Lemon Bars Recipe with Buttery Crust

Easy lemon bars recipe with a crisp buttery crust and a creamy tart lemon topping. A must make!

Easy Lemon Bars

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.

You May Also Like our Blueberry Lemon Cheesecake Bars with a graham cracker crust, lemon cheesecake topping and blueberries. Or, our Ridiculously Easy Blueberry Muffin Recipe.

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.

Easy Lemon BarsMixing 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.

Easy Lemon BarsMaking 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.

Easy Lemon Bars

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.

Lemon Bars RecipeDo you have any secrets for making lemon bars? We’d love to learn about them in the comments below.

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4.8 from 18 reviews
Lemon Bars Recipe with Buttery Crust
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
These simple lemon bars have the most delicious buttery, crisp crust and creamy, tart lemon topping. Making the crust with melted butter rather than softened keeps it crisp and perfectly contrasted to the creamy, lemon filling on top. Don't skip chilling the crust before baking, it really helps keep the crust crisp and crunchy. Lemons can vary when it comes to how sour they are. We like to taste our lemons to check for sourness. If they are really sour, we might consider adding a little extra sugar to the filling. Alternatively, if they are sweeter than usual, we'll pull back the sugar amount (2 to 4 tablespoons should do it).
Yield: 16 large bars or 32 small squares
You Will Need
For the Buttery, Shortbread Crust:
  • 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
For the Lemon Topping:
  • 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
Directions
  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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).
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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).
  9. 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.
  10. Storing: If stored in the refrigerator, the bars should keep up to 4 days.
Notes and Tips
Lemon Zest: We use a rasp-style grater or microplane for the lemon zest. You'll want to zest the lemons before juicing. We call for 3 teaspoons in this recipe. Two lemons should do it.

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.

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59 comments… Leave a Comment
  • Linda July 6, 2016, 7:57 am

    I made your lemon blueberries bars and they are the best. I didn’t change a thing at all. They were made for the Fourth of July and everyone loved them. Again thank you for the great recipes.

    Reply
  • Linda Dawood July 4, 2016, 9:58 am

    Just found your web sight and let me tell you your recipes look great. Trying the lemon bars today. I will tell you how they turn out. Again thank you for the great recipes. I can give it five stars just lookin and reading your recipes.

    Reply
  • Sherri May 14, 2016, 1:05 pm

    I’m making these now, I didn’t have enough lemon juice so I added a little lime with it. Tasted it before I put the eggs in and it was great. Perfect combo of tart and sweet. Thanx guys!!!

    Reply
  • Tom Braak April 16, 2016, 5:12 pm

    My wife and I just finished making tahini and are about to make hummus. We can’t get lemons here so using small limes.

    I hope to make these lemon bard tomorrow, but will substitute passionfruit juice for the lemons. I really enjoy these recipes. Simple, with some good tips and minor changes from what I’m used to seeing. This recipe looks perfect.

    Reply
  • Elizabet February 19, 2016, 8:17 am

    Firstly, I’d like to thank you for your great recipes! Made your vegetable lasagna twice and now my family cannot live without it ))) As to this recipe ai have one question. For the lemon topping it is required to add 3 tablespoons of dough – 23 gr. but my one tablespoon of dough weighs 23 gr… Thank you in advance for your answer.

    Reply
    • Adam March 25, 2016, 11:58 am

      Glad you like our recipes! In our lemon bar recipe we ask for 3 tablespoons (about 23 grams) of flour to make the lemon topping.

      Reply
  • Sandra Frush February 10, 2016, 2:41 pm

    Can these be frozen

    Reply
    • Adam March 25, 2016, 11:55 am

      They should freeze just fine but we would suggest that you don’t freeze them with the powdered sugar on top.

      Reply
  • CathyH February 8, 2016, 1:19 pm

    These are delicious; my first time trying this recipe. I have a Meyer lemon tree and made these for Super Bowl — they were a winner for everyone at the party! Love that the lemon is so predominant – as so many recipes call for just a few tablespoons of lemon – these are the real deal! This may just be me, but my only suggestion would be more filling. I thought the ratio of filling (not enough) to crust (a little thick and slightly dry) was off from what I expected. But that was my only negative take-away. Thank you for sharing the yumminess!

    Reply
  • Leigh February 2, 2016, 4:00 pm

    Do you have the nutritional info?

    Reply
    • Joanne February 2, 2016, 4:28 pm

      Hi Leigh, We don’t calculate nutritional info for our recipes. Try copying and pasting the recipe into one of the many recipe calculators online.

      Reply
  • Lashawn December 23, 2015, 9:25 pm

    Everyone loves this recipe! I was short on lemon juice (about half missing), so I used the zest and juice from some halos to make up the difference. WONDERFUL! Now I’m not allowed to make them any other way. 🙂

    Reply
  • Gloria Smithey December 13, 2015, 4:58 pm

    How did you peel the foil off the bottom after it cooled? I’m going to make these bars in a couple of days. I envision that peeling the foil off may be tricky since it can’t be flipped over or even lifted without breaking, right? Help!

