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Lemon Bars Recipe | Baked by an Introvert

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Zesty Lemon Bars with a creamy lemon curd nestled on top of a buttery shortbread crust. Made with fresh-squeezed lemon juice to yield a tangy yet balance flavor.

lemon bars stacked three high on a baking tray

I can never turn down a tangy lemon dessert. Lemon cheesecake bars and this lemon tart are my usual go-to’s when I’m in the mood for something tart.

Today’s lemon squares are simple and bright. It’s basically my coconut lemon bars without the coconut. The curd is creamy and tangy without tasting overly sweet.

The bars are full of lemon flavor. Using lemon zest in the crust adds a little extra brightness. Using fresh lemon juice will give you a lighter lemon flavor than bottled lemon juice.

The filling is made differently than my easy lemon curd recipe. I decide not to use cornstarch and instead allowed the eggs to be the thickener. This gives a much creamier texture.

The crust is blind baked while the filling is cooked separately on the stovetop. Then the filling is poured over the crust and the whole thing goes back into the oven until it sets.

Why this recipe works

  • We use Confectioners’ sugar in the crust to keep the shortbread soft. It will crumble lightly in your mouth like my classic shortbread cookies.
  • The lemon curd cooks on the stovetop with butter and heavy cream is added at the end to make it silky and creamy.
  • There’s a good amount of filling on top of the crust. This is the best crust to filling ratio in my opinion.
lemon bars on a parchment lined baking tray with a bite taken out of one

Lemon bars recipe

I’m obsessed with these bars. The buttery rich shortbread paired with tangy lemon filling is something I can’t resist.

I’ve been playing around with this recipe since it was first published on my blog in August 2015. I have finally perfected this recipe! It’s perfectly tangy without being overly sweet and the crust to filling ratio is spot on.

A lot of lemon bar recipes call for adding flour to the filling. I’m not a fan of this. It’s so hard to get the flour to mix in well and you end up with little clumps of flour throughout the filling.

I used a very basic lemon curd for the filling so it’s a lot creamier than most other lemon squares. This means you might have to use a fork when you eat them.

The total bake time takes about 40 minutes and the bars need time to refrigerate after they’ve cooled. But, the wait is so worth it. You are going to love this recipe just as much as I do!


Lemon bar ingredients

There are two separate components to the bars. You have the crust and the filling so it looks like a lot of ingredients. But, most of these are things you may already have on hand.

  • Flour: This crust uses all-purpose flour.
  • Sugar: You need confectioners’ sugar and granulated sugar. Confectioners’ sugar goes in the crust and granulated sugar goes in the filling.
  • Salt: A dash of salt is in both the crust and filling to help balance the flavors.
  • Lemon zest: A little lemon zest is in the crust for an extra punch of tanginess.
  • Lemon juice: I highly recommend using fresh lemon juice for the filling. It’s less tart and less acidic than bottled juice.
  • Butter: Use unsalted butter so you can control the amount of salt in the recipe.
  • Eggs: The filling needs 4 whole eggs plus 3 egg yolks. The extra yolks give the bars their vibrant color.
  • Heavy cream: There is just a splash of heavy cream in the filling.

To make these bars you’ll need:

  • Mixing bowls: These bowls are my favorite. I use them regularly.
  • Pastry blender: I always use this pastry blender to cut butter into flour.
  • Baking pan: I’m a big fan of these 9-inch square pans.

How to make lemon bars

This recipe is easy and straight forward. There are just a few steps to make each component.

The Crust – The crust is made just like a traditional shortbread and it’s blind baked before adding the filling.

The Filling – The lemon curd filling is cooked on the stovetop before being added to the crust. Once poured over the crust, the whole thing goes into the oven and is baked until set.

lemon bars arranged on round baking tray lined with parchment paper next to a vase of flowers and grey cloth

Step 1: Make the crust

For the crust, combine the flour, powdered sugar, salt, and lemon zest in a medium bowl. Stir it together with a whisk or a fork until well combined.

Cut the butter into the dry ingredients using a pastry blender or your fingertips. I suggest cutting room temperature butter into small pieces to make it easier.

Once the mixture starts to stick together and the flour is well coated in butter, it’s ready to use.

Line a 9-inch square pan with parchment paper and press the dough evenly into the bottom.

process shots showing how to make shortbread crust for lemon bars

Step 2: Make the filling

The filling is super easy to make!

