The best Lemon Bars EVER. A buttery shortbread crust, a luscious lemon filling that is equal parts sweet and tart all topped with a generous dusting of powdered sugar make this classic lemon bars recipe a tried and true favorite. Love lemon desserts? Make sure to try my No Bake Lemon Pie and Lemon Cookies!
This post is sponsored by Challenge Dairy.
The Best Lemon Bars. Period.
There is nothing more perfect than homemade lemon bars. Equal parts sweet and tart with a fairy dusting of powdered sugar that makes them a true work of art.
When I see a plate of lemon bars at a party, it’s the first thing I go for. That’s why I love to serve them at pretty much every family gathering, holiday and party. They are loved by everyone and it never fails that I get asked for the recipe when I share with friends and family.
For larger crowds and bigger parties, I’ll cut the lemon bars into smaller squares or double the recipe.
Classic Homemade Lemon Bars
There is much to be said about lemon bars. Sweet. Tart. Great for parties. Gorgeous. And oh-so easy to eat.
The key elements of a lemon bar recipe should include the following:
- A simple shortbread crust. The crust is is buttery and tender and pairs well with the lemon filling.
- A proper crust to filling ratio. Too often I have seen recipes with equal parts crust and filling and it makes me want to cry. That tart lemon filling is errrrrything and deserves to be the star of the show.
- Lemon curd filling. The tart lemon layer is the perfect complement to the slightly sweet shortbread crust and dusting of powdered sugar. It’s thick and creamy and bursting with bright lemon flavor.
Easy Lemon Bars
Not only is this recipe the best, it’s also incredibly easy. I am a no fuss kind of baker and this easy lemon dessert is a go-to for me. I’ve made these bars hundreds of times in my life, tweaking as I go to ensure that the recipe I’m sharing with you today is nothing short of perfection.
Lemon Bar Ingredients
You are about to pleasantly surprised at the short list of ingredients needed to make these lemon bars. I’m always amazed at the bold, bright, lemony flavor in these bars. As always, you can find the full, printable recipe card at the end of this post but let’s take a quick look at what you’ll need for this recipe:
For the Shortbread Crust
- all purpose flour – make sure you spooned and level your flour for just the right amount.
- powdered sugar – I love using powdered sugar in the crust because it creates a beautiful texture and lightly sweet flavor. Granulated sugar can be used if you prefer.
- cornstarch – makes the shortbread crust SO tender. Can be omitted if you prefer.
- salt – for flavor and balance.
- unsalted butter – melted butter for a an easy-peasy buttery crust that tastes amazing. Make sure to use a high quality butter for this recipe like Challenge Butter – it’s the best!
- vanilla extract – adds all the flavor we need for this shortbread crust.
I used Challenge butter in this Lemon Bars recipe because it’s the best. Hands down. Made with 100% real cream, it’s my butter of choice for baking. I’ve been using Challenge products my whole life and trust their products. I know the quality is outstanding and the flavor is amazing!
For the Filling
- granulated sugar – the amount may seem like a lot but trust me, it’s just the right amount to balance the tartness of the lemons.
- eggs – large eggs which will give the lemon curd filling it’s structure and bright yellow color.
- all purpose flour – this helps to thicken the filling.
- freshly squeezed lemon juice – use ripe, blemish free lemons for the best flavor. This is the most important ingredient in this recipe.
- half and half – adds creaminess to the bars. Heavy cream or whole milk can be used instead.
- lemon zest – optional but adds a punch of lemon flavor. Use a fine mesh sieve to strain out the zest before baking for best flavor.
For the Topping
- powdered sugar – to sift on top of cooled bars just before serving. Optional although it adds a nice touch of sweetness as well as makes the bars look beautiful as well.
How To Make Lemon Bars
Once you’ve made these lemon bars, you won’t be able to stop! I’m confident this easy lemon bars recipe will quickly become a family favorite. This is a classic that belongs in everyone’s dessert repertoire. Let’s take a look at how easy it is to make them:
For the Shortbread Crust
- Preheat oven to 325°F.
- Line a 13 x 9 inch baking dish with parchment paper. Be sure to leave enough of an overhang for easy removal of the lemon bars.
- Prepare shortbread crust. Combine all purpose flour, powdered sugar, cornstarch and salt in a large bowl. Add melted butter and vanilla extract and stir just until combined.
- Press crust into pan and bake. Press the crust mixture evenly on the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Bake for 18 to 22 minutes in the preheated oven.
