Lemon Bars Recipe
Posted November 8, 2023 by: Admin
Thick and gooey Lemon Bars with a buttery shortbread crust and a burst of vibrant lemon flavor make for the perfect dessert.
We have a soft spot for dessert bar recipes, from Pecan Pie Bars to Baklava and Strawberry Pretzel Salad, because they’re not only simple to make but also guaranteed crowd-pleasers. These lemon bars are no exception.
When it comes to enhancing the flavor of our desserts, fresh lemons reign supreme, whether it’s a Lemon Blueberry Cake or some Homemade Lemonade. If you’re a lemon enthusiast, this Lemon Bars recipe is a must-try!
Classic Lemon Bar Recipe
One bite, and you’ll be head over heels for these lemon bars. The lemon custard filling is akin to our Lemon Curd Recipe, boasting a delightful tangy lemon zest, perfectly balanced with sweetness.
I picked up the art of making Lemon Bars years ago from one of Ina Garten’s early cookbooks, Barefoot Contessa Parties (I own all 12 of her cookbooks because I truly admire her and her recipes never disappoint). This version closely follows the original recipe, but we’ve added a touch of vanilla to the crust, and you’ll adore the tip we’ve thrown in to make the crust even easier to shape.
Ingredients for Lemon Bars
- Eggs – Add richness and help thicken the custard. We opt for large eggs.
- Granulated sugar – You might think it’s a lot of sugar, but it’s necessary to counterbalance the tang of the lemon juice. You can adjust it depending on the lemons’ type (see the next section).
- Lemons – You’ll need both the lemon zest and juice, so don’t forget to zest the lemon before juicing it.
- All-purpose flour – Essential for thickening the lemon custard filling.
- Confectioners sugar – Sprinkle it on top before serving.
- For the Shortbread Crust – This easy cookie crust is made with butter, sugar, vanilla extract, flour, and a pinch of salt. It creates a buttery crust that’s crisp around the edges and tender to the bite.
What are the best lemons for Lemon Bars?
I always go for regular lemons because they pack a punch of tang and lemony goodness. Since lemons take center stage, steer clear of bottled lemon juice or concentrate. Also, don’t exceed 1 cup of lemon juice, or your custard won’t set properly. If your lemons are in the fridge, let them warm up to room temperature first. P.S. Here’s my favorite citrus squeezer.
Can I use Meyer Lemons? Meyer lemons are a tad milder than regular lemons, so reduce the sugar in the filling to about 2 cups.
How to Make Lemon Bars
- Crust – Cream together butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add vanilla extract, flour, and salt, and mix until crumbly. Press this mixture into a parchment-lined 9×13 casserole dish. Bake at 350°F for 18-20 minutes. Let it cool slightly on a rack.
- Lemon Filling – In a mixing bowl, whisk eggs and sugar. Whisk in lemon juice and zest. Add flour and whisk until fully blended.
- Add filling and Bake – Pour the filling over the warm crust and bake at 350°F for 30-35 minutes, or until the center is set and no longer jiggly.
- Chill – Cool at room temperature on a wire rack for at least 1 hour, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
- Serve – Slice into squares and dust with powdered sugar before serving.
Pro Slicing Tip: Just like with cheesecake, for clean and attractive slices, wipe the knife blade clean with a damp paper towel between cuts.
How to tell when lemon bars are done?
The center of the lemon bars should be fully set. If you give the pan a little shake, it should not wobble in the center.
How long do lemon bars last?
Lemon bars can be stored at room temperature for a few hours but should be refrigerated after that. You can keep them in the refrigerator for up to a week or freeze them for 3-4 months (see make-ahead instructions below).
Seeing air bubbles and brown spots?
The air bubbles that surface while baking are perfectly normal. They result from whisking the eggs. As they rise above the surface, they tend to brown, creating those brown spots. Fortunately, they’re easily concealed with powdered sugar.
Can I substitute a different citrus juice?
You can experiment with grapefruit, orange juice, or lime to vary the flavor of your bars, but use less sugar when using sweeter citrus fruits.
Can I use a different baking dish?
A glass or ceramic 9×13 pan works wonderfully for lemon bars. Keep in mind that a glass pan bakes faster and darker than a metal pan, so check for doneness a bit earlier.
Make-Ahead Lemon Squares
Lemon bars keep exceptionally well in the refrigerator and freezer, making them one of my preferred make-ahead desserts.
- Refrigerating: If you plan to make these bars ahead, let them cool to room temperature, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Just before serving, dust them with powdered sugar.
- To Freeze: After the lemon bars are fully chilled in the refrigerator, cover the baking dish with a couple of layers of plastic wrap and freeze for 3-4 months. You can also transfer leftover pieces to a freezer-safe zip bag for more convenient storage. The lemon custard won’t fully solidify in the freezer, so there’s no need to thaw them. They’re delightful straight out of the freezer.
When life hands you lemons, turn them into lemon bars! This recipe will soon become your go-to for potlucks, parties, and special occasions like Easter or Christmas. It’s a keeper of a recipe.
For the Shortbread Crust:
- PREP: Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line a 13x9x2” baking pan with parchment paper, making sure it goes up the sides to prevent any filling spills.
- CRUST: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together softened butter and 1/2 cup sugar. Add 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, 2 cups flour, and 1/4 tsp salt. Continue mixing until the mixture is crumbly, with no dry flour remaining. Spread the dough evenly into the bottom of your prepared pan, pressing it with your fingertips to flatten and even it out. Bake the crust at 350°F for 18-20 minutes, or until it’s lightly golden at the edges. Transfer it to a wire rack to cool slightly.
- FILLING: While the crust is baking, zest and squeeze the lemons, and prepare your filling. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together eggs and sugar until well-blended. Add lemon juice and lemon zest, and whisk to combine. Add 1 cup of flour and whisk until the mixture is smooth, with no traces of flour remaining.
- BAKING: Pour the filling over the warm crust and bake in the center of a preheated oven at 350°F for 30-35 minutes, or until the filling is set. As soon as the filling is no longer wobbly in the center, remove it from the oven to avoid over-baking. Allow it to cool in the pan at room temperature for at least 1 hour, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.
- TO SERVE: Gently pull up the parchment paper to loosen it from the pan, then transfer to a cutting board and cut it into 18-20 squares. Finally, dust the tops with powdered sugar.