Combine the eggs, yolks, sugar, salt, and fresh lemon juice in a medium pot. Stir until very well combined.

Cook over medium heat while stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until it thickens. This can take up to 10 minutes. Then remove it from the heat and stir in butter and cream.

process shots showing how to make filling for lemon bars

I like to run the curd through a fine-mesh sieve to remove any bits of egg that may have scrambled. This never fails – I always have a few pieces of scrambled egg in my curds, custards, and puddings.

Step 3: Assemble the bars and bake

Pour the curd over the prebaked shortbread crust and spread it around evenly. You can use a spatula to do this or simply tilt the pan slightly until the curd covers the entire crust.

Pop the pan back into the oven and let the bars cook until the edges are firm and the center is no longer jiggly. This can take 20 to 25 minutes, depending on your oven.

lemon filling being poured over shortbread crust in pink baking pan lined with parchment paper

Allow the bars to cool to room temperature then refrigerate them for at least 2 hours before cutting and serving.

Storage tips

  • Lemon bars will keep for up to 3 days covered tightly and stored in the refrigerator.
    • Or you can freeze them for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.

Tricks to make the best lemon bars

  • Use fresh lemon juice! You need about 4-6 lemons depending on size. But fresh lemon juice isn’t as acidic or tart as bottled lemon juice.
  • Be sure to bake the bars until they are set. The filling shouldn’t be runny or jiggly. Instead, the edges should be firm and the center shouldn’t jiggle at all. This may take longer than the recommended time, depending on your oven.
  • Line the baking pan for easy removal. I always use parchment paper cut to fit. Here’s a great article on how to line pans with parchment paper.
  • Get perfectly cut bars by using a hot blade. Run a sharp knife under hot water then carefully dry the blade. Press straight down through the bar and slide the knife out. Rinse and dry the knife after each cut.

If you like lemons, you’ll love these other tasty lemon recipes:

Ingredients

For the crust

  • 1 cup (130 g)all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (30 g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest, about 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup (113 g) unsalted butter, cut into pieces at room temperature

For the filling

  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 egg yolk
  • 1 1/4 cup (250 g) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup ( 183 ml) fresh lemon juice, about 6 lemons – SEE NOTE 1
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into pieces at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream

Instructions

Make the crust

  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF degrees. Line a 9-inch square pan with parchment paper with enough overhang easy removal.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, and lemon zest. Stir to combine. Using a pastry blender or your fingertips, cut in the butter until the mixture begins to hold together.
  3. Press the dough evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan. If the dough is too sticky to handle moisten your fingers with water to prevent sticking or pop the dough into the refrigerator for 15 minutes.
  4. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until lightly golden brown. Set aside while you make the filling.

Make the filling

  1. Whisk the eggs, yolks, sugar, and salt together in a medium pot. Stir in the lemon juice.
  2. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for about 10 minutes. The curd will thicken to the consistency of pudding.
  3. Stir the butter and cream into the smooth curd filling.
  4. Strain the curd through a fine-mesh sieve set over a medium bowl.
  5. Pour the curd over the crust and spread evenly with a silicone spatula. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the filling is set. The edges should be firm and the center should no longer jiggle.
  6. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack for 1 hour. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
  7. Lift the bars out of the pan using the parchment overhang and cut into 16 squares. Dust with powdered sugar if desired.

Notes

  1. Bottled lemon juice can be used in place of fresh lemon juice. Keep in mind that bottled juice is much stronger and more acidic than fresh juice.

Make ahead tip

  1. Bars will keep for up to 3 days stored covered in the refrigerator. 
  2. They will keep for up to 3 months in the freezer. Place the bars on a baking sheet and freeze until the bars are frozen all the way through (about 2-3 hours). Then, wrap each lemon bar in plastic wrap and place them in a zip-top freezer bag. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.

Recommended Products

As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Nutrition Information:

Yield: 16 Serving Size: 1 bar
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 197Total Fat: 9gSaturated Fat: 5gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 99mgSodium: 88mgCarbohydrates: 28gFiber: 1gSugar: 19gProtein: 3g

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet. Since different brands of ingredients have different nutritional information, the values shown are just an estimate.

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Mention @introvertbaker or tag #introvertbaker!



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