This easy recipe for classic lemon bars with a buttery shortbread crust and tangy lemon filling requires less than 30 minutes of hands-on time and produces the best homemade lemon bars.
With BBQ season now in full swing, it's the perfect time of year for light, fruity desserts. I'm a big believer that summer desserts can be both indulgent AND refreshing, and lemon bars are one of my all-time favorites! Pair a rich, buttery shortbread with tart and sweet lemon filling (topped with a dusting of confectioners sugar, of course!) and I'm in heaven!
My family has used this lemon bar recipe for generations, and I get asked for the recipe every time I bring lemon bars to a party. I've actually adapted the recipe slightly, increasing the amount of crust because I like a nice, substantial crust to hold up the zesty lemon filling in my lemon bars.
Lemon bars are not challenging to make, but I've included a few details and tips in the recipe below to make sure yours come out just right!
How to Make Classic Lemon Bars from Scratch
Classic lemon bars start with a a simple shortbread crust. All-purpose flour, confectioners (powdered) sugar, and butter are all we'll need.
To get a nice, crisp crust, we'll parbake the shortbread before adding the filling. The shortbread needs more time in the oven than the lemon filling, and baking the crust until it's lightly golden before adding the filling ensures that the crust won't absorb too much moisture from the filling and become soggy. A crisp shortbread and smooth lemon filling are the textures we're aiming for.
The lemon filling is so simple to make. Gently beat the egg, then add sugar, flour, baking powder, and lemon juice and beat until combined and slightly thickened. The lemon filling gets poured over the parbaked shortbread crust, and the bars go back into the oven so that the filling can bake.
After the lemon bars are baked, to cut them into beautiful squares perfect for serving, I pre-slice the bars while they're still hot in the pan before the shortbread cools and becomes firm. This helps me get a nice, clean cut without risking any cracks in the shortbread crust. Once the bars have cooled completely, I remove them from the pan and re-trace my slices with a knife to fully separate the bars.
These classic lemon bars are like little slices of lemony sunshine, and I dare you to eat just one!
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This post was updated in June 2020 to provide an improved user experience.