Home > Desserts > The BEST Lemon Bars The BEST Lemon Bars August 4, 2018 | 104 Comments SAVE TO RECIPE BOX Jump to Recipe This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy. These Lemon Bars start with a simple shortbread crust and are topped with a tangy, sweet, and creamy lemon topping. Sprinkle on some powdered sugar for the perfect finishing touch! Love lemony desserts? You’ll love this creamy Lemon Pie, this homemade Lemon Curd, our favorite Lemon Tart, or these Lemon Cookies! What Do Lemon Bars Taste Like? In my mind, the perfect Lemon Bar recipe starts with a light, tender, and sweet crust that holds up texturally to the lemony topping. The shortbread should be the right amount of sweet to perfectly balance the tart, bright lemon custard. The custard needs to be balanced — tart, yet sweet with a smooth creamy mouthfeel. And finally, there needs to be a clear distinction between crust and custard (as opposed to a bar that runs together). But with all these requirements for flavor and texture, I also don’t want the bars to be crazy involved or intense to make. This Lemon Bars recipe doesn’t require a long list of strange or fancy ingredients. No complicated methods either — in fact, we use a blender to make the filling as quick, simple, and easy as possible. How To Make Lemon Bars The full recipe is below, but here are my top tips for tasty Lemon Bars: Use a glass pan. A metal pan can transfer a metallic taste to the bars. Line the pan with parchment paper. This will make it much easier to get the bars out and slice them into clean bars. Use real lemons. The bottled lemon juice won’t cut it on these, flavor-wise. Since this lemon bar recipe calls for actual lemon zest, you’ll need real lemons anyways. Don’t rush chilling. The flavors meld together really well in the fridge, making the bars that much more flavorful and tangy. The time in the fridge also allows time for the custard to firm and fully set up, so leave ample time for enough chilling. Do not over-blend. To keep the filling as easy as possible to make, we blend all the ingredients together. However, you do not want to blend for an extended time. This will cause too many air bubbles to form. What Are Lemon Bars Made Of? A few ingredients worth going into detail about: Lemon zest. When zesting the lemon, avoid the white pith of the lemon — this is very bitter. Using a microplane (like this one), zest only the very outside yellow part of the lemon for this recipe. Lemon extract. Not to be confused with lemon juice, lemon extract is a flavor enhancer (just like vanilla extract) that gives these bars a more intense citrusy lemon flavor. Lemon extract can usually be found near other baking extracts and spices in the grocery store; I recommend using a pure lemon extract. Butter: The better the butter, the richer the flavor of the shortbread. We love Challenge® Butter. Choose unsalted to have perfect control over the amount of salt in the dough. Vanilla: We love adding vanilla bean paste to add even more flavor and nuance to the crust. That said, a pure vanilla extract also works well. Heavy cream: Perhaps a unique ingredient for Lemon Bars, but I swear by this addition! It helps balance the tartness and adds a nice creaminess to the custard. How To Get More Juice From Lemons Microwave the lemons for 15-20 seconds. Knead the lemons with your hand against the counter for 20-3o seconds. Cut the lemon in half horizontally and juice the lemon using a juicer. QUICK TIP This citrus juicer makes juicing the lemons a breeze! You’ll have 2/3 cup in no time at all! STORAGE Can I Freeze Homemade Lemon Bars? Yes! However, because the shortbread crust and the lemon custard freeze at different speeds, they need plenty of space to freeze. Cut the bars out and set them on a lined sheet pan, leaving room around all four edges. Place in the freezer until frozen through (2-3 hours). Once frozen through, wrap each lemon bar individually with plastic wrap and store them in a large bag or container and freeze for up to 3 months. Lemon Bars FAQs1How long do Lemon Bars last?These bars can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 4-6 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. 