Kitchn Love Letters

I Could Eat an Entire Pan of Joanna Gaines’ Lemon Bars

published Jul 17, 2021
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someone holding a lemon bar in their hands.
Credit: Andrea Kaufman

It’s hard to put into words just how much I love these lemon bars, but here’s my best attempt: They are extremely easy to make; strike the perfect balance of sweet and tart; have the flakiest, butteriest crust; and bake up with candied edges (be prepared to fight over them).

I could easily eat an entire pan of them in one sitting (and when I made them recently, I kinda did … ). I can’t stop making them and I can’t stop eating them.

Credit: Andrea Kaufman

How to Make Joanna Gaines’ Lemon Bars

The recipe comes from Joanna Gaines’ Magnolia Table cookbook. It’s the first cookbook I ever purchased for myself (solely for her chocolate chip cookie recipe, which I found on The Kitchn a couple of years before I started working here). 

Making them is simple: Mix flour, powdered sugar, salt, and melted butter with a fork to make the crust. Then, bake for about 20 minutes until browned at the edges. In the meantime, whisk together lemon juice, sugar, and eggs. Pour it over the crust and bake for 15 minutes uncovered and then for another 15 minutes with aluminum foil tented over the pan. Dust with powdered sugar and let cool completely before cutting (this is arguably the hardest step).

Credit: Andrea Kaufman

The lemon bars come out with a flaky, buttery crust and a perfectly gooey sweet lemon filling — not too tart and not too sweet. The lemon flavor is on the mild side, so if you have people in your life who do not enjoy lemon, this is a perfect starter recipe. Personally, I like them a bit more lemony, so I started adding lemon zest to the lemon filling for a little extra zing.

And now, the crust. As the bars bake in the oven, the edges get dark brown and develop this beautiful caramelization. After my first bite, it became clear to me that the crust deserves its own moment. So instead of cutting them into bars, I now separate the middle from the edges, and then pull out the crust pieces to have as my own snack. Or I would, if they weren’t immediately stolen by my family as soon as I put them on a plate. They’re like candy. 

Ever since I first made these lemon bars, this recipe has become my go-to. I’ll make them for occasions like my friends’ birthdays or Mother’s Day, but also just for fun or if I need to stress bake. I made a batch to bring along on my family’s beach vacation and they were gone within the first couple of days. 

Credit: Andrea Kaufman

Here’s What My Family Has to Say

My parents wax poetic about these lemon bars — quite literally, in my dad’s case. I asked him if he wanted to add anything about this recipe and he sent me the following poem:

Lemon bars are tart and sweet
They make a great summer treat
Cut them in squares, serve them chilled
Covered with powdered sugar, no need to have them filled.
Some like the ends best of all
Eat them now, don’t wait for the fall.

Mom: “Love every inch of them, but especially the pieces with the surrounding crust. The crunchy, partially caramelized crust is the perfect counterpoint to the creamy tart filling.”

Sister: “Really effing good.”

At Kitchn, our editors develop and debut brand-new recipes on the site every single week. But at home, we also have our own tried-and-true dishes that we make over and over again — because quite simply? We love them. Kitchn Love Letters is a series that shares our favorite, over-and-over recipes.