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Perfect Lemon Bars

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These Lemon Bars are the quintessential party dessert, baking up perfectly sweet while still lemony and tart. Very few, simple ingredients are needed to make this recipe from scratch and they always are the first to go at any get-together. 

Lemon Bars stacked on top of each other on a white plate

The Perfect Lemon Bar Recipe

The trouble with lemon bar recipes on the internet is finding the right one with that perfect balance between the buttery and sweet shortbread crust with the gooey, tart, and sweet (but not too sweet) very lemon filling. There aren’t that many variables, but not having enough lemon juice or even too much can give you lackluster lemon bars. It’s taken me a little time to get there, but we made it and today is the day you all get this fabulous lemon bar recipe that (hopefully) won’t let you down.

Let’s Talk Lemons

I want you to have the best possible results, so let’s talk lemons, shall we?

Do I have to use fresh lemon juice?

Yes! If you want that super tart and sweet balance that lemons bars are known for, you need to use the real stuff. Please please please don’t use the kind from the bottle!

How many lemons will I need?

There are large and small lemons on the market and all will yield different amounts of juice. I would recommend getting 3 large lemons for this recipe to juice. I usually am ok with just two, but sometimes you get a less juicy lemon and will need to top off your half cup with an extra squeeze from that third one.

cut lemon bars in a parchment paper lined baking dish

Shortbread Crust

These lemon bars are keeping things classic with a shortbread crust. I really love using powdered sugar in the shortbread base because its finer texture makes the shortbread a little more tender which works perfectly with the slightly gooey and sticky lemon filling. Mix that with some softened salted butter, flour, and some vanilla for flavor and you’ve got yourself a killer base.

If you’re not into shortbread feel free to make the base something you like. I think a sugar cookie base would be yummy or something like a graham cracker crust but made from golden Oreos or Nilla wafers. The possibilities are endless!

Can I Double this Lemon Bar Recipe?

Yes! The recipe as written is meant for a square 8×8 or 9×9 baking dish. If you’d like to double it, bake in a 9×13 pan. The pan is not exactly double but works perfectly fine.

lemon bars stacked on top of each other on a white plate

How to Make Lemon Bars

For full details on how to make lemon bars, see the recipe card down below 🙂

Prep and Preheat

Spray 8×8 or 9×9 square glass baking pan with nonstick cooking spray and line parchment paper (optional). Lightly spray parchment with more cooking spray and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Do I have to use a glass pan?

No, but I would strongly recommend it. Metal pans tend to give off a metallic flavor to the bars after baking, so to avoid that, bake in a glass dish.

Make Shortbread Crust

In a medium-sized bowl, mix butter, flour, powdered sugar, and vanilla until a dough starts to form. If you notice the dough not coming together, your butter may be too cold. Mix with your hands so the heat from your hands can help bring the dough together. 

Bake Crust

Press dough evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake 12-15 minutes or until edges are barely golden brown.

Make Lemon Filling

While crust bakes, make the lemon filling. Whisk sugar together with lemon juice, eggs, and flour. Once the crust is done baking, pour lemon filling over the hot crust.

Bake, Cool, and Garnish!

Bake 20 minutes or until set. Cool completely, cut into squares and top with powdered sugar.

Why do I have a thin, white layer on top of my lemon bars after baking?

These are air bubbles that got caught in the lemon filling! Having these air bubbles show up on top of your baked lemon bars is completely normal! It won’t change the taste and is nothing that a little extra powdered sugar can’t cover 😉 

lemon bars stacked on top of each other on a white plate

Storing Lemon Bars

I like storing my lemon bars in an airtight container in the fridge. When you pull them out, you may need to add another light layer of powdered sugar, but besides that, they should last a good week in the fridge (if you don’t eat them all first!)

Freezing Instructions

This lemon bar recipe can be made ahead of time by freezing it for up to 3-4 months.

To Freeze. Cut the cooled bars (without powdered sugar) into squares, then place them onto a baking sheet. Freeze for 1 hour. Individually wrap each bar in aluminum foil or plastic wrap and place them into a large plastic bag to freeze.

To Serve. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight, then dust with powdered sugar right before serving.

top down view of lemon bars on a white plate

More Lemon Recipes to Make!

