Lemon Bars (Lemon Squares)

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The best lemon bars! A smooth & sweet lemon filling sits on top of a buttery shortbread crust for the most delicious lemon squares recipe. Plus these easy lemon bars are simple to make with only 8 ingredients!

stack of 4 lemon bars


Lemon bars are a classic dessert that are perfect to serve at any special occasion, potluck or picnic! This is seriously the best lemon square recipe ever. A smooth & sweet lemon filling sits on top of a buttery shortbread crust for a bright and sunny dessert that will have you coming back for seconds! 

These lemon bars are easy to make with only 8 ingredients. Since they need to be chilled they’re a great make-ahead dessert too! 

overhead photo of 9 lemon squares

Lemon Bars: Ingredients & Substitutions

Let’s discuss the ingredients in this lemon bars recipe, as well as possible substitutions. 

  • Salted butter. Unsalted butter or vegan butter can be used in place of slated butter. 
  • All-purpose flour. Use an unbleached, all-purpose flour to make these lemon bars. Cake flour or pastry flour can be used, if necessary but I don’t recommend making substitutions. 
  • Powdered Sugar. Technically you can omit the powdered sugar on the top, but I don’t recommend it. No substitutions in the crust. 
  • Fine Sea Salt. If you use regular table salt (iodized) cut the amount in half. 
  • Eggs. Use whole, large eggs at room temperature for the best results. 
  • Granulated sugar. I typically use Wholesome Organic Cane Sugar  to make these lemon squares, but any white, granulated sugar works well.
  • Lemon Juice. I use bottled organic lemon juice to save time – however you can squeeze your own lemon juice from fresh lemons (about 2) if desired. 
overhead photo of the ingredients in this Lemon Bars Recipe

How to make lemon bars

This lemon square recipe is super easy, but as always we’ll walk through how to make lemon bars step-by-step, and don’t forget to watch the video. 

Make the shortbread crust

To begin, make the shortbread crust. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and vanilla, then add flour, powdered sugar and salt and beat until coarse, large crumbs form (about 60-90 seconds). 

two overhead photos showing How to Make Lemon Bars

Line an 8×8” baking dish with parchment paper and lightly grease, set aside. I like to cut the sides so the paper sits nicely in the pan for easy removal. 

two overhead photos showing How to Make Lemon Bars

Pour dough into the bottom of the prepared baking dish, using lightly floured hands, press it into an even layer.

two overhead photos showing How to Make Lemon Bars

One the dough is pressed into the pan, gently poke holes with a fork into the shortbread, making sure not to go all the way through the dough. Then, bake for 15 minutes, or until the top looks just set. Remove from oven and let cool.

two overhead photos showing How to Make Lemon Bars

Make the Lemon bar filling

While the crust is baking, make the lemon bar filling. Begin by whisking the eggs together in a large bowl. Then add the sugar and whisk vigorously. Next, add the lemon juice and whisk until combined. 

two overhead photos showing How to Make Lemon Bars

Finally, add the flour and whisk until the mixture is smooth

two overhead photos showing How to Make Lemon Bars

Putting the Lemon Bars together

Once the shortbread crust is baked and the filling is mixed, pour the filling over baked crust.

Bake the lemon bars

Bake for an additional 15-20 minutes or until the top is set and just barely jiggly. 

two photos showing How to Make Lemon Bars

Chill

Transfer the baking dish to the refrigerator and chill for at least 3 hours. 

Serve

Once the lemon squares are chilled, dust them with powdered sugar, cut into squares and serve cold. I typically cut this lemon squares recipe into 16 pieces because it is rich. 

Don’t forget to try our other favorite lemon desserts like lemon cookies (with a delicious lemon glaze), lemon poppy seed cake (or lemon poppy seed bread), lemon cupcakes with lemon frosting, and lemon pie!

overhead photo of 9 baked lemon squares

Store

Store these lemon bars in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 5-7 days. 

Freeze

This recipe can be frozen in two ways: 

  1. Freeze the entire batch. If desired, let the lemon bars cool completely in the baking pan. Then wrap the pan tightly with plastic wrap and foil and freeze for up to two months. To eat, transfer the pan of lemon bars to the refrigerator to thaw overnight, then cut, dust with powdered sugar and serve cold. 
  2.  Freeze individual bars. If you have leftovers and won’t eat them in time, freeze the lemon square in individual servings. I prefer this method because you can pull out one or two at a time to enjoy. Let the bars chill completely, then cut them into squares. Place the squares on a baking sheet with space in between and put them in the freezer until hardened. Then wrap in plastic wrap and store in an airtight container. Freeze for up to 2 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight. 
overhead view of a stack of lemon bars with lemons and other bars around it

Recipe FAQs

Can I freeze lemon bars? 

