Lemon Bars

Perfect Lemon Bars

Is there anyone else out there who is a lemon convert? Lemon anything used to madden me. I just couldn’t make myself like anything that had that distinctive, puckering flavor in it. Maybe the things I tried were too tart or lacked something else, but until the last couple of years, I was never a fan. But now that I have done a lot of baking with it and tried it in a variety of ways, I absolutely love it. I think the conversion began with lemon meringue pie a couple of years ago, and now I enjoy the tart sweetness that lemon adds to such a variety of baked goods. I especially love it paired with fruit and well, everything is infinitely better in cupcake form, so these Lemon-Limoncello Cupcakes are an absolute favorite as well. Lemon bars were a new venture for me and these turned out better than I could have hoped – a thick, shortbread-style crust topped with a perfectly set lemon custard. A perfect balance of sweet and tart, crunch and silky smoothness.

Lemon Bars

One of my sister’s best friends has a mom who does a lot of baking, especially around the holidays. One of the things that my sister always raves about are this lady’s lemon bars. I felt that I needed to pass the Mrs. K test when I made them so as soon as they were ready to cut I had my sister test one to see how they stacked up. She said they were fabulous and definitely on par with Mrs. K’s famous bars. Success!

A note on serving these… I didn’t plan on actually cutting and serving these until the day after they were made so I covered the pan in plastic and refrigerated, then took them out and dusted with powdered sugar. As you can see, most of the powdered sugar got soaked into condensation on top of the bars. If you refrigerate these before serving them, I would recommend letting them come to cool room temperature, then blotting off any noticeable condensation before dusting with powdered sugar. If you are serving them the same day you are baking them, I would just let them cool on a rack and then leave them at room  temperature until you serve them.

One year ago: Potato-Bacon Torte
Two years ago: Cheddar Ale Spread

Lemon Bars

Yield: 24 bars

Prep Time: 45 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes


For the crust:
1¾ cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup confectioners' sugar, plus extra for decorating finished bars
¼ cup cornstarch
¾ teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, at cool room temperature, cut into 1-inch pieces, plus extra for pan

For the lemon filling:
4 large eggs, beaten lightly
1-1/3 cups granulated sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest, from about 2 large lemons
2/3 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup whole milk
Pinch of salt


1. Adjust an oven rack to middle position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter a 9x13-inch baking pan and line with one sheet parchment paper. Dot the paper with a bit of butter, then lay a second sheet of parchment paper crosswise over it.

2. Pulse flour, confectioners' sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a food processor. Add the butter and process for 8 to 10 seconds and then pulse until the mixture is pale yellow and resembles coarse meal, about three 1-second pulses. (To do this by hand, mix flour, confectioners' sugar, cornstarch, and salt in medium bowl. Freeze the butter and grate it on the large holes of a box grater into the flour mixture. toss the butter pieces to coat. Rub the pieces between your fingers for a minute, until flour turns pale yellow and coarse.) sprinkle the mixture into the lined pan and press firmly with fingers into an even ¼-inch layer over the entire pan bottom and ½-inch up the sides. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, then bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs, sugar and flour in a medium bowl, then stir in the lemon zest, lemon juice, milk and salt to blend well.

4. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees. Stir the filling mixture to reblend; pour into warm crust. Bake until the filling feels firm when touched lightly, about 20 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack; cool to near room temperature, at least 30 minutes. Transfer to cutting board, fold paper down, and cut into bars. Sift confectioners' sugar over bars, if desired. Leftover bars can be covered in plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 2 days.

*Note: The filling needs to be poured into a warm crust straight from the oven, so once the crust is in the refrigerator chilling, prepare the filling so it's ready when the crust comes out of the oven.

(Recipe adapted from Cook's Illustrated)


55 Responses to “Lemon Bars”

  1. LimeCake on August 24, 2010 at 6:02 am

    i love citrusy lemony desserts! there’s nothing better than classic lemon bars. yum!


  2. Aimee on August 24, 2010 at 6:37 am

    I am a lemon convert too, and it starts to make me wonder what other great things I have been missing out on! I made my first lemon bars recently as well and am now in love. These look excellent!


