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Lemon Bars

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Lemon Bars

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Perfect for potlucks, picnics, or just a quiet afternoon tea, these lemon bars with a buttery shortbread crust and luscious lemon filling are as pretty as they are delicious!

Lemon Bars dusted with powdered sugar.

One of my favorites from my first cookbook, these lemon bars stand out for a couple of reasons. First, there’s the crust: a crisp, buttery shortbread enhanced by a little pastry chef trick I love—mixing a touch of cornstarch with the flour. This small tweak, along with the mixing method, gives the base a wonderfully crisp texture, providing the perfect contrast to the rich, luscious lemon layer above.

Then comes the lemon topping itself: tart yet sweet, and bursting with bright, citrusy flavors from plenty of lemon juice and zest. It is truly luscious! These bars are not only easy to whip up with just eight ingredients but also keep beautifully, so you can definitely prepare them ahead of time for any event, big or small.

“Simply the best lemon bars you’ll ever eat.”

Denise

What You’ll Need To Make Lemon Bars

ingredients for lemon bars
  • All-purpose flour: Provides structure to the crust, and also thickens the lemon topping, helping it set once baked.
  • Cornstarch: Gives the crust a tender, melt-in-your-mouth texture.
  • Confectioners’ sugar: Sweetens the crust while also contributing to its crisp texture. Also used to dust the finished bars for decoration and added sweetness.
  • Butter: Adds richness and flakiness to the crust, giving it a shortbread-like texture and flavor.
  • Eggs: The base of the topping, giving it structure and richness.
  • Granulated sugar: Sweetens the lemon layer and balances the tartness of the lemon juice.
  • Lemon zest: Provides a strong, aromatic lemon flavor that enhances the tartness and freshness of the topping. Be sure to zest only the yellow part of the lemon skin and leave the white pith behind, as it’s bitter.
  • Freshly squeezed lemon juice: Adds the essential tart lemon flavor to the topping.
  • Jump to the printable recipe for precise measurements

Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1: Make The Crust

Place the flour, cornstarch, salt and Confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment.

dry ingredients for crust in food processor

Mix for 15 seconds to blend, then toss in the cold butter.

adding pieces of butter to food processor

Mix until the mixture resembles coarse meal, 10 to 15 seconds.

crust blended to coarse meal in food processor

Sprinkle the mixture into a foil-lined, greased 9×13-in pan.

crust mixture in prepared pan

Press firmly with your fingers into an even layer, building up a thin 3/4-inch edge around the sides (this keeps the filling from spilling beneath the crust).

Refrigerate for 30 minutes or freeze for 15 minutes.

pressing mixture into pan to make crust

Bake the crust until lightly golden, 15 to 20 minutes.

Lined baking dish with baked crust.

Step 2: Make The Filling

Start by whisking the eggs in a large bowl.

whisked eggs in bowl for lemon filling

Add the sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, and flour.

adding sugar, lemon, and flour to eggs for filling

Whisk well, making sure no lumps of flour remain.

whisked lemon filling in bowl

Pour the filling into the baked crust.

filling poured into baked crust

Step 3: Bake & Cool

Return the pan to the oven and bake another 30 to 35 minutes, or until the topping is set and firm. Let the bars cool on a rack to room temperature; it will take several hours.

baked lemon bars

Step 4: Cut the Lemon Bars

Use the foil overhang to lift the baked square out of pan and onto a cutting board. Carefully loosen the foil from the edges of the crust.

lemon bars transferred to cutting board

Using a sharp knife, cut into squares or triangles.

sliced lemon bars

Use a fine sieve to dust the squares with Confectioners’ sugar. Store the bars in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Serve chilled or room temperature.

Video Tutorial

Frequently Asked Questions

Can lemon bars be made ahead of time?

