Lemon Bars Recipe with Buttery Crust

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.

Lemon Bars Recipe with Buttery Crust

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.

Blueberry Lemon Cheesecake BarsYOU 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.

How to Make the Best Lemon Bars

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.

Add extra flavor to the crust.

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.

Use melted butter, not softened butter for the crust.

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.

Buttery Shortbread Cookies RecipeYOU 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.

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.

You May Also Like These Recipes

  • Our Favorite Carrot Cake Recipe – An incredibly moist and light carrot cake recipe with extra simple cream cheese frosting.
  • Simple Apple Tart – A simple and rustic apple tart recipe with a buttery crust, thinly sliced apples and toasted almonds.
  • Peach Cobbler Recipe – Simple peach cobbler recipe with a lightly spiced peach filling and sweet biscuit top. Perfect with fresh or frozen peaches.
  • Homemade Blueberry Pie Recipe – A simple blueberry pie recipe with blueberries, warm spices, lemon and an easy lattice crust. Tips for making with fresh or frozen blueberries included.
  • Pineapple Upside-Down Cake Recipe – Pineapple upside-down cake recipe with gooey topping made of butter, sugar and fresh pineapple.

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

  • PREP
  • COOK
  • TOTAL

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).

Makes 16 lemon bars

You Will Need

Shortbread 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 flour

Lemon 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

Directions

  • Make 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 degrees F. Bake the crust until lightly golden brown and set, 25 to 30 minutes.

      • Prepare 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.

        • To Finish
        • 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.
  • Nutrition facts: The nutrition facts provided below are estimates. We have used the USDA Supertracker recipe calculator to calculate approximate values.

If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #inspiredtaste — We love to see your creations on Instagram and Facebook! Find us: @inspiredtaste

Nutrition Per Serving: Calories 260 / Protein 4 g / Carbohydrate 40 g / Dietary Fiber 1 g / Total Sugars 25 g / Total Fat 10 g / Saturated Fat 6 g / Cholesterol 69 mg
AUTHOR: Adam and Joanne Gallagher

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67 comments… Leave a Comment
  • 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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