  3. Joanne on August 24, 2010 at 8:18 am

    I am a convert! If by convert you mean lifelong addict. These look fantastic!


  4. jaclyn@todayslady on August 24, 2010 at 10:07 am

    I am most definitely a lemon convert! When I was younger I never ate anything lemon. I just didn’t think it would taste good…. I blame lemon jujubes and lemon suckers. I still dont like them! But somehow I started to try lemon desserts and I love them!! Especially the lemon-raspberry combo! Or blueberry, or cranberry…..

    These look delicious! I really want to make my own lemon squares. I’ve only ever had one lemon square in my life, and loved it!


  5. Betty @ scrambled hen fruit on August 24, 2010 at 10:14 am

    My boys always preferred lemon bars to brownies, but I am equal opportunity when it comes to sweets. I’ll have one of each, thank you! These look delicious.


  6. Eliana on August 24, 2010 at 11:44 am

    Seriously – this could not look more amazing. Wish I had a couple of squares in front of me right now.


  7. Kim @ Two Good Cookies on August 24, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    I have some lemons on my counter. Methinks they won’t be there long after this… 🙂


  8. Sues on August 24, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    Nothing better in the summer than lemon bars!! I just wish it FELT like summer here in Boston! These look delicious 🙂


  9. madge @ vegetariancasserolequeen on August 24, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    Those look divine! I’ve been craving lemon bars lately, but I’m the only lifelong addict (like Joanne!) in my house so I don’t bother making them. Maybe its time I attempt to convert the husband…


  10. Jamie on August 24, 2010 at 2:02 pm

    I have always loved lemon desserts, love them! I have a few great do-often recipes. These bars look so lemony luscious! Oh, I also love lemony savory dishes too. Yum!


  11. Maria on August 24, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    I am a lemon lover! These look incredible! Perfect for summer too!


  12. Barbara | VinoLuciStyle on August 24, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    One of my very favorite treats. I have a cookbook given to me for a Christmas present back when I first started baking called ‘The Artist in the Kitchen’ (copyright 1977!)and that’s when I first discovered lemon bars and have never wavered from that recipe. But I do love to see all the different variations on this theme…and I’ve even made lime bars once when I felt a desperate calling…they were good too!

    True confession. I made a pan once for a barbecue. Well, actually made it twice because I could not keep my sticky fingers out of the first pan and while maybe not finishing off the WHOLE thing…came close enough I didn’t want anyone to know. Til now.


    • Barbara on January 8th, 2012 at 12:34 pm

      Hello and thanks for your quck reply…..I just thought before I try again I better tell you that I use Splenda due to being a diabetic. Could that be the reason My filling is rubbery? But in my 9×13 glass dish I have plenty of room for my delicious shortbread but my filling barley covers the shrotbread. If I sound frustrated…….I AM….sorry! maybe I should double the filling recipe???????
      Thanks so much. Barbara


      • Michelle on January 9th, 2012 at 8:54 pm

        Hi Barbara, I don’t bake with Splenda, but would imagine that using a sugar substitute in a recipe such as this could certainly affect the texture of the final product.


  13. May Ling WU on August 24, 2010 at 3:54 pm

    Love love love love lemon bars. Forgot about them for a while. I think the sourness is great becuase it helps the dessert not be too sweet. Yours look so good!


  14. Sprinkled with Flour on August 24, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    I love lemon bars, and lemon anything. These look like the perfect lemon bar!


  15. Kulsum@JourneyKitchen on August 24, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    I can literally live by citrus based desserts! Okay may be I can also live by desserts filled with nuts. TRUTH be told I can live by any kind of dessert. This surely goes on my must make list.


  16. Natalie @ The City Sisters on August 24, 2010 at 4:13 pm

    I’ve eaten two desserts today already (I know!) and yet I think I could devour about four of these bad boys!! I love citrus. These lemon bars look fabulous!


  17. Camala - CC Recipe on August 24, 2010 at 4:44 pm

    I have been seriously craving lemon bars recently, great, now I want them even more!


