Luscious Lemon Squares

Lemon squares-2a

Most of my close friends love to cook, and the ones that don’t at least love to eat, so it’s inevitable that no matter where our conversations start, we always end up talking about food. Whether we’re exchanging recipes, recounting meals at restaurants, griping over picky eaters, or getting to the root of why we ate all those brownies when we knew we shouldn’t, it never gets old.

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One of my dearest friends and cooking cohorts is Melissa. Melissa is one of those people who could take or leave chocolate, but give her lemons, limes or oranges and she’s in heaven. One day, we got on the subject of Lemon Squares. Neither of us had a perfect recipe so we decided to get in the kitchen and create one of our own.

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Well….we must have made at least 200 lemon squares. I don’t think our poor husbands, ever the willing taste testers, would care if they never ate lemon squares again! But finally, perfection: a crisp and buttery shortbread crust topped with a luscious, tart-yet-sweet lemon filling. Generously dusted with snow white powdered sugar, they’re as pretty as they are delicious.

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To make them, you start by lining your pan with aluminum foil and spraying it with nonstick cooking spray. This makes removing the baked square easy, so cutting is a cinch.

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For the crust, mix the flour, corn starch, confectioners’ sugar and salt in a bowl of a food processor. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal (think clumpy sand), then press into the prepared pan. Let the crust rest in the fridge for 30 minutes, then bake until lightly golden.

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To make the topping, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, and flour. As soon as the base is cooked, pour the lemon filling over top. Return the pan to the oven and bake until the topping is set and firm. It should look like this…

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Cool, then use the foil overhang to lift the square out of the pan and onto a cutting board. Trim the edges and cut into squares.

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Dust with powdered sugar and serve.

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Naturally, they’re best enjoyed over coffee or tea with a good friend, preferably discussing what you ate last night or what you’re going to eat tomorrow.

“One of the delights of life is eating with friends, second to that is talking about eating. And, for an unsurpassed double whammy, there is talking about eating while you are eating with friends.”
Laurie Colwin, Home Cooking

 

Luscious Lemon Squares

Servings: 16 2-inch squares

Ingredients

For the Crust

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, spooned into measuring cup and leveled-off
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup Confectioners' sugar, plus more to decorate finished bars
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

For the Lemon Topping

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest (be sure to zest before juicing the lemons)
  • 5 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 2-3 lemons)
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Instructions

Make the Crust

  1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Cover a 9-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil. Push the foil neatly into the corners and up the sides of the pan, using two pieces if necessary to ensure that the foil overlaps all edges (the overhang will help removal from the pan). Spray the foiled pan with nonstick cooking spray.
  3. Place the flour, corn starch, salt and Confectioners' sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment and mix for a few seconds. Add the butter and mix to blend until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 10 seconds. Sprinkle the mixture into the prepared pan and press firmly with your fingers into an even layer, building up a thin ½-inch edge around the sides (this keeps the filling from spilling beneath the crust). Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  4. Bake the crust until lightly golden, 15-20 minutes.

Make the Topping

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, and flour.
  2. When the crust is ready, give lemon mixture a quick final stir and then pour over top. Immediately return the pan to the oven and bake another 20-25 minutes, or until the topping is set and firm. Let cool on a rack to room temperature, or at least 30 minutes, then cover and chill in the refrigerator until cold -- the bars are much easier to cut when cold.
  3. To cut, use the foil overhang to lift the baked square out of pan and onto a cutting board. Loosen the foil from the edges of the crust, using a knife if necessary. Using a sharp knife, trim the edges off, then cut into 2-inch squares. Use a fine sieve to dust the squares with Confectioners' sugar. Store finished lemon squares in the refrigerator and serve chilled.

Reviews & Comments

  • How would you adjust the baking time for an 8″ square pan? Or would it be the same? Thanks!

    - Renee on May 21, 2014 Reply
    • Hi Renee, It would be about the same.

      - Jenn on May 21, 2014 Reply
  • These turned out TERRIFIC! I brought them over to a friend’s house for dinner, and they were the best lemon squares any of us has ever had, and we’re lemon square connoisseurs. :) I added a raspberry (placed upside down) on top of each square to dress it up. Because the lemons I got weren’t overly tart, I had to decrease the amount of sugar. What I did was before adding the eggs, I taste tested the topping (with just the lemon juice, zests, and flour) and added sugar until it had the right sweet/tart balance. I ended up using only 1-1/4 cups instead of 1-1/2 cups of sugar. It was surprisingly easy to make! This definitely will be my go to recipe for lemon squares. Thank you so much, Jenn!

