Classic Lemon Bars
These Classic Lemon Bars feature an easy homemade shortbread crust with a sweet and tangy lemon filling. These bars are easy to make and perfect for lemon lovers!
Is there anything more beautiful than a lemon bar coated with a dusting of powdered sugar?
I originally posted this homemade lemon bar recipe back in 2017. While it’s still the exact same delicious recipe, I’ve updated the post with more step pictures and better instructions so that you can easily master these lemon squares in your own kitchen.
The filling for these easy lemon bars is the perfect balance of sweet and tangy and it’s topped on an easy homemade shortbread crust that literally melts in your mouth. Since the bars need to be stored in the refrigerator, they’re also a wonderful recipe to prep ahead of time!
Ingredients For This Recipe
These homemade lemon squares have two components: the shortbread crust and the tart lemon filling. Here’s what we’ll use to make the shortbread crust:
- Flour: When it comes to measuring your flour, make sure to spoon it into the measuring cup and level it off with the back of a knife. Too much flour can lead to a super dry and crumbly crust.
- Granulated Sugar: There’s only 1/2 cup of sugar in the crust since the lemon filling uses some too.
- Cornstarch: The cornstarch is the secret ingredient that keeps the crust soft! If you don’t have any on hand, just replace it with an equal amount of flour.
- Salt: Since we’re using unsalted butter, you’ll want to add a little salt. If you’re using salted butter, just omit the salt completely.
- Unsalted Butter: You’ll want to set your butter out early so it can come to room temperature. Once you whisk together all of the dry ingredients above, you’ll cube the butter and cut it in with a pastry cutter or a fork until the mixture is nice and crumbly.
And for the filling, we’ll use:
- Granulated Sugar: I find that 1 and 1/2 cups is the perfect amount to make these bars sweet, but still maintain the tanginess. If you love super tangy bars, feel free to reduce the sugar slightly.
- Flour: This will help to thicken the filling so you can easily slice these into bars!
- Lemon Juice: You’ll need 1/2 cup of fresh lemon juice, which is equal to about 4 medium lemons or 2-3 larger lemons.
- Eggs: It’s best to use room temperature eggs, so they’ll whisk together better. If you forget to set them out ahead of time, just place them in a bowl of warm water for about 10 minutes.
How To Make Lemon Bars
These classic lemon bars start off with an easy shortbread crust, which is just a simple mixture of flour, sugar, cornstarch, salt, and unsalted butter. Once you’ve mixed up the crust, you’ll press it into a 9×13-inch pan.
You will need to bake the crust for about 20-25 minutes before adding the filling. The top of the crust should be set and the edges should be lightly browned like the picture above. Once the crust is done, set it aside for 5-10 minutes while you prepare the lemon filling.
For the lemon filling that goes on top of the crust, you’ll whisk together some sugar, flour, lemon juice, and eggs. Here’s my number one tip for the filling: Make sure to use a sturdy whisk and mix it together really well. This will help prevent pieces of scrambled eggs from ending up in your lemon bars. Yikes!
Then, just pour the lemon filling onto the warm crust and return it to the oven to bake for about 20 minutes. The bars will need to cool for 1-2 hours, then be refrigerated for at least 2 more hours. You can easily prep these the night before and then let them chill overnight. Just be sure to dust them with a little powdered sugar right before serving.
Do lemon bars need to be refrigerated?
Yes, since they’re made with eggs they’re similar to a custard. You’ll want to store them in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve them.
How long do they last in the refrigerator?
They will keep for up to 4 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Can you freeze them?
Yes, if you need to store them longer, I suggest wrapping them tightly and freezing them in a freezer bag or container. When you’re ready to enjoy them, just thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
How do you know when a lemon bar is done?
The top of the bars will be set and the center should no longer jiggle.
- When measuring your flour for these bars, make sure to spoon it into the measuring cup and level it off with the back of a knife.
- When whisking together the lemon filling make sure to use a sturdy whisk and mix it together very well. This will help prevent any pieces of scrambled eggs from ending up in your bars.
