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The Best Lemon Bars Recipe

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Lemon bars are a popular dessert that is easy to make, but this is the BEST Lemon Bars Recipe, bar none. To make these Lemon Squares, a buttery shortbread crust is topped with a thick, luscious layer of citrus for a sublime treat!

Classic Lemon Bars are always a hit! These have the perfect ratio of creamy, flavorful lemon filling and tender crust.

he Best Lemon Bars stacked on a white dessert plate

The Best Lemon Bars Recipe

The first time I made this spectacular classic lemon bars recipe was for a gathering of my volunteer friends. We spend hours and hours cleaning and manning a spectacular home that is decorated to the hilt by Indianapolis’ top interior designers. Needless to say, when the two weeks it’s open to the public comes to a close, we have reason to celebrate.

Back in 2010, my co-director and I treated the gals who helped organize and work the events we planned for an evening at a spa. My contribution was a savory brie appetizer and my lemon bars recipe!

A Few Tips for Making Lemon Bars:

  • First, buy fresh lemons. You will need 1/2 cup of fresh juice. Each average lemon will provide approximately 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, so you will need at least 4 lemons. I’d buy one extra to be safe as there is a wide variation in sizes and juice production!
  • PRO-Tip: There are a couple of ways to get the maximum juice out of a lemon. First, you can roll the lemon back and forth on the counter with the palm of your hand to help break up the fibers. Also, microwaving the whole lemon about 20 seconds may help get additional juice as well!
  • Use the food processor to make the shortbread crust. It is quicker than cutting the butter in by hand, plus makes a tender crust.
  • Par baking the crust first provides a barrier to the lemon filling plus ensures the crust will finish baking at the same time as the topping.
  • Making a lemon filling instead of a lemon curd provides a moister more flavorful burst of lemon.
  • Lining the baking dish with parchment or non-stick foil makes for easy removal and pan cleanup!
  • Let the bars cool completely before cutting to get the neatest looking squares.
  • Dust with powdered sugar before serving for a nice finished appearance.
White dessert plate with the Best Lemon Bars, garnished with fresh strawberry slices and slices of lemon

What Makes These Lemon Squares the BEST???

  • Starting from the bottom up, these bars begin with a simple, buttery shortbread crust. Nothing funky, just 3 ingredients pulsed in the food processor to make a perfect base.
  • Next, the combination of both lemon juice and lemon zest gives a bold citrus flavor. Note that fresh juice and zest is a must. None of the jarred lemon juice or off the rack dried lemon zest.
  • Adding flour to the lemon mixture thickens the filling perfectly without compromising the texture.
  • Having the perfect ration of crust to filling is key, too. You need just enough crust so you can pick up these bars with your fingers as needed and a thicker layer of the lemon custard to give you that zesty lemon flavor you love!

How Should I Slice and Store Lemon Bars?

  • For the cleanest slices, chill (or even freeze briefly) your bars first. Then use a warm knife (I run mine under hot water, then dry it) to help the knife glide through the bars easily.
  • Lining the baking pan with non-stick foil or parchment allows you to easily remove a whole batch to a cutting board for easier slicing.
  • If you want all the bars to be the same size, use a ruler to make marks at 2-inch intervals along each side to guide you.
  • Lemon bars can be stored on the counter top, but to extend their lifespan, refrigerate them. They will be good for 4, maybe even 5 days kept in the fridge.

More Lemon Recipes You’ll Love

There is no doubt that chocolate is the gold standard for decadent desserts at our house. Fruit pies rate near the top, too. Though he snubs lime sweets, the hubby always raves when I whip up a lemon dessert. Lemon bars are about the easiest way to experience the sweet-tart nirvana of a lemon dessert! And just to feel virtuous, top each with half a ripe strawberry! Double the fruit for a nice dose of vitamin C. This Best Lemon Squares Recipe is a must make!!!

Useful kitchen tools to make the best lemon bars recipe:

Ingredients in These Lemon Bars to Add to Your Shopping List:

  • Check your pantry for these staples: flour, sugar, salt
  • Real butter, do not use margarine. I used salted butter.
  • Fresh lemons for lemon juice and zest. Never use bottled lemon juice as the flavor is inferior
  • Eggs, you will need 3
  • Powdered sugar
  • Strawberries, optional garnish if making for company

The Best Lemon Bars Recipe

The Best Lemon Bars Recipe

Luscious lemon bars with a shortbread crust.

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Yield 16 bars

Ingredients

Crust:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter cold butter, diced

Lemon topping:

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoons lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup flour, sifted
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Garnish:

  • Powdered Sugar
  • Fresh strawberries, cut in half, optional

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350º. Line an 8 x 8-inch pan with non-stick foil or line with parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. In a food processor, pulse the crust ingredients until the butter is in very small pieces . Press into the bottom of the prepared pan and bake about 15 minutes or until the crust just starts to brown.
  3. To make the filling, whisk together eggs, sugar, lemon juice, zest, flour, and salt. Immediately pour over hot crust when it comes out of the oven.
  4. Bake for 30-35 more minutes or until topping is firm and lightly browned.
  5. Cool, then cut a sliver off all sides before sprinkling with powdered sugar and cutting into bars. Garnish with berries if desired.

Notes

You may double the recipe and bake in a 9 x 13-inch pan or triple and bake in a jelly roll pan.

Recipe adapted from Ina Garten

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

16

Serving Size:

1 bar

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 229 Total Fat: 8g Saturated Fat: 4g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 3g Cholesterol: 52mg Sodium: 81mg Carbohydrates: 39g Net Carbohydrates: 0g Fiber: 0g Sugar: 29g Sugar Alcohols: 0g Protein: 3g
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