Easy lemon bars recipe with a crisp buttery crust and a creamy tart lemon topping. A must make!
We’ve been holding out on you. These incredibly tasty lemon bars have been sitting in our draft folder for too long. We’re so sorry, because these bars need to be made in your kitchen, ASAP. They are simple to make and have the most delicious buttery, crisp crust and creamy, tart lemon topping.
Secrets to Our Lemon Bars Recipe
We’ve rarely found a lemon bar that we didn’t like, but after trying lots of other recipes, we’ve come up with our own tips to make them just a little bit better.
Add extra flavor to the crust.
We’re pretty picky when it comes to crusts (pie crust is a great example) and believe that since the crust of a lemon bar is half the bite, it should be as delicious and flavorful as the lemon topping.
Mixing the sugar in the crust with lemon zest, vanilla extract and a tiny pop of salt makes the crust delicious enough to stand on its own and even more wonderful with the lemon topping.
Use melted butter, not softened butter for the crust.
The crust in most lemon bars usually starts with creaming or rubbing softened butter with a mixture of flour and sugar. Instead of softened butter, we go for melted butter.
Making the crust with melted butter rather than softened keeps it crisp and perfectly contrasted to the creamy, lemon filling on top. Not only did we love the crisp texture, using melted butter over softened is so much easier.
Chill the crust before baking.
Just like when we make pie crust, we’ve found that chilling the crust until firm (about 5 minutes in the freezer) helps achieve the best texture. Instead of puffing up and then shrinking in the pan, a chilled crust crisps, browns and becomes perfectly crunchy.
It’s also a good idea to prick the bottom of the crust all over with a fork before baking — this also helps to prevent the dough from puffing up then shrinking.
Taste the lemons for sourness.
We love a tart lemon bar, but do think you can over do it. Lemons vary in how sour they are, so go ahead and taste the lemons before using them. If we notice our lemons are unusually sour, we’ll add a bit more sugar to the filling. If they are on the sweeter side, we’ll pull back the sugar a little.
Make the bars last by storing the baked bars in the refrigerator.
Since we love lemon bars so much, we will sometimes make a batch for just the two of us. To keep the extra bars fresh, we keep the baked and cut bars in the refrigerator. They last up to 4 days that way.
Do you have any secrets for making lemon bars? We’d love to learn about them in the comments below.
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- 12 tablespoons (3/4 cup or 170 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1-1/2 cups (300 grams) granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons (23 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- 4 large eggs
- 3/4 cup (180 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 4 to 5 lemons)
- 1 to 2 tablespoons powdered sugar, for sifting tops of bars once cooled
- Make the Crust: Line a straight-sided 13 x 9-inch metal baking pan with foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides. (This will help when it comes to removing the cooled bars from the pan).
- Lightly coat the sides of the foil, but not the bottom, with non-stick cooking spray or extra melted butter to prevent the lemon topping from sticking.
- In a medium bowl, use a spatula to stir and press the sugar, salt, lemon zest, and the vanilla extract together until it looks moist and is fragrant. Stir in the flour and melted butter until a crumbly, stiff dough forms.
- Press the dough evenly into the bottom of the prepared baking pan (it may not look like enough dough at first, but it will cover the bottom nicely). Prick the dough with a fork all over to prevent air bubbles while baking. Freeze dough for 5 minutes, or until firm (or refrigerate for 30 minutes).
- Bake Crust: Position an oven rack near the center of the oven and heat the oven to 325° F. Bake the crust until lightly golden brown and set, 25 to 30 minutes.
- Prepare Lemon Topping: While the crust bakes, stir the sugar, flour, salt and lemon zest together. Whisk in the eggs until smooth then whisk in the lemon juice.
- Bake Lemon Bars: Once the crust has baked, pour the lemon topping over the hot crust. Return the pan to the oven and increase the oven temperature to 350º F. Bake until the topping is set in the center and it no longer wiggles when the pan is moved, 20 to 25 minutes.
- Set the pan on a cooling rack and cool until the bars are firm and the bottom of the pan is no longer warm, about 1 hour. (You can speed this up a little by placing the bars into the refrigerator once the pan is no longer hot).
- Once cooled, use the overhang of foil to carefully lift the bars from the pan and place on a cutting board. Peel away the foil then cut into 16 bars or 32 small bars. Sift the powdered sugar over the bars.
- Storing: If stored in the refrigerator, the bars should keep up to 4 days.
We use kosher salt. If you don’t have it on hand, keep this in mind: 1 teaspoon fine sea or table salt = about 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt.
Crust recipe inspired from Fine Cooking's shortbread crust.