2Do you keep Lemon Bars in the fridge?Yes, it’s best to store Lemon Bars in the fridge because of the egg-based lemon custard. Additionally, refrigerating the bars enhances the flavor and texture, makes them easier to cut, and they taste better cold! Be sure to let the bars cool completely before putting them in the fridge. Cover leftover bars with plastic wrap and pop them in the fridge. 3How many lemons make a cup of lemon juice?A medium lemon will typically give you 2½-3 tablespoons of lemon juice. That means you’d need 5-6 medium lemons for a cup of lemon juice. For this recipe, you need 2/3 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice or 3-4 medium lemons (4-5 small lemons). 4How do you cut Lemon Bars cleanly? Once the Lemon Bars have cooled completely, place them in the fridge. Leave in the fridge until cold and firmly set. Cut them while they are cold out of the fridge, using a hot knife. Run the knife under hot water, dry, make one cut, and repeat this process until all the bars are cut out. 5How do you tell if your Lemon Bars are done?The best way to check for doneness is by jiggling the pan. When you jiggle the pan, the top lemon custard should wiggle like firm Jell-O. Looser wiggle? Not quite done. No wiggle? Bars may be overcooked. 6How do you remove the bars from pans?Before making the bars, line the pan with parchment paper, leaving some as an overhang. You can then pull this overhang to remove the entire slab of bars from the pan to a cutting board or surface. 7Why are my Lemon Bars white on top?If you find your bars have a white, slightly foamy layer on top — this is totally normal. This is just the layer of air bubbles from the eggs rising to the surface. Plus, you’ll be topping your bars with powdered sugar so no one will be able to tell. 🙂 8Why are my Lemon Bars not yellow?Perhaps surprisingly, most Lemon Bars are not actually a vibrant yellow — more often, they’re an off-white color. This is because of the air bubbles rising to the surface and because lemon juice does not have a dark intense yellow color. 9Why are my Lemon Bars runny?This is most likely from an under-baked crust or under-baked bars as a whole. More Citrus-Based Desserts: Lime Cookies with a lime glaze Peach Lemonade made with real lemons Lemon Zucchini Bread with a lemon glaze Mini Fruit Tart with an orange-based filling Fruit Dip made with the zest of limes FOLLOW ALONG! Subscribe to my newsletter and follow along on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram for the latest updates, recipes and content. Lemon Bars 4.84 from 30 votes - Review this recipe These Lemon Bars start with a simple shortbread crust and are topped with a tangy, sweet, and creamy lemon topping. Sprinkle on some powdered sugar for the perfect finishing touch! SAVE TO RECIPE BOX Print Recipe Lemon Bars 4.84 from 30 votes - Review this recipe SAVE TO RECIPE BOX Print Recipe These Lemon Bars start with a simple shortbread crust and are topped with a tangy, sweet, and creamy lemon topping. Sprinkle on some powdered sugar for the perfect finishing touch! Course Dessert, treat Cuisine American, Vegetarian Keyword lemon bars, lemon bars recipe Prep Time 30 minutes Cook Time 45 minutes Chilling Time 4 hours Total Time 5 hours 15 minutes Servings 24 bars (9x13-inch pan) Calories 184kcal Author Chelsea Lords Cost $6.43 EquipmentFine mesh strainer9x13-inch non-metal pan Ingredients▢ 1 cup (16 tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature (Note 1)▢ 2 cups white granulated sugar, separated▢ 2 cups + 3 tablespoons white flour, separated▢ 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or 1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract)▢ 1 teaspoon fine sea salt, separated▢ 2/3 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice (~4-5 lemons)▢ 2 teaspoons lemon zest (Note 2)▢ 4 large eggs▢ 1/4 teaspoon lemon extract, optional (Note 3)▢ 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream▢ Powdered sugar, for topping barsUS - Metric USMetric InstructionsPREP: Line a CERAMIC 9x13-inch pan (don't use a metal pan -- it will make the bars taste metallic) with parchment paper, leaving an overhang of paper for easy bar removal. Lightly spray the pan with nonstick spray and set aside.SHORTBREAD CRUST: In a stand mixer with a whisk attachment (or use a bowl and hand mixer), beat