When life hands you lemons, make homemade Lemon Bars; equal parts tart and sweet, these gorgeous little bar cookies are guaranteed to brighten up anybody’s day.
Lemon bars, also known as lemon squares, are present at every bake sale, church bazaar, and cookie table throughout the country. That’s because few can resist their sunny allure.
Think about it– they have everything: buttery shortbread, custard, that pucker, and the most heavenly dusting of powdered sugar over the top to bring it all together.
This recipe is for easy lemon bars from scratch. You don’t have to make lemon bars with cake mix—it’s easier and better to make homemade. Besides, fresh lemons deserve better. Making a pan of lemon bars is the best way to rediscover the joy of baking.
Need Lemon Bars for a crowd? Lemon bars for a bake sale? Click and slide the number next to “servings” on the recipe card below to adjust the ingredients to match how many you’re feeding—the recipe does the math for you, it’s that easy.
What do you need to make lemon bars?
- A 9-inch by 13” inch pan (I like this one)
- Flour (all purpose or gluten-free)
- Powdered sugar (which makes a faster shortbread crust–no creaming, no stand mixer)
- Lemon juice
- Lemon peel
- Half & half, light cream, or milk (richer bars= richer cream, healthy lemon bars=milk)
How to make Lemon Bars:
Before you begin, it’s important to make sure that all your ingredients are at room temperature. Baking turns out better that way! Warm up your eggs quickly by placing them in a bowl with warm water for a few minutes.
- The shortbread crust is easy to make. Simply combine the dry ingredients together, and then cut in the butter using a pastry blender or two knives. The dough should resemble coarse crumbs.
- Next, with your fingertips, press the dough into a greased or foil- or parchment-lined pan. Try and get the crust as even as possible. You can use a flat-bottomed glass to really smooth the surface down.
- Bake the crust at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes or until the edges are golden. This step makes the shortbread crispy and more likely to hold up to the filling. Because no one wants a gummy lemon bar.
- While the crust bakes, make the filling. It’s easy. Mix the eggs, sugar, small amount of flour, cream, lemon juice, zest, together until creamy. Pour the filling over the hot crust and pop everything back in the oven for another 15 minutes. The center should look ‘set’ when you take it out of the oven.
- Let the bars cool before sprinkling with powdered sugar. Then cut into square for lemon squares, triangles for lemon triangles, or bar shapes for, you know, lemon bars.
How to make Lemon Bars gluten-free:
It’s the easiest thing in the world! You can make gluten-free lemon bars by switching out your favorite GF flour. It should turn out beautifully.
How to make Lemon Bars low carb:
It might be fun to experiment with an up-and-coming granulated sugar substitute, like powdered erythritol, to make low-sugar lemon bars.
You could even make Keto friendly lemon bars with almond flour, in place of all-purpose. If you try this, let me know how it goes in the comments!
How much juice do you get from a lemon?
- One lemon yields roughly 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and 1 tablespoon zest.
- On average, there are 4 to 5 lemons in 1 pound.
- To squeeze every drop of lemon juice out of each fruit, take the lemon and roll it on the counter roughly, pressing hard on the lemon. This will help to loosen up the juices before extraction.
- Using bottled lemon juice for lemon bars: Fresh juice is recommended, but sometimes you need lemon bars and that’s all you have.
- If a recipe calls for the juice of 1 lemon you can substitute 2 tablespoons of bottled juice.
How to store lemon bars:
Since lemon bars are made with a custard (egg and dairy), you need to refrigerate them. They are fine to serve at room temperature if made the same day, or left out a few hours if they are on a dessert plate at a party.
Wrap them up and store in the refrigerator if you’re making these ahead, or if you have leftover lemon bars.
By the way, they cut like a dream when they’re cold, so if you’re making them ahead, chill them before cutting.
To freeze lemon bars, wrap each bar individually in waxed paper or plastic wrap, then stow away in a freezer bag to pull out when you need a little sunshine in your life. The future you will be grateful.
Lemon Bars Recipe
For the Crust:
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup sifted powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/4 teaspoon Salt
- 3/4 cup butter
For the Filling:
- 4 eggs slightly beaten
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon lemon peel finely shredded
- 3/4 cup lemon juice
- 1/4 cup half-and-half, light cream, or milk
- powdered sugar
- In a large bowl, combine the 2 cups flour, the 1/2 cup powdered sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Press mixture into the bottom of a greased 9-by 13-inch baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 18 to 20 minutes or until edges are golden.
- Meanwhile, for the filling, in a medium bowl stir together the eggs, granulated sugar, the 3 tablespoons flour, lemon peel, lemon juice, and half and half. Pour filling over hot crust.
- Bake for 15 to 20 minutes more or until center is set. Cool on wire rack. Sift powdered sugar over top. Cut into bars. Cover and store in the refrigerator.