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!
These are the PRETTIEST lemon bars, Danielle! I love that you dusted them with powdered sugar and added a little lemon wedge on top. Its true that you definitely “eat” with your eyes first. I just want to dig into these for breakfast! 🙂
Thank you, Gayle! I think these would be perfectly acceptable for breakfast 😉
I love classic lemon bars, especially this time of year! These look perfect!
Thank you, Jessica!
There isn’t anything prettier than lemon bars with snowy white powdered sugar, and these are just stunning! Lemon bars are one of my favorite desserts — when it’s not chocolate, it’s pretty much citrus. These are just perfect!
Thank you, Marcie! I’m the same way with desserts, lemon is definitely right up there with chocolate for me 🙂
You and I are on the same page, Danielle! I love lemon and you never let me down with your fool-proof recipes. Can’t wait to try this one. Looks yummy. Thanks.
I’m so glad you’re enjoying the recipes, Cindy! Thank you for such a kind comment, I hope you enjoy the bars 🙂
I would like to make these bars, but want to use a 1/2 sheet cake pan. Would I double or triple this recipe? Also, how long would I bake it?
Hi, Deb! I haven’t tried this in a 1/2 sheet cake pan, so I’m not quite sure. I did find this article that may be helpful http://blog.kingarthurflour.com/2014/11/08/when-more-is-better/ for how to convert it to that size pan. I’d guess you may want to just do 1.5x the recipe, but without testing it myself it’s hard to say.
I’m making it in two 1/4 sheet cake pans today and I’ve doubled the recipe. I believe it’s going well and the size pan you recommended is very similar to a 1/4 sheet pan. I run a home bakery and cake decorating shop so this is what I had on hand. I definitely needed the whole two batches to adequately cover the pan in short crust
I’d love to hear how they turn out in the 1/4 sheet pans, Kristen! Hope you enjoy the bars!
I made these yesterday and they are perfect! Just the right amount of lemon tartness. I will definitely make these again!
So glad to hear you enjoyed the lemon bars, Nikki!
I just tried making the lemon bars and the outer edge has bubbles and bumps in the middle. Is that normal or did I mess up?
Hi, Becca! Some small bubbles are normal when you’re making these bars, the dusting of powdered sugar will cover them up! 🙂
i found that if you have a blow torch availiable you can run it over the top after you pour the lemon mix onto the shortbread. This will eliminate most of the bubbles. I also used fresh berries on top that were fresh from the market Superb!!!!!
I may need to try that trick out next time I make a batch of these! Thanks for sharing! So glad you enjoyed the bars too 🙂
Can I use arrowroot instead of cornstarch?
Hi, Mary! I haven’t tried using arrowroot in these bars yet, so I’m not quite sure. It may work though. If you don’t have any cornstarch you can also just use 2 cups of flour for the crust in this recipe.
I am usually commenting only after I have tried a recipe ? So yesterday I tried to make these lemonbars ) And they turned out perfect! The crust is soft, tender, and lemon part is enough sweet and lemony? Thank you very much for sharing this recipe, Danielle!
I’m so glad you liked the bars, Julija! 🙂
Hi, very interested in trying these bars for Easter – tomorrow! Just wondering about how many this serves? Thanks! 🙂
Hi, Danielle! It kind of just depends on how large you cut them. You can usually get about 20-24 bars in a 9×13 pan though. Hope that helps!
For the cooling, is it okay if I don’t have a wire rack? What could I use in place?
Yes, that’s fine! You can just cool it on your countertop, just make sure to place something like a towel under it if you don’t have heat resistant countertops (like granite).
What exactly do you mean by wrap tightly when putting into the fridge?
Hi, Mel! It just means to cover it with plastic wrap or a lid before you refrigerate it.
I am TOTALLY making these for my picnic. Im not too sure about the cornstarch though, as I am on vacation and limited to supplies. Could these work without it?
You can make them without the cornstarch, just replace the 1/4 cup cornstarch with 1/4 cup of flour (so 2 cups all purpose flour for the crust).
Can you make these ahead, and how long do they stay fresh
Yes, you can make them ahead of time. You can store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about 4 days.
Wow! Made these lemon bars over the weekend, and I can’t imagine them being any better!! Loved them! Thanks for the recipe!