For the Filling
- Prepare lemon filling. In a large bowl, whisk eggs and granulated sugar together. Add the flour and whisk until no lumps remain. Whisk in the half and half, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Do not over mix!
- Pour filling over hot crust and bake. Carefully pour the filling through a fine mesh sieve if you have one and bake until the center is just about set.
- Cool and chill. Cool completely at room temperature and then transfer to the refrigerator to chill until firm.
- Cut and serve. Cut into bars and dust with powdered sugar.
- Storing. Store leftovers bars in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Baking the lemon bars at a lower temperature allows the lemon curd filling to set up gently and eliminates the over-browning and baking that can occur at higher temperatures.
Variations To Try
- Lemon Bars with Graham Cracker Crust: If you don’t want to mess with this easy shortbread crust, you can make a graham cracker crust instead.
- Use another citrus. Try orange or lime in this recipe. Orange bars can use slightly less sugar, go for 1 2/3 cups.
Lemon Bar FAQs
Yes, the do and they definitely taste best cold. Lemon bars can be set out at room temperature for several hours though so they are great for parties!
Yes! Let cool completely, then cut into squares. Flash freeze on a baking sheet for 30 minutes. Wrap individual bars with plastic wrap and place in a freezer bag for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator and dust with powdered sugar before serving.
Yes, orange and lemon work great in this recipe! For orange bars, use 1 2/3 cups of sugar.
Trish’s Tips for the Best Lemon Bars
- Use fresh lemon juice. Whenever possible, use fresh lemon juice as it does make a difference. The flavor is better, fresher, more lemony.
- Don’t over-mix the lemon curd filling. Over-whisking can cause air bubbles to appear in your filling. It creates a white layer on top of the bars which, while harmless and covered by the powdered sugar, can be easily avoided with mixing just until the filling is combined.
- Place the baking dish on a large, rimmed baking sheet for easy removal from the oven.
- Use a glass baking dish for these easy lemon bars. Ceramic also works but steer clear of metal as it tends to give the bars a metallic taste.
More Lemon Desserts To Try
- Lemon Curd Recipe
- Lemon Strawberry Trifle
- No Bake Lemon Pie
- Lemon Rice Krispie Treats
- Easy Lemon Cookies
- Lemon Meringue Cookie Cups
- Lemon Zucchini Cake
- Perfect Lemon Blueberry Scones
How To Make Lemon Bars
- 2 cups all purpose flour spooned and leveled
- ½ cup powdered sugar can also use granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter melted (2 sticks)
- 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
Lemon Bar Filling
- 1 ¾ cups granulated sugar
- 5 large eggs
- ¼ cup all purpose flour spooned and leveled
- ¾ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ¼ cup half and half heavy cream or whole milk
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- ¼ cup powdered sugar to sift on top of cooled bars just before serving, optional
- Preheat oven to 325°F. Lightly spray a 13 x 9 inch glass baking dish with cooking spray and line with parchment paper. Be sure to leave enough of an overhang for easy removal of the lemon bars. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine all purpose flour, powdered sugar, cornstarch and salt. Add melted butter and vanilla extract and stir just until combined.
- Press the crust mixture evenly on the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Bake for 18 to 22 minutes or until the edges are starting to turn a very light golden brown.
- While the crust is baking, prepare the lemon curd filling. In a large bowl, whisk eggs and granulated sugar together. Add the flour and whisk until no lumps remain.
- Whisk in the half and half, lemon juice, and lemon zest.
- Carefully pour the filling over the hot crust – through a fine mesh sieve if you have one – and return to the oven to bake for an additional 20 to 24 minutes or until the center is set. (Test by tapping the edge of the baking dish to see if the center jiggles at all.)
- Let the bars cool completely at room temperature and then transfer to the refrigerator for another 2 to 3 hours minimum. I prefer to let them chill overnight.
- When ready to enjoy, lift the bars out of the baking dish using the parchment overhang. Cut into bars and dust with powdered sugar. Enjoy chilled!
- Store leftovers bars in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
- To avoid lumps, sift the flour, powdered sugar and cornstarch together for the crust.
- Likewise, sift the flour before adding to the filling.
- Pour the filling through a fine mesh sieve onto the hot crust to ensure no lumps in your lemon bars.
- Wipe the knife clean between cuts for clean edges on your bars.
- Use a fine mesh sieve or my favorite tool, the dusting wand, to dust on powdered sugar.
- Use a juicer to make quick work of the lemons.