Best Lemon Bars

Lemon dessert lovers, today’s recipe is for you! Not only are these the Best Lemon Bars you are ever going to bake, they are the absolute easiest. This recipe comes from my sister Elaine, whom (at the age of 12) my grammy put in charge of making every pan of lemon squares our family ever ate. According to Grammy, Elaine’s were the best lemon bars she’d ever eaten, including her own.

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.

This is no small statement.

My grammy’s dessert skills are on par with Martha Stewart, the Barefoot Contessa, and Paula Deen combined. A lifetime baker who can make a perfect Lemon Cream Pie in her sleep, if Grammy calls something the best, then you know it is THE BEST.

Easy lemon bars have powdered sugar sprinkled over the lightly crispy, crackly top.

Every spring, my family makes a lemon dessert for our Easter celebration, 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.

This year, I was feeling more traditional.

I also was feeling lazy efficient. As much as I adore this Lemon Layer Cake (it’s perfection), I wanted something I could stir together quickly.

I settled on classic lemon bars, and, after tinkering with a few lemon bar recipe ideas—lemon bars with graham cracker crust; a healthy version of Pioneer Woman lemon bars (that one didn’t go particularly well); a no bake lemon bar that never quite set—I realized that, if I wanted to bake the best lemon bars, I needed to go directly to the source: my sister Elaine.

I called Elaine for the lemon bar recipe deets, and she revealed her secret.

Her perfect, best-ever, Grammy-sanctioned lemon bars? They are the Betty Crocker Lemon Bars with two critical recipe changes.

These delicious lemon squares with shortbread base are the perfect citrus dessert.

Secrets to the Best Lemon Bars

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 it also makes them EASY Lemon Bars, easier even than Betty’s.

Best Lemon Bars Secret One: Double the lemon juice. If you like your lemon bars extra bright and citrusy, you are going to be head-over-heels for these luscious lemon squares.

Best Lemon Bars 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!

I’m not sure what inspired Elaine to experiment with melted butter all those years ago, but I sure am happy she did. Not only does melting the butter make these the easiest lemon bars you’ll ever bake, it gives the shortbread crust an extra indulgent, melt-in-your mouth texture.

A few tweaks to the Betty Crocker lemon bars recipe makes this lemon bars recipe even easier and more delicious!

While I love many things about these lemon bars—their ultra-refreshing, no-apologies lemon flavor, the buttery crust, the fact that they can be in your oven fewer than 15 minutes from now—my favorite part of all is their lightly crispy, crackly top.

Sinking my fork (or, let’s be real, my teeth—lemon bars are usually a direct-pick-up, eat-with-your-fingers situation) through that crackly, sugary lid is one of life’s great small joys.

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

Thanks, Elaine, for sharing your Best Lemon Bars with us!

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Best Lemon Bars

The BEST Lemon Bars recipe! Lusciously creamy and bursting with bright lemon flavor, these easy lemon squares with shortbread base take minutes to prep and always wow the crowd. Better than the Pioneer Woman, Ina Garten, and Paula Deen combined!

Yield: 24 squares (1 8x8 pan)

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 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 plus 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt, 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

Directions:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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).
  4. 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.
// All images and text ©Erin Clarke/Well Plated.

Nutrition Information

Serving Size: 1 square (of 24)

  • Amount Per Serving:
  • Calories: 95 Calories
  • Total Fat: 4g
  • Saturated Fat: 3g
  • Cholesterol: 26mg
  • Sodium: 25mg
  • Carbohydrates: 13g
  • Sugar: 10g
  • Protein: 1g

Did you try this recipe? I want to see! Follow Well Plated on Instagram, snap a photo, and tag it #wellplated. I love to know what you are making!

The BEST Lemon Bars recipe! Lusciously creamy and bursting with bright lemon flavor, these easy lemon squares with shortbread base take minutes to prep and always wow the crowd. Better than the Pioneer Woman, Ina Garten, and Paula Deen combined! #easy #lemonbars

The BEST Lemon Bars recipe! Lusciously creamy and bursting with bright lemon flavor, these easy lemon squares with shortbread base take minutes to prep and always wow the crowd. Better than the Pioneer Woman, Ina Garten, and Paula Deen combined! #easy #lemonbars

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About Erin Clarke

I’m fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food taste incredible. Wearer of plaid, travel enthusiast, and firmly convinced that sweets and veggies both deserve a place at the table. MORE ABOUT ERIN…

19 comments

  1. I drooled just a little bit while reading this recipe. I absolutely love lemon desserts, and these sound just amazing! Plus I am also very “efficient.”

    Rating: 5
  2. 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! 

  3. 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…

  4. Heather Christo Reply

    Lemon Bars are my very favorites! these are gorgeous!

  5. 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!

    • 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!

  6. shawnna Griffin Reply

    hey girl- these bars look amazing!

  7. 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.

    Rating: 5
    • 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.

  8. 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?

    Rating: 4.5
    • 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!

  9. Cathie Connecttion Reply

    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.

    Rating: 4
  10. 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!

    Rating: 4.5
    • 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!

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