Every time that we attend a potluck or backyard barbecue, you can almost bet that on the dessert table there will be a tray or two of classic lemon bars.
It is very easy to spot those bright yellow squares sprinkled with powdered sugar among the other desserts.
And you can almost be certain that there will be an empty tray by the end of the day. They are that good!
Making Homemade Lemon Bars
But instead of reaching for that box of lemon bar mix at the grocery store, next time, make your own homemade version.
It takes just 7 simple ingredients, and they are super easy to make.
It all starts with making a classic shortbread crust.
Shortbread isn’t just for making Christmas cookies anymore. It serves as the base of this classic lemon bars recipe.
Any shortbread recipe begins with a mixture of butter, sugar and flour. Add in a little vanilla extract and salt, and you have your crust.
Once everything is mixed together, the dough will be quite thick. Don’t panic!!
Using your fingers, firmly press the dough in a parchment lined pan baking dish. Be sure that the dough is even across the bottom of the pan to allow for it to bake properly.
As the shortbread crust is baking, it is time to make the filling for the lemon bars.
Although the filling isn’t true lemon curd that is made with lemons, eggs, butter and sugar, it tastes very similar.
Because the lemon filling needs to gel and set up to make lemon bars, we omit the butter that is found in classic lemon curd.
And we also add in a little flour as a thickening agent to allow the bars to hold up when being sliced into bars.
But the most important ingredient in the lemon filling is the lemon juice itself.
We prefer to use fresh lemons rather than bottled lemon juice. Fresh lemons provide a little extra punch in the juice to awaken your taste buds.
This recipe calls for 1 cup of lemon juice which equals about 4 medium lemons.
Roll the lemons on the counter, pressing slightly down with the palm of your hand to release the juices inside the lemon.
Then using your favorite juicer, cut and squeeze out the juice. We love our manual citrus press which allows us to juice our lemons without getting juice all over our hands.
However, if all you have is bottled lemon juice, that will work as well.
Baking and Serving The Lemon Bars
After you have poured the filling on top of the baked shortbread crust, it is time to bake the lemon bars.
You will know when the filling is ready to come out of the oven when the center no longer jiggles when you tap the side of the pan.
Then comes the hard part – waiting for them to cool before eating them!
Remove the pan from the oven and let the lemon bars cool to room temperature.
But wait, you still can’t eat them! Put them in the refrigerator and let them get cold for at least 2 hours.
Now you can finally slice and eat them!
But don’t forget to sift powdered sugar on top of the bars using a small colander or sifter.
And as for slicing them into bars, it is much easier to use a plastic knife. The filling will not stick as much to a plastic knife as compared to standard kitchen knife.
But we also wipe the knife clean after each cut to make the lemon bars look nice and neat!
For another great, summertime dessert, try our Homemade Strawberry Shortcake recipe!
Check out the printable recipe below and let me know what you think!
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Classic Lemon Bars Recipe
- 1 cup unsalted butter melted, (2 sticks)
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups + 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 6 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 6 large eggs
- 1 cup fresh lemon juice about 4 medium lemons
- Preheat the oven to 325°F.
- Line the bottom and sides of a 9×13 glass baking pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on the sides to lift the bars out.
Make the shortbread crust
- In a medium bowl, mix together the butter, sugar, vanilla extract, and salt. Add the flour and stir to combine. Note: the dough will be thick.
- Press the dough firmly and evenly across the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until the edges are slightly browned.
Make the filling
- In a large bowl add the sugar and flour and whisk to incorporate.
- Add the eggs and lemon juice and whisk until completely combined.
- Pour filling over warm crust.
Bake Lemon Bars
- Bake the bars for 22-26 minutes or until the center is set and no longer jiggles when you tap the side of the pan.
- Remove the pan from the oven and cool completely at room temperature. Then chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours.
- Once cold, lift the parchment paper out of the pan using the overhang on the sides. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and cut into squares before serving.