    - Kim on March 12, 2014 Reply
  • these lemon bars are just perfect with just the right amount of lemon flavor. They are easy to make and will go fast so make a lot of them! Simply yummy!

    - Mary Redmiles on November 14, 2013 Reply
  • I have been in search of the “BEST” lemon bars recipe. I finally found it on your website. I made them last night and they are perfectly lemony and I especially like the shortbread crust. Thanks for the recipe.

    - Janet on July 31, 2013 Reply
  • How Lucky I am to find your recipes page and the recipes being sent on email. I started with the Strawberry Yogurt and have made it many times. It called for 1 lb strawberries and I used 2 lbs. Raves!
    I am going to do the Thai Crunch Salad with Peanut Dressing next. along with the Homemade Caesar Salad Dressing.
    I am looking for your candied walnuts for green salads now.

    - Martha Harrison on July 18, 2013 Reply
  • I learned to make the Lemon Bar filling by beginning it as soon as the crust went into the oven and beating the egg mixture continuously, the entire time the crust is baking. When it is done, pour the filling over it immediately and pop it right back into the oven. This works best, I think–try it. Best wishes to all.

    - Margot Fernandez on March 31, 2013 Reply
  • Does anyone know how well these bars freeze? Are they as tasty as usual afterward?

    Thanks!

    - Jennifer Smith on March 11, 2013 Reply
    • Hi Jennifer, They freeze beautifully.

      - Jenn on March 11, 2013 Reply
      • You were correct! They did freeze beautifully. Thanks!

        - Jennifer S. on January 29, 2014 Reply
  • I love these lemon squares and will be making some for my daughter’s wedding reception. I made no changes.

    Thanks for the great recipe!

    - Jennifer Smith on March 11, 2013 Reply
  • I’m a lemon, lime, citrus over chocolate any day of the week, and twice on Sunday girl… This recipe is the ultimate lemon squares recipe! Thank you Jennifer !!

    - Sondy on March 9, 2013 Reply
  • Lemon lovers unite! A perfect and refreshing treat! Your recipes are always the best!

    - Kim Pike on March 9, 2013 Reply
  • I’m an experienced baker, but a lemon square failure: too gooey, too crumbly, too burnt (oops, can’t blame that on a recipe). I had almost resigned myself to paying $2/bar at the bakery, but gave this recipe one last try. I don’t know if it is the cornstarch in the crust or the genius instruction to dust with powdered sugar after cutting, too hide ragged edges, but this recipe works. The topping wasn’t too tart or too weepy and the crust didn’t disintegrate during slicing. I am so glad to have this reliable and tasty recipe for lemon bars so I can have back my dignity and not feel like a simple bar recipe was always ready to beat me up.

    - Marji on March 9, 2013 Reply
  • These came out better than the Lucy’s Lemon Squares from one of my first cookbooks. I did add slightly more zest than the 1T in the recipe and the lemon flavor was really intense (which I loved).

    - Winston on October 4, 2012 Reply
  • Always in the mood for lemon squares. and Love the fact that we can make the crust in the food processor. Thanks for that info!

    - Holly on October 2, 2012 Reply
  • I’ve always used regular sugar instead of confectioner’s sugar when making lemon bars. Is there a benefit to using one vs the other?

    - Lauren on October 2, 2012 Reply
    • Confectioners sugar is only used for dusting the bars.

      - Jenn on October 2, 2012 Reply
      • Jenn
        I notice in your response to a question that you relayed the confectioners sugar is only used for dusting the bars. In the crust recipe it calls for confectioners sugar. Is this correct? I am not a baker and going to give this a try,.

        Thanks,
        Carrie

        - Carrie on April 23, 2014 Reply
        • Hi Carrie, My mistake. I was referring to the sugar in the filling. You are correct that Confectioners’ sugar is also used in the crust. Please come back and let me know how they come out!

          - Jenn on April 23, 2014 Reply
  • Lemon squared are my ultimate favorite. I tend to leave any overhang alone b/c, I love crust too.

    - Karen O on June 24, 2012 Reply
  • I had a tea last week for my neighbors and they really enjoyed the lemon bars. They were light and refreshing.

    - Gayle Snyder on June 24, 2012 Reply
  • I did think of one cooking tip. I use a tart pan with a removable bottom (the bottom comes out similar to a springform pan) and that makes removal quite easy.

