Lemon Bars

published Mar 17, 2024

You’ll definitely be team lemon bar once you taste these.

Serves16

Prep15 minutes

Cook30 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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Whether you bring lemon bars to a potluck or a bake sale, you’ll likely be met with a combination of utter glee and a declaration that “you know lemon bars are my favorite.” With its buttery shortbread crust and  tangy lemon topping, lemon bars are bright, balanced, and have a wonderfully creamy texture (if done right). Even though I’m team lemon bar, I’ve never developed my own recipe. For this, I wanted to create a bar that had the right crust-to-topping ratio (which I discovered is about 1:3 in my book), delivered enough tangy lemon flavor, and wasn’t too sweet. 

Why You’ll Love It

On my quest to create the perfect lemon bars, I tried many different techniques and proportions, but ultimately settled on an easy-to-execute recipe with a few simple tweaks.

  • I call for making the crust with lemon-infused sugar, which carries more lemon flavor through every bite.
  • I also add salt to both layers to temper the sweetness.
  • All in all, these lemon bars call for only a handful of pantry staples and come together in under an hour. They’re so good that even self-proclaimed non-dessert people will get on board with this sweet.
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: Brett Regot

Key Ingredients in Lemon Bars

  • Lemons. I used 5 large lemons for this recipe. If you are unsure of the size, buy more than you need to make sure you have enough for the filling. (You can also easily swap the lemon juice and zest with any type of citrus juice of your choosing like grapefruit, lime, or orange.) 
  • Butter. Using unsalted butter ensures that you can control the salt levels in the bars and prevent them from being too salty. 
  • Sugar. This recipe calls for both granulated and powdered sugar. While it may be tempting, wait to dust the lemon bars with powdered sugar until right before serving or it will dissolve into the bars. 
  • Flour. All-purpose flour is used in both the crust and the topping of these lemon bars. In the filling, the flour acts as a binder to keep the lemon topping in place. 

How to Make Lemon Bars

  1. Make the crust. Rub the sugar with lemon zest before making the crust to infuse it with lemon flavor. Then, cream the butter and add the flour and salt until a crumbly dough forms. Press the dough into a parchment paper-lined 9×9-inch baking pan
  2. Bake the crust. Parbake the crust until the edges look just golden. 
  3. Make the filling. While the crust is baking, make the filling. Whisk the eggs, lemon juice, sugar, flour, and salt together until smooth. It’s important to pour the filling onto the hot crust so that the lemon bars set properly. 
  4. Bake the lemon bars. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake until the topping is just set.
  5. Let cool completely. Let the lemon bars cool to room temperature before transferring them to the refrigerator to chill.
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: Brett Regot

Storage and Make-Ahead Tips

The bars can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week. To freeze, wrap in plastic wrap, place in a freezer-safe container, and freeze for up to 4 months. Thaw in the refrigerator for 1 hour or at room temperature for 15 to 20 minutes. Dust with powdered sugar before serving. 

If You’re Making Lemons Bars, a Few Tips 

  • Pour the filling onto the crust while it’s hot. The key to ensuring properly set lemon bars is to pour the topping right over the crust as soon as it comes out of the oven. The heat from the crust and pan creates an environment where the curd will set evenly and quickly, without creating a gloopy mess. 
  • Don’t stress if they aren’t the prettiest. The top of the lemon bars might not look completely smooth when coming out of the oven, but don’t fret — they’ll get covered in powdered sugar before serving, creating a clean look. 

Lemon Bars Recipe

You’ll definitely be team lemon bar once you taste these.

Prep time 15 minutes

Cook time 30 minutes

Serves 16

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the crust:

  • 1 1/2 sticks

    (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter

  • 1

    large lemon

  • 1/4 cup

    granulated sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1 3/4 cups

    all-purpose flour

For the filling and serving:

  • 4

    large eggs

  • 5

    large lemons (one is from the crust)

  • 1 1/2 cups

    granulated sugar

  • 1/3 cup

    all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • Powdered sugar, for dusting

Instructions

  1. Place 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter and 4 large eggs on the counter. Let both sit at room temperature until the butter is softened.

Make the crust:

  1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350ºF. Line the bottom and all 4 sides of a 9x9-inch square baking pan with 2 sheets of parchment paper, positioning them perpendicular to each and hanging over all four sides by at least 1 inch to form a sling.

  2. Finely grate the zest of 1 large lemon into the bowl of a stand mixer (or large bowl if using an electric hand mixer). Add 1/4 cup granulated sugar and use your fingers to rub the zest into the sugar until fragrant.

  3. Add the butter and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt to the bowl of butter. Beat with the paddle attachment on medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a flexible spatula.

  4. Add 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour. Beat on medium speed until fine crumbs of dough form, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Transfer to the baking pan and use your hands to press into an even layer.

  5. Bake until the crust is light golden-brown around the edges, 15 to 22 minutes. Meanwhile, make the filling.

Make the filling:

  1. Crack the eggs into a medium bowl and whisk until beaten. Finely grate the zest of 1 large lemon (about 1 tablespoon) into the bowl.

  2. Juice the zested lemon plus 4 more as needed until you have 3/4 cup. Add the juice, 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt to the bowl of eggs. Whisk until smooth. Sift 1/3 cup all-purpose flour over the mixture and whisk until smooth and combined.

  3. When the crust is ready, immediately pour in the filling while the crust is hot. Bake until the filling is just set with a slight wiggle in the center, 18 to 20 minutes. Place the pan on a wire rack and let cool for about 1 hour. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours or up to overnight.

  4. Grasping the excess parchment, lift the slab out of the baking dish and place on a cutting board. Cut into 16 pieces, dipping the knife in hot water and wiping it dry between each cut for the cleanest-looking pieces. Right before serving, place some powdered sugar in a fine-mesh strainer and generously dust over the lemon bars in an even layer.

Recipe Notes

Storage: The bars can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week. To freeze, wrap in plastic wrap, place in a freezer-safe container, and freeze for up to 4 months. Thaw in the refrigerator for 1 hour or at room temperature for 15 to 20 minutes. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.