- The powdered sugar will dissolve into the bars the longer they sit. I suggest sifting the powdered sugar on top right before you plan to serve them.
More Lemon Desserts To Try!
- Blueberry Lemon Bread
- Lemon Cookies
- Lemon Blueberry Scones
- Lemon Blueberry Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting
- Lemon Pie
Classic Lemon Bars
For the crust:
- 1 and 3/4 cups (220 grams) all-purpose flour (spooned & leveled)
- 1/4 cup (32 grams) cornstarch
- 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (230 grams) unsalted butter , softened
For the lemon filling:
- 1 1/2 cups (300 grams) granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup (32 grams) all-purpose flour
- 4 large eggs , room temperature
- 1/2 cup (120ml) fresh lemon juice
To make the crust:
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Line a 9x13-inch baking pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper, making sure to leave some overhang for easy removal, and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, sugar, and salt.
- Cube the butter into smaller pieces and add to the dry ingredients. Using a pastry cutter (or your hands) cut the butter into the mixture until it's crumbly and starts to come together.
- Scoop the mixture into the prepared baking pan and press it down into one even layer.
- Bake at 350°F (177°C) for 20-25 minutes, or just until the top is set and edges are lightly golden brown. Remove from the oven and set aside while you prepare the filling. Keep oven temperature at 350°F (177°C).
To make the lemon filling:
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the granulated sugar and flour. Add in the eggs and lemon juice and mix until fully combined. Pour the lemon filling over the warm crust and return to the oven.
- Bake for 18-22 minutes or until the lemon filling is set and no longer jiggles.
- Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely for 1-2 hours, then cover tightly, and refrigerate for at least two hours. Sift powdered sugar on top, slice into bars, and enjoy!
Could you use salted butter instead of unsalted and then cut out the salt?
Yes, that would be fine!
I’m not sure about the nutritional information, but you can plug everything into an online calculator to get an estimate.
Can I use Limes. All I have on hand
Yes, that’s fine!
Best lemon bar recipe. Since I am using meyer lemons I include the zest too. I was using the crust recipe from one blog and another blog for the filling and now I have both parts in on recipe. Thank you.
I’ve seen a lot of recipes that include the lemon zest, but this one doesn’t need it right? Looking forward to making this!
I don’t find it necessary for these bars, but you can certainly add some if you want to.
I absolutely LOVE anything lemon. I made this recipe today and the top of the lemon block got a “toasted” look, like the cheese on a pizza. What do you think I did wrong?
Hi, Mark! Did you bake them on a higher oven rack? If not, it may just be that your oven temperature is a little too high. You can try reducing the oven temperature next time you make them and see if that helps.
I’ve made these several times & always add extra lemon juice & zest. I like really lemony, tangy bars. Then I add a fruit compote to the top to mellow out the tang just slightly. However, every time I make them, the top ends up full of little craters I’m assuming are from bubbles popping near the end of the bake. Do you have any ideas as to why this might be happening or what I can do to prevent it?
So glad you liked the bars, Noelle! It helps to just mix the lemon filling together until just combined, over mixing it can cause more air bubbles. It is normal to have some on top though, the powdered sugar covers them up 🙂
We love love your lemon bar recipe. We made it for the first time and everything came out PERFECT!! Love. Lemons. Life.
Hi, so this is my first time eating or attempting to bake lemon squares. When it came out of the oven, the layer on top looked cooked through with bubbles. But just u see that layer, the lemon filling is still jiggly (best way I know how to describe it, lol). Is this coz 1) it’s over baked or 2) I over whisked the egg hence the bubbles? It still taste yummy though, just want to improve on it the next round.
The lemon filling shouldn’t be jiggly, but it will stay soft. Also, you can try whisking it less and see if that helps with the bubbles.
This is the BEST lemon bar recipe. I use meyer lemons and include about 2 tablespoons of zest and i’m in LOVE. Thank you sooo much for this recipe. They’re always all gone with in 2 days hahaha
Could you use like juice and make key lime bars instead?
That should be fine.
