How to make the best lemon bars with a crisp buttery crust and a creamy tart lemon topping. Jump to the Lemon Bars Recipe or read on to see our tips for making them.
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: These easy Blueberry Lemon Cheesecake Bars with a graham cracker crust, lemon cheesecake topping and blueberries.
How to Make the Best Lemon Bars
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.
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: These Rich, Buttery Shortbread Cookies. See our recipe for how to make buttery shortbread cookies with just a few ingredients and no special equipment.
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.
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Recipe updated, originally posted June 2014. Since posting this in 2014, we have tweaked the recipe to be more clear. – Adam and Joanne
Lemon Bars Recipe with Buttery Crust
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).
You Will NeedShortbread Crust
12 tablespoons (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 (260 grams) all-purpose flourLemon Topping
1 1/2 cups (300 grams) granulated sugar
3 tablespoons (25 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 (4 to 5 lemons)
1 to 2 tablespoons powdered sugar, for sifting tops of bars once cooled
- Make Crust
- Bake Crust
- Prepare Topping
- To Finish
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).
Position an oven rack near the center of the oven and heat the oven to 325 degrees F. Bake the crust until lightly golden brown and set, 25 to 30 minutes.
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.
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.
Adam and Joanne's Tips
- Storing: If stored in the refrigerator, the bars should keep up to 4 days.
- 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.
- Crust recipe inspired from Fine Cooking’s shortbread crust.