Absolutely, lemon bars can be made up to 2 days ahead of time (and leftovers will keep nicely for up to 5 days). You can store them either before or after cutting; however, they can be a bit sticky, so it’s generally easier to store them before cutting into individual bars. Once they’re fully set and chilled, wrap them well or place them in an airtight container to maintain their freshness and prevent them from absorbing any unwanted fridge odors.

Can lemon bars be frozen?

Yes, lemon bars freeze beautifully—they are even good frozen! To freeze the bars, let them cool completely and freeze the batch whole, covered tightly with aluminum foil or plastic freezer wrap, for up to three months. (The cut bars can also be frozen in a single layer.) Before serving, remove them from the freezer and let them thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Cut the bars and then sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar before serving.

Can I replace the lemon with lime to make lime bars?

Yes, you can easily substitute lemon with lime to make lime bars. This swap will give your bars a tropical, slightly different flavor. For a more nuanced taste, consider using half lemon and half lime juice.

What is the best way to store the cut bars?

Leftover lemon bars should be stored in an airtight container in a single layer in the refrigerator. You may need to dust them with confectioners’ sugar before serving again.

Can I use bottled lemon juice instead of fresh to make lemon bars?

No, I wouldn’t recommend using bottled lemon juice, as fresh is key for that bright, tart flavor. Plus, you need the zest anyway, so using fresh lemons is absolutely essential.

Lemon Bars dusted with powdered sugar.

You May Also Like

Luscious Lemon Bars

Perfect for potlucks, picnics, or just a quiet afternoon tea, these lemon bars with a buttery shortbread crust and luscious lemon filling are as pretty as they are delicious!

Servings: 20 squares or 40 triangles
Prep Time: 30 Minutes
Cook Time: 50 Minutes
Total Time: 1 Hour 20 Minutes, plus several hours to cool

Ingredients

For the Crust

  • 1¾ cups all-purpose flour, spooned into measuring cup and leveled-off
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup Confectioners' sugar, plus more to decorate finished bars
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces

For the Lemon Topping

  • 6 large eggs
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest (be sure to zest the lemons before juicing)
  • ⅔ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, from 5 to 6 lemons
  • ⅔ cup 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 9x13-in metal baking pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil (see note below). 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, cornstarch, 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, 10 to 15 seconds. Sprinkle the mixture into the prepared pan and press firmly with your fingers into an even layer, building up a thin ¾-inch edge around the sides (this keeps the filling from spilling beneath the crust). Refrigerate for 30 minutes or freeze for 15 minutes.
  4. Bake the crust until lightly golden, 15 to 20 minutes.

Make the Filling

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, and flour. Be sure no lumps of flour remain.
  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 30 to 35 minutes, or until the topping is set and firm. Let the bars cool on a rack to room temperature; it will take several hours.
  3. To cut, use the foil overhang to lift the baked square out of pan and onto a cutting board. Carefully loosen the foil from the edges of the crust, using a knife if necessary. Using a sharp knife, cut into squares or triangles. Use a fine sieve to dust the squares with Confectioners' sugar. Store the bars in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Serve chilled or room temperature.
  4. Freezer-Friendly Instructions: The bars can be frozen for up to 3 months. After they are completely cooled, freeze the batch whole, covered tightly with aluminum foil or plastic freezer wrap. Before serving, remove them from the freezer and let them thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Cut the bars and then sprinkle with Confectioners’ sugar before serving.
  5. Note: Be sure to use heavy-duty aluminum foil; regular aluminum foil may stick. Parchment paper can also be used to line the pan.

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Per serving (20 servings)
  • Serving size: 1 large square
  • Calories: 306
  • Fat: 11 g
  • Saturated fat: 6 g
  • Carbohydrates: 50 g
  • Sugar: 36 g
  • Fiber: 1 g
  • Protein: 4 g
  • Sodium: 140 mg
  • Cholesterol: 80 mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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Comments

  • Hi! Can I make this in a 16” x 11” pan? If yes, do I have to double it or something? I’ve been using this recipe in such a long time and I currently don’t have a 9×13 pan when I moved. Thank you!

