Easy Lemon Bars

5 from 1 vote

Nothing says summertime quite like citrus desserts! These Easy Lemon Bars are the perfect balance of lemon flavors and sweetness. This sweet treat has a buttery crust with a flavorful lemon filling that comes together quickly. This is a crowd-pleasing recipe you'll want to make all summer long!

Overhead photo of lemon bars dusted with powder sugar cut into squares.

Easy Lemon Bars Recipe

My love of lemon flavored everything is no secret around here. From lemon chicken, lemon orzo to lemon cupcakes, I'll pretty much take any excuse to use up our fresh lemons from our tree! Lemon shortbread cookies are another favorite... but I digress.

Until recently, I never could quite find the *perfect* lemon bar recipe. The key to the best lemon bars is simple ingredients that make up a buttery crust and lemon filling that is the perfect balance of sweet and tangy, and a recipe that can come together on a whim.

Straight on photo of lemon bar squares with powdered sugar arranged on a rectangular wire rack.

Why You'll Love This Recipe

This easy lemon bar recipe is sure to be a new favorite of yours! We have made these lemon bars countless times now and they just keep getting better every time! Here's why you'll love these lemon bars too!

  • This recipe makes 16 lemon bars - dessert bars perfect for sharing!
  • The lemon filling is the perfect balance of puckery and sweet.
  • Buttery shortbread crust has no rival. This crust was inspired by my pecan pie bars!
  • This lemon bar recipe has the perfect balance of thick buttery crust and delicious lemon filling so every bite is divine!

I have always loved lemon bars but I've found myself frequently disappointed by them when I buy them at coffee shops or have tried to make other recipes. So it was time to come up with my perfect lemon bar recipe.

lemon bar ingredients measured in bowls

Ingredients

Here is what you will need to make these easy lemon squares.

For the buttery, shortbread-like crust, you'll need:

  • all-purpose flour
  • granulated sugar
  • vanilla extract
  • unsalted butter

For the lemon filling, you'll need:

  • eggs
  • granulated sugar
  • powdered sugar
  • all-purpose flour
  • salt
  • fresh lemon juice
  • lemon zest
Overhead photo of lemon bars cut into squares.

Variations & Substitutions

Lemon juice: Freshly squeezed lemon juice really is the key to delicious lemon bars. Purchasing lemon juice will not have the same effect. Plus you'll miss out on the fresh lemon zest, which adds lemon flavor without the tartness of lemon juice. Both are key ingredients.

Citrus: One of the best parts about these citrusy delights is that you absolutely can make these into lime bars or orange bars!

Butter: If you only have salted butter, that will work fine! The amount of salt in the filling is minimal, so your bars won't taste salty. I wouldn't recommend substituting margarine or shortening as you won't have the same delicious buttery crust texture or taste.

Lemon filling being poured onto shortbread crust.

Have extra lemons? Be sure to check out this post for the best lemon desserts or how to freeze lemon juice.

How to Make Lemon Bars

Make the crust.

Butter and flour fully blended in glass mixing bowl.

Prepare a square pan by lining with parchment paper. Mix flour and sugar together in a bowl then use a pastry dough cutter to incorporate cold butter into the flour mixture.

Press the dough lightly into the lined pan to form a crust and bake until the edges turn slightly golden brown. The crust will be a bit sandy - this is okay! As the butter melts, it will create the crust.

While the crust is baking, prepare the lemon filling to pour over the hot crust.

Zest and juice lemons. Then make the lemon filling.

Eggs in a glass mixing bowl. Accented by additional ingredients in individual glass bowls.
Egg, sugar and flour being mixed in glass mixing bowl.

Use a citrus zester to zest your lemons then juice them! When zesting your lemons, you want to only zest the yellow part of the skin, not the white part underneath which can be bitter.

Hot Tip: When zesting your lemons, you want to only zest the yellow part of the skin, not the white part underneath which can be bitter.

Combine eggs, sugars, flour, salt, lemon juice, and zest in a bowl, whisking until well blended.

Egg, sugar and flour completely mixed in glass mixing bowl.
Shortbread crust in a parchment paper lined baking dish. Lemon filling in the corner in a glass mixing bowl.

Allow the filling to rest as the crust bakes until most of the bubbles dissipate, about 10 minutes or so.

Once the crust is baked, pour the lemon mixture over it while still hot, then return to the oven and bake until the top sets.