    - Meredith Loveless on June 23, 2012 Reply
  • These Lemon Squares are as delicious as they look… Sweet and tart at the same time. They are perfect for entertaining, or to keep around for that after dinner sweet tooth! We know we all have one! One tip–use only FRESHly squeezed lemon juice. It makes all the difference in the world when you are baking or cooking. ENJOY!

    - Amy Heimberg on June 22, 2012 Reply
  • The texture of these bars was great! Not too gooey like some other lemon bars tend to be. I thought they were a little sweet, so I may reduce the sugar a little bit next time.

    - Shelley Thomas on June 21, 2012 Reply
  • Try Meyer lemons!

    - Meredith Loveless on June 20, 2012 Reply
  • These look absolutely delicious. Thanks for sharing.

    - @nola727 on May 21, 2012 Reply
  • I made this it was so good ! A bit too sweet thou, i will reduce the sugar next time.

    - Lola Macaulay on May 21, 2012 Reply
  • This is my new go to recipe! They were so good!

    - Valerie on May 17, 2012 Reply
  • love lemon bars and am always looking for different versions to try

    - jacquie on May 15, 2012 Reply
  • These lemon squares are wicked awesome!

    - Susan M on May 15, 2012 Reply
  • Yummy!!

    - Susan on May 15, 2012 Reply
  • I’ve been looking for a great lemon bars recipe for years now, and this is now my #1 favorite, thanks for sharing, thought it was fabulous!

    - Stacy on May 15, 2012 Reply
  • what a refreshing looking dessert to make for a cookout

    - Glenda on May 15, 2012 Reply
  • can someone help? I followed the recipe but after only 8 min. with the filling, it was brownish black (burning) so I had to take it out. When I cut into it, the filling was liquid form. I will try lowering the temp. next time, but has anyone else had this problem?

    - ashley thaba on May 3, 2012 Reply
    • Hi Ashley, So sorry you had trouble with the lemon squares. I’m happy to help you troubleshoot. I have a feeling the problem was the oven temp. Was your oven fully preheated? As the oven preheats, there is a big surge of heat that can easily burn your food. You might also want to check the accuracy of your oven temperature…it can often be off by 25°F to 50°F, which can definitely affect your baking results. Simply place an oven thermometer (you can pick one up at most grocery stores) on the center rack and heat the oven for 15 minutes. If your thermometer reads higher or lower than your oven setting (325°F with the oven set at 300°F, for example), you can get the oven calibrated or just adjust the setting in the future to make up for it.

      - Jenn on May 4, 2012 Reply
  • Never had a better lemon bar–anywhere!

    - Alink on March 6, 2012 Reply
  • Best lemon bars I have ever made or eaten anywhere!

    - Alink on March 6, 2012 Reply
  • Best lemon bars ever!

    - Alink on March 6, 2012 Reply
  • wow! love lemon for a end of a meal! great recipe

    - meredith on March 4, 2012 Reply
  • This has become my “go-to” recipe for Lemon Squares. The shortbread base is the best ever and the lemon filling is perfection. Thanks Jenn and Melissa for your efforts!

    - Liz on March 4, 2012 Reply
  • Shortbread and lemons – heaven! I made them for a fund raiser and they were gobbled up right away. Strangers were asking for the recipe, I made a similar recipe, but yours is even better.
    I loved trimming them, for a prettier presentation, too

    - Cathy on March 4, 2012 Reply
  • These were so rich and yummy. I had to cut them in bite-size squares and give some away or I would have eaten the whole lot myself :).

    - Sri on March 3, 2012 Reply
  • These are my new go-to lemon bars! I used a 8 x 8 inch pan which made them a little thicker but they were still divine! They transport well, too – I’ve brought them to church and other people’s houses and they’re always a hit!

    - Anne on March 2, 2012 Reply
  • The best lemon squares I have ever had, such a delight and so refreshing. Love them!

    - Mary on March 1, 2012 Reply
  • is there anything better than a fabulous lemon square? this one is pretty hard to beat.

    - susie dyksinski on March 1, 2012 Reply
  • I have a fav lemon bar recipe that my mom always used…but this sets the “bar” even higher!!! Thank you so much for this yumminess!

    - Jennifer Skibins on March 1, 2012 Reply
  • Your lemon squares are the best. I love the intense lemon flavor and flaky crust!

    - Jennie on March 1, 2012 Reply
  • These look wonderful. I was wondering if you had any ideas as to whether this could become a coconut lemon bar. Maybe adding coconut oil and some coconut milk somehow?

    - Grace on March 1, 2012 Reply
  • LOVE LOVE LOVE lemon bars- this is next on my list of recipes to try!!!