    • — Rozy on April 30, 2024
    • Reply
    • Hi Rozy, a 16 x 11-inch pan will work if you make 1.5 times the recipe. Bake time should be about the same but keep a close eye on them.

      • — Jenn on May 1, 2024
      • Reply
  • Chef Jenn!
    Hope you’re doing well.
    What are your thoughts about doing 3 whole eggs and 3 yolks and then thickening the lemon curd on the stove and then straining the curd before baking?
    Thank you 😊

    • — Amelia C. on April 26, 2024
    • Reply
    • Hi Amelia, I wouldn’t recommend it — sorry!

      • — Jenn on April 30, 2024
      • Reply
  • Ugh! There’s an issue with the metric version of the recipe (which, of course, is what I used). In cups, this recipe calls for 75% more flour than butter. But in the metric version, it calls for MORE butter (by 5 grams) of butter than flour. So…way too little flour. That explains why my shortbread base came out a greasy mess. 🙁 These are probably great if you use the right measurements.

    • — Katie on April 21, 2024
    • Reply
  • I wish I’d read the reviews first. These bars were much too sweet! I had to throw out the whole batch.

    • — Jennifer on April 5, 2024
    • Reply
  • If I don’t have a food processor, could I use a Ninja blender or a stand mixer to process the dry ingredients with the butter? Btw, love your recipes – my go-to!

    • — Jennifer on March 17, 2024
    • Reply
    • So glad you like the recipes! I think you could make the crust using a mixer; just use softened butter. 😊

      • — Jenn on March 18, 2024
      • Reply
  • These lemon squares are superb in taste! But…they are a little gooey in texture! Are they meant to be eaten with a spoon? I am looking for a recipe that tastes like these but have more of a brownie consistency. Can you help?????
    Thanks, Cheryl

    • — Cheryl G Warren on March 17, 2024
    • Reply
    • Hi Cheryl, These shouldn’t need to be eaten with a spoon. It sounds like they were a tad underbaked. Next time I’d leave them in the oven for a few extra minutes. Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on March 18, 2024
      • Reply
  • I added only 200 grams of sugar and that was more than enough. 600 grams is by far too sweet.

    • — Ariane on March 15, 2024
    • Reply
  • Hi Jen – you say to use a metal pan – is that for the square edge? I have some disposable foil 9×13 pans, would that be best or I have a ceramic 9×13 that has rounded corners.

    • — sara d on March 14, 2024
    • Reply
    • Hi Sara, No, the metal pan isn’t for the square edge; it’s because it promotes more even browning than glass. I’ve never used a disposable aluminum pan, but either that or the ceramic pan should work. If you use the ceramic pan, it may take a touch longer in the oven – just keep a close eye on it. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on March 14, 2024
      • Reply
  • Just so bad. Either all the reviews on this page are a total falsehood, or you have got some serious errors in the recipe. 3 cups of sugar in the lemon? That’s 750g. Even half that is a little much. Possible the worst edible sweet i’ve ever had the misfortune to put in my mouth

    • — Ian on March 14, 2024
    • Reply
    • Hi there Ian,

      NO, I assure you the reviews here are not false or made up. I’m a former professional chef (the Ritz Carlton,Elderberry House, Hilton Hawaiian Village are part of my resume), I’ve cooked from Once Upon A Chef for a little over 5 years & I also own both of her cookbooks which regularly are referred to (the stained pages & my hand written notes tell the story).
      I can also promise you this recipe is one I’ve made over 7 or 8 X. And the amount of sugar for the size pan is the average is not unusual. If you’ve read the reviews where concern is expressed over the amount, some simply added less. But I assure you this recipe is an outstanding one. In fact I’m getting ready to make it yet again.

      Lisa in Laton

      • — Lisa on March 14, 2024
      • Reply
  • The bars are great, but is 3 cups of sugar a typo? Most recipes only call for 2 cups, and that’s really all that’s needed in this recipe too.