  18. Melanie on August 24, 2010 at 7:19 pm

    I’ve never seen milk in a lemon bar recipe…maybe that’s why mine always come out so terribly!


  19. Alison on August 24, 2010 at 7:39 pm

    These looks great and I’m always looking for a good Lemon Square recipe!


  20. Kocinera on August 24, 2010 at 8:21 pm

    These lemon bars look so delicious! I love lemon desserts, especially in the summer when they add that bit of much-needed freshness.


  21. Lynn @ I'll Have What She's Having on August 24, 2010 at 8:25 pm

    I’ve always been a lemon dessert lover. The sweet and tart combination are just like heaven to me. I can’t wait to try these bars!


  22. Ali Cakes on August 24, 2010 at 9:32 pm

    I have a wonderful lemon bar too. However, I have tried many of your suggestions, like your blackberry pie bar, so I will have to just try this recipe too. I’ll let you know how they compare.


  23. torviewtoronto on August 24, 2010 at 11:28 pm

    love making these looks delicious


  24. Becky on August 25, 2010 at 8:16 am

    I’ve made lemon bars for a long time, but especially at the holidays. I love lemon and lime for the tart, clean taste they give food, and drinks! I have had to re-powder sugar my lemon bars, too, and they’re fine.


  25. Lana @ Never Enough Thyme on August 25, 2010 at 9:56 am

    Lemon is one of my favorite flavors, both in sweet and savory foods, and Lemon Bars are always a big hit around here! Great, classic recipe. Thanks for reminding me that I haven’t made these in far too long.


  26. Ivy @ My Simple Food on August 25, 2010 at 10:02 am

    Love sourness and tangyness of anything lemon. Never made these myself. Thanks for recipe!


  27. Michelle on August 25, 2010 at 10:44 am

    Ahhhh…lemon bars are one of our all time favorites!


  28. Tracy on August 25, 2010 at 12:48 pm

    I love lemon bars and any lemon dessert really. Yum!


  29. Jen @ How To: Simplify on August 25, 2010 at 5:54 pm

    I love lemon bars. This is such a great recipe!


  30. Cookin' Canuck on August 25, 2010 at 11:46 pm

    My dad has been asking me to make him lemon bars for ages. I will have to try this for him.


  31. Trish @IamSucceeding on August 26, 2010 at 7:37 am

    LOVE LOVE LOVE Lemon bars!!!


  32. Kim - Liv Life on August 26, 2010 at 3:18 pm

    I know what you mean… I’m a coconut convert. Two years ago I wouldn’t touch it, now I can’t get enough. These bars look great… I had a lemon bar failure a few years back and have never tried again. These might do the trick though!


  33. The Mom Chef on August 26, 2010 at 5:46 pm

    I’ve been a lemon fan since day one. The more pucker-power, the better. Same with lime. Your bars look delicious. Lemon bars are a favorite in our house. 🙂


  34. Maggy@ThreeManyCooks on August 27, 2010 at 7:31 am

    I love lemon bars! They are so light and perfect with a cup of tea in the afternoon 🙂


  35. Avanika (Yumsilicious Bakes) on August 28, 2010 at 3:08 am

    I love lemon-y desserts, these bars look perfect. Yumm!


  36. Alexandra on August 30, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    Well, I made them, and I liked them. Grating the butter was such a greasy, messy hassle, and I think you can get the same effect just cutting in the butter. I definetly will not grate butter again! But they did turn out excellent! Everyone enjoyed them, and I really liked them too (first time eating a lemon bar). I might tone down the lemon flavour slightly next time, for my family’s palette, but thats pretty much the only adjustment.
    Thanks for the recipe!


  37. Glummy Mummy on August 30, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    These look absolutely heavenly and delightful. Going to give them a go soon, almost certain they’re going to taste as divine as they look! Just looking at the photos are making my mouth water 🙂


  38. srithasan on September 7, 2010 at 3:41 pm

    Lemon & custard flavor give a perfect balance of sweet and tasty desert.