Pin/print/bookmark/save this recipe! It’s such a good classic to have around. The printable recipe card is down below, enjoy 🙂

Classic Lemon Bars

This Lemon Bar Recipe is the quintessential party dessert, baking up perfectly sweet while still lemony and tart. Very few, simple ingredients are needed to make this recipe from scratch and they always are the first to go at any get-together. 
servings 16 bars
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
Total Time 50 mins

Ingredients

For the Shortbread Crust:

For the Lemon Filling:

Instructions

  • Spray 8×8 or 9×9 square glass baking pan with nonstick cooking spray and line parchment paper (optional). Lightly spray parchment with more cooking spray and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • In a medium-sized bowl, mix butter, flour, powdered sugar, and vanilla until a dough starts to form. If you notice the dough not coming together, your butter may be too cold. Mix with your hands so the heat from your hands can help bring the dough together. 
  • Press dough evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake 12-15 minutes or until edges are barely golden brown.
  • While crust bakes, make the lemon filling. Whisk sugar together with lemon juice, eggs, and flour. Once the crust is done baking, pour lemon filling over the hot crust.
  • Bake 20 minutes or until set. Cool completely, cut into squares and top with powdered sugar.

Nutrition

Calories: 144kcal | Carbohydrates: 22g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 15mg | Sodium: 51mg | Potassium: 16mg | Sugar: 14g | Vitamin A: 175IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 3mg | Iron: 0.5mg
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: how to make lemon bars, lemon bar recipe, lemon bars

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Recipe Rating




58 Responses
  1. Anne

    5 stars
    I made these Sunday and they are appropriately titled “Perfect” lemon bars as they are! Scrumptious!!! Thank you Lauren for another awesome recipe! Good luck with your pregnancy.

  2. Marilyn Brennan

    5 stars
    I wanted to make some of these recently but couldn’t find my recipe. Now I see this has JUST been put out so I’m excited about that! Thank you!

    1. Kirsten

      This might be a silly question but If I doubled this recipe should I double the baking time as Well for both crust and filling?

      1. Lauren

        No, don’t double the baking times. If anything you’ll have to add an additional 5-10 minutes to ensure the filling is set, but that’s it!

        1. Christie Thomas

          I have a doubled batch in the oven just now. I have added an additional 15 minutes and they still aren’t done. Any ideas? The first batch I made, a single batch, came out perfectly.

  3. Stephanie

    5 stars
    This is the Mary Poppins of Lemon Bars- practically perfect in every way! The shortbread crust is the perfect compliment to the tangy lemon flavor. Thanks for making this recipe for me Lauren 😉

  4. Cindy Wilcox

    5 stars
    Hands down, my favorite dessert. I always want these whether it be the heat of the summer or freezing winter. I LOVE lemon bars!

  5. Michelle G.

    Lemon bars are one of my favorite desserts and I love that this makes a smaller batch than my usual recipe! I can’t wait to try them!

  6. Bethany Stimpson

    5 stars
    Made this recipe and loved it. Perfect amount of shortbread to lemon. An old recipe that I’ve used had lemon zest and I was worried these might not be lemon-y enough. But, they really were perfect. Thank you!

  7. Bethany

    2 stars
    Tasted very egg-y. Luckily I was only making these for fun. I think I will stick to the Betty Crocker recipe that uses less eggs. Darn.

    1. Lucy

      2 stars
      Really wanted to love these but they were a miss. I likely overcooked them since I was using a 9×9 pan but I wasn’t a fan of how eggy they were. I think 2 would have made them perfect.

  8. Christi M

    1 star
    Sorry, these were not good. I followed the recipe exactly with powdered sugar and juice from 2 fresh large lemons.
    They were so bitter! We were taking them to a potluck dinner. My husband said not to take them they are too tart!
    I am going to have to stop at the grocery store and buy something ready made.

    1. Jackie Scott

      Bitter? If recipe was followed they were perfect balance of sweet and tart. Thanks Lauren. My fiancé loved them!

  9. Susan

    5 stars
    Extremely delicious and easy – 1st time making Lemon Bars. Such a difference from store brought. It took 35 mintutes in my oven as its slow.I have a lemon tree. Many thanks for the recipe.

