Nothing beats lemon bars that are as bright and memorable as the sun on a perfect spring day! These bars are buttery, sweet, tart, and everything you could ever want from your favorite lemony dessert.
Why you'll love them
Lemon desserts are a personal favorite of my daughter's and me. There is nothing better than biting into a treat that tastes basically like sunshine. When I saw pink lemons in the grocery store, I knew I needed to put them into something good. The pink color doesn't show up in the lemon bars, but was still fun to use!
These bars have a thick, buttery crust that melts in your mouth. The filling is bright with a delicious balance of sweet and tart. They're visually striking and are so simple to put together. This makes a delicious quick dessert you can make any time. The hardest part is waiting for them to cool!
You only need a few ingredients to make the best lemon bars you've ever tried!
- Flour - This is the bulk of the shortbread, but is also in the filling to help set the bars. You can use almost any type of flour in this recipe, but I recommend not using cake flour as it is too tender to hold up to the heavy lemon filling.
- Butter - This adds flavor to the shortbread and also helps keep it together.
- Sugar - The sugar adds sweetness, enhances the other flavors, and tapers down the tartness of the lemon.
- Salt - Salt brings out and enhances the flavors of everything else.
- Lemon - The main star of the bar. It brings an unmistakable bright, tart flavor that we all love. I used pink lemons, but any lemon works in this bar. You can also substitute it with limes or grapefruit for other fun citrusy twists.
- Eggs - We use the eggs to set and bind the filling of the bars.
How to bake
- Line a 9 x 13 baking pan with parchment paper. This prevents your bars from sticking and makes it easier to remove.
- Stir together the dry ingredients for the shortbread, then cut in the butter until the mixture looks like crumbs.
- Press the shortbread mixture into the pan and bake until a very light golden brown.
- Stir together the mixture for the lemon filling and pour over the hot shortbread.
- Bake until the lemon filling is set. Cool until it's at room temperature, then chill in the refrigerator. Cut once chilled
How do they taste
These bars are a mix of crisp buttery goodness from the shortbread crust and liquid sunshine from the bright lemon filling. It is sweet, tart, and almost melts in your mouth. If you love lemon, you will love these lemon bars.
- Runny lemon bars - This is a common issue for people who are making lemon bars for the first time. Usually, it just means that you need to bake your bars longer. If your bars seem to brown at the edges, you can cover them with aluminum foil and turn down the heat. The bars should be set at the edges and jiggly without being runny in the middle. They will set fully as they cool.
- Cracks - Cracks happen a lot when either when the lemon mixture if beaten a lot or you bake your bars at too high of a temperature and take them out of the oven. The dramatic change in temperature will sometimes create these cracks. They do not affect the taste, and you can cover it with powdered sugar.
- Upside down bars - On rare occasions, bars can come out looking upside down as though the crust is on the top and most of the filling is at the bottom. Usually, this happens either when there is a big space between the crust and the sides of the pan and/or the crust is cooled down too much before you add the filling. The hot crust and pan help to quickly cool the filling on top of the crust and sides to prevent it from sinking below the crust.
Once the bars are completely cooled and chilled, you can store your lemon bars. You should keep your bars in an airtight container in the refrigerator. If you need to layer them, I recommend placing a sheet of parchment paper between them.
You can also freeze your bars. First, cut the bars and freeze them on a sheet. Once frozen, place them in an airtight container. To thaw, place your bars in the refrigerator for a few hours before bringing to room temperature.
Other recipes you may enjoy
If you love lemon treats like this, you may want to try my lemon curd recipe and my shortbread crust. My lemon meringue cheesecake and lemon meringue popsicles are just amazing. If you want a little twist on these classic lemon bars, you'll love these bruleed lemon bars.
For the Shortbread
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter cut in cubes
For the Lemon Filling
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 6 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 6 beaten large eggs room temperature
- 1 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract optional
For the Shortbread
- Preheat the oven to 350 °F. Line a 9 x 13 baking pan with parchment paper.
- Mix the flour, sugar, and salt together until combined.
- Add in your cubed butter and cut it into the flour.*
- Pour the mixture into the baking pan and press down firmly.
- Bake for 25 minutes.
For the Lemon Filling
- Reduce the oven temperature to 325 °F. Mix the sugar and flour together.
- Whisk the sugar mixture with the eggs until well-combined.
- Whisk in the lemon juice, and vanilla if using.
- Pour the lemon mixture into the baking pan over the hot shortbread.
- Bake for 20 - 25 minutes, or until the sides are set and the center is slightly jiggly, but not liquid.
- Cool to room temperature then chill in the refrigerator.