Yes! These lemon bars freeze beautifully, and can be frozen in two ways: 
Freeze the entire batch. If desired, let the lemon bars cool completely in the baking pan. Then wrap the pan tightly with plastic wrap and foil and freeze for up to two months. To eat, transfer the pan of lemon bars to the refrigerator to thaw overnight, then cut, dust with powdered sugar and serve cold. 
 Freeze individual bars. If you have leftovers and won’t eat them in time, freeze the lemon bars in individual servings. I prefer this method because you can pull out one or two at a time to enjoy. Let the bars chill completely, then cut them into squares. Place the squares on a baking sheet with space in between and put them in the freezer until hardened. Then wrap in plastic wrap and store in an airtight container. Freeze for up to 2 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight. 

Do lemon bars have to be refrigerated?

Yes, I suggest storing these lemon bars in the refrigerator. They can be served at room temperature, but they stay fresh much longer if they are stored in the refrigerator.

Why do my lemon bars crack?

If your lemon bars cracked it’s likely because they were over-baked. Try shortening the baking time.

How do you know when lemon squares are done?

You know these bars are done when the top looks set and the bars are just barely jiggly. Remember, they continue cooking a little bit when you pull them out of the oven, so do not over-bake.

More delicious recipes

stack of four lemon squares

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Lemon Bars (Lemon Squares)

Laura
The best lemon bars! A smooth & sweet lemon filling sits on top of a buttery shortbread crust for the most delicious lemon squares recipe. Plus these easy lemon bars are simple to make with only 8 ingredients!
5 from 6 votes
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 16 Bars
Calories 155
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time30 minutes
Chilling3 hours
Total Time3 hours 40 minutes

Ingredients 
 

Shortbread Crust:

Lemon Filling:

Topping

Instructions 

Make the crust:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8×8” baking dish with parchment paper and lightly grease, set aside.
  • In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl using a hand-held mixer, beat butter and vanilla.
  • Add flour, powdered sugar and salt and beat until coarse, large crumbs form (about 60-90 seconds).
  • Pour the dough into the bottom of the prepared baking dish, using lightly floured hands, press it into an even layer.
  • Gently poke shallow holes with a fork into the shortbread, making sure not to go all the way through the dough.
  • Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes, or until the top looks just set.
  • Remove from oven.

Make the Filling

  • While the crust is baking, make the lemon filling
  • In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, then add sugar and whisk vigorously.
  • Add lemon juice and whisk until combined
  • Add flour and whisk until combined.
  • Pour the lemon filling over baked crust.
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the top is set and just barely jiggly.
  • Transfer the baking dish to the refrigerator to chill for at least 3 hours.
  • Once chilled, sprinkle the top with remaining powdered sugar, cut into squares and serve.

Video

Notes

Ingredient Substitutions

  • Salted butter. Unsalted butter can be used in place of slated butter. 
  • All-purpose flour. Use an unbleached, all-purpose flour to make these lemon bars. Cake flour or pastry flour can be used, if necessary.
  • Powdered Sugar. Technically you can omit the powdered sugar on the top, but I don’t recommend it! No substitutions in the crust. 
  • Fine Sea Salt. If you use regular table salt (iodized) decrease the amount by half. 
  • Eggs. Use whole, large eggs at room temperature for the best results. 
  • Granulated sugar. I typically use Wholesome Organic Cane Sugar  to make these lemon squares, but any white, granulated sugar works well.
  • Lemon Juice. I use bottled organic lemon juice to save time – however you can squeeze your own lemon juice from fresh lemons (about 2) if desired. 

Store

Store these lemon bars in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 5-7 days

To freeze lemon bars:

This recipe can be frozen in two ways: 
  1. Freeze the entire batch. If desired, let the lemon bars cool completely in the baking pan. Then wrap the pan tightly with plastic wrap and foil and freeze for up to two months. To eat, transfer the pan of lemon bars to the refrigerator to thaw overnight, then cut, dust with powdered sugar and serve cold. 
  2.  Freeze individual bars. If you have leftovers and won’t eat them in time, freeze the lemon bars in individual servings. I prefer this method because you can pull out one or two at a time to enjoy. Let the bars chill completely, then cut them into squares. Place the squares on a baking sheet with space in between and put them in the freezer until hardened. Then wrap in plastic wrap and store in an airtight container. Freeze for up to 2 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight. 

Nutrition

Serving: 1bar | Calories: 155kcal | Carbohydrates: 23g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 36mg | Sodium: 95mg | Potassium: 20mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 16g | Vitamin A: 207IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 6mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Did you enjoy this recipe? Have a question? Leave a comment below!

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6 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    These are amazing! I have never tried to make lemon bars using any other recipe than this and I never will. They were an instant hit the first time I made them. Easy, delicious, they come out perfect every time.

  2. 5 stars
    Hi!
    I love lemon, but I like lime better. Is there any way to substitute the lemon juice for lime juice or grapefruit? Thanks!!

    1. Yes! You can substitute an equal amount of lime juice for sure, and I’m guessing grapefruit will taste delicious too (putting it on my list of things to try)!