and sweet with the buttery crust. It was a pretty quick and easy recipe. I only ran into one issue. My bars cracked in the baking pan as they cooled on the countertop. Is it my frigid apartment or something else I’m doing wrong?
Hi Julia, so glad you enjoyed them! Lemon bars are an egg-heavy dessert, like cheesecake, so they’re prone to cracking. They’re either cracking because the eggs are over-mixed (more air is whipped into the filling, then deflates causing the cracking) or they’re over-baked. One easy way to help guarantee no cracks, though, is to cool the lemon bars inside the oven. If you make them again, turn the oven off 1-2 minutes before the lemon bars have finished cooking. Crack open the oven door and let the lemon bars cool inside the cooling oven for 1 hour. Then remove from the oven and cool at room temperature. The slow cooling will help prevent cracks. Hope this helps!
How far in advance can I make these bars? They look great and I am excited to try them.
Hi Stacey, you can cover and store the lemon bars in the refrigerator for up to 1 week, or lemon bars can be frozen for up to 3-4 months. See final step in the instructions for more freezing details. Hope you enjoy them!
I am an aspiring baker, would love to bake fun things for my family, so I am just trying to figure out the basis. After I preface the crust I added the lemon mixture and then the crust separated from the bottom of the glass pan/parchment paper, floated up to the top of the mixture. So I ended up with crust mixed into the filling. I thought I followed your recipe strictly but I may have missed something obvious or implied given my lack of experience
Hi Yiri, make sure that you pour the lemon filling on the warm crust right after pre-baking. That will help it stick. Or try pre-baking the crust for a little less time so it’s not as “solid” before pouring on the filling. Hope this helps for next time, and thank you for giving our recipe a try!
In. Credible. These were so good!!! No changes except added the zest of my lemons to the filling and 1/2tsp of lemon extract to the base (my family likes a lot of lemon:). Halved the recipe and baked in a 8×8. Literally so good and so simple! I was looking for something to bring to a Super Bowl party and these are perfect. Thank you for another great recipe!
Best lemon squares ever! Add a 2 oz bag of freeze dried blueberries to the lemon curd mix and you have absolutely divine lemon blueberry squares! (Add the FREEZE dried berries whole – don’t crush.)
Absolutely delicious, although to me this is not the texture of a shortbread crust that would be made with cut in butter to the flour (rather than melted butter). If I hadn’t been expecting a shortbread crust, I would give this 5 stars. I also added the zest from the lemons I juiced. Flavor and sweetness of the filling was just perfect.
Hi Sally, I have made several versions of Lemon bars, this is the very best I have ever made. I did change the recipe a bit, I added the zest of two lemons and increased the lemon juice just a bit. Also used vegan butter to accommodate a guest it was a huge hit and two people asked for the recipe.
I have made this twice now. The first time was lemon, and I over-baked it, but it was still delicious. The texture was just a little thick.
The second time was half lemon and half lime. I didn’t bake it as long and the filling ended up being nice and gooey. The lemon lime is really good. I plan to try orange next time.