Calling all lovers of lemon desserts, today’s recipe is for you! Not only are these the Best Lemon Bars you are ever going to bake, but they are also the absolute easiest.

Homemade lemon bars dusted with powdered sugar on a wood serving board with lemon slices and wedges

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Lemon dessert fervor runs strong in my family, and I love sharing that tradition here too.

A few seasons ago, I posted the recipe for these Lemon Cream Cheese Bars. These Lemon Thumbprint Cookies are another favorite.

Recently, I found myself craving lemon dessert (as one does). As much as I adore this Lemon Cake (it’s perfection!), my lemon cravings were of the immediate nature.

Translation: I needed something lemony and sweet, and I needed N-O-W.

I was also feeling like an old-fashioned favorite. Classic lemon bars were a natural choice!

The best lemon bars baked in a square pan dusted with powdered sugar on a blue background

5 Star Review

“OMG, these are the easiest, yummiest, gooeyist, best dessert I’ve had in a long time! Made it twice this weekend!”

— Monica —

After tinkering with a few lemon bar recipe ideas, I realized that, if I wanted to bake the best lemon bars, I needed to go directly to the source: my sister Elaine.

According to my grammy, Elaine’s were the best lemon bars she’d ever eaten, including her own.

This is no small statement.

My grammy is a lifetime baker with skills that rival Martha Stewart and Ina Garten. She can make a perfect Lemon Cream Pie in her sleep.

Basically, if Grammy calls something the best, then you know it is THE BEST.

Homemade lemon bars dusted with powdered sugar on a wood serving board with lemon slices and wedges

How to Make the Best Lemon Bars

What’s my sister’s secret to perfect, best-ever, Grammy-sanctioned lemon bars?

They are the Betty Crocker Lemon Bars with two critical recipe changes.

Family Secrets!

While these lemon bars have the original Betty Crocker Cookbook recipe as their base, Elaine makes two important recipe changes that not only give these lemon bars a superior flavor but also makes them EASY (even easier than Betty’s).

  • Secret One: Double the lemon juice. If you like your bars extra bright and citrusy, you are going to be head-over-heels for these luscious lemon squares.
  • Secret Two: Melt the butter. The original Betty Crocker lemon squares with shortbread base call for softened butter that is painstakingly cut into the dry ingredients. Elaine’s easy lemon bars call for melting it, then stirring all the shortbread ingredients together at once. It’s a total time saver and yields a fantastic, tender crust!

The Ingredients

  • Melted Butter. Not only does melting the butter make these the easiest bars you’ll ever bake, it gives the shortbread crust an extra indulgent, melt-in-your mouth texture.

Dietary Note

Trying to avoid dairy? The butter in this recipe is critical for both the flavor and the texture of the crust. Therefore I don’t recommend swapping for an alternative like coconut oil. However, a dairy-free, vegan buttery spread, like Earth Balance, should yield good results.

  • All-Purpose and Whole Wheat Pastry Flour. Use a blend of these two flours and we can all pretend these are “healthy” lemon squares.
  • Powdered Sugar. Key for sweetening the shortbread base and dusting over the finished bars.
  • Granulated Sugar. Adds sweetness to the tart lemon layer and also adds moisture so the bars don’t crack.
  • Lemon Juice. Gives these bars their bright lemon flavor.

Market Swap

While my family is all about lemons, you can feel free to experiment with other citrus fruits of your choice for a fun twist on this recipe.

  • Key Limes
  • Navel Oranges
  • Tangerines
  • Pink Grapefruit (use a bit less, as grapefruit is more bitter than lemon)
  • Lemon Zest. Takes the lemon punch of these sunny bars to the next level.
  • Eggs. Gives the lemon layer its rich, luscious texture and consistency.
  • Baking Powder and Salt. Helps the bars puff a little while baking and balances their sweetness.

The Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Combine the shortbread crust ingredients, press into a parchment lined 8×8 pan, and bake barely light brown.
  3. While the crust bakes, beat together the lemon filling ingredients. Pour the filling into the the hot crust. Return to the pan to the oven and bake until the bars are set.
  1. Let cool, dust with powdered sugar, and ENJOY!

TIP!