Best lemon bars! Reminds of the delicious ones my grandmother used to make. We all love your recipe. Thank you ?
Do i have to use i real lemons for this
I recommend it for the best flavor, but you can use bottled lemon juice.
Can I use Margarine in this recipe?
I would recommend butter for this one.
Can I use a 9 x 9 pan to make them thicker?
That would be fine, you’ll need to increase the baking time for the crust and filling if you do.
You’re an anazing baker. Thank you for all your delicious recipes God bless you
So easy (especially with a kitchen-aid stand mixer (paddle for crust and whisk for filling). My oven requires more time than on the directions, but that’s normal, each oven has its own personality, grin. Also I sub the butter with crisco. My family and I LOVE this recipe! I’ve made it three times now – highly recommend it!!
My first time making lemon bars and they are pretty good! Mine don’t look as good as the picture, but that was to be expected for a first time bake and frankly they taste great so I don’t mind! The custard texture is not silky smooth but I think that’s on me and not the recipe. My mother’s favourite dessert is lemon bars – she asked me to bake some more for her birthday! Thank you for sharing ; I will try out some of your other recipes 🙂
Thank you. I will be trying this recipe soon!
Best lemon bar recipe I’ve found! Comes out delicious every time! I’ve made it with and without the cornstarch and it works great either way. Thanks for this recipe!
I just tried this recipe and added some zest
I love the lemon flavor + crust however my lemon filling seeped or went below the crust. What do you think I did wrong? Thanks
Hi, Via! Did you make sure to pre-bake the crust and press it all the way to the edges? If so, it may have just been that the crust needed to bake a bit longer.
The BEST lemon bar recipe!! I tried other recipes, but they just weren’t quite right — “we can do better,” I thought. This recipe was absolutely what I was looking for!! Every time I bite into these lemon bars I’m amazed at how extraordinarily good they are — (and that I made them)! Both this recipe and the M&M Chocolate Chip Cookies have been huge successes, so from now on the first place I’m going to for a recipe is Live Well Bake Often!! Thank you, Danielle!!
So happy to hear that, Amanda! Thank you!
Can I use 1/2 butter and 1/2 crisco for the crust? These are for a birthday and the person prefers crisp cookies over soft.
I haven’t tried it, but it would probably be fine.
These were the BEST Lemon Bars we’ve ever had. My family always bought lemon bars from a local bakery and thought they were so good. I never cared for them. I tried your recipe and we all LOVED it!! The recipe was easy to follow and they came out perfectly. I’ll be making them again and again and so will my daughter. Thank you!
I absolutely love everything I’ve made of yours and can’t wait to try these! I prefer to make everything individual, cupcake sized. What would you suggest for the adjusted baking times?
Thank you, Liz! So happy to hear that! I haven’t tried these as minis, so I’m not quite sure and it will depend on how full you fill each liner. I would just keep an eye on them and bake the crusts until they’re lightly browned and bake the filling until the top is set.
My hubby just enjoyed the delicious lemon bar recipe especially the crust. I’ve made this recipe twice and what i liked about it it only calls for 1 1/2 cups of sugar. Other recipes 2 cups of sugar.
Delicious recipe, I definitely used the lemon zest too, since I love tart I will cut about 1/4 cup of sugar next time. Other than that just perfectly delicious, thanks so much!!!!
This recipe is the same as mine, with the addition of the cornstarch
Easily the BEST lemon bars I have ever put in my mouth! Even my husband, who is not a big fan of lemons, couldn’t stop eating them. I have finally found THE go to lemon bar recipe!
I don’t have a 9×13 pan but I do have an 8×8 pan so is it alright if I halve the amount of ingredients listed here?
Yes, that would be fine!
How do you cube room temperature butter? I find it too soft to cube. Cutting it in also proves problematic. Should I just use refrigerated butter?
I just use a butter knife. If it’s too soft to cube, your butter is probably too warm. It should still be cool to the touch, but you should be able to make an indent into the butter when you lightly press into it.
P.S. This is the best cooking website ever! Thank you for being so thorough!