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 ½ 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.
Perfect Lemon Bars
- 3/4 cup butter, softened
- 2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 1-1/2 cups plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided
- 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 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 ½ 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.
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.
love these and really all lemon treats, and great on shortbread crust too, thank you!
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!
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.
Looks yummy! Definitely I’ll try to make it.
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
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.
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.
Could you freeze these? They sound delicious!
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!
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!!
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?
Would love for you to listed the nutritional value.
I like to use myfitnesspal.com or skinnytaste.com for any nutritional information. Hope you can find what you are looking for.
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
Here are a list of all my lemon bars: https://therecipecritic.com/?s=lemon+bars. Let me know which one is your favorite!
What’s nutrition info on these lemon bars
I like to use skinny taste.com or myfitnesspal.com for any nutritional information. Hope that helps you find what you are looking for.
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.
These were delicious and SO easy to make! I love lemon bars and these were perfect. Thank you!!
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. . .
You use a 9×13 pan and serving number depends how big you cut the bars. It’s totally up to you!
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!
These look delicious and I agree lemon bars are totally one of those love/hate foods. Especially, if they aren’t good! I bet these Re so good though!
Looks yummy. Great photography!