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Homemade Lemon Bars, also known as Lemon Squares, are a super sweet and tart bar cookie.
The base is a rich and delicious lemon flavored buttery shortbread crust. The mixture on top is a creamy and heavenly lemon custard made from fresh lemons. The ratio of lemon to shortbread is perfect. A favorite among lemon desserts, this is the best lemon bar recipe you will find!
Why this recipe works
Classic lemon bars are always a hit. There’s just something about a crisp shortbread crust covered with a tart lemon filling that will make you smile!
- Simple ingredients: Lemons, eggs, butter, flour, and sugar are all that you’ll need!
- Perfect balance between sweet and tart. These lemon bars are definitely more on the tart side. There is definitely a sweetness to them, but the sour punch hits you first. Sort of like a Lemon Head candy, only a million times better.
- Perfect size. I structured the recipe so that they would cook perfectly in a 9×9 inch square baking dish. There are a lot of recipes out there that call for a 9×13 inch baking dish that seem to produce squares that are thin. My preference is for thick, tall lemon bars.
- The best ratio. My recipe has a thicker layer of lemon curd filling than shortbread. This was intentional because I really wanted the lemon layer to shine. I even added the lemon zest to the simple shortbread crust to ensure every last morsel was overflowing with lip-smacking make-your-mouth-pucker lemon flavor.
These are really easy to make. This recipe consists of two parts: the shortbread crust and the lemon layer.
- Butter: I always bake with unsalted butter since salt can always be added, if desired.
- All-purpose flour
- Lemon zest: I use a microplane which works perfectly to remove the zest
- All-purpose flour
- Eggs: Always use fresh, high-quality large eggs
- Lemon juice: Freshly squeezed is always recommended but bottled will work
How to make lemon bars:
Make Shortbread Crust
- Mix Dough. To make a perfectly sweet yet light and flaky shortbread crust, you must start with room temperature butter that gets whipped until light and fluffy. You can use a stand mixer with the paddle attachment to cream the butter. Then add in the sugar and beat the mixture until it is well mixed. Finally, you’ll add the flour and the lemon zest and mix just until all of the flour appears to be somewhat coated with the butter.
- Parbake Crust. You will line a 9×9 baking pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Bake crust until it just starts to turn golden brown. This may take 20-25 minutes.
Prepare Lemon Filling and Bake
- Mix ingredients. While the crust bakes, you can mix together the lemon layer ingredients by hand using a large bowl and a whisk. Start by mixing the dry ingredients, flour and sugar, and then mix in the eggs and fresh lemon juice.
- Bake. Pour the tart lemon custard layer right on top of the warm crust. Then continue baking in the oven for another 20-25 minutes. They are done when the luscious lemon filling no longer jiggles.
Slice and Serve
- Chill. After you remove the lemon bars from the oven, transfer the pan to a wire rack allow them to cool to room temperature. Then, place them to the refrigerator to chill.
- Slice. Lift the lemon bars out of the pan and set onto a cutting board. Generously dust with confectioners’ sugar. Use a large sharp knife to make clean slices, and cut into individual servings.
Cooking tips for best results:
- Lemon zest and juice: Always zest your lemons before you juice them. If you juice them first, the zest will be more difficult to remove.
- Bake with parchment: Line a 9×9 pan with parchment paper, or a foil lined parchment, so that the finished bars easily lift out of the pan once done baking. This makes it easy to transfer them to a cutting board for easy cutting. Parchment paper also makes clean up a breeze. If you don’t have parchment paper, foil will work.
- Make them pretty: Sweetened and dried lemon slices added during the final minutes of cooking make these delicious lemon bars even prettier. I used to buy them at Trader Joe’s, however they have since been discontinued. A dusting of powdered sugar is a must.
- Lemon varieties: Regular lemons that are available year-round work well in this recipe. Meyer lemons are less acidic, slightly sweeter, and their zest is more aromatic. Either standard or Meyer lemons will work, however my preference is to use Meyer lemons.
- Baking pan: You can use a metal, glass, or ceramic baking pan. Keep in mind that cooking times may vary, and the baked crust will be ready to come out of the oven faster in a metal pan than it would a ceramic or glass pan.
Lemon bars should be stored in an air-tight container and refrigerated. To prevent a skin from forming on top, place plastic wrap directly on top of the lemon squares.
You can enjoy them cold or allow them to come to room temperature before eating.
More lemon recipes to love
If the undeniable fresh flavor of lemon tickles your taste buds, then you should consider making some of these sweet and savory lemon inspired recipes!
- Lemon Curd
- Creamy Lemon Pasta
- Lemon Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes
- Strawberry Rhubarb Lemonade
- Lemon Cupcakes
- Lemon Meringue Pie
- Lemon Pepper Chicken
If you’ve made this or any other recipe on my site, let me know in the comment section how it turned out. I love hearing from my readers!
Homemade Lemon Bars
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
Mix and bake crust
- In a medium bowl or your stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream butter until light and fluffy. Add the sugar and beat until well blended. Add flour and lemon zest and blend just until a crumb mixture forms.
- Press into the bottom of an ungreased parchment lined 9×9 inch pan. Bake shortbread for 20-25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until firm and golden.
Make filling and bake
- While the crust is cooking, whisk together the remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar and 1/4 cup flour in a separate bowl. Whisk in the eggs and lemon juice. Pour over the baked crust.
- Bake for an additional 20-25 minutes. If adding sweetened dried lemon slices, press them into the top a few minutes before the baking is complete. Remove from oven and allow bars to cool to room temperature.
Chill and slice
- Transfer pan to the refrigerator and allow bars to chill. The bars will firm up as they cool.
- Once chilled, remove from pan. Optional: dust with powdered sugar.
- To serve, cut into nine 3-inch squares for large lemon bars or 16 smaller 2-inch squares.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
This recipe was originally published in January 2018 and has been updated with helpful information, ingredient and process photos, as well as recipe tips. Don’t worry – the recipe hasn’t changed!