Easy Lemon Bars Recipe
If you’re looking for a light, perfectly tart and sweet dessert recipe, this easy lemon bars recipe is the one! Made with a shortbread crust and a creamy lemon custard filling, these homemade lemon squares are great for a simple dessert and perfectly sophisticated for a wedding!
Fancy Lemon Bars
I feel like lemon bars are such a fancy dessert. I picture them being served on fancy china plates and feel like it’s such a delicate dessert that you’d eat with tiny forks and gloved hands.
The beauty about this recipe, though, is that it’s so easy to make! So while it looks super fancy, it is super easy to come together and takes minimal effort. Plus, these lemon bars are so yummy and light, just ditch the tiny fork and take one BIG bite!
- Unsalted butter, softened — The butter/flour combination will give us the shortbread-style crust.
- All purpose flour — Although it will feel super crumbly when you are mixing, it will come together when you are pressing it into the pan.
- Powdered sugar — To provide the crust with a bit of sweetness. Use powdered sugar over granulated for a smoother crust texture.
- Granulated sugar — For sweetness. Because we are using a very tart and sour citrus, we need a bit of sugar to counter that.
- Flour — Adding flour to a custard gives it more structure.
- Baking powder — This will help the custard stay light as it’s baking so it isn’t too dense.
- Eggs — Eggs are the basic ingredient in a custard.
- Lemon juice — Gotta get that delicious lemony flavor, so the lemon juice is our liquid ingredient for the custard.
- Lemon Zest — The zest gives a sharper and distinct lemon flavor that will penetrate through each bar.
- Powdered sugar
- Lemon juice to make glaze
How to Make Lemon Bars
- Prep the pan.
Spray an 8×8-inch square pan with nonstick cooking spray, OR line it with parchment paper so that the parchment comes up the sides. This will make removing the lemon bars *much* easier. (When I took the pictures, I didn’t line with parchment, and honestly I should have! So line with parchment if you want easier removal of the squares).
- Make the shortbread crust.
In a bowl mix the butter, flour, and powdered sugar. Use hand beaters or a fork to mix. The mixture will be very dry and crumbly. Note: It will not come together like a dough since it’s a shortbread-type crust.
- Press this crust mixture into the bottom of an 8×8-inch square pan. As you’re pressing it into the pan the crust will come together.
- Bake the crust.
Bake the crust for 15 minutes at 350°F. Remove from the oven and let cool just slightly while you make the filling.
- Make the lemon filling.
Whisk the sugar, flour, and baking powder. Whisk in the eggs, lemon juice, and lemon zest.
- Bake the lemon bars.
Pour the filling mixture over the baked crust and bake for 20 minutes until the mixture is set and the edges are golden brown.
- Make the glaze (optional).
The glaze is optional, if you’d like to glaze the bars, whisk the powdered sugar and enough lemon juice to make a glaze that is easy to drizzle.
- Sprinkle with powdered sugar.
Remove the bars from the oven and let cool slightly. Glaze the bars while still warm and sprinkle with extra powdered sugar.
Tools Used For This Recipe
8×8-inch pan: I bought mine at home goods, but I linked the same brand I use and love.
Mixing bowls: My favorite mixing bowls! Comes with 3 different sizes.
Hand beaters: Again, love this one that I own. I’ve had it for several years and have never had any problems with it.
Lemon zester: A crucial kitchen tool for when you want to cook/bake with citrus.
Lemon juicer: An easy hand held juicer gets the job done well for this recipe.
Make ahead tips
You can make lemon bars ahead of time and store them in the fridge in an airtight container for a day or two prior to serving.
You can freeze lemon bars. Simply follow the recipe until the lemon bars are baked and cooling, but prior to putting the powdered sugar. Let the lemon bars cool, remove them from the pan, cut them, and then place them a half and inch or more apart on a cookie sheet. Let sit in the freezer for about 30 minutes or until firm and just frozen. Remove from the freezer and wrap each lemon bar individually in plastic wrap, then store in a ziplock bag for up to 3 months.
While you can freeze the lemon bars prior to cutting, it’s important to wrap in plastic wrap and then store in a ziplock bag and I don’t typically have ziplock bags big enough for the entire 8×8-inch dessert.
Store the lemon bars in an airtight container for 3-5 days.
The glaze is optional. It’s a great addition if you want a bit more sweet and a bit more lemon flavor in your bars. However, the bars have a great balance of lemon and sweet flavors without the glaze. It’s really just up to you!
You don’t need too much powdered sugar dusting on top — just enough to give it that fancy finish!
Custard is a cooked mixture of eggs and cream. Custards can be adapted a variety of ways as well as cooked in different ways. If you watch the Great British Baking Show (cheers to you, it’s my fav) you’ll recognize the term used in reference to tarts (as in a custard tart), a crème anglaise (which is a classic vanilla custard) or a crème patissière (which is a boiled custard).
Custards can have flour added to them, as well as different flavorings, and they can also be baked in the oven or on the stovetop.
Fun fact: quiches are technically custards since you typically make a quiche with cream added to the eggs! Try out my spinach quiche recipe. You can learn more about custards at The Spruce Eats.
Other Family-Favorite Lemon Recipes
If you make this recipe and love it, I would be so grateful if you come back to leave a 5-star rating and review — this helps others find this recipe easier. Thank you! ❤️
Easy Lemon Bars Recipe
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter - softened
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoon all purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 eggs
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- zest from 1 large lemon
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice - may need more for right consistency
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray an 8”x8” square pan with nonstick cooking spray, OR line it with parchment paper so that the parchment comes up the sides. This will make removing the lemon bars much easier.
- In a medium bowl add the softened butter, flour, and powdered sugar. Use hand beaters to mix the mixture for about 30 seconds. Alternatively, you can use a fork and stir everything together. I found the hand mixer to be a bit faster. The mixture will be very dry and crumbly, it will not come together like a dough. Press this crust mixture into to bottom of an 8×8 inch square pan. As you’re pressing it into the pan the crust will come together.
- Bake the crust for 15 minutes at 350°F. Remove from the oven and let cool just slightly while you make the filling.
- In a medium bowl whisk the sugar, flour, and baking powder. Whisk in the eggs, lemon juice, and lemon zest.
- Pour the filling mixture over the baked crust and bake for 20-22 minutes at 350°F or until mixture is set and the edges are golden brown.
- The glaze is optional, if you’d like to glaze the bars whisk the powdered sugar and enough lemon juice to make a glaze that is drizzle-able.
- Remove the bars from the oven and let them cool for 5-10 minutes. Glaze the bars while still warm and sprinkle with extra powdered sugar.
- Store in airtight container for 3-5 days.