Easy lemon bars are made with a simple shortbread crust and gooey lemon filling. Dust the squares with powdered sugar and enjoy!
Lemon bars are a dessert that my mom has perfected. She has used this recipe for years and family and friends beg for more. The shortbread crust is pillow-y soft and the lemon filling is gooey and sweet. All you need are a few basic ingredients to make these lemon bars!
This lemon bar recipe creates all the right textures all while being simple enough to master. This recipe is similar to Ina Garten’s, but made in a 9×9 pan and with less lemon juice. In my opinion, too much lemon juice makes the bars too gooey and don’t cut cleanly. The zest makes up for the lemon flavor!
Step by step instructions
Lemon bars call for the following ingredients: flour, butter, confectioners’ sugar, granulated sugar, baking powder, salt, eggs, lemon juice and lemon zest.
- Make the shortbread crust. Beat flour, butter and confectioners’ sugar on medium speed using a hand mixer. Press dough into a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake at 350° F for 18 to 20 minutes.
- Make the lemon bar filling. Whisk granulated sugar, flour, lemon zest, baking powder and salt together. Add eggs and lemon juice. Use a hand mixer to beat until frothy.
- Bake the lemon bars. Pour the filling over the crust and bake at 350° F for 25 minutes. Cool completely and dust with confectioners’ sugar.
A good shortbread crust is soft, but sturdy to hold filling. This crust does both and pre-baking the crust is key. After 18 to 20 minutes in the oven, the crust sets and becomes golden. Another secret is using confectioners’ sugar as opposed to the typical granulated sugar. The crust becomes extra smooth and buttery—the perfect base for the lemon filling.
Lemon bars require a gooey filling, but not so gooey that they loose structure. The lemon juice makes a nice gooey consistency, while the eggs and flour help the bars keep their shape. Eggs and a touch of baking powder give the bars rise, which may (or may not) result in bubbles. A dusting of confectioners’ sugar will cover that right up!
How to store lemon bars
Store lemon bars in an airtight container at room temperature for a few hours or in the refrigerator for up to three days. If you’d like to keep lemon bars for longer, consider freezing them.
Do lemon bars need to be refrigerated?
Yes, lemon bars should be refrigerated overnight or for up to three days. They have a custard-like filling on top, which requires chilling. However, the bars may be kept at room temperature for a few hours if you are serving them at a party or dinner gathering.
Can you freeze lemon bars?
Yes, you can freeze lemon bars. Once they are cooled, remove the bars from the pan and do not cut. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, then aluminum foil to prevent freezer burn. Bars will last up to three months in the freezer. Let bars defrost in the refrigerator before cutting, dusting with powdered sugar and serving at room temperature.
More recipes with lemons
If you love a good citrus dessert, consider these lemon recipes. They are delightfully sweet and refreshing!
- Lemon raspberry scones have fresh lemon flavor that complements raspberries nicely.
- Lemon poppy seed bread is an easy quick bread bursting with citrus flavor.
- French madeleines are made with lemon zest for authentic flavor.
- Homemade lemon curd – A Spicy Perspective blog
And there you have it. A few tricks of the trade to making perfect lemon bars. Thanks, mom 🙂
Easy Lemon Bars
- 1 cup (125 g) all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup (113 g or 1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/4 cup (30 g) confectioners' sugar
- 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- Dash of salt
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten and room temperature
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, strained
- Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
- Preheat oven to 350° F. Line an 8×8 baking pan with parchment paper and spray with nonstick cooking spray.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour, butter and confectioners' sugar with a mixer until combined (about 2-3 minutes). If the mixture doesn't come together, add 1/2 teaspoon of water. Press mixture into the prepared pan. Bake 20 minutes, or until light brown and fragrant.
- In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, flour, lemon zest, baking powder, salt until combined. Add eggs and lemon juice. Beat until frothy, about 2-3 minutes.
- Pour lemon filling over the crust (it's okay if the crust is still warm). Bake 25 minutes longer or until light golden.
- Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. Use parchment paper to lift bars out of the pan. (If they don't lift, run a sharp knife around the edges of the pan.) Dust bars with confectioners' sugar and cut into 2-inch squares. Serve at room temperature or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days.
- Can you use store bought lemon juice? I do not suggest using store bought lemon juice. The lemon flavor will not be as fresh and strong.
- Can you bake lemon bars in a glass baking dish? Yes, however be sure to use parchment paper or grease the pan so the bars don’t stick.
- High altitude adjustments: The shortbread crust will likely be dry. Add a teaspoon of water to the dough so it comes together.
- Storing lemon bars: Store lemon bars in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Lemon bars keep at room temperature for a few hours.
- Freezing lemon bars: Once the bars have cooled completely, wrap the entire bar in plastic wrap, then aluminum foil. Freeze on a flat surface for up to 3 months. Defrost in the refrigerator before dusting with confectioners’ sugar, cutting and serving.
- Kitchen scale: Weighing your ingredients is more accurate than measuring them.
- Hand mixer: I own this model. It makes mixing, quick, easy and reliable.
- 8×8 baking pan: This pan is a staple when is comes to baking bars.
- Lemon zester: This handy tool makes zesting easy. It also works for ginger, nutmeg, parmesan and chocolate.
- Lemon juicer: Make juicing easy with this juicer that has a built in strainer.