    Reply
    • Joanne December 22, 2015, 12:53 pm

      There is enough butter in the crust that peeling the foil away is easy, just do it slowly.

      Reply
    • Laura January 18, 2016, 11:25 pm

      Have you thought of trying parchment paper for baking you can lift it right out

      Reply
  • Sally December 12, 2015, 3:45 pm

    I am planning on making these for a birthday party. I do not have a metal 9×13 pan – I have a glass one. Any alterations of time for baking in glass vs. metal.
    Thank you.

    Reply
    • Joanne December 22, 2015, 1:03 pm

      You may want to reduce the oven temperature by 25 degrees.

      Reply
  • Murielle November 20, 2015, 9:39 am

    My mom always made lemon square with crushed cornflakes topping – delicious and it gives the squares just that touch of a crunch. DELICIOUS

    Reply
    • Murielle November 20, 2015, 9:40 am

      This recipes could be done with crushed cornflakes as a topping. Very good. My mom used the cornflakes instead of powdered sugar and all kids loved it.

      Reply
  • Felishia Hoffecker November 13, 2015, 5:13 pm

    I’ve actually only ever made these lemon bars using the Flaky Pie Crust recipe that they have and I LOVE it! As well as all of our small group members. It’s so delicious and wonderfully tart and sweet. I haven’t had a desire to look for any other lemon bar recipes, this truly is the best!

    Reply
  • Farah October 19, 2015, 2:39 pm

    I was wondering, do we have to chill the baked crust or not cause i mightve misread but i got confused. Before at first you said to not skip the chilling process but later in the directions it says to pour the filling on the hot crust. So which is the correcr way?

    Reply
    • Joanne December 22, 2015, 1:32 pm

      The crust is chilled before baking. Once the crust is golden brown, we simply pour the filling on top.

      Reply
  • Saskia October 5, 2015, 5:05 pm

    5 star recipe! Love lemon bars but it’s so hard to find them with the perfect balance of tart and sweetness. I got fed up of being disappointed and decided to make my own. This was by far the easiest, cheapest and fastest way for a first timer like myself. Followed the recipe exactly and was so excited to eat this (started eating while it was still hot!). My parents are very very picky eaters and they loved it! The plate only lasted a day and a half in our house! Thank you so much!

    Reply
  • Tribal Granny August 10, 2015, 11:18 am

    Finally, the lemon bar of my dreams! I’ve been looking for a creamy lemon topping instead of the cake like topping and this one is divine. Thanks!

    Reply
  • Emily May 12, 2015, 12:46 pm

    On a quest to find the best lemon bar recipe around, I tried 5 recipes I found online. This one was BY FAR the best! The melted butter crust and extra flavour from the vanilla and zest make the perfect crust. A little crunchy – the perfect contrast to the filling. I also liked the sourness level of the filling! Not too sour, not too sweet. A+ recipe!

    Reply
  • Dee April 23, 2015, 4:15 pm

    How do you cut lemon bars for a yeild of 16 i can only get 12 from that size pan

    Reply
    • Joanne April 24, 2015, 8:50 am

      We cut the bars into 4 rows by 4 rows, making 16 rectangles. Cutting into 12 is perfectly fine, it’s completely up to you.

      Reply
  • Roger Stillman April 19, 2015, 2:26 pm

    I could not find anywhere in the recipe where it indiates if these bars can be frozen. Does anyone have the answer for that?

    Reply
    • Joanne April 21, 2015, 12:56 pm

      Freezing should be fine. Freeze the baked and cooled bars up to a month then let them come to room temperature before eating.

      Reply
  • Delores watson April 5, 2015, 1:42 am

    Made it, filling wonderful, but crust was not crumbly when I mixed it, so added more flour, almost a cup more. Then it cooked without being crispy at all. What could have happened, my measurements were perfect. Maybe the butter had not cooled down sufficiently? I will not try crust again, but filling is a delight! Use Old recipe next time with your filling. Disappointment!

    Reply
    • Joanne April 9, 2015, 5:17 pm

      Hi Delores, We’re sorry the crust was not what you expected. We really are not sure what happened, the crust is actually our favorite part when we make it. We are glad the filling was a success, though!

      Reply
    • Tribal Granny August 10, 2015, 11:16 am

      The extra flour you added made it crumbly. The butter/flour ratio is what makes the crust crispy.

      Reply
  • Michele April 3, 2015, 7:51 pm

    5 Star! My 16 yr old made these – followed the directions as written. The ENTIRE family loved them, even my picky 10 yr old. Perfect blend of sour and sweet combined with a delicious crust. We will definitely make these again.

    Reply
    • Joanne April 9, 2015, 5:18 pm

      That’s so great, Michele. We love when teenagers make our recipes 🙂 Thanks for letting us know!