You’ll know when your lemon squares are fully set when:

  • No indentation remains when you touch the center with your finger.
  • PLUS your kitchen smells incredible. 
Close-up photo of lemon bars cut into squares on a butcher block board with powdered sugar and lemon slices

A Note on Cracked Lemon Bars

While the surface of your lemon bars should have small bubble holes over the surface, they shouldn’t crack. If your lemon squares have cracked a few things may have played a factor:

  • You didn’t bake the shortbread base long enough. This can cause the filling to loose moisture and absorb istead into the crust.
  • You overbaked the bars during their final round of baking.
  • You skimped on the sugar. I’m usually all for trying to reduce sugar in recipes. Unfortunately this is one recipe where the sugar needs to stay.

Storage Tips

  • To Store. Lemon bars may be stored for up to 1 day at room temperature. Beyond that, lemon bars should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
  • To Freeze. Once cooled, cut the lemon bars into squares and then wrap individually in foil or plastic and store in an airtight container for up to 3 months.
  • To Thaw. Transfer frozen bars to the refrigerator and let thaw overnight.

Pair this with

Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe

The Best Baking Pan

This non-stick pan yields perfect corners, evenly baked crusts, and is a breeze to clean. I love it so much, I have two!

The BEST Lemon Bars recipe! Lusciously creamy and bursting with bright lemon, these easy lemon squares with shortbread base take less than 10 minutes to prep and always wow the crowd.

Did you make this recipe?

Let me know what you thought!

Leave a rating below in the comments and let me know how you liked the recipe.

Whether you’re looking for a last-minute, crowd-pleasing dessert, want a fun, easy recipe to bake with your kids or grandkids, or simply have a love for lemon dessert recipes, these bars will not disappoint.

Thanks, Elaine, for sharing your best lemon bars with us!

Lemon Bars Video

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The BEST Lemon Bars recipe! Lusciously creamy and bursting with bright lemon, these easy lemon squares with shortbread base take less than 10 minutes to prep and always wow the crowd.

Best Lemon Bars

4.78 from 9 votes
The BEST Lemon Bars recipe! Lusciously creamy, these classic lemon squares have a shortbread base and are just bursting with bright flavor.

Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 25 mins
Total: 1 hr

Servings: 24 squares (1 8×8 pan)

Ingredients
  

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup  whole wheat pastry flour  or additional all-purpose flour
  • 1/4  cup powdered sugar plus additional for serving
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt plus 1/8 teaspoon, divided
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest about three-quarters of 1 large lemon
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice from about 1 large lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Instructions
 

  • Place a rack in the center of your oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8×8-inch pan with parchment paper and set aside.
  • In a small microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter. In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the all-purpose flour, whole wheat pastry flour, 1/4 cup powdered sugar, and 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt. Pour the butter over the top and stir to combine. The batter will be very wet. Press into an even layer in the prepared pan, building the crust 1/2 inch up the sides all around. Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until barely light brown. Leave the oven at 350 degrees F.
  • While the crust bakes, in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, rub the granulated sugar and lemon zest together with your fingers until moist and fragrant. Add the eggs, lemon juice, baking powder, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. With an electric mixer, beat on high speed until light and well blended, about 3 minutes. Pour into the hot crust (no need for it to cool).
  • Return to the pan to the oven and bake 25 to 30 minutes, until the bars are set, no indentation remains when you touch the center with your finger, and your kitchen smells incredible. Let cool completely, then dust with powdered sugar. Cut into squares and serve.

Notes

  • TO STORE. Lemon bars may be stored for up to 1 day at room temperature. Beyond that, lemon bars should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
  • TO FREEZE. Once cooled, cut the lemon bars into squares and then wrap individually in foil or plastic and store in an airtight container for up to 3 months.
  • TO THAW. Transfer frozen bars to the refrigerator and let thaw overnight.

Nutrition

Serving: 1square (of 24)Calories: 103kcalCarbohydrates: 15gProtein: 1gFat: 4gSaturated Fat: 3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 24mgPotassium: 38mgFiber: 1gSugar: 10gVitamin A: 139IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 9mgIron: 1mg

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Erin Clarke

Hi, I'm Erin Clarke, and I'm fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food that's affordable, easy-to-make, and best of all DELISH. I'm the author and recipe developer here at wellplated.com and of The Well Plated Cookbook. I adore both sweets and veggies, and I am on a mission to save you time and dishes. WELCOME!

