The best lemon bars, that are so easy to make! A simple lemon custard baked on top of the most delicious shortbread crust. These use fresh lemon juice for a refreshingly sweet dessert that's perfect for the spring or summer.
Let us add lemon bars to the list of thing i must refrain from making unless a lot of people are helping me eat them. The lemon custard is so refreshing and the shortbread crust keeps me coming back for more. And it just is all too easy to grab a little lemon square. If I casually make a batch and keep it in the fridge, it's gone before I know it.
This is a recipe that has been very, very minimally adapted from my Grandma's - just a touch more lemon juice in the filling, vanilla in the shortbread, and a different method for the crust. It is so good and so (dangerously) easy to make!
Lemon bars feel like an extra fun dessert option that have the same portable, easy-to-travel-with appeal of a cookie or brownie, and really are no harder to make. Plus, people LOVE THEM. They're a perfect casual dessert!
MAKE THEM FOR:
- Baby showers
- Bridal showers
- Potlucks + picnics
- Road trips
Use fresh lemon juice. Since lemon is THE flavor here, go with fresh juice! You'll only need about 2 large lemons for the 1/2 cup of juice this recipe calls for, so it's not too much juicing, especially for the flavor payoff.
Chill completely before slicing. Not only are lemon bars their most delicious when cold, they'll hold their shape much better. 2 hours on the counter after baking + 1 hour in the fridge will get the job done, but chill them overnight if you have time!
Use a glass or ceramic baking dish. Your bars will bake more evenly and you'll avoid any metallic flavor that a metal pan tends to produce with lemon bars.
Poke holes in the cookie crust. After baking the shortbread, lightly poke holes all over it. This will help the custard stay in place.
BUBBLES ON TOP OF THE LEMON CUSTARD
Your custard may have some tiny bubbles at the top of the crust after baking. This is just from air escaping during baking and won't impact the flavor/texture at all. A dusting of powdered sugar will cover these right up!
HOW TO SLICE LEMON BARS
To get a clean cut of lemon bar, use a sharp knife and wipe it clean with a damp towel after each cut. The first bar is always the hardest to get out cleanly, so it's best used for quality control purposes.
I've found the rectangular cheese knife from our cheese knife set to be the perfect tool for slicing lemon bars - super sharp, the perfect size, and easy to cut straight-down.
THE SHORTBREAD COOKIE CRUST
Maybe my favorite part of the lemon bar experience! This shortbread crust is perfectly sweet and crisp and buttery, and it's so easy to make. Just mix the ingredients together in a stand mixer until no dry bits remain, then press them into a 9 by 13-inch baking dish. I don't grease the baking dish at all since the shortbread has so much butter in it.
Lemon Bars with Shortbread Cookie Crust
For the Shortbread Crust
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
- 1 cup cold unsalted butter, cubed
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
For the Lemon Custard
- 4 large eggs
- 2 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- Powdered sugar for dusting (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the crust ingredients on low speed until crumbly and no dry bits remain - this will take around 5 minutes. Turn out into a 9 by 13-inch glass or ceramic baking dish and press into an even layer. Bake 20-22 minutes, until the edges just begin to brown. Remove from oven and use a fork to poke shallow holes into the cookie crust. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. In the bowl of a stand mixer (I wipe out any crust reminants from the previous step and use the bowl again) fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the eggs until well combined. Beat in the sugar and lemon. Sift the flour and baking powder into the bowl and whisk to combine. Pour onto the baked cookie crust and bake 22-25 minutes, until custard is set and only slightly jiggles when the dish is lightly shaken. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.Allow to cool to room temperature in the pan, then transfer to the fridge to chill. Once completely chilled (2 hours on the counter + 1 hour in the fridge works for me, though overnight in the fridge is better!), cut the bars into squares and serve.