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.
Lemon dessert fervor runs strong in my family, and I love sharing that tradition here too.
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!
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.
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.
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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Combine the shortbread crust ingredients, press into a parchment lined 8×8 pan, and bake barely light brown.
- 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.
- Let cool, dust with powdered sugar, and ENJOY!
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.
- 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.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Parchment paper. I always keep several rolls stocked for all my baking and cooking needs.
- Microwave-safe stacking mixing bowls. I love how compact this set is to store.
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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Best Lemon Bars
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
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