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. These came together so easily and I’m blown away by how delicious the bars are! Another winner, thanks Sally!

  1. Delicious recipe! Mine was more of a sweet lemon than tangy, so next time I will add some zest, but still very tasty. Also, I think I had small lemons because I needed 5 lemons instead of 4.

  2. I loved this recipe! A few people said it was a bit too tangy/tart, but overall it was delicious. Yum! ; )

  3. This was a great recipe! I loved how easy it was to make and the fresh lemon taste. Thank you for another great recipe!

  4. I made these for a taco party and they were a hit! I think I could have baked both the top and bottom layer a minute longer because both were soft, but no one seemed to mind. Will be making these again!

  5. These are the perfect combination of refreshing and sweet! A perfect way to prepare for spring!

  6. So those of you who find American sweets too sweet, I reduced the sugar in the shortbread by half and in the topping by 1/3 and I still feel that I could have reduced the sugar in the topping more, next time I will try by half. I didn’t experience any problem regarding the structure, I baked mine 20min and it was perfect.
    But apart from that this is a really yummy recipe, super easy, super quick and I tried it with lime, delicious!

  7. These are so good and smooth. I never thought to use a glass baking dish….and it does make a difference. This recipe has the right balance sweet and tangy. I did add about a tsp of lemon peel powder for a little extra pucker! E-mailed and posted the photo.

  8. Absolutely delicious! I had an epic fail on my first attempt- the crust wasn’t fully baked and then when I poured the lemon liquid it flooded under the parchment paper. I ended up having to bake my 2nd crust for a little longer than called for (dang oven temps!) and it was smooth sailing after that!

  9. I made a half recipe and used lime juice and tequila instead of lemon juice to make margarita bars. They were delicious! Perfectly tart filling and perfectly buttery crust. I can’t wait to try them again with grapefruit juice!

  10. Another amazing recipe Sally!
    These lemon bars are lusciously delicious, the lemon is beautifully creamy and tart, and the shortbread with the added vanilla is perfection.
    I did add a tablespoon of zest, because we do like them tart, and I used vanilla bean paste in the crust.
    I’ve been searching for a lemon bar recipe for years and am so happy I finally found The One!

  11. Thank you for all the great recipes. This one is a winner in our family. We are all crazy for lemon or lime flavor. My sisters and I get your postings and rush to be the first to make your wonderful treats. We live in different states but we are connected by your recipes. *****

  12. I made these yesterday afternoon, both the lemon and blood orange variation and they were SO easy to make and crazy delicious! My husband is not usually enthusiastic, if I ask him how he likes something he will just shrug and say “it’s good” but he actually raved about these! He loved them and so did I. The lemon ones are by far our favourite of the two but they are both amazing. I even sent the link to my brother and told him to make them because he loves lemon anything. I will certainly make them again 🙂

  13. This was my first time making lemon bars. It was so easy and tasty! The lemon filling was smooth and with a bright lemon zing. Of course it didn’t disappoint – it’s a sally recipe. I will definitely be adding this to my favorites collection. These are perfect for Spring!

  14. This lemon bar recipe is great! The shortbread crust goes perfect with the lemon curd, and the recipe is very easy! Sugar, lemon, and cookie – perfect combination!

  15. I made lime bars. They were good, but the filling was just a bit soft, probably could have gone another 2 min in the oven. The taste is nice and summery

  16. This is such an easy and fantastic tasting recipe. I’ve never made anything like this before and it’s been on my baking bucket list for a while. I didn’t have lemons so I did mine with oranges and boy oh boy was i bown away… I’m definitely making these with lemons my next time….

  17. Simply the best lemon bar recipe out there. It’s not too sweet or tart. The shortbread crust makes a great foundation, great ratio to filling. I didn’t get a weird mouth feel like other recipes. Ditch the box and grab a few lemons for a perfect springy dessert. I’ll be making these frequently.

  18. These were so easy and sooooo delicious!! The lemon filling was amazing, so fresh tasting!! I am so happy I found this recipe, it will be a good go to for events and its perfect for the upcoming Spring!! Thanks Sally!

  19. Such an easy recipe and so delicious. Even my son loved them and he doesn’t usually like lemon in anything. I will definitely make these again. They slice up so nicely too.

  20. One word….PERFECTION! Lemon is my absolute favorite flavor and these did not dissapoint! Great lemon flavor with the right amount of sweet and tart. And the that shortbread crust was

  21. I really liked this recipe! The filling was delicious. I had trouble with the crust though. Mine was somehow both chewier (richer maybe?) than I wanted and too hard in the middle. I’m wondering if I overbaked it. Overall though my house really liked the end results and I had a lot of fun making them!

    1. Hi Sarah! If the crust tasted hard, it sounds like it was overbaked (with or without the lemon filling on top). I’m so glad that you all loved the lemon bars though!

  22. Amazing as always! I always look here first for any baking recipe. Why bother with untried/untested recipes when I know I can rely on Sally’s!

    I did have to bake my shortbread crust layer for 25 minutes, but I think with my gas oven I need to let it preheat longer than when it says it’s ready.

  23. Instead of lemon, I used fresh squeezed oranges as that is what my guys prefer. These bars go together quickly and easily. They scream spring with their fresh citrus flavor and buttery shortbread crust. A keeper for sure!

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