together the room temperature butter and 1/2 cup white sugar. Beat until smooth and creamy, about 2-4 minutes. Scrape the edges of the bowl as needed. Then add in 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste, and 2 cups of flour. Beat until a thick dough forms, scraping the sides as needed. (Dough too soft? Add 1-3 additional tablespoons flour.) CRUST CONT.: Transfer dough from bowl to prepared pan and press evenly on the bottom of the pan and a little up the sides (about 1/2-inch). Take your time, ensuring the dough is in an even layer and touching every bit of the edge of the pan so the lemon filling doesn't seep through. Then, place pan in the freezer for 15 minutes to allow crust to firm up a bit. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. After 15 minutes, remove crust from freezer and again press all the edges to the pan making sure the seal is 100% tight. Bake crust fully preheated oven for 22-25 minutes or until lightly golden brown at the edges. LEMON PREP: Meanwhile, microwave lemons for 15 seconds. Remove, and knead against the counter with your hand. (These two steps help to get your lemons super juicy.)LEMONS: Very finely zest a lemon to get 2 teaspoons lemon zest. (Be careful to avoid the white pith of the lemons-- that will make your bars bitter.) Juice the lemons until you have 2/3 cup of lemon juice. BLENDER: To a high-powered blender, add remaining 1-1/2 cups white sugar and lemon zest. Pulse just to break down the zest, about 5-8 times. Do not overblend or you'll get powdered sugar! Then add remaining 3 tablespoons flour, 2/3 cup lemon juice, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, 4 large eggs, 1/3 cup heavy cream, and 1/4 teaspoon lemon extract (if using). Blend for 20 seconds or until just incorporated-- again, being careful to not over-blend, but ensuring all ingredients are emulsified together. Use a spatula to stir the mixture around and let sit until needed. BAKE AGAIN: Stir the blended mixture up again and pour slowly and evenly over the hot crust (right out of the oven). Bake for another 20-25 minutes or until bars very slightly jiggle in the center (like firm Jell-o). Allow bars to cool at room temperature for 2 hours and then chill in the fridge until the lemon layer is firm, about 2 more hours. FINISHING: Before enjoying, sprinkle the top of the bars with powdered sugar (through a fine-mesh sieve). Slice and enjoy!CUTTING TIPS: Pull the parchment paper overhang to remove the entire slab of bars from the pan and place on a cutting board or surface. Run a sharp knife under hot water, dry, make one cut, and repeat this process until all the bars are cut out.STORAGE: Be sure to let the bars cool completely before putting them in the fridge. Cover leftover bars with plastic wrap and pop in the fridge for 4-6 days. Or freeze leftover bars. To freeze: Cut the bars out and set on a lined sheet pan, leaving room around all four edges. Place in freezer until frozen through (2-3 hours). Once frozen through, wrap each lemon bar individually with plastic wrap and store them in a large bag or container and freeze for up to 3 months. Video Recipe NotesNote 1: Butter: The better the butter, the richer the flavor. We love Challenge® Butter. Choose unsalted to have perfect control over the amount of salt in the dough. Do not melt the butter so it can properly cream with the sugar. Note 2: Lemon zest and juice: When zesting the lemon, avoid the white pith of the lemon — this is very bitter. Using a microplane (like this one), zest only the very outside yellow part of the lemon for this recipe. This citrus juicer makes juicing the lemons a breeze! Note 3: Lemon extract: Lemon extract is a flavor enhancer (just like vanilla extract) that gives these bars a more intense citrusy lemon flavor. Lemon extract can usually be found near other baking extracts and spices in the grocery store; I recommend using a pure lemon extract. Nutrition FactsServing: 1serving | Calories: 184kcal | Carbohydrates: 25.2g | Protein: 2.2g | Fat: 8.6g | Cholesterol: 51.3mg | Sodium: 13.3mg | Fiber: 0.3g | Sugar: 16.9g We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed. DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE? 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