Overhead photo of cooked lemon bars in parchment paper line baking dish.
Overhead photo of lemon bars cut into squares.

Cool completely before slicing.

After removing from the oven, transfer the bars to a cooling rack and let them cool completely before cutting with a sharp knife. Prior to serving, dust the bars with powdered sugar. Refrigerate any leftovers in an airtight container for several days.

Tips for Success

These lemon bars truly are as easy as it gets. Even so, here are a few little things to keep in mind that will help make these perfect every time.

Use a pastry cutter or two forks to cut the butter into the flour mixture. Try to have even pea-sized butter pieces so that it distributes the buttery taste evenly while baking. If your butter is too large, you can break the pieces apart with with your fingers as well.

Be sure to pour in your lemon filling while the crust is hot as this helps cook the lemon filling evenly.

Three lemon bar slices stacked on top of a wire cooling rack.

Make sure to let your lemon bars cool completely. Trust me, I know it's hard to be patient when you want to dig into these beauties. But it's worth the wait! You can stick them in the fridge for an hour to help speed up the cooling process.

The material of your pan affects the quality of your bake! I used a ceramic pan for these lemon bars, but you may need to adjust the time of your bake if you are using a glass or metal pan. Learn more in this post by baking expert Handle the Heat: Glass vs. Metal Baking Pans - Which is better?

As always, using the highest quality ingredients you can find and afford is a way to enhance these even more. We used grass-fed butter and organic cane sugar for these bars.

How To Store

After cooling and slicing into the lemon bars, you will want to store them in the fridge. Put the parchment paper back in your baking pan and store them there covered with foil or in an airtight container for up to one week.

FAQ

What can I do with a bunch of lemons?

The options are endless! Make a lemon marinade for chicken or pork, zest the lemons and freeze the zest, or pour the lemon juice into ice cube trays to freeze for later. There is no need to ever waste a lemon!

How long will lemon bars last?

Lemon bars will last for up to one week in the fridge. Store them in an airtight container or cover your baking dish with foil.

What is lemon bar crust made of?

Lemon bar crust is made from all-purpose flour, butter, sugar and vanilla.

How do you make lemon bars not stick to the pan?

Prepare your pan by lining it with parchment paper. This will keep your pan clean and make it easy to take out the bars to slice them.

Can you use aluminum foil instead of parchment paper for lemon bars?

You can use aluminum foil instead of parchment paper for lemon bars. Use nonstick foil or spray the foil first before pouring in your crust.

Close up, horizontal photo of one lemon bar arranged with a folded piece of parchment paper on top of a small gray plate.

More Bar Desserts for Sharing

More Lemon Recipes

Three lemon bar slices stacked on top of a wire cooling rack.

Easy Lemon Bars

Easy Lemon Bars are the perfect summer treat! These bars are bursting with lemon flavor and have the perfect level of complimentary sweetness. Even layers of buttery crust and sweet lemon filling make each bite a dream!
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 16 bars
Author: Madison Wetherill

Ingredients

Buttery Crust

  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • ¾ cup 12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes

Lemon Filling

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • teaspoon salt
  • cup lemon juice
  • Zest from one lemon

Instructions

  • For the Crust
  • Preheat oven to 400º.
  • Lightly grease a 9x9-inch pan and then line it with parchment paper.
  • Mix together flour and sugar in a medium sized bowl.
  • Using a pastry dough cutter or two forks, cut butter into flour mixture until butter is the size of peas and mixed throughout.
  • Bake for 20 minutes until the edges are just beginning to brown.
  • While the crust is baking, prepare the lemon filling. You'll pour this in while the crust is still hot!
  • Lemon Filling
  • Whisk together the eggs and sugars and whisk until smooth. Add the flour and salt, then the lemon juice and zest, and whisk until thoroughly combined.
  • Let the filling sit while the crust is baking until the bubbles mostly disappear (about 10 minutes).
  • While the baked crust is still hot, pour the lemon topping over it. Return the bars to the oven and bake until they appear set and dry on top, about 30 minutes.
  • Remove the bars from the oven and place them on a wire cooling rack. Let them cool completely before slicing (at least an hour). Just before serving, sprinkle the top of the bars with powdered sugar.
  • Store any leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Nutrition

Serving: 1g | Calories: 159kcal | Carbohydrates: 33g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 2g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 48mg | Sodium: 37mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 20g
5 from 1 vote (1 rating without comment)

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