Lemon Bars

$3.81 recipe / $0.42 serving
by Beth - Budget Bytes
5 from 2 votes
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I probably make too many lemon-flavored desserts, but can’t stop won’t stop! Lemon is my favorite flavor when it comes to dessert because I love the contrast between the sweet and tart flavors. And this easy recipe for Lemon Bars is the perfect way to get that sweet-tart fix. I tested this recipe several times to get it just the way I like it—a rich and buttery shortbread crust topped with a thick and custardy, sweet and tart, lemon-licious filling. Hello gorgeous!

A stack of three lemon bars on a blue background.

What’s in a Lemon Bar?

If you’ve never had lemon bars, you are in for a TREAT! This simple yet amazing dessert starts with a simple shortbread crust (butter + flour + sugar + salt). Next we whip up a simple lemon custard, which is made with lemons, eggs, flour, and sugar. Pour the custard onto the crust, bake until it’s set, and BOOM. It’s really that simple! The custard starts as a liquid and then thickens as it bakes so they’re soft but sliceable once cooled.

Can I use Bottled Lemon Juice?

I chose to use fresh lemons for this recipe because I wanted the FULL lemon experience. Fresh lemons will give you the most intense lemon flavor because not only will the juice be fresh but you’ll be able to use the lemon zest, which really boosts the lemon flavor without making it extra sour. Using juice and zest is like a one-two flavor punch! You won’t get flavor as intense with bottled juice, but I can’t say that I’d turn down a lemon bar made with bottled juice. 😏

Can you Freeze Lemon Bars?

YES! That’s one of the best features of this recipe. If you don’t plan to eat your lemon bars within a few days, make sure to freeze some! To freeze your lemon bars, let them chill completely in the refrigerator, then transfer them to a parchment-lined baking sheet (each square separated) and freeze until solid. Once frozen, wrap the bars individually and place them in an air-tight freezer-safe container. They’ll stay good for about three months.

To thaw the frozen lemon bars, either let them thaw in the refrigerator over night or let them thaw at room temperature for about a half hour.

Close up side view of a lemon bar being held in a hand.

Lemon Bars

5 from 2 votes
Lemon bars are the best lemon dessert, featuring a simple shortbread crust and a rich and custardy lemon filling.
A stack of three lemon bars on a blue background.
Servings 9
Prep 15 mins
Cook 55 mins
Chill time 3 hrs
Total 4 hrs 10 mins

Ingredients

Shortbread Crust

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour ($0.12)
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar ($0.13)
  • 1/4 tsp salt ($0.02)
  • 6 Tbsp salted butter ($0.75)

Lemon Filling

  • 1.5 cups granulated sugar ($0.36)
  • 4 large eggs ($0.78)
  • 3/4 cup lemon juice (about 4 lemons) + 1 Tbsp zest ($1.55)
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour ($0.08)

Topping (optional)

  • 1 Tbsp powdered sugar ($0.02)

Instructions 

  • Preheat the oven to 325ºF. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, powdered sugar, and salt for the shortbread crust until well combined.
  • Melt the butter, then pour it into the bowl of dry ingredients for the crust, and stir until everything is moistened and the mixture looks slightly crumbly.
  • Line an 8×8-inch baking dish with parchment paper. Press the shortbread mixture into the bottom of the dish in an even layer.
  • Transfer the baking dish to the oven and bake the crust for 25 minutes*, or just until the edges are lightly golden.
  • While the crust is baking, juice and zest your lemons. You'll need ¾ cup lemon juice and 1 Tbsp zest.
  • Begin to make the filling. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, eggs, and zest until smooth. Add the lemon juice and whisk until smooth again.
  • When the crust is finished baking, pour the lemon filling into the baking dish on top of the crust, then transfer it back to the oven and continue to bake for another 30 minutes, or until the center no longer jiggles.
  • Let the lemon bars cool for about 10 minutes before transferring to the refrigerator to chill completely.
  • Once the lemon bars are completely chilled, remove them from the baking dish, slice into 9 pieces, and then dust with about 1 Tbsp powdered sugar. Enjoy!

