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
  • 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

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