    • — Jean on March 10, 2024
    • Reply
    • Hi Jean, glad you liked them! 3 cups isn’t a typo, but if it worked well for you with 2, I’d stick with that.

      • — Jenn on March 11, 2024
      • Reply
  • Not hard to make; followed the recipe exactly — looked the pics all along the way, but way too sugary when eaten. 3 cups of sugar at the time of made me take pause but I did it and while edible, they were too much. And there was a weird ‘metallic’ taste to the crust made.

    • — Aimee on March 9, 2024
    • Reply
  • These lemon squares are both easy and delicious. I’ve made the cookbook’s recipe (only fractionally different) several times now, always to rave reviews- even from people who don’t particularly like lemons. The hardest part about making them is leaving any for guests to eat…

    • — Joyce on March 5, 2024
    • Reply
  • Love these bars! Wondering if anyone has tried making them with gluten free flour?

    • — Kathy on March 3, 2024
    • Reply
    • I have made these several times with GF flour (King Arthur) no issues. One of the few desserts that you cannot tell it’s GF.

      • — Steph on April 6, 2024
      • Reply
  • This is also a fab recipe! The only adjustment I make is I flick a little of the flour out so the filling is just a little more jelly (?) like? ❤️❤️❤️

    • — Valerie L. on February 29, 2024
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn–Outstanding recipe! Looking to serve a smaller crowd: Can I half this recipe and make in a 9×9? Same cooking time? Anything else to note? Thanks for this awesome recipe and any tips.

    • — Diane on February 28, 2024
    • Reply
    • Hi Diane, Yes that’s fine – the bars will be just a bit thinner. The cooking time should be about the same. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on March 1, 2024
      • Reply
  • These are incredible! I threw the recipe I grew up with away after making these several times. I use parchment paper to line the pan, and I use frozen Minute Maid lemon JUICE instead of fresh lemons, so that I am guaranteed a deep, lemony flavor if the lemons are the grocery look questionable. Thank you for this wonderful recipe:-)

    • — Tammy on February 22, 2024
    • Reply
  • Soooooooo yummy. I made 2 batches in 1 week (I gave away most to friends & family). Great way to use those lemons that everyone is giving away in warm climates (I live in AZ).

    • — Sacha on February 19, 2024
    • Reply
  • Best lemon bars by far of all the ones I have made. The crust is exactly what you want it to be, buttery, with a pleasant, shortbread texture. The bars are nice and lemony as well. thanks

    • — Heidi on February 15, 2024
    • Reply
  • Simply the best lemon bars you’ll ever eat. And incredibly quick and easy to make. This is now my go to recipe.

    • — Denise on February 15, 2024
    • Reply
  • This is my go to lemon bar recipe! It’s absolutely delicious! Thank you for sharing it with the world 😊

    • — Melissa Pyle on January 26, 2024
    • Reply
  • My 8 year old daughter LOVES to bake anything. We made these Lucious Lemon Bars and they were sensational! We will be exploring more of your recipes!
    Thank you!!

    • — Matthew Barnes on January 25, 2024
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn, I froze some lime juice when limes were plentiful. Can I substitute lime juice for lemon juice in this recipe? Do you think that would result in a tasty bar cookie, or should I make a (key) lime pie (also delicious!).
    Thanks for your wonderful recipes! Liz

    • — Liz on January 21, 2024
    • Reply
    • Hi Liz, , I think it would work, although lime is a bit stronger than lemon so maybe you’d have the best results using half lemon and half lime. If you’d like to use something that calls for all limes, I have a Key lime pie recipe that you make want to try. Hope you enjoy whatever you make!

