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There’s nothing better than a buttery shortbread crust topped with a juicy lemon filling and a sprinkling of powder sugar. This classic recipe for lemon bars is the only one you’ll ever need! It’s happiness in bite-sized pieces.
Dessert bars are my favorite because they’re so easy to whip up. All you have to do is mix the ingredients together and throw them in a pan! They’re so potluck-friendly and great for feeding a crowd. After you’ve enjoyed a tasty batch of lemon bars, you’ll have to try some of my other favorites like Neiman Marcus bars, cookie dough bars, and carmelitas!
Best-Ever Lemon Bars
I LOVE lemon bars, maybe even borderline obsessed with them! (Honestly, lemon desserts in general.) I’m always the first to grab them at a party. They’re just so luscious with that buttery shortbread crust and tangy but sweet center. And that finishing touch of powdered sugar? The sweet treat of my dreams!
I know it sounds like I’m tooting my own horn here, but you will not find a better lemon bar recipe than this one. I tried so many variations but wouldn’t stop until the bars met my requirements. The perfect buttery shortbread crust with enough custardy lemon filling on top. The ratios have to be right! I can wholeheartedly say, these are everything you have ever wanted in a lemon bar! Even my lemon-hating husband was a believer after he tried a piece.
All the Ingredients You’ll Need
My one tip here is that you will want to use fresh lemons for this recipe, not lemon juice concentrate. It makes all the difference! From there, all you need are a few simple ingredients from your pantry!
- Butter: I highly recommend using real butter instead of margarine for the best flavor and texture. Bring it to room temperature before you use it so it mixes smoothly with the other crust ingredients.
- Confectioners’ Sugar: Adds the perfect sweetness to the shortbread!
- Flour: All-purpose flour works great for giving the crust structure.
For the Lemon Filling:
- Eggs: Make the filling nice and smooth and give it that custard-y effect!
- Sugar: White sugar helps to balance out the tartness of the lemon juice and zest.
- Lemon Zest: For some extra tangy flavor! I used about 2 rinds’ worth.
- Fresh Lemon Juice: Again, fresh is best! You will need about 3-4 large lemons to get enough juice, and then you can use the peels for your zest.
- Milk: Adds creaminess to the filling. We’re not trying to be healthy here, so go for whole milk! The high fat content will make the filling extra rich and decadent.
- Confectioners’ Sugar: Enough to sprinkle the lemon bars with. That extra pop of sweetness is the perfect finishing touch!
Can I Use Bottled Lemon Juice Instead of Fresh?
You can, but it will 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.
Let’s Make Lemon Bars!
The hardest part of making these lemon bars is waiting to eat them. It also takes a bit of effort to juice and zest the lemons, but it is totally worth it. The flavor is just too good!
- Preheat: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Then grease a 9×13 pan and set aside.
- Beat: In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and confectioners sugar until blended. Then slowly mix in 1 1/2 cups flour.
- Press: Firmly press into the bottom of a greased 9×13 pan and bake for 18-20 minutes until golden brown.
- Filling Mixture: 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. Then pour over the hot crust.
- Bake: Turn the oven down to 325 degrees and bake an additional 18-20 minutes until the top is lightly brown.
- Cool and Serve: Cool completely on a wire rack. Then dust the top with additional confectioners’ sugar. Cut into bars and refrigerate any leftovers.
Cut and quarter your lemons then microwave them for about 30 seconds. This helps the lemons release more juice!
How to Pick the Best Lemons
It can seem complicated, but when you know what to look for, you’ll be an expert. Go for deep yellow lemons that are heavy when you hold them in your hands. The heavier the fruit and thinner the skin, the more juice it will have!
Tips for the Best Lemon Bars
These are a few easy fixes that will take your lemon bars from good to great! Trust me, it’s well worth the effort. Once you take a bite of buttery, lemony goodness you’ll be a believer. Store-bought lemon bars just won’t cut it anymore!
- Let Your Bars Cool: It’s best to let your bars cool at room temperature for at least two hours. This will help the filling set and make it easier to cut into uniform squares.
- Room Temperature Wet Ingredients: Use room temperature eggs and butter. They mix up more easily.
- Line the Pan: If you are worried about the lemon bars not being able to come out, use foil or parchment paper to line the bottom of the pan.
- Sift the Powdered Sugar: Use a sifter or sieve to spread the powdered sugar on top of the bars. It will cover them evenly and without lumps.
- 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.
With how amazing these lemon bars are, leftovers are a rarity! If you’re lucky enough to have some or making these bars ahead of time, here’s how to keep them fresh:
- In the Refrigerator: Store bars in an airtight container or wrap with plastic wrap. They will stay good for 1 week.
- In the Freezer: Wrap tightly with plastic wrap to prevent freezer burn and store for 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge and then let them come to room temperature before serving.
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Perfect Lemon Bars
- 3/4 cup butter, softened
- 2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 1-1/2 cups plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9×13 pan and set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, use a hand mixer to beat the butter and confectioners' sugar until blended. Slowly beat in 1 and 1/2 cups flour.
- Press into the bottom of a greased 13×9 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 for 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.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.