Easy Lemon Bars

Sweet yet tangy, these classic lemon bars make the ultimate summer dessert. A creamy and zesty lemon filling sits atop a buttery and tender shortbread-style crust in this easy recipe. Perfect dusted with powdered sugar or dolloped with whipped cream, these lemon bars are a refreshing treat!

A stack of three lemon bars with cut lemons and a vase of flowers in the background.

I am admittedly not a huge lemon dessert type of person.

A wedge of lemon in my water or iced tea? Sure! But lemon for dessert when I could choose something like chocolate or cheesecake? It’s a hard sell for me.

That being said, there are times, especially in the summer, when I’m just craving something super light and refreshing to top off a meal instead of something crazy sweet and heavy.

Enter lemon bars.

Why We LOVE These Bars

Aside from being the ultimate summer treat, these lemon bars are a must make recipe for quite a few reasons.

  • They are the perfect balance of sweet yet tart.
  • Excellent for a make-ahead dessert since they can be made up to 2 days in advance.
  • Unbelievably easy. You can make these bars entirely by hand (but the food processer does help).

The Ingredients

These lemon bars are comprised of a bottom shortbread crust and creamy lemon filling. Let’s walk through some key ingredients for each…

The Crust

  • Flour: Use all-purpose flour to provide structure to the crust.
  • Powdered Sugar: Helps give the crust a sandy, tender texture.
  • Cornstarch: Keeps the shortbread surprisingly soft.
  • Butter: Use unsalted butter at room temperature to help bind the shortbread together.

The Lemon Filling

I like to make the filling while the crust chills so it’s ready to pour in after baking. A few notes:

  • Lemon zest: For a little boost of lemony flavor, use fresh. lemon zest.
  • Lemon juice: Fresh, not bottled, gives maximum lemony flavor to the bars. If you are in a pinch, bottled can be used, but the flavor won’t be quite the same.
  • Milk: Whole milk works best to give a creamy finish to the filling.
Lemon bars sliced into squares on a piece of parchment paper.

How to Make the Bars

This sweet yet tangy lemon bar recipe is not only the best recipe for lemon bars but also by far the easiest to make! The shortbread crust is surprisingly soft (thank you, cornstarch!) and the lemon filling is the perfect hybrid of creamy yet firm and tart yet sweet.

Let’s break down how to make these tangy lemon bars into two main parts, the shortbread crust, and the lemon filling.

  • Prepare for baking: Preheat to oven to 350°F. Lightly butter 9×13-inch baking pan and line with parchment paper.
  • Mix dry ingredients: Pulse the flour, powdered 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 a coarse meal, about three 1-second pulses.
  • Press into the pan: Sprinkle the mixture into the lined pan and press firmly into an even layer over the entire bottom and 1/2-inch up the sides.
  • Chill and bake: Refrigerate for 30 minutes, then bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.
Mixing together the filling for lemon bars.

Make the Filling

  • Mix eggs and dry ingredients: Whisk the eggs, sugar, and flour in a medium bowl.
  • Add remaining ingredients: Stir in the lemon zest, lemon juice, milk, and salt to blend well.
  • Reduce oven temperature: Once the crust finishes baking, reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.
  • Pour filling on the crust: Stir the filling mixture to re-incorporate the ingredients, then pour into the warm crust.
Filling for lemon bars whisked together in a bowl.
  • Bake until the filling feels firm when touched lights, about 20 minutes.
  • Cool completely: Transfer the pan to a wire rack; cool to near room temperature, at least 30 minutes.
  • Transfer and slice: Lift the bars from the pan, using the parchment paper, then place on a cutting board to slice into squares.

Helpful Baking Tips

  • Parchment Paper: Make sure the parchment paper comes up the sides to create a sling to lift the bars out when they are done.
  • Gooey Lemon Bars: When you remove the lemon bars from the oven, they should be set i.e. not jiggly in the middle and the edges will be golden. They will continue to set during the cooling process, so make sure they have ample time to cool before slicing in.
Lemon bars sitting on a piece of marble.

How to cut smooth lines on Lemon Bars

When you are ready to cut and serve these delicious lemon bars, here are a few helpful tips to get smooth cuts every time.

  • Allow the bars to set completely before cutting. It might help to refrigerate them overnight and wait to cut before you plan to serve.
  • Run a sharp knife blade under warm water to cut through the lemon bars smoothly.
  • Clean off the knife between cuts. Some of the lemon bar filling sticks to the blade and prevents a second smooth cut.