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41 Comments

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  1. You are so welcome, internet world! I didn’t “experiment” with the melted butter, just did it in accident trying to soften it in the microwave because I was too impatient to wait it out! Decided to just go for it and ended up with the best result! 

  2. I can hardly wait to head home and make these… but my curiosity is peaked about how you can get 24 squares out of an 8×8 pan…

    Color me confused…

  3. Hi – can I use Gluten free flour for the same effect and taste? has anyone else tried this and can give me any ideas? Thanks!

    1. Bridget, I haven’t heard of anyone trying it this way. If you would like to do that, don’t use straight gluten-free all-flour; be sure that it is an all purpose one to one substitution blend. I hope that helps! If you decide to experiment, I would love to hear how it goes!

  4. Thanks Erin — Great recipe, Elaine!!!!!! Granny was right —- I made them yesterday and was unhappy when the pan of bars “disappeared” after only 18 hours and before I had my fair share.

    I threw together another batch for a gathering with my friends tonight. Perfect with white wine — 

    I adapted it slightly — it is much tastier to me when the cooked pan sits in the refrigerator for a couple of hours before cutting and adding sugar on top — the lemon stuff solidifies better.

    I was in a rush today, so I looked another batch, let it cool out of the oven for about 45 minutes and then put the pan in the freezer for 1-1/2 hours to get to the pan to cool down quickly and create the consistency I like.

    Voila! Sprinkled some confectioners sugar on it, cut the bars in small squares and put them in mini baking cups (2 1/2 inch diameter) for easy display and use.

    No forks required! Just pop them in your mouth —-

    Thanks again! Really easy recipe and very good results — nice lemon flavor. I’m thinking of trying lime another time.5 stars

    1. Judy, I’m so happy to hear these lemon bars were a hit for you! Thanks so much for taking the time to share this detailed review and your refrigerating tips.

  5. I was super excited to make these, but the parchment paper just…didn’t work out. I somehow ended up with a sticky mess (albeit a very tasty one, nothing went to waste :)). I wonder if buttering and flouring the pan would work?4 stars

    1. Hi Laurel, that is very odd and something I’ve never had happened! Did you bake the crust all the way first? It sounds like something might’ve been off with the ingredients in the crust. The parchment paper should not be an issue, but if you want to omit it next time, you’d be fine to butter and flour the pan—it will just be harder to lift the bars out. I hope it works out better next time!

  6. Great flavour – extra lemony! Such an easy slice to make. I didn’t have an 8inch square tin so used a 10 x6 slice tin.5 stars

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed the bars, Cathie! Thank you so much for taking the time to leave this review!

  7. Made this for Easter and everyone enjoyed. The crust was really easy to do, which was nice since I was busy with other things. I was out of pastry flour, so I just used regular and it came out fine. It did not cook evenly, but I’m sure that was just my oven.

    Thanks for a great Easter dessert!4 stars

    1. Rebekah, thanks so much for taking the time to make the recipe and report back! I’m so glad to hear they were a hit!

  8. OMG, these are the easiest, yummiest, gooeyist, best dessert I’ve had in a long time! Made it twice this weekend! 5 stars

    1. Jessi, the flavor of the butter is pretty important here. I think you could use a buttery vegan sub, like Earth Balance or similar!

  9. THIS IS WOW. My husband loves loves them. I made cream cheese white chocolate mousse to go with them and they were just DIVINE. Thank you for this great recipe!5 stars

    1. Hi Lauren! Some small bubbles are normal, but the bars should still taste delicious! I hope you love them!

    1. Hi Dawn! Unfortunately, I do not think these would hold up well for shipping, as they should be refrigerated. However, here are a couple of other desserts that would ship well: The Very Best Monster Cookies, Cinnamon Blondies, and Coconut Oil Chocolate Chip Cookies. I hope this helps!

  10. If I double the recipe, will it fit a 9×13 pan ? I’ve made the 8×8 version so many times and it’s always a hit! I need moreeee! Will the bigger pan work, or do I need 2 8×8 pans?

    1. Kristina, I think you can do a 9×13! It might be a bit thicker, but no one will be mad about that ;-) So happy to hear you love these!

    1. Hi Emily! While I haven’t tested it, you could try it out. I did recommend using all-purpose flour instead of the whole wheat pastry flour so the whole wheat white flour may work. Let me know how it goes!