    - Cinthy Tanko on March 1, 2012 Reply
  • Just last night I was thinking of lemon squares. I have never had ones that were made with scratch but this looks so good and my cravings are so strong that I think I’m going to go to the store after work to get the ingredients.

    - Anastasia on March 1, 2012 Reply
  • I seldom make bars and brownie because I don’t like desserts that are too sweet. (I know, I know…I’m weird) But this is a lovely recipe that has the tartness balanced so well with the sweetness! Love your picture instructions too! So easy to follow.

    amy [at] utry [dot] it

    - Amy Tong on February 29, 2012 Reply
  • I’ve never made lemon bars before and was looking for a great recipe. I found it here. These are DELICIOUS as so easy!!!!!! I love your website. My friends and family were raving over them!

    - Sarah on August 9, 2011 Reply
  • Just made these for a Memorial Day dinner party — bit hit with everyone! They turned out perfectly — loved the tin foil trick! Thanks for another great recipe, Jen!
    Karen

    - Karen on May 31, 2011 Reply
  • love every think i have made from your site. this lemon bars are great but just a little to much sugar for me . keep up with the great food .

    - sonia on March 24, 2011 Reply
  • I can’t believe I’ve only just discovered your blog! Can’t wait to have a look through older recipes. These look fantastic, and the minute I get a chance to get my oven gloves on I will be trying these.

    - Sprinzette on February 27, 2011 Reply
  • Following up on my previous post. I made these for my son’s 22nd birthday today. I substituted gluten free all purpose flour so his roommate that has celiac could enjoy them too and it worked fine. The texture and taste were wonderful. This recipe is definitely a keeper.

    - Danita on February 20, 2011 Reply
  • My goodness, this may be the first time I have ever commented upon the first read of a blog before. I just ate lunch, but your blog has me drooling despite my full tummy. I can tell your blog is definitely an instant new favorite, and I will be making these lemon squares just as soon as possible… YUM.

    - Meghan on February 11, 2011 Reply
  • Absolutely delicious, I could eat the whole tray! Terrific lemon flavor. Make the Sunday Night Roast Chicken too; juice the lemon needed for the herb butter, then save the juice for use in the lemon bars.

    - Bonnie on February 7, 2011 Reply
  • I made your meatballs tonight and they were fabulous. My mom made your lemon squares for a party and people raved about them. Then my friend Kerry just starting dating a guy and made the crabcakes and she said they were a huge hit!

    - patti on February 5, 2011 Reply
  • Made these yesterday–they were absolutely devine–husband loved them too–thanks for sharing!

    - Judy Claggett on February 5, 2011 Reply
  • Hi Kim, You will love the lemon squares but unfortunately the recipe will only work in a 9-inch square. If you use the smaller 8-inch pan, the crust and filling will be too thick. You could probably increase the quantities for the 9 x13, but I’m terrible at math and have no idea by how much. If it helps, I just bought a really cheap 9×9 baking pan at my supermarket (I think it was $10) and it works great. Hope you’ll try them :)

    - Jennifer on February 3, 2011 Reply
  • I SO want to make this recipe, but I do not have a 9×9 baking dish. Only 8×8 or 9×13! oh, I also have a 10 inch glass tart pan. I could cut them in triangle shapes. Any suggestions?

    - Kim McCary on February 3, 2011 Reply
  • My son loves lemon desserts. I’ll have to make these for his upcoming birthday. I love the quote at the end of your recipe. So true…

    - Danita on February 3, 2011 Reply
  • Wow, I made these last night after realizing I needed a little taste of spring time. They are amazing! So moist and just the right amount of tartness. The hubs, who told me that lemon desserts are not his thing, raved about them!

    - NY Baker on January 29, 2011 Reply
  • Absolutely delicious…my lemon bar fan went bonkers over these…thanks for sharing!!

    - Tammy Bane on January 29, 2011 Reply
  • HEAVEN! Super easy to make and so good…I brought them to work and everyone LOVED them!

    - Erica on January 28, 2011 Reply
  • I am not sure if Melissa and I could be friends..I love on chocolate! However I would never turn my head at lemon squares!

    - leslie on January 28, 2011 Reply
  • I can never good enough lemon~ makes me think of spring!

    - Tracy Wood on January 27, 2011 Reply
  • Omigosh! I said to my husband, “onceuponachef needs to put up a lemon bar recipe” because I’ve gone through a couple so-so ones. I knew if you posted one it would be delishes! Thank you!

    - Dani on January 26, 2011 Reply

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