This is the ultimate in refreshing and light desserts… creamy lemon squares made all from scratch with a buttery shortbread crust, and tangy and bright lemon filling! So foolproof… anyone can make these lemon bars!
This is one of my Dessert recipes I know you’ll want to keep on hand!
Making these lemon bars is a cinch, and involves a simple two part process!
Seriously… no cutting cold butter into flour and pressing it down into a pan just to have it sort of blend in with the lemon filling.
This recipe just calls for mixing ingredients in a bowl and adding it to the pan. And no complicated custard making process – just whisk the filling ingredients and pour over the crust!
I’ve had this lemon bar recipe on the site since 2017, but I thought it was time for some updated photos and more thorough information. But don’t worry, the recipe itself hasn’t changed a bit!
How to make lemon bars?
This is just an overview; the full ingredients and directions are in the recipe card toward the bottom of this post.
- Make shortbread crust. No need for any fancy tools here, just a rubber spatula and mixing bowl. Then use your fingers or the back of the same spatula to press the crust into the pan in an even layer.
- Par-bake crust. Just 10 minutes – this is to help solidify the crust so it can hold up to the lemon filling we’ll add later. Set aside once it’s out of the oven.
- Make lemon filling. Add everything to a mixing bowl and just use a whisk to combine them. Careful not to whisk overly vigorously – you don’t want to incorporate too much air into the filling.
- Cool and refrigerate. Cool at room temperature, with the pan on a wire rack, for about 1-2 hours (to help the lemon filling set), then cover with foil and refrigerate several hours, or until cool.
When it comes to these lemon bars, freshly squeezed juice is ALWAYS going to taste the best. Store-bought bottles of lemon juice are definitely convenient and work in a pinch, but try to get fresh lemons if possible.
Variations of this recipe
- Buttermilk substitute – if you don’t have buttermilk on hand, you can make your own! Mix 1 Tbsp lemon juice or white vinegar with whole milk and let it sit about 10 minutes. It will look a bit curdled. Stir and use.
- No buttermilk – most folks don’t keep buttermilk hanging around the house, so if you don’t have it or don’t want to make it – no need to stress. You can either add regular milk, or omit the milk completely. I like the extra creaminess it adds, but it’s not essential for this recipe.
- Other citrus – this recipe is fabulous with other citrus fruits! Try lime, orange, grapefruit or blood orange flavors!
- Pan type – I haven’t noticed this personally, but I’ve read and heard from several of you that lemon bars baked in a metal pan can sometimes have a slightly metallic taste. So if that’s something you’re worried about, I would recommend baking these bars in a ceramic or glass dish.
Lemon bars are a bit tricky, since they’re supposed to be a bit gooey and sticky. But in general, the edges should be set, and the center should be just a little jiggly (like a firm Jello consistency). If it’s liquid-y, or super jiggly, it may need a little more time.
I haven’t tested doubling this recipe, but it should work out well. Just make sure you double ALL of the ingredients, and bake the bars in a 9×13″ baking dish. I can’t speak to the exact baking time; but I would start checking for doneness about 25-30 minutes into the baking time.
If there are air bubbles, even white-ish colored ones, on the top of your bars after baking – no need to panic! You didn’t do anything wrong – I promise! Air rises to the surface, mainly from the eggs, as these bars bake, and the bubbles can get caught in the filling. It doesn’t effect the taste at all, and can easily be covered up with a dusting of powdered sugar!
Making lemon bars ahead of time
These bars are great to make a day or so ahead of time! Just don’t dust them with the powdered sugar until you’re ready to serve them, since the sugar will dissolve into the bars.
Slice the cooled bars (without powdered sugar on top) into squares, then place onto a baking sheet.
Freeze for 1 hour. Wrap each bar individually in aluminum foil or plastic wrap and place into a large bag or container to freeze. Bars can be frozen for about 3 months.
Thaw in the refrigerator, dust with powdered sugar and enjoy!
I like my lemon squares to be served cold, so I keep mine in the refrigerator, but they are safe to keep at room temperature if you’d prefer them that way.
Refrigerated in an airtight container, they’ll last about a week, and unrefrigerated they should last about 3 days or so.
Recipe originally published in Mar. 2017 but has been updated in July 2022 with additional information and new photos.
Did you make this? Be sure to leave a review below and tag me @the_chunky_chef on Facebook and Instagram!
- 1/2 cup salted butter melted and cooled slightly
- 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp all purpose flour
- 3 Tbsp powdered sugar
- 1 Tbsp cornstarch
- 3 large eggs at room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- zest of 1 lemon
- 1/2 cup lemon juice fresh is absolutely best
- 6 Tbsp all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 Tbsp buttermilk
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- powdered sugar
- lemon slices (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8×8" baking pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper, lightly sprayed with cooking spray. Set aside.
- Combine crust ingredients (melted butter, flour, powdered sugar and cornstarch) in a mixing bowl, then press into bottom of prepared pan. Keep crust in an even layer, as much as possible. Bake 10 minutes, then set aside.
- While crust is baking, combine filling ingredients (eggs, sugar, zest, juice, flour, buttermilk, and baking powder), and whisk to combine. Try not to whisk too vigorously, as you don’t want to incorporate a lot of air into the filling.
- Pour over baked crust and bake (still at 350 degrees F), for 22-25 minutes, until filling has set and edges are lightly golden brown.
Cool and serve
- Cool completely on a wire rack for at least 1-2 hours, cover with foil, then refrigerate.
- To slice bars, I find it easiest to lift up on the foiling lining in the pan, to remove the bars from the pan. Slice into 12 bars. Before serving, dust bars with powdered sugar and garnish with a lemon slice if desired.
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The Chunky Chef is not a dietician or nutritionist, and any nutritional information shared is an estimate. If calorie count and other nutritional values are important to you, we recommend running the ingredients through whichever online nutritional calculator you prefer. Calories can vary quite a bit depending on which brands were used.