  10. Pam

    3 stars
    The crust qas amazing but the filling was off too much lemon actually burnt our throats had to buy store made as this was for a party

  11. Laurel brownscombe

    Messed that one up. When pouring in the lemon mixture it made the shortbread flip up. There was nothing I could do about it so am still baking it hopefully it will come out edible

    1. Patricia G

      That happened to me too! They are still in the oven. So we’ll see what they turn out like. Most other recipes do cook the shortbread base for longer so I wonder if the time is a typo…as someone mentioned. Oh well live and learn.

  12. Lauren Ponzoni

    5 stars
    Absolutely delicious!
    Thank you for such a quick and easy recipe.
    Just subscribed, can’t wait to check out the rest of the recipes!

  13. Sandy

    5 stars
    Just made these as a quarantine treat. SO GOOD. Could not believe I had made a dessert this good. Will be making more

  14. Anna mcgarry

    5 stars
    Geez..i moved to virginia beach from Vegas to kick a terrible drug and alcohol problem..instead of going to the “betty ford clinic”…after baking constantly from all your delicious recipes i now need to check myself into “betty crocker clinic”…gained much needed weight. Thank you..i mean it..thank you!!!

  15. Julie May

    4 stars
    I’d give 4.5 stars if allowed. Thought this was a very good recipe, and was quite tasty. But I LOVE a stronger lemon flavor, and would not waste that lemon zest! I added 1/2 teaspoon of lemon zest from those lovely fresh lemons to amp up the lemon. Next time I’ll add more!

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    […] – Perfect Lemon Bar Recipe My sister shared this recipe with me, and it was quite a delight. Made with a buttery shortbread […]

  17. Elizabeth

    5 stars
    Delicious! Because of the pandemic, I couod only use 1 lemon plus Nellie & Joe’s Key West Lemon Juice. ( I never use any othe brand)
    I gave some to my neighbors and they said told me they were the best lemon bars ever!

  18. Shriti Das

    5 stars
    I have been obsessed with lemon bars during the lockdown because lemons are easily available and we are out of vanilla essence for other desserts! I have tried 4 recipes so far and this is has turned out the best and is also the easiest! I would prefer the sugar to be slightly less as the bars a little too sweet for my liking and I did not even dust them with sugar. But again, I do like my desserts less sweet. But otherwise, this recipe is perfect.

  19. Ana

    5 stars
    I made these today and the only thing I did different was add lemon zest to the filling and OMG they are sooo good! Thank you for sharing this recipe.

  20. Mary

    5 stars
    This is a great recipe, I used a 9 x 9 glass dish with parchment and they lifted very nicely. I only made two tweaks – I added roughly a tablespoon of lemon zest and used pastry flour in place of all-purpose flour. I find the latter gives it a slightly more richer crust. Ideal balance of tangy and sweet, perfect for spring!

  21. Jacob @ Flavorthyme

    5 stars
    Lemon bars are at the top of my list of all time favorite desserts and these look fantastic! Cannot wait to try it, I’ve already started my instacart order.

    1. Sandra Watson

      5 stars
      I am 50, and made these for the very first time ever. Shame on me, because they are amazing!! I doubled my batch and cooked the crust and the bars longer. I was worried because I wasn’t quite sure what “set” meant. It jiggled when I removed it from the oven, but set perfect while cooling. I always loved lemon squares growing up, so glad I FINALLY made them.

  22. Amy

    5 stars
    I’ve only used the recipe for “Lucy’s Lemon Squares” from the Peanuts cookbook I got at age 8 – in 1968. After all these years, I have a new recipe. Sorry Lucy, but Lauren’s Perfect Lemon Bars have bumped you out of first place in my house!

  23. Phuong Thao Duong Pham

    5 stars
    We are addicted to these delicious lemon bars now. Thank you very much for sharing this amazing recipe.
    I have a problem of keeping the icing sugar on top of the bars. The icing sugar disappeared after I put them in the fridge.
    Do you have any tips for me?

  24. Lexie

    5 stars
    So glad I tried this recipe! These came out perfect, I added an extra tablespoon of lemon juice and a layer of lemon zest on top 🙂

  25. Judy

    5 stars
    These were delicious!!! Better than the ones I buy at my favorite gourmet bake shop. Can I use almond flour? My grandkids need gluten free.

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