These homemade lemon bars are the perfect way to channel warm-weather flavors any time of the year. The citrusy filling paired with the simple shortbread crust will brighten any day!
As a lemon lover, I like to make classic lemon bars all year long. They’re perfect for nearly any occasion, and they’re so pretty as part of any dessert spread.
One of the best things about these bars is how easy they are to store and transport. They’re great if you want to toss them in lunchboxes, take them to a party, or keep them on hand for guests who pop by.
The next time you need a simple recipe for a bright dessert, try these easy lemon bars.
Why You’ll Love Lemon Bars
Table of Contents
These brightly flavored bars are sure to be a crowd-pleaser, especially with citrus-lovers.
- Easy – Even novice bakers can whip up the crust and the filling in nearly no time.
- Delicious – The tart lemon filling paired with the crunchy crust is a perfect balance.
- Affordable – With a list of basic ingredients that you likely have handy, or are inexpensive at the grocery store, this is a simple dessert that won’t break the bank.
- Versatile – These bars are as perfect to serve at a casual birthday party or cookout as they are at a more formal gathering or tea party.
While the list may look a little long, there are a few ingredients that are duplicated for the crust and lemon filling. And outside of the lemons, you might have most of these simple ingredients handy already for these lemon bars!
- Sugar – Use granulated sugar — the granules are the perfect size to quickly dissolve when mixing.
- Coarse kosher salt – You can use other varieties, but I prefer kosher salt for these bars.
- Vanilla or lemon extract – Vanilla helps to round out the flavors of all of the ingredients in baked goods but if you want more lemony flavor you can substitute lemon extract for some or all of the vanilla.
- Unsalted butter – Make sure to melt the butter before incorporating it into the rest of the ingredients for the crust.
- Flour – All-purpose flour works best for this recipe.
- Sugar – Just like the crust, granulated sugar works best for the filling.
- Flour – Just like the crust, you can use all-purpose flour for the filling.
- Lemon zest – You can use any kind of lemons from the typical regular lemons in the produce department to fancier Meyer lemons. A microplane is the best tool for this task.
- Vanilla extract – You can buy it or make your own homemade vanilla extract.
- Coarse kosher salt – Just as mentioned for the crust, you can use any variety of salt that you like.
- Eggs – Make sure to use large eggs for these lemon bars.
- Fresh lemon juice – You can juice fresh lemons or buy the store-bought variety.
- Whole milk – Make sure to use full-fat milk to achieve the perfect consistency.
- Powdered sugar – Confectioners’ sugar is the perfect pretty topping for these brightly colored bars.
How To Make Lemon Bars
- Pour the sugar, salt, and extract into a medium mixing bowl.
- Stir together until all ingredients are incorporated.
- Pour in the flour and melted dough.
- Combine until the mixture becomes a crumbly dough.
- Using your hands, press dough in the bottom of the prepared baking dish ensuring that it’s spread in an even layer.
- Prick the dough with a fork before refrigerating.
- Once the dough has chilled, place it in the preheated oven to bake.
- Bake crust until it begins to brown.
- Remove the baked lemon bars crust from the oven and let crust cool.
- Add the sugar, flour, lemon zest, salt, and vanilla to a large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (you can also use an electric hand mixer or food processor).
- On low speed, mix the ingredients until they are evenly dispersed.
- Add the eggs, lemon juice, and milk.
- Whisk the mixture until all ingredients are completely combined.
- Pour the lemon mixture over the top of the crust. Tap the dish on the counter a few times to release any air bubbles before placing in the oven.
- When the lemon filling is set and the bars are a light golden brown, remove the baking dish from the oven.
- Allow it to cool to room temperature before placing in the refrigerator.
- Using the parchment paper sling, remove the bars from the baking pan and transfer to a cutting board.
- Using a sharp knife, slice the lemon bars. Use a damp paper towel or clean dish towel to wipe the knife each time in order to get clean slices.
- Dust the lemon squares with powdered sugar before serving.
While I like lemon bars just as they are, these sweet treats can be modified in a few different ways, too.
- Fruit – Use other citrus fruits like lime, grapefruit, or orange.
- Extracts – Change up the extract in the dough and use a favorite of yours. Almond extract works well.
- Salt – If you like a salty and sweet dessert, sprinkle a few flakes of salt on top of the bars.
- Chocolate – Melt dark chocolate or white chocolate and drizzle it over top.
Storage, Make Ahead and Freezing
Lemon bars are easily stored in the fridge or freezer. Serve them slightly chilled or at room temperature.
Refrigerator: Wrap lemon bars tightly with plastic wrap or aluminum foil, or keep them in an airtight container, for up to 1 week.
Make Ahead: You can make the crust and the filling up to 24 hours ahead of time. Just pour the filling over the crust when you’re ready to bake.
Freezer: Freeze lemon bars for up to 3 months in a freezer-safe container or freezer bag. Remember that air is the enemy, so wrap them tightly before freezing and then thaw at room temperature.
Other Delicious Bars
- Frosted Coconut Bars
- Banana Blondies
- Lemon Cheesecake Bars
- Raspberry Cheesecake Bars
- Chocolate Rice Krispie Treats
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla or lemon extract
- ¾ cup unsalted butter melted
- 2 cups flour
- 2 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 cup flour
- 2-3 tablespoons lemon zest 2 large lemons
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
- 6 large eggs
- 2/3 cup lemon juice 5-6 lemons
- 1/3 cup whole milk
- 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
- Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line a 13 x 9-inch baking dish with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides to use as a sling.
- In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the sugar, salt and vanilla extract. Stir in the flour and melted butter until a crumbly dough forms.
- Press the dough evenly into the bottom of the prepared baking pan, crust will be thin. Generously prick with a fork and then refrigerate for 30-45 minutes.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes or until crust is starting to brown. Remove and allow to cool while you make the filling.
- Increase the oven temperature to 350°F.
- In a large bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the sugar, flour, lemon zest, salt and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs, lemon juice and milk until fully blended.
- Pour the lemon mixture over the crust.
- Bake until the lemon filling is set in the center and it no longer wiggles when the pan is moved, about 30-35 minutes. Remove before the lemon bars are lightly browned.
- Remove and cool on a wire rack until room temperature and then chill for 1-2 hours.
- Carefully remove the bars using the parchment sling. Place onto a cutting board and slice into 16 bars, cleaning the knife between each slice.
- Right before serving, dust with powdered sugar.
Making these for every summer party I have – absolutely packed with lemony flavor! Loved them!
These are easy and delicious to make. The filling is the perfect combination of sweet and sour/tangy. I will add these to my recipe collection for sure.
I’m a big fan of lemon desserts, and these lemon bars are calling my name. Yummy!
Oh, yes. I have to make these! I love lemon anything, and just looking at these has my sweet tooth firing on all cylinders.
Zesty, zingy, lemony perfection! So good.
These lemon bars look mouth watering! Love the shortbread crust going to make these for some lemon lovers in our house!!