Perfect Lemon Bars

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These Lemon Bars are hands down the BEST lemon bars EVER!  Shortbread crust is topped with a tart, rich lemon center and finished off with a sprinkling of powder sugar.

I love making bar desserts because they are super easy to make and it is all in one pan. You have to try my favorites bars like these Neiman Marcus, Cookie Dough, and Carmelitas!

Perfect Lemon Bar close up.

The Best Lemon Bars

I LOVE lemon bars, like I am obsessed with them! I am the first to grab them at a party! They are one of my go to favorites to make for a crowd too.  Lemon bars are so luscious with that buttery shortbread crust and tangy tart center. They are bright, zippy and delectable. And with a sprinkling of powdered sugar, it adds that perfect touch.

You will not find a better lemon bar recipe than this one. I have tried several and these are my requirements. A buttery shortbread crust with enough custardy lemon filling on top. I like the perfect ratio of shortbread with the lemon filling. And these are everything you have ever wanted in a lemon bar! I can even get my lemon hating husband to eat these bars.

Ingredients for the Crust

You will want to use fresh lemons for this recipe, not lemon juice concentrate. But if it’s all you have, see below for how to use it. It will not give you the best flavor, however.

  • Butter: I highly recommend using real butter for the best flavor and texture. Bring it to room temperature.
  • Confectioners sugar: Powdered sugar mixes easily with the butter.
  • Flour: You will divide the flour.

Lemon Filling Ingredients 

  • Eggs:4 large eggs at room temperature.
  • Sugar: Brings the sweetness to counterbalance the tartness from the lemons.
  • Lemon Zest: You will use 2 Large lemons to get enough zest.
  • Fresh Lemon Juice: You will need about 3-4 large lemons to get enough juice, you can use the lemons you use to zest too.
  • Milk: Helps make the lemon custard.
  • Confectioners Sugar: Enough to top the lemon bars with.

Let’s Make Lemon Bars!

The hardest part of making the lemons is waiting to eat them. It takes a bit of work to juice and zest the lemons, but it is totally worth it.

  • Preheat: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×13 pan and set aside.
  • Beat: In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and confectioners sugar until blended. Slowly beat in 1 ½ cups flour.
  • Press: Firmly press into the bottom of a greased 9×13 pan and bake for 18-20 minutes until golden brown.
  • Meanwhile: While the crust is baking whisk in a small bowl the eggs, sugar, zest, lemon juice, milk and remaining 3 Tablespoons of flour until frothy. Pour over hot crust.
  • Turn it Down: Turn the oven down to 325 degrees and bake an additional 18-20 minutes until the top is lightly brown.
  • Cool: Cool completely on a wire rack. Dust the top with additional confectioners sugar. Cut into bars and refrigerate leftovers.

Lemon bars cut into squares.

All About Lemons!

Lemons are the star of this dessert. You want it to be divine, so picking and using your lemons matters. When your lemons are perfect, it can really brighten any dish. Some of my best recipes contain lemons as the main ingredient. Try one of these favorites like this Scallops , Chicken, or Fettuccine.

  • How do I pick a good Lemon? It can seem complicated, but when you know what to look for, you’ll be an expert. Look for lemons that seem heavy when you hold it in your hands. Also look for thin skin, that is firm and has a fine texture to the peel. It should be a deep yellow color. The heavier the fruit and thinner the skin the more juice it will have.
  • Where should I store Lemons? It is so tempting to decorate your counter with  fresh fruit in a pretty bowl. Just leave the lemons out. If left at room temperature the skins can become tough and the lemons can actually dry out. Keep your lemons in the fridge.
  • Zesting Lemons: Wash your lemons thoroughly before zesting. If you don’t have a zester you can use the smallest holes of a cheese grater. You want to stop zesting once you hit the pith or white part as it is quite bitter.
  • Juicing Tip: Cut and quarter your lemons and then microwave them for about 30 seconds. This helps the lemons release more of its juice.
  • Can I use bottled lemon juice instead of lemons? You can but it will definitely change the flavor a bit. I always prefer fresh. When substituting lemon concentrate for real lemon juice in a recipe, use two tablespoons of bottled lemon juice to replace the juice of one lemon. Substitute lemon juice concentrate for equal proportions in any recipe calling for lemon juice.

Tips for the Best Lemon Bars

The tartness of these lemon bars is perfectly controlled by the powdered sugar. Just don’t inhale when you take a bite, speaking from experience, airways full of powdered sugar is no fun.

  • Cool:  It is best to let your bars cool at room temperature for at least two hours.
  • Room Temperature: Use room temperature eggs and butter. They mix up easier and better.
  • Line the Pan: If you are worried about the lemon bars not being able to come out, use foil or parchment paper in the bottom.
  • Sift: Use a sifter or sieve to spread the powdered sugar on top of the bars. It will cover them evenly and without lumps
  • Store: You can keep these at room temperature, however the flavor improves when they are refrigerated.

