Easy Lemon Bars with Buttery Crust

My favorite lemon bars recipe! These classic lemon bars have a crisp shortbread crust and a creamy delicious tart lemon topping. These bars need to be made in your kitchen, ASAP. Jump to the Lemon Bars Recipe or read on to see our tips for making them.

Easy Lemon Bars Recipe with Buttery Crust

My Favorite Lemon Bars Recipe

I’m not sure it’s possible to convey how much I love these easy lemon bars. Let’s start with the crust. If you’ve had shortbread cookies before, then the crust for our lemon bar recipe will remind you of them. I love it so much, I’d be happy to just eat the crust (it’s that good).

My favorite lemon bars recipe! These classic lemon bars have a crisp shortbread crust and a creamy delicious tart lemon topping. These bars need to be made in your kitchen, ASAP.

Lemon Bar Ingredients

The ingredient list for these easy lemon bars is not a long one. You really only need 5 ingredients (plus salt). Here’s what you’ll need:

Butter makes the crust of these lemon bars taste amazing.

Sugar is used in the crust and lemon topping. I use regular granulated sugar.

Lemons are essential (obviously), but for the best lemon bars, I like to use both fresh lemon juice and zested lemon peel for double the lemon flavor.

Vanilla and Salt add flavor and help to make the filling and crust taste incredible.

Eggs provide the base for our filling. We use four large eggs.

My Best Tips for Making Lemon Bars

We’re picky when it comes to crusts (pie crust is a great example). For the best lemon bar crust, we have a few easy tips for you:

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.

Lemon Bars // Add extra flavor to the crust.
Make flavored sugar by rubbing or pressing lemon zest, vanilla, and salt into the sugar.

Use melted butter, not softened butter. 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, I prefer to use melted butter.

Making the crust with melted butter rather than softened keeps it crisp and perfectly contrasted to the creamy, lemon filling on top. Melted butter makes the texture amazing and bonus, it makes the bars easier to make.

Lemon Bars // Use melted butter, not softened butter for the crust.
Melted butter makes the lemon bars crust better.

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.

Lemon Bars // Instead of puffing up and then shrinking in the pan, a chilled crust crisps, browns and becomes perfectly crunchy.
Instead of puffing up and then shrinking in the pan, a chilled crust crisps, browns and becomes perfectly crunchy.

Taste the lemons for sourness. We love a tart lemon bar, but do think you can overdo 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.

How to Store Lemon Bars

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.

What Our Readers Are Saying

If I haven’t convinced you to make these easy lemon bars, take a look at what our readers have been saying about the recipe:

“By far the best lemon bars I have ever tasted; homemade or pastry shop made!!” – Danette

“Perfect combo of a tart and creamy lemon top and a sweet and crunchy crust.” – Shanese

“These are AMAZING! Everyone loved them! They were all fighting over who got to take the leftovers home. A lot of people always comment on how good the lemon filling is, which is fantastic BUT the crust for this is PERFECT!! You could honestly eat it on its own! BEST lemon bar recipe ever!!!!!” – Jessica

You May Also Like These Recipes

  • I also love these easy Blueberry Lemon Cheesecake Bars with a graham cracker crust, lemon cheesecake topping, and blueberries.
  • 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.

Recipe updated, originally posted June 2014. Since posting this in 2014, we have tweaked the recipe to be more clear. – Adam and Joanne

Easy Lemon Bars with Buttery Crust

  • PREP
  • COOK
  • TOTAL

These easy lemon bars have the most delicious buttery crust and a 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 (250 grams) all-purpose flour

Lemon Topping

1 1/2 cups (300 grams) granulated sugar

3 tablespoons (25 grams) all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon fine sea 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

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 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 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 lemon 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 database 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: Serving Size 1 bar / 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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85 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
  • 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

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