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Perfect Homemade Lemon Bars | The Recipe Critic


These Lemon Bars are hands down the BEST lemon bars EVER!  Shortbread crust is topped with a tart, rich lemon center and finished off with a sprinkling of powder sugar.

I love making bar desserts because they are super easy to make and it is all in one pan. You have to try my favorites bars like these Neiman Marcus, Cookie Dough, and Carmelitas!

Perfect Lemon Bar close up.

The Best Lemon Bars

I LOVE lemon bars, like I am obsessed with them! I am the first to grab them at a party! They are one of my go to favorites to make for a crowd too.  Lemon bars are so luscious with that buttery shortbread crust and tangy tart center. They are bright, zippy and delectable. And with a sprinkling of powdered sugar, it adds that perfect touch.

You will not find a better lemon bar recipe than this one. I have tried several and these are my requirements. A buttery shortbread crust with enough custardy lemon filling on top. I like the perfect ratio of shortbread with the lemon filling. And these are everything you have ever wanted in a lemon bar! I can even get my lemon hating husband to eat these bars.

Ingredients for the Crust

You will want to use fresh lemons for this recipe, not lemon juice concentrate. But if it’s all you have, see below for how to use it. It will not give you the best flavor, however.

  • Butter: I highly recommend using real butter for the best flavor and texture. Bring it to room temperature.
  • Confectioners sugar: Powdered sugar mixes easily with the butter.
  • Flour: You will divide the flour.

Lemon Filling Ingredients 

  • Eggs:4 large eggs at room temperature.
  • Sugar: Brings the sweetness to counterbalance the tartness from the lemons.
  • Lemon Zest: You will use 2 Large lemons to get enough zest.
  • Fresh Lemon Juice: You will need about 3-4 large lemons to get enough juice, you can use the lemons you use to zest too.
  • Milk: Helps make the lemon custard.
  • Confectioners Sugar: Enough to top the lemon bars with.

Let’s Make Lemon Bars!

The hardest part of making the lemons is waiting to eat them. It takes a bit of work to juice and zest the lemons, but it is totally worth it.

  • Preheat: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×13 pan and set aside.
  • Beat: In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and confectioners sugar until blended. Slowly beat in 1 ½ cups flour.
  • Press: Firmly press into the bottom of a greased 9×13 pan and bake for 18-20 minutes until golden brown.
  • Meanwhile: While the crust is baking whisk in a small bowl the eggs, sugar, zest, lemon juice, milk and remaining 3 Tablespoons of flour until frothy. Pour over hot crust.
  • Turn it Down: Turn the oven down to 325 degrees and bake an additional 18-20 minutes until the top is lightly brown.
  • Cool: Cool completely on a wire rack. Dust the top with additional confectioners sugar. Cut into bars and refrigerate leftovers.

Lemon bars cut into squares.

All About Lemons!

Lemons are the star of this dessert. You want it to be divine, so picking and using your lemons matters. When your lemons are perfect, it can really brighten any dish. Some of my best recipes contain lemons as the main ingredient. Try one of these favorites like this Scallops , Chicken, or Fettuccine.

  • How do I pick a good Lemon? It can seem complicated, but when you know what to look for, you’ll be an expert. Look for lemons that seem heavy when you hold it in your hands. Also look for thin skin, that is firm and has a fine texture to the peel. It should be a deep yellow color. The heavier the fruit and thinner the skin the more juice it will have.
  • Where should I store Lemons? It is so tempting to decorate your counter with  fresh fruit in a pretty bowl. Just leave the lemons out. If left at room temperature the skins can become tough and the lemons can actually dry out. Keep your lemons in the fridge.
  • Zesting Lemons: Wash your lemons thoroughly before zesting. If you don’t have a zester you can use the smallest holes of a cheese grater. You want to stop zesting once you hit the pith or white part as it is quite bitter.
  • Juicing Tip: Cut and quarter your lemons and then microwave them for about 30 seconds. This helps the lemons release more of its juice.
  • Can I use bottled lemon juice instead of lemons? You can but it will definitely change the flavor a bit. I always prefer fresh. When substituting lemon concentrate for real lemon juice in a recipe, use two tablespoons of bottled lemon juice to replace the juice of one lemon. Substitute lemon juice concentrate for equal proportions in any recipe calling for lemon juice.

Tips for the Best Lemon Bars

The tartness of these lemon bars is perfectly controlled by the powdered sugar. Just don’t inhale when you take a bite, speaking from experience, airways full of powdered sugar is no fun.

  • Cool:  It is best to let your bars cool at room temperature for at least two hours.
  • Room Temperature: Use room temperature eggs and butter. They mix up easier and better.
  • Line the Pan: If you are worried about the lemon bars not being able to come out, use foil or parchment paper in the bottom.
  • Sift: Use a sifter or sieve to spread the powdered sugar on top of the bars. It will cover them evenly and without lumps
  • Store: You can keep these at room temperature, however the flavor improves when they are refrigerated.

Close up of lemon bars.

Delicious Twists on the Loved Lemon Bar

Lemon bars are divine, I think I have established that. So creating variations and combinations of lemon bars is only a given. These lemon bar twists are epic, heavenly and perfect for your next dessert needs. Bar desserts are some of the best too, they are easy to make, and easy to eat. You can pre cut, and plate them before a party or special occasion and they are easy to just grab and go. Try all of these tried and true lemon bars and pick your favorite.

Perfect Lemon Bars

Prep Time 5 minutes

Cook Time 20 minutes

Total Time 25 minutes

Author Alyssa Rivers

Servings 12 Bars

These Lemon Bars are hands down the BEST lemon bars EVER!  Shortbread crust is topped with a tart, rich lemon center and finished off with a sprinkling of powder sugar.

Shortbread Crust:

  • 3/4
  • 2/3
    confectioners’ sugar
  • 1-1/2
    plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Lemon Filling:

  • 4
  • 1 1/3
    granulated sugar
  • 2
    grated lemon zest
    from about 2 large lemons
  • 2/3
    freshly squeezed lemon juice
    from 3 to 4 large lemons
  • 1/3
  • Additional confectioners’ sugar for sprinkling on top

Updated on February 22, 2021

Originally Posted on April 2, 2019

Serves: 12

Calories245kcal (12%)Carbohydrates30g (10%)Protein2g (4%)Fat13g (20%)Saturated Fat8g (40%)Trans Fat1gCholesterol93mg (31%)Sodium128mg (5%)Potassium50mg (1%)Fiber1g (4%)Sugar29g (32%)Vitamin A457IU (9%)Vitamin C6mg (7%)Calcium22mg (2%)Iron1mg (6%)

All nutritional information is based on third party calculations and is only an estimate. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods and portion sizes per household.




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