Easy lemon bars with a zesty lemon custard over a crisp brown sugar shortbread crust—these lemon bars are lovely and delicious!
The best lemon bars are super easy for you to make and a dessert that seems elegant and decadent—impressive to your guests while only requiring minimal time and effort from you! What could be better than that?!
And don’t worry that these lemon bars are too eggy—you know how sometimes that’s all you can taste? No lemon, just eggs? I hate that so I worked on this recipe too many times to count until I was satisfied with the proportions of crust to filling and had a filling that was not too eggy.
Easy lemon bars for parties
I made these bars a few weeks ago for a dessert party, along with Raspberry Shortbread Bars and Cream Cheese Pound Cake and everyone devoured the lemon bars! I think we had maybe three leftover—and not for long!
What’s your favorite dessert to take to a party? You can never go wrong with chocolate chip cookies or brownies, but if you want to take something that appears to be a little fancier, then try these Easy Lemon Bars.
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Chess Squares – these are easy and irresistible!
Lemon Bars are best on the first day and will keep well for one more day if you have leftovers. Place them in an airtight container and either store on the counter or in the fridge.
They may keep slightly better in the refrigerator, but it’s not necessary if you’re tight on space.
I don’t like to keep them longer than a couple of days because the crust softens too much and I like my lemon bars best when the crust is still slightly crispy.
But there’s certainly nothing wrong with them even after 4 or 5 days so don’t toss them if you haven’t gobbled them all by then!
There are no special tools required. You’ll need a saucepan like this one to cook the filling for about 7 minutes, and a mesh strainer to strain it afterward.
You probably have a baking dish already but if not, I love this one from Le Creuset. It’s versatile so you can use it for so many recipes and it will last forever! I use mine ALL THE TIME.
That’s it as far as tools!
How to make lemon bars
Preheat your oven to 350º and line a 9×13 inch pan or baking dish with foil, allowing the foil to hang over the sides. Lightly grease the foil.
Make the crust
- Whisk flour, sugar, and salt together in a large bowl, then scrape in the seeds from a vanilla bean and stir into the flour mixture.
- Pour in melted butter and stir until well mixed.
- Press into prepared pan. Bake 20-25 minutes until deep golden brown.
- Allow to cool for 5 minutes.
Pro Tip: Pre-baking the crust will give you a nice shortbread that doesn’t get soggy from the filling.
Filling for easy lemon bars
- Whisk together flour, salt, and sugar.
- Whisk in lemon zest, then eggs and lemon juice.
- Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, for 5-7 minutes until thickened.
- Strain through a mesh strainer if needed.
- Pour gently over hot crust.
- Bake 8-10 minutes or until center is set.
- Allow the Easy Lemon Bars to cool in the baking dish on a wire rack for about 1 1/2 hours.
- Then use the foil overhang to gently lift the lemon bars from the pan. Gently peel the foil down and cut into squares.
- Whisk in the lemon zest and mix well before you add the eggs and lemon juice so the zest can separate.
- If you dump it too quickly, the hot filling will dissolve the crust.
- The cooling period is very important for the bars to set properly!
- Sprinkle with powdered sugar just before serving. If you do it too early, the powdered sugar will dissolve.
Can you freeze lemon bars?
Yes! You can freeze the whole pan after it cools or you can freeze them individually. Here’s how:
To freeze the whole pan, allow the bars to cool completely. Don’t slice! Wrap the whole pan in plastic wrap, then cover that with foil and place in the freezer. Use within 3 months.
To freeze separately, allow the lemon bars to cool completely and then slice as you normally would. Place the individual bars on a baking sheet in the freezer overnight. Wrap the individual frozen bars with plastic wrap and then foil, then place in a zipper freezer bag to store. Use within 3 months.
Do lemon bars need to be refrigerated?
The bars are fine for several hours if you’re making them for a party. If you’re making them a day or two ahead then store in the refrigerator and don’t sprinkle the powdered sugar until just before you serve. Blot the bars lightly before adding the powdered sugar.
How to store lemon bars?
If using the same day, just lightly cover the cooled and sliced bars on a platter. Sprinkle with powdered sugar just before serving. If making a day or two ahead, store in the refrigerator and don’t sprinkle the powdered sugar until just before you serve. Blot the bars lightly before adding the powdered sugar.
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Easy Lemon Bars
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 vanilla bean
- ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons freshly grated lemon zest
- 4 large eggs
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced and cold
- 2-3 tablespoons confectioners sugar
- Preheat oven to 350. Line a 9×13 inch pan with foil, allowing the foil to hang over the sides, and lightly grease the foil.
- Whisk flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean and mix into flour. Pour in butter. Stir until well mixed and press into prepared pan. Bake 20-25 minutes until dark golden brown. Allow to cool for 5 minutes.
- Whisk together flour, salt, and sugar. Whisk in lemon zest. Whisk in eggs and lemon juice. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, for 5-7 minutes until thickened. Strain through a mesh strainer. Whisk in butter until smooth.
- Pour gently over hot crust. Bake 8-10 minutes or until center is set.
- Let cool in pan on wire rack for 1 1/2 hours. Lift from pan, using foil sides as handles. Gently