  39. Danielle on April 17, 2011 at 10:46 pm

    Oh man, these were delicious! My Dad loves lemon so I made these mainly for him…but the entire family ended up loving them as well! Definitely will be making these bars again!


  40. Barbara on April 28, 2011 at 1:45 am

    Please…..can someone help me with Lemon Bars?? I have made at least five, maybe six different recipes for Lemon Bars and NONE were any good!!!!! The shortbread has always been good but the lemon mixture is gummy,thin and just terrible.
    I appreciate any and all replies.


  41. Shannon on January 7, 2012 at 6:50 pm

    My most favorite lemon bars recipe so far is from Ina Garten, but I reduce the sugar in the filling to 2 1/2 cups.

    I am always searching for even better, so I made your recipe today. They were very tasty, had a strong lemon flavor, and were not too sweet. I liked the crust because it was a bit thinner and a little bit more delicate. My crust did not brown as you have pictured above (and maybe that is why it seemed delicate?). I followed your directions exactly. I cooked them in a glass pan. Do you have any suggestions? Perhaps I should try again without the parchment?

    Either way, I think that I now have two favorite recipes.


    • Shannon on January 7th, 2012 at 6:54 pm

      Okay. I now see the problem. After 20 minutes my crust had not browned, so I should have cooked it longer. Duh! I was trying to do too many things at one. Oh well!


  42. anne on August 10, 2012 at 1:01 pm

    I make lemon bars and while they taste great, I have a couple questions. Your recipe calls for milk, doesn’t that cut the tartness of the lemon? Also, a couple of times the filling has had a cratered type look to it after its baked. Do you know what would cause that? Thanks!


    • Michelle on August 10th, 2012 at 11:50 pm

      Hi Anne, Yes, the milk does cut the tartness a bit, which creates a nice balance of flavor; it also helps to achieve the creamy texture. As for the craters, that could be due to some air pockets.


  43. Jody Strickland on October 8, 2012 at 2:36 pm

    Could I use 2% milk without messing up the recipe? That is all I have and want to make these today!


    • Michelle on October 10th, 2012 at 5:26 pm

      Hi Jody, Whole milk is best when working with custards, as it ensures a thick final product. You can try the 2%, but might find that the custard is a little thin.


  44. anne on October 10, 2012 at 5:34 pm

    I’ve had the same problem twice when making lemon bars. I’m using the parchment paper and somehow the filling is getting underneath the crust?! It makes it a mess. Any help on why this is happening?


    • Rebecca on February 4th, 2013 at 10:18 pm

      Anne- Are you building the crust up along the edge? That would be my first thought. Press the crust down good on the bottom and build up about the length of a fingernail (the bed part, not to include the free edge). The other thing to check is buttering the parchment paper. Using a whole stick I rub it all over the pan, rub it onto the first layer of paper & press it down to seal the edges. I repeat the process on the second layer of paper that goes cross-wise to the first.


  45. Rebecca on February 5, 2013 at 12:02 am

    I would like to say…Oh my goodness. This is a fab recipe. I made the recipe twice. Once to try it and the second time for a Super Bowl party. Nothing is left from either pan. I made this for Pintrosity’s Pinstrosiversary and because I had some delicious lemons. Here is a link to my blog posting http://alaskanfamilylife.blogspot.com/2013/02/yum-yum-yummy-lemon-bars.html


  46. Nova on March 23, 2014 at 9:28 pm

    Hi does 1-1/3 cups granulated sugar mean 1 and 1/3 cups of sugar?


    • Michelle on March 24th, 2014 at 11:36 am

      Hi Nova, Yes, sorry for the formatting issue.


  47. Darci on April 4, 2015 at 8:58 pm

    Just made these and a thin white film formed over the top. Do you know why that happened???


    • Michelle on April 8th, 2015 at 10:35 am

      Hi Darci, Do you mean immediately after baking, or after they sat for awhile? The powdered sugar will eventually dissolve into the top of the bars if left to sit out, so that could be it. If it happened immediately after baking, I’m not sure why that would happen.


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