That is so wonderful to hear, Erin! I’m glad you enjoyed the bars, this is one of my favorite recipes! 🙂
I think I found an error in the recipe. The flour weight for the crust doesn’t seem correct. I measured out 1 and a half cups of flour and it was way over the weight you have listed. I don’t usually weigh my ingredients so this might be my error, but I thought I would post, just in case. I have these in the oven now and can’t wait to try them.
The 220 grams of flour is correct in this recipe. Did you scoop your flour out of the container? If so, that may be why yours ended up weighing more than the recipe states. I spoon & level my flour and typically get about 125 grams of flour per cup (give or take a few grams). I wrote a post on it here: http://www.livewellbakeoften.com/how-to-measure-flour/. If you ended up with a little more flour in the crust, I think they should still be fine though. Hope you enjoyed the bars 🙂
I am thankful and at the same time embarrassed to say I have made these 3 times. I have eaten most of them….and loved every single bite!! Thank you for taking the time to share this recipe !!
I have a hard time resisting these lemon bars too, Melinda! I’m so glad you liked them!
Would it be okay to freeze these bars after they’ve cooled?
I haven’t actually tried freezing these bars, but I think they would freeze okay. I would probably place them on a baking sheet and freeze them first, then wrap them in plastic wrap, and store in a freezer bag/container. Hope that helps!
I had the same problem as a few others – seems that the filling soaked into the shortbread and it looks like a cake 🙁
I didn’t let it cool long but in answer to the question you asked the others – yes the edges were light golden brown and I think it was set? I do like to bake so I think I know what “set” means, but can you describe in detail? the shortbread was in the oven for the full 25 minutes.
Hi, Lindsay! I’m not quite sure what is happening, but it sounds like the crust may not be quite done enough when you’re adding the lemon filling. By “set” I mean that the top of the shortbread crust should look done, but if you touch the crust it may still be a bit soft (kind of like a cookie when you take it out of the oven). I usually just pour the lemon filling on while the crust is still warm and haven’t had any issues. What I would suggest is to try baking the crust for a few more minutes and allow the crust to cool for 15-20 minutes before you adding the filling. I think that will make the crust a bit firmer and you won’t run into that issue next time. I hope the bars still tasted okay though!
Thanks Danielle. 2 more comments 🙂 I think I jumped the gun on my comment as once they cooled more the look is a little better – they don’t look exactly like yours but they also luckily aren’t totally like a cake. Next time I’ll take your advice and let the crust cool longer.
And they taste good so that’s really what matters!
I’m glad they still tasted good, Lindsay! 🙂
I made these lemon bars and followed the recipe exactly however my lemon bars taste a lot like egg. What did I do wrong?
Did you whisk the eggs in well with the rest of the lemon filling?
I just made this recipe tonight and mine came out looking like an omelet on shortbread with a strong egg smell. I haven’t tasted them yet, they’re still cooling. But I had the same problem as this woman I think. I first hand whisked but I was concerned the egg didn’t look mixed enough, so I ran a hand mixer through it for less than 30 seconds. I did use just slightly less sugar because my husband is Spanish and not accustomed to very sweet pastry so I usually have to put less. I did 270 grams instead of 300. From what I’ve been reading online, it could be the oven is too hot?
Hi, Diana! I always just whisk the filling together by hand and haven’t had any issues. They shouldn’t taste eggy though. Have they cooled enough to where you can taste them to see if they taste okay?
Hey, how long do I put just the crust in? I put the crust in the oven and then bake for ? minutes and the add the filling and bake for ? minutes?
Hi, Jenna. The instructions for baking the crust are in the recipe “Bake at 350°F for 20-25 minutes, or just until the top is set and edges are lightly golden brown.” And for the filling “Bake at 350°F for 18-22 minutes or until the lemon filling is set.”
Have you ever used the crust recipe just for short bread cookies?
I haven’t tried it before as cookies, but shortbread cookies are definitely a recipe I’ll add to my list to test!
I don’t have unsalted butter. Will margarine be okay?
I haven’t tested this recipe using margarine, so I’m not quite sure. I would suggest sticking with butter though because it has a higher fat content, margarine actually has more water in it.
I tried this recipe after using a different lemon bar recipe (from a flour box) that failed pretty badly…
But Your recipe (my 2nd attempt at this dessert classic) came out much better!!
I used fresh squeezed lemon juice and also added a tbsp of fresh grated lemon zest, and the tartness was divine. Another slight adapatation I did was using caster sugar (more common in Britain) in place of regular sugar, resulting in an even finer, more delicate texture.
My crust was tender and crumbly but held together well, and the custard was firm but gooey and delicious. Thanks for making my second attempt at lemon bars perfect!! Will 100% make again, maybe with lime or other flavor twists. Will have to try your other recipes now too, since this one was excellent.
Also, thanks for adding quantities in metric! I prefer weighing with a scale for greater accuracy. (I live in TX but am from the UK).
I’m so glad this recipe worked out better for you, Angela! These lemon bars are one of my favorite recipes! 🙂
Any idea what might happen if you do just the filling? I cannot eat dairy and thought about leaving off the (absolutely delicious looking) crust.
Hi Jen! I haven’t tried it, so I’m not quite sure. I imagine you could just bake the filling, but the crust is much sturdier and what makes it easy to slice these bars and pick them up. You may be able to use a vegan butter for the crust, but I haven’t tried that either.
Use crisco with 3 tsp water per cup to replace butter. I have a child with a dairy allergy and this always seems to work well in baked goods. I use butter flavored Crisco.
Thank you for the suggestion, Kim! Glad to hear it works well too!
I’ve tried a lot of lemon bar recipes over the years and yours is the best, Danielle. It’ surprisingly simple, too. I was in a rush to make them for impromptu casual family dinner guests coming over so wasn’t being careful plus put extra lemon juice in, yet they till turned out perfect. Also added zest of one lemon and was happy with the amount of tartness. (Did toss a skish more sugar in.) Loved that the crust was softer with the cornstarch. So many end up impossible to cut. I did add a tsp of vanilla to the filling because I love vanilla but it probably didn’t need it. I loved how few ingredients there were. There was no aftertaste at all to this perfect treat. Just clean, sweet, citrus yum and delicious light pastry crust euphoria. Thank you for sharing the recipe you remodeled.
Thank you, Bettina! I’m so glad you enjoyed the lemon bars!
I followed the recipe and everything but it browned on the top and I may have cooked the egg. I smell egg every time I open the oven. ?
I think the crust should cool completely before you add the lemon mixture.
Do you mean the crust or filling browned on top? If the crust was a little browned, it should be fine. The cornstarch helps to keep the crust of these bars pretty soft. Did you also make sure to whisk the filling ingredients together well? You can certainly let the crust cool completely first, but there’s really no need since the filling is going to be baked.
For the lemon juice part, do you juice straight from a lemon (if so, how? How many lemons would that call for?) or may you use the lemon juice you can buy?
This will be my first ever attempt at making lemon bars, any tips for a beginner?
As well someone thought they had too much flour because of the weight? I don’t have a scale, will I be ok with measuring it out with the measuring cup?
Thank you in advance!!!!
Hi, Heléna! I prefer to use fresh lemon juice in this recipe. You can usually get about 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice from a medium lemon and about 3-4 tablespoons from a larger lemon. I usually use about 4 medium lemons, but if you’re using larger lemons you may only need 2-3. If it’s your first time making lemon bars, just make sure to take your time with the bars and pre-bake your crust before adding the filling too. It’s fine to measure the flour with a measuring cup as well, just make sure to spoon and level the flour for a more accurate measurement and avoid scooping it from the container. I wrote a post about spooning and leveling flour here: http://www.livewellbakeoften.com/how-to-measure-flour/. Hope you enjoy the bars!
Thank you so much for the tips and how to measure the flour properly! Is there a certain way to juice the lemons?
Will be taking these to work for a potluck tomorrow, and a few have expressed their excitement about lemon bars, so I hope they will turn out great!
I usually use a small citrus juicer just because it helps get more juice from the lemons. But you can just cut them in half and squeeze them by hand! If you roll them on the counter before cutting them, you can usually squeeze a little more juice out.
Just took my lemon bars out of the oven! They are currently cooling. I didn’t have a 9×13 pan so I multiplied the recipe x1.5 to fit my 11×17 pan and it all fit great! The one thing I wasn’t too sure about was how to know when the filling has completely set? I baked these for my mom for mother’s day and I’m really excited to try them! Thanks for the recipe ☺️
Glad to hear that you were able to make the recipe work for your pan, Shani! Once you take the bars out of the oven, you can very lightly touch the top and make sure it feels firm to ensure that they’re done. I hope your mother enjoys the bars! 🙂
Only change I made was adding home made lemon extract, so good.
So glad you enjoyed the lemon bars, Elin!