Serving Suggestions

Whether you plan to make these for a picnic in the middle of summer, a cookie table for a wedding in the spring, or a Christmas cookie tray, you’ll be so pleased with how easily these come together and how delicious they are. Some of my favorite ways to dish the bars out include:

  • Powdered sugar: Shower them with a generous dusting of powdered sugar and they’ll be ready to go!
  • Whipped Cream: Dollop a fresh scoop of whipped cream on the top for an extra creamy finish.
One lemon bar on its side next to other lemon bars.

Serving, Storing, and Freezing

  • Serving: Lemon bars are fine to keep out at room temperature for up to 6 hours or so.
  • Storing: Store cooked lemon bars or leftovers in the refrigerator. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and store for up to 2 days.
  • Make-Ahead: You can make lemon bars up to two days in advance. Simply allow them to cool to room temperature and then cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature and blot the top with paper towels to remove condensation before dusting with powdered sugar (that will help the powdered sugar from dissolving quickly!).
  • Freezing the whole batch: Bake the lemon bars as directed and allow them to cool. Before slicing, you can wrap tightly in plastic wrap, then foil and freeze for up to 1 month.
  • Freezing individual bars: Once sliced, place lemon bars on a baking sheet and freeze until solid, about 2 hours. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and place in a freezer-safe bag for up to 2 months.

If You Like These Lemon Bars, Try These:

A stack of three lemon bars being sprinkled with powdered sugar.

Sweeten your summer with these tangy yet sweet lemon bars. Made with a creamy lemon filling and a buttery shortbread-style crust, this easy lemon bar recipe is perfect for cookie tables, backyard BBQs, and more!

If you make this recipe and love it, remember to stop back and give it a 5-star rating – it helps others find the recipe! ❤️️

Lemon Bars

Servings 24 bars
Prep 45 minutes
Cook 40 minutes
Total 1 hour 25 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Author: Michelle
Classic Lemon Bars with a shortbread-style crust and silky smooth, slightly tart, sweet lemon custard on top. All they need is a dusting of powdered sugar!

Ingredients:

For the Crust

  • cups
    all-purpose flour
  • cup
    powdered sugar, plus extra for decorating finished bars
  • ¼
    cup
    cornstarch
  • ¾
    teaspoon
    salt
  • ¾
    cup
    unsalted butter, at cool room temperature, cut into 1-inch pieces

For the Filling

  • 4
    eggs
    (beaten lightly)
  • 1⅓
    cups
    granulated sugar
  • 3
    tablespoons
    all-purpose flour
  • 2
    teaspoons
    grated lemon zest
    (from about 2 large lemons)
  • cup
    lemon juice
  • cup
    whole milk
  • Pinch
    salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter a 9×13-inch baking pan and line with parchment paper.
  2. Make the Crust: Pulse flour, powdered 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. Sprinkle the mixture into the lined pan and press firmly into an even 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. Make the Filling: 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 F. Stir the filling mixture to reincorporate the ingredients, then pour into the 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. Lift the bars from the pan using the parchment paper, then place on a cutting board to slice into squares. Sift powdered sugar over bars, if desired. Leftover bars can be covered in plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 2 days.

Recipe Notes:

  • Serving: Since lemon bars are fine to keep out at room temperature for a number of hours if they are on a serving platter at a party, for example.
  • Storing: Store cooked lemon bars or leftovers in the refrigerator. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and store for up to 2 days.
  • Freezing the whole batch: Bake the lemon bars as directed and allow them to cool. Before slicing, you can wrap tightly in plastic wrap, then foil and freeze for up to 1 month.
  • Freezing individual bars: Once sliced, place lemon bars on a baking sheet and freeze until solid, about 2 hours. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and place in a freezer-safe bag for up to 2 months.
  • You can prepare the crust by hand simply by whisking together the flour, powdered sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Then, cut in the butter with a pastry blender (or grate frozen butter into the mixture and rub together quickly with your fingers) until completely incorporated and resembles coarse meal.
  • 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.
Nutritional values are based on one serving

Nutrition:

Calories: 162kcal
Fat: 6g
Saturated fat: 3g
Cholesterol: 42mg
Sodium: 85mg
Potassium: 33mg
Carbohydrates: 24g
Sugar: 14g
Protein: 2g
Vitamin A: 220%
Vitamin C: 2.8%
Calcium: 11%
Iron: 0.6%

Did you make this recipe?

Leave a review below, then snap a picture and tag @thebrowneyedbaker on Instagram so I can see it!

Photography by Whitney Wright