Classic lemon bars with a thick, creamy, bright and zesty lemon filling and soft, sweet, buttery shortbread crust. Perfect for any holiday table, spring brunch, baby shower, or Sunday dessert!
I love citrus, I use it in almost everything I cook. It brightens up and cuts through rich cream in alfredo sauce, it makes a fabulous carne asada marinade, and it’s the secret ingredient in a great cheesecake.
So lemon bars are obviously a big love for me, and I wanted to share the love of the perfect lemon bar with you. As the weather is warming up and summer is just around the corner. this is a perfect little picnic dessert, ready for the fourth of July or a spring brunch table!
What is in a classic lemon bar?
My lemon bar recipe has simple ingredients that the regular home cook most likely already has in their kitchen:
and Fresh Lemons!
I use lemon zest in both that buttery shortbread crust and in the lemon curd filling. Lemon juice gives that tart sourness, but it doesn’t actually have ‘lemon’ flavor like the zest does. In this recipe, I rubbed the sugar and lemon zest together to really bring out the lemon oils and scent the sugar with the lemon oils. Lemon sugar is also a great thing to keep in the kitchen or give away as a gift, just so ya know.
How to make them!
It’s really easy to make lemon bars, I promise.
You mix together the shortbread ingredients, then bake the shortbread as a big cookie in a pan.
Then stir together the lemon curd filling ingredients and pour it onto the shortbread crust and bake.
Cool for a few hours, and serve!
It’s really that easy.
How do you store lemon bars?
Keep them refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week. They can be left out for hours, but not overnight. Keep the lemon bars separated by using parchment paper or wax paper, if stacking them.
Can I freeze lemon bars?
Yes, you can freeze the lemon bars. Place them on parchment paper on a baking sheet after they’ve cooled and you’ve sliced them, then freeze through for about three hours. Wrap each frozen lemon bar in plastic wrap then keep them in a freezer-safe zip-top bag for up to a month.
How many lemons will I need?
Lemons vary on how much juice they’ll give, but you’ll need about a cup of lemon juice for the recipe. This will be anywhere from 4 large, juicy lemons, to 8 medium lemons.
To get the most juice out of the lemons, you can roll the lemons on the counter with the palm of your hands, using a good amount of pressure, then use a citrus juicer like this one, or a fork to really ream all the juice out of the lemons.
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- 1/2 cup (64g) granulated sugar
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 1 cup (2 sticks, 227g) unsalted butter, melted
- 2 tsp (10 mL) vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 2 cups (256g) all-purpose flour
Lemon Curd Filling
- 2 cups (256g) granulated sugar
- Zest of 2 lemons
- 1/2 tsp (2 mL) vanilla extract
- 1/3 cup (43g) all-purpose flour
- 6 large eggs
- 1 cup (237 mL)lemon juice
- Optional Step: Gather all the granulated sugar and lemon zest into a medium sized bowl. Rub the zest and sugar between clean fingers, crumbling the zest with the sugar. Continue until zest is well mixed in with the sugar and the sugar is fragrant.
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Line the bottom and sides of a 9×13 baking pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on the sides. Set aside.
- Mix the melted butter, 1/2 cup (64g) lemon sugar, vanilla extract, and salt together in a medium bowl with a rubber spatula. Add flour and stir until the dough is thick and well combined.
- Press shortbread dough firmly onto the parchment in your baking pan, making sure the layer is flat and even. Bake for 20 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned.
Lemon Curd Filling
- Whisk the 2 cups (256g) lemon sugar and 1/3 cup (43g) flour together in a large bowl. Whisk in the eggs, vanilla, and lemon juice and mix until thoroughly combined.
- Pour lemon curd filling over the crust. Bake the bars for 22-25 minutes or until the center is set and no longer jiggles.
- Remove pan from the oven and cool completely until room temperature in pan, about 3 hours. Cover with plastic wrap (don't let it touch the lemon curd) and let cool in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours, until completely chilled.
- Once chilled, lift the bars out of the pan using the hanging parchment paper to cut with a large knife. To make clean squares, wipe the knife with a clean damp towel between each cut. Dust with powdered sugar and cut into squares before serving.
- Store leftover lemon bars in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Freezing Instructions: Place them on parchment paper on a baking sheet after they've cooled and you've sliced them, then freeze through for about three hours. Wrap each frozen lemon bar in plastic wrap then keep them in a freezer-safe zip top bag for up to a month. Thaw in fridge overnight.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 153Total Fat: 4gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 96mgSodium: 153mgCarbohydrates: 24gFiber: 1gSugar: 4gProtein: 6g
Eden Westbrook is the recipe developer, writer, and photographer behind Sweet Tea and Thyme. A classically trained chef, Eden has inspired home cooks into the kitchen with cultural comfort foods, easy family-friendly eats and sweets, and glorious spreads for date night and entertaining since 2015.