      • — Jenn on January 22, 2024
      • Reply
      • Hi Jenn, I did try substituting lime juice for lemon juice, just because I had an abundance of it. The bars were good, (how could you miss with that delicious buttery base 🙂 but I missed the lemon! I’ll follow your wise advice and stick to Key Lime Pie and Lemon Bars. PS/Will be baking your outstanding Birthday Cake today with the leftover egg whites. All three desserts are family favorites. Thanks Jenn. 💙

        • — Liz on January 23, 2024
        • Reply
        • Thanks for reporting back and good to know they were good, but that lemon will be your go-to for these. 😊

          • — Jenn on January 23, 2024
          • Reply
    • These were way too sweet for my taste. I would opt for about a third less sugar, but it would probably change the consistency.

      • — Stacy on February 10, 2024
      • Reply
  • YUM! The best Lemon Bars I’ve ever had!

    • — Cyndi D on January 20, 2024
    • Reply
  • These are standout bars, by far the best lemon bars I have ever tasted. I was a bit put off initially by the amount of sugar the recipe called for, but they are perfectly sweet and tart! Followed the recipe exactly, which resulted in a delicious shortbread crust topped with a generous amount of lemon filling. Perfect!

    • — DEBBIE RICHARZ on January 16, 2024
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,
    I will try using a thin layer of seedless raspberry preserves on top of the cooled lemon bars to hold fresh raspberries in place before sprinkling with powdered sugar. I just found this idea on your recipe for ricotta cheesecake with fresh raspberries. Genius!

    Carolyn

    • — Carolyn on January 7, 2024
    • Reply
    • Carolyn, that sounds like a good plan — I hope everyone enjoys!

      • — Jenn on January 8, 2024
      • Reply
      • Hi Jenn, The crowd went wild with delight last night for the lemon bars topped with seedless raspberry preserves, fresh raspberries and powdered sugar!

        • — Carolyn H. on January 14, 2024
        • Reply
        • So glad to hear it — thanks for taking the time to report back! 😊

          • — Jenn on January 15, 2024
          • Reply
    • Carolyn I just read your comment. Your idea sounds very good!

      How did it turn out?

      Lisa

      • — Lisa on January 13, 2024
      • Reply
  • These are very easy to make. I did not have any problem with the filling seeping down along the edges. My crust turned out to be over 1/4 inch thick which seems too dense. I cut the squares the next day and it was so much easier to get a clean edge. I used a similar recipe to this (on another website, same name) which called for 3/4 c. of lemon juice. I think 2/3 would be better, they are too tart for some people’s taste.

    • — Mary M on December 24, 2023
    • Reply
  • I made this recipe today (actually they are still in the oven). After adding the 2 sticks of butter according to the instructions, the crust was very crumbly and did not hold together. I ended up adding an additional 6 Tbsp (2 Tbsp at at time) before the crust held together when I pressed a small amount between my fingers. The reviews I read all said they followed the recipe exactly, however my intuition said I needed more butter. Has anyone else had this problem?

    • — Lori Moirao on December 13, 2023
    • Reply
    • Just follow recipe. Crust is meant to be very crumbly. It will hold if pressed into pan and baked first

      • — L on December 21, 2023
      • Reply
      • That’s been my experience too -pressing the crust-I’ve baked this recipe more times than I can count (we have a few lemon trees on our property 😊).

        I’ve followed Jenn’s instructions each time, and it turns out so,so good! Lots of requests for it too .

        Lisa

        • — Lisa on January 13, 2024
        • Reply
    • Lori I don’t know if you’ll see my comment at this point,but did you read the entire recipe? The pictures show above the crust is “crumbly” before Jenn shows what it looks like after it’s “pressed” before baking it off. Take a look & you’ll see what I’m talking about.

      I’ve baked this recipe more times that I can count (it’s a go-to recipe). I’ve never altered anything in the recipe because it really doesn’t need it.

      Hope that helps!

      Lisa in Laton

      • — Lisa on January 13, 2024
      • Reply
    • I have made these twice and had the same problem so I added more butter…they were delicious but next time I will try it as written and see what happens!

      • — Jody G. on February 25, 2024
      • Reply

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