Close up of lemon bars.

Delicious Twists on the Loved Lemon Bar

Lemon bars are divine, I think I have established that. So creating variations and combinations of lemon bars is only a given. These lemon bar twists are epic, heavenly and perfect for your next dessert needs. Bar desserts are some of the best too, they are easy to make, and easy to eat. You can pre cut, and plate them before a party or special occasion and they are easy to just grab and go. Try all of these tried and true lemon bars and pick your favorite.

Perfect Lemon Bars

4.63 from 8 votes
These Lemon Bars are hands down the BEST lemon bars EVER!  Shortbread crust is topped with a tart, rich lemon center and finished off with a sprinkling of powder sugar.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Author Alyssa Rivers
Servings: 12 Bars


Shortbread Crust:

  • 3/4 cup butter softened
  • 2/3 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour divided

Lemon Filling:

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest from about 2 large lemons
  • 2/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice from 3 to 4 large lemons
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • Additional confectioners' sugar for sprinkling on top


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13 pan and set aside.
  • In a large mixing bowl, use a hand mixer to beat butter and confectioners' sugar until blended. Slowly beat in 1 and ½ cups flour.
  • Press into the bottom of a greased 13x9 pan and bake for 18-20 minutes until golden brown.
  • While baking, in a small bowl whisk eggs, sugar, zest, lemon juice, milk and remaining 3 T flour until frothy. Pour over the hot crust.
  • Turn oven to 325 degrees and bake an additional 18-20 minutes until the top is lightly brown. Cool completely on a wire rack. Dust the top with additional confectioners' sugar. Cut into bars and refrigerate leftovers.


Updated on February 22, 2021
Originally Posted on April 2, 2019


Serves: 12

Calories245kcal (12%)Carbohydrates30g (10%)Protein2g (4%)Fat13g (20%)Saturated Fat8g (40%)Trans Fat1gCholesterol93mg (31%)Sodium128mg (5%)Potassium50mg (1%)Fiber1g (4%)Sugar29g (32%)Vitamin A457IU (9%)Vitamin C6mg (7%)Calcium22mg (2%)Iron1mg (6%)

All nutritional information is based on third party calculations and is only an estimate. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods and portion sizes per household.

Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword lemon bars
Tried this recipe?Mention @alyssa_therecipecritic or tag #therecipecritic



Alyssa Rivers

I am Alyssa and the blogger behind The Recipe Critic. I started my blog in June of 2012 as a place to share my passion for cooking. I love trying new things and testing them out with my family.

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Leave a reply
  1. 5 stars
    My family really enjoyed these! For some reason, I had to cook the lemon layer quite a bit longer than 20 minutes, but it set up nicely when chilled. I love the recipes you post. Thank you!

  2. I haven’t made these yet, but I’m going to. I love lemon bars! I love anything lemon, truth be told. I want to do a “dry run” of this recipe, and make half a batch. Would I use a 9” square pan or 8”? They look absolutely yummy, and I can’t wait to have one.

  3. 3 stars
    The shortbread crust is not thick enough ,and unfortunately I missed divided flour and so the three extra tbsp was added to the shortbread mixture making it dry
    It took much energy for poor results

    1. Kinda sad you give a recipe a rating based on your admitted mistake. Maybe try again and then rate? Just a suggestion. But, at least you didn’t one star it.

      1. I was scrolling down to say pretty much the same thing. This was user error, not the recipe. Can’t wait to try this recipe.

    1. Yes, these actually freeze really well. Simply layer them using parchment paper and layering them on top of each other in a ziplock or airtight container. If you have extra time I will first freeze them on a sheet pan in one layer and then add them to the storage container when freezing. When ready to serve, place in the refrigerator over night or let thaw at room temperature for a few hours. Hope that helps!

  4. 5 stars
    Oh my, wow! These lemon bars were named “Perfect Lemon Bars” for a reason, they have the perfect amount of lemon flavor. I cut them into small squares. They were gone in an instant!!

  5. What would the recipe be if you just used the lemon pudding and pie filling? It would take less time and fewer ingredients. What do you think?

  6. I’m just curious but is there a recipe for the lemon bars that just calls for the lemon pudding and pie filling instead of the zest and lemon juice? Thank you

  7. 4 stars
    I reduced the sugar to 1.5 cups and added the zest of one lemon. I also poured the lemon / egg / sugar mixture over the crust while it was still hot and reduced the second baking time to 20 minutes. They came out perfect. I’d been looking for a recipe similar to my grandma’s (no cream cheese, baking powder, melted butter) and this was spot on.

  8. I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be rude but, you never mentioned how much this recipe yields. Or does that all depend on the person cooking it. I presume it is the later one, but I just want to be sure. . .


  9. 5 stars
    OMG!!! Just made these and I can not believe how simple and delicious this recipe is. Lemon bars are my favorite dessert and I have never found a simple recipe I could do on my own. Thank you so much for posting this and I look forward to trying some of your other recipes soon!

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