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!
Are the instructions written for a metal or glass pan? I would like to make these in my 9×13 glass baking dish.
I always use a glass pan when I make these bars 🙂
All your recipes are great thank you! So much
This recipe is amazing! My family can’t get enough of these lemon bars and are already waiting for more.
So glad to hear that you and your family enjoyed the bars, Gracie!
I’m having trouble with the crust, something isn’t right. It gets these bubbles in in and doesn’t look at all like shortbread. It’s really warm in my apartment this time of year, is the problem because the butter is too soft when I start? I’m also using a gluten free flour substitute (Cup4Cup) which you’re supposed to be able to substitute 1:1 into anything you would normally use flour for but maybe that’s the problem? Help!
Hi, Alexa! Does the crust look okay once you take it out of the oven and let it cool? You could try pricking it with a fork a few times before baking it to see if that helps.
Omg this is my first time making lemon bars and they are delicious! I was not sure at the beginning because I tasted them when they were warm and the shortbread was still soft so it wasn’t quite amazing, but after few hours in the fridge wow those are perfect! Will make them again for sure. Those could be sold in the best bakeries.
– put the shortbread to chill in the refrigerator for 30 min before baking it
– before cutting them into squares, trim the edge of the rectangle so it looks perfectly sharp and professional (plus you get to eat was you trimmed!)
So glad you liked the lemon bars, Alex!
Hi Danielle, I’m going to make these lemon bars because they look so beautiful but when I was checking my supplies I’m not sure I have enough white sugar for the crust and mixture so do you think I could substitute light brown sugar in the crust recipe?
Hi, Lori! I haven’t tried it, but I think it should be fine to use brown sugar. It may change the taste of the lemon bars a little. You could also use powdered sugar, but it’s not quite as dense as granulated sugar so you’d need to use more.
Hi Danielle, thanks for the amazing recipe! Should I let the crust cool before adding the filling?
I just let it cool slightly for 5-10 minutes while I whisk together the filling, no need to wait for it to cool completely.
Can these bars be frozen?
I haven’t tried freezing them, but I think it would work fine. You can thaw overnight in the refrigerator and dust with powdered sugar before serving.
Made lemon bars for the first time using your recipe and it was delicious!!! Oh so good. During the 1 hr of sitting on a cooling rack the lemon filling cracked in the middle which was odd. But I think my filling stuck to my parchment on one end and cooled and pulled away from the other end so maybe there was tension. I’ll definitely make these again.
So glad you liked the lemon bars, Sheela! That also may be why they cracked, if you make them again you can spray the foil/parchment paper with nonstick cooking spray and that should prevent that from happening. A little dusting of powdered sugar should cover it up too.
I am a culinary student about to graduate and have some knowledge of baking but I think that I need a lot of help in the desert department. After trying a few recipes on lemon bars I really wanted to give up and call it a wash since most recipes were either too sweet or too sour and they didn’t turn out the way that they should be favored by the majority of the people that I serve them to but I just wanted to thank you because this is one that really catches people’s attention and it’s not over complicated (very delicious).
I think you said that you were looking for something that was just right and I think you’ve got a good grip on the flavor. The texture of the shortbread really compliments the custard like filling and everything comes together very nicely…excellent job, and I really thank you for your hard work and determination on taking a recipe and turning it into your own.
Thank you, Dallas! I’m glad you liked the lemon bars!
The very best
Hi I can’t find my cooling rack is there anything else I can use also do you have to take the bars out of the pan when you put them in the rack? Sorry I’m not the most experienced baker.
Hi, Elizabeth. You’ll want to let the bars cool completely in the pan first. If you don’t have a cooling rack, that’s fine. You can just let them cool in the pan on your counter. Just make sure to put something like a towel under the pan on your countertop if it’s not heat resistant. 🙂
Trying this one today – can’t wait! As for lack of a cooling rack, in a pinch i’v Used an upside down muffin tin. Air flow isn’t quite as good but it’s nice and stable and gets the job done.
Should the crust rest while I make the filling or can I make the filling while they are baking? I’m unclear if the crust should cool before adding the filling.
Either way is fine! I mix up the filling while the crust is baking, then just pour it on the crust once it’s finished, and place it back in the oven.
Made these lemon bars for my birthday and they were divine. Everyone loved them
So glad you liked the bars, Nikky!
I just made these lemon bars and the filling is about a 1/4 inch high. I had eggs at room temp and whisked them. what gives???
The filling for these bars isn’t super thick, it’s about as thick as the shortbread crust. It should be a little thicker than 1/4-inch though.
I don’t have enough eggs for the recipe, would applesauce work okay as a substitution?
I wouldn’t suggest it for this recipe. You could cut the recipe in half and bake it in an 8×8 pan?
Wonderful! I did add some of the lemon zest. It made the flavor much more intense.
I loved this recipe! Definitely going to use again and again. The perfect taste of lemon and dessert that made me want to eat the whole batch. Super easy to make too.
I live in Rennes, France and love to bake. I wanted to make lemon bars and came across your recipe. It was super easy to make and was delicious! All of my expat friends and my French friends loved it. I have shared the recipe with them, telling them it is super easy.
Thanks for a wonderful recipe!
So happy to hear that, Amy! Thank you!
Hi! I’ve made these lemon bars a few times and they turned out great! However, I just made them and the filling sunk through to the bottom underneath the crust. Do you have any idea what could’ve happened?
Sorry to hear that, Chloe! Did you do anything different? It sounds like the crust may have been underbaked before you added the filling.
Ok, thanks! I’ll try baking the crust longer next time.
Hi! I made these a couple months ago and they turned out perfectly. Made them again tonight and followed the exact same directions but the filling definitely looks off. Almost too eggy and not a consistent color. It varies from white spots throughout and the edges are a much lighter yellow than the center which is a much darker yellow. Maybe I didn’t mix the filling well enough? Should eggs be beaten ahead of time? Any thoughts of what else it could be? Thanks!
Hi, Andrea! It sounds like the eggs weren’t thoroughly mixed with the other filling ingredients. I don’t find it necessary to beat them first, but it certainly won’t hurt. I suggest using a sturdy whisk to make sure everything is incorporated together really well before pouring it on the crust.
It’s not the first time that I make a recipe from your blog and although the first recipe was a success this one is so perfect! I’m living in Belgium and I love that you put the measures also in gr, that makes it a lot easier for me! Thank you for this wonderfull recipe and your good explanations!
So happy to hear that the bars turned out great for you, Mélodie!
This is my new favorite dessert! I’m a sucker for sour desserts, and this one certainly delivers. I find that adding a little lemon zest to the filling really gives the bars a good kick! I am having one problem though, every time I bake these there’s at least one corner that’s all crust and barely any lemon. I’ve tried really hard to make sure everything is even before I pour the lemon mixture on, but it happens without fail. Not super important since I can just cut that section off and serve the rest, but it’s still frustrating. Any tips?
Glad you liked the bars, Samantha! I always make sure not to press any of the crust up in the corner, I try to make sure it’s completely flat on the corners and edges. You could try letting the crust cool some before adding the filling and see if that helps too.
It is possible that Samantha is using a metal baking pan that is too thin and warps in the oven. It could be a cookie sheet as well. I have had that experience with light gauge metal bakeware.
I added a drop of lemon extract and vanilla extract to the shortbread dough. I like zippy lemon flavour so increased lemon juice to 3/4 cup and extra tbsp of flour in the filling so it wouldn’t be runny. Thanks for your recipe. I’m a sucker for lemon. I’d choose lemon over chocolate any time!!!
This recipe is amazing! They are absolutely delicious and so easy to make! I’ve tried a few of your other recipes and have not been disappointed, I can’t wait to test out a few more!
Thank you for sharing such fab recipes for everyone to enjoy xxx
Thank you so much, Charlotte! So glad you’re enjoying the recipes and that the lemon bars turned out great for you!
Can I used bottled lemon juice? If so, how much and should I cut it with water?
That should be fine! I assume you could just use the same amount of bottled lemon juice. Does it specify anywhere for substituting it for fresh lemon juice?
My boyfriend absolutely loves these lemon bars. Pretty sure they helped him fall for me
Love this recipe and all your tips for making perfect lemon bars! I used juice from my Meyer lemon tree so unfortunately, it didn’t have the sour bite to them that I really love. I used just a touch less sugar but still not tart enough for me. Should I give up on my own lemons and purchase the common ones from the market? Any thoughts? Thank you for a great recipe!
Hi Priscilla! Meyer lemons are definitely less tart than regular lemons, so that’s probably why. You could reduce the sugar more, but I’m not sure how much you would need to reduce it. I do find these bars to be tart with regular lemons though, so you may give them a try!
These turned out great. The only change I made was I had to add about 10 minutes to the cook time otherwise perfect!
Can I use corn starch instead of flour to thicken?
I haven’t tried it with this recipe, so I’m not quite sure.
I Just made these yesterday! They tasted incredible! It was my first time making lemon bars too. I’d say this recipe is a keeper. My only problem was that the filling developed a cake like film on top while baking (any ideas why?). I just kind of peeled it off after baking and they were still great though. These had the perfect level of tartness with just the right amount of sweetness to balance them. I’ll definitely be making these again!
I’m wondering if the filling may have been a little overcooked and that’s why it looked that way? I’m glad you liked the bars though, Rachel!
When I pulled these out of the oven the lemon filling was super bubbly. Any ideas why this happened? Did I maybe whisk it too much and get too much air in the filling?
It’s normal for it to have some bubbles on it. If it had quite a bit then it’s likely that it may have been whisked too much which would add too much air, like you mentioned.
These taste wonderful. However, my shortcrust base was too cripy in the final version. How do I keep in softer to bite into?
Did you use the cornstarch? That cornstarch helps to keep it soft. If you did use it, you could try reducing the baking time slightly for the crust before you add the filling.