      Reply
  • Debbie February 24, 2015, 2:23 pm

    These are great!! And the aroma while preparing these was so nice. Will definitely make these again.

    Reply
  • Felishia Hoffecker January 7, 2015, 4:40 pm

    Absolutely love your site! I was wondering if you could sub the shortbread crust for pie dough?

    Reply
    • Joanne January 8, 2015, 1:48 pm

      We would be comfortable using it for the crust of a cookie bar (like lemon bars), but are not quite sure about using it for a pie. We would probably stick to this pie crust recipe.

      Reply
  • Sonam December 28, 2014, 11:11 pm

    I was looking everywhere for a good lemon bar recipe and almost made one from Food Network. Then I suddenly remembered your banana bread recipe and how awesome it turned out, so I searched for lemon bars on your blog and was so happy when I found them!

    I’m an awful baker, but I managed to pull these off and they were DELICIOUS. Everyone else who had a taste loved it too. Thank you! That’s 2 out of 2 wonderful recipes. Can’t wait to try more.

    Reply
    • Joanne February 3, 2015, 1:20 pm

      Nice! So glad you remembered us 🙂

      Reply
  • gooing November 24, 2014, 11:24 pm

    can this recipe for the shortcrust base be used for all other types of tarts such as cheese tarts?

    Reply
    • Joanne November 26, 2014, 2:24 pm

      Yep! As long as it isn’t savory, this base will do for most tarts or cookie bars.

      Reply
      • boom November 27, 2014, 5:22 am

        was just wondering since you use melted butter for this recipe, can some of the butter be replaced with oil such as olive oil?

        does it work to mix and blend the melted butter with oil?

        Reply
        • Joanne February 3, 2015, 1:21 pm

          Hi there, great question. While we have not tried it ourselves (on our to-do list), it really should work. If you try it, we’d love to hear about how it went.

          Reply
      • gooing November 28, 2014, 5:18 am

        i made this today. However, I find that the flavour of the lemon topping a little too intense (is there such a thing as too sweet and too sour at the same time??!!). I only used about 140-150ml of lemon juice and about 120 grams of sugar!!!

        Any suggestion to alter the recipe if I want something lemony but not so intense. Is it possible to replace some of the lemon juice with water?

        Also, the shortbread base is really crispy and flavourful! However, it’s a tad too fragile (flaky?) and I could still bite into some of the granulated sugar, did I do something wrong?

        Reply
        • Joanne February 3, 2015, 1:20 pm

          Hi there, try replacing some of the lemon juice with fresh orange juice instead. That should take the acidity down a little.

          Reply
  • CB November 2, 2014, 3:34 pm

    Wow!! Just made these for the first time ever and they are amazing!!

    Reply
  • jaishree dhake October 29, 2014, 12:53 am

    Lemon bars looks yummy ….Can i use any other flour to make it gluten free lemon bars…

    Reply
    • Joanne October 29, 2014, 12:28 pm

      Hi there, you should try it. We have only made this recipe with all-purpose flour, but it would be interesting to find out if a gluten-free mix works. If you do, we’d love to hear how it goes – I’m sure others will benefit from the info.

      Reply
  • Rachel August 4, 2014, 3:41 pm

    I love lemon bars and this recipe sounds amazing. Will give it a try when our grocery store has lemons in stock again! Is there a lemon shortage?

    Reply
    • Joanne August 7, 2014, 12:29 pm

      Hmm?? I wonder. I know limes are harder to come by lately.

      Reply
  • 4everdreamin July 25, 2014, 11:23 am

    These are amazing!! The recipe pure perfection!!
    The crispness of the base is perfect with the soft lemon topping and the combination of flavours is divine.
    Will be trying more of your recipes, love the way you write them.

    Reply
  • JulieD July 14, 2014, 8:01 pm

    This looks great! Hope you guys are doing well, Joanne and Adam!!

    Reply
    • Joanne August 7, 2014, 1:03 pm

      Thanks, Julie! We are 🙂 Thanks for asking!

      Reply
  • Sangeeta June 24, 2014, 7:02 am

    Made this with oranges instead – and they were divine! Thank you for the step by step instructions and all the additional lil’ tips that make following your recipes a breeze! As always with your recipes, my 12 year old simply loved it.

    Reply
    • Joanne August 8, 2014, 11:30 am

      Great idea!

      Reply
  • han June 22, 2014, 9:44 pm

    this looks like a lemon slice that is deserving of its name, thanks for all the tips!

    Reply
  • Roxy | Roxy's Kitchen June 18, 2014, 12:47 pm

    I love citrus desserts and these lemon bars look amazing! Looking forward to trying the recipe! Pinned for now!

    Reply
    • Joanne June 20, 2014, 11:59 am

      Hi Roxy, Thanks for pinning our recipe! We hope you try the bars soon, they are pretty darn delicious 🙂

      Reply
  • Librarian Lavender June 11, 2014, 3:29 pm

    I have to try to make these lemon bars! I love the taste of lemon… Great recipe!

    Reply

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