See how we calculate recipe costs here.

Notes

*If you’re using a metal baking dish, the baking time may be slightly shorter.

Nutrition

Serving: 1squareCalories: 349kcalCarbohydrates: 61gProtein: 5gFat: 10gSodium: 157mgFiber: 1g
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Overhead view of lemon bars sliced and placed in a grid.

How to Make Lemon Bars – Step by Step Photos

Dry ingredients for the shortbread crust in a bowl.

Preheat the oven to 325ºF. In a large bowl, combine 1 cup all-purpose flour, ½ cup powdered sugar, and ¼ tsp salt. Stir them together until very well combined.

Melted butter being poured into the bowl of dry ingredients.

Melt 6 tablespoons of salted butter. Pour the butter into the bowl of dry ingredients and stir until combined.

Shortbread crust mixture in a bowl.

The shortbread crust mixture should look like this. Kind of crumbly, but it should hold together if you squeeze some in your fist.

Shortbread crust pressed into a baking dish.

Line an 8×8-inch baking dish with parchment paper. Press the shortbread mixture into the bottom of the dish in an even layer. Transfer it to the preheated 325ºF oven and bake for 25 minutes or until it is just barely golden on the edges (if using a metal pan, baking time may be slightly shorter).

Juices and zested lemons on a cutting board.

While the crust is baking, zest and juice the lemons. You’ll need about 1 Tbsp lemon zest and ¾ cup of lemon juice. Don’t forget to strain the seeds out of your juice! ;)

Custard ingredients, minus juice, in a bowl.

Add 1.5 cups granulated sugar, ¾ cup all-purpose flour, 4 large eggs, and 1 Tbsp lemon zest to a bowl, then whisk together until smooth. I like to whisk these ingredients together before adding the juice because it helps prevent lumps of flour. The mixture will be thick at this stage.

Juice being poured into the bowl with the custard ingredients.

Next, add the ¾ cup of lemon juice and whisk together until smooth.

Custard being poured into the baking dish on top of the crust.

Once the crust has finished baking, pour the custard mixture into the baking dish on top of the crust.

Baked lemon bars in the baking dish.

Transfer the baking dish back into the oven and bake for another 30 minutes, or until it’s golden around the edges and the center no longer jiggles. Let the bars cool for about ten minutes before transferring to the refrigerator to fully chill.

Powdered sugar being dusted onto sliced lemon bars.

Once the lemon bars have chilled completely, lift them out of the baking dish using the parchment paper, then slice into nine pieces. Lightly dust the top of the squares with a tablespoon of powdered sugar. Enjoy!

Overhead view of sliced lemon bars on a blue background.

Love Lemons? Try Thes Other Lemon Desserts

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Comments

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    1. Yes, the recipe can be doubled. The cooking time will increase slightly. Since we have not doubled the recipe, we cannot tell you how much longer it should be in the oven. XOXO -Monti

  1. The recipe looks delicious, but you may need to update the costs of things like butter and eggs as prices have increased drastically just in the past month, at least in my area. Thanks!

    1. Hi Michelle. We use the costs of the ingredients that we purchased, as it is impossible for us to use the costs of ingredients everywhere else our global audience shops. We are in Nashville, TN, and apparently, the food is considerably less expensive here. So sorry you are going through that. XOXO -Monti

  2. I froze a bunch of lemons awhile ago. Can I use the zest from frozen lemons (texture)? Is it okay to freeze the bars if I use frozen/thawed lemons?

    1. When frozen lemons thaw they are mushy, so it will be difficult to harvest the zest. Try zesting while they are still frozen, then thaw and juice. XOXO -Monti

  3. Can bottled lemon juice from concentrate be used instead of fresh? I know fresh is better, but I don’t always have lemons and we live a long way from any stores.

  4. I’ve been waiting for this recipe since the lemon pie was released…these were great! And I appreciate that they don’t make a ton and they can be frozen!