Lemon Bars Recipe {Extra Lemon!}


Calling all lovers of lemon desserts, today’s recipe is for you! Not only are these the Best Lemon Bars you are ever going to bake, but they are also the absolute easiest.

Homemade lemon bars dusted with powdered sugar on a wood serving board with lemon slices and wedges

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Lemon dessert fervor runs strong in my family, and I love sharing that tradition here too.

A few seasons ago, I posted the recipe for these Lemon Cream Cheese Bars. These Lemon Thumbprint Cookies are another favorite.

Recently, I found myself craving lemon dessert (as one does). As much as I adore this Lemon Layer Cake (it’s perfection), my lemon cravings were of the immediate nature.

Translation: I needed something lemony and sweet, and I needed N-O-W.

I was also feeling like an old-fashioned favorite. Classic lemon bars were a natural choice!

The best lemon bars baked in a square pan dusted with powdered sugar on a blue background

5 Star Review

“OMG, these are the easiest, yummiest, gooeyist, best dessert I’ve had in a long time! Made it twice this weekend!”

— Monica —

After tinkering with a few lemon bar recipe ideas, I realized that, if I wanted to bake the best lemon bars, I needed to go directly to the source: my sister Elaine.

According to my grammy, Elaine’s were the best lemon bars she’d ever eaten, including her own.

This is no small statement.

My grammy is a lifetime baker with skills that rival Martha Stewart and Ina Garten. She can make a perfect Lemon Cream Pie in her sleep.

Basically, if Grammy calls something the best, then you know it is THE BEST.

Homemade lemon bars dusted with powdered sugar on a wood serving board with lemon slices and wedges

How to Make the Best Lemon Bars

What’s my sister’s secret to perfect, best-ever, Grammy-sanctioned lemon bars?

They are the Betty Crocker Lemon Bars with two critical recipe changes.

Family Secrets!

While these lemon bars have the original Betty Crocker Cookbook recipe as their base, Elaine makes two important recipe changes that not only give these lemon bars a superior flavor but also makes them EASY (even easier than Betty’s).

  • Secret One: Double the lemon juice. If you like your bars extra bright and citrusy, you are going to be head-over-heels for these luscious lemon squares.
  • Secret Two: Melt the butter. The original Betty Crocker lemon squares with shortbread base call for softened butter that is painstakingly cut into the dry ingredients. Elaine’s easy lemon bars call for melting it, then stirring all the shortbread ingredients together at once. It’s a total time saver and yields a fantastic, tender crust!

The Ingredients

  • Melted Butter. Not only does melting the butter make these the easiest bars you’ll ever bake, it gives the shortbread crust an extra indulgent, melt-in-your mouth texture.

Dietary Note

Trying to avoid dairy? The butter in this recipe is critical for both the flavor and the texture of the crust. Therefore I don’t recommend swapping for an alternative like coconut oil. However, a dairy-free, vegan buttery spread, like Earth Balance, should yield good results.

  • All-Purpose and Whole Wheat Pastry Flour. Use a blend of these two flours and we can all pretend these are “healthy” lemon squares.
  • Powdered Sugar. Key for sweetening the shortbread base and dusting over the finished bars.
  • Granulated Sugar. Adds sweetness to the tart lemon layer and also adds moisture so the bars don’t crack.
  • Lemon Juice. Gives these bars their bright lemon flavor.

Market Swap

While my family is all about lemons, you can feel free to experiment with other citrus fruits of your choice for a fun twist on this recipe.

  • Key Limes
  • Navel Oranges
  • Tangerines
  • Pink Grapefruit (use a bit less, as grapefruit is more bitter than lemon)
  • Lemon Zest. Takes the lemon punch of these sunny bars to the next level.
  • Eggs. Gives the lemon layer its rich, luscious texture and consistency.
  • Baking Powder and Salt. Helps the bars puff a little while baking and balances their sweetness.

The Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Combine the shortbread crust ingredients, press into a parchment lined 8×8 pan, and bake barely light brown.
  3. While the crust bakes, beat together the lemon filling ingredients. Pour the filling into the the hot crust. Return to the pan to the oven and bake until the bars are set.
  1. Let cool, dust with powdered sugar, and ENJOY!

TIP!

You’ll know when your lemon squares are fully set when:

  • No indentation remains when you touch the center with your finger.
  • PLUS your kitchen smells incredible. 
Close-up photo of lemon bars cut into squares on a butcher block board with powdered sugar and lemon slices

A Note on Cracked Lemon Bars

While the surface of your lemon bars should have small bubble holes over the surface, they shouldn’t crack. If your lemon squares have cracked a few things may have played a factor:

  • You didn’t bake the shortbread base long enough. This can cause the filling to loose moisture and absorb istead into the crust.
  • You overbaked the bars during their final round of baking.
  • You skimped on the sugar. I’m usually all for trying to reduce sugar in recipes. Unfortunately this is one recipe where the sugar needs to stay.

Storage Tips

  • To Store. Lemon bars may be stored for up to 1 day at room temperature. Beyond that, lemon bars should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
  • To Freeze. Once cooled, cut the lemon bars into squares and then wrap individually in foil or plastic and store in an airtight container for up to 3 months.
  • To Thaw. Transfer frozen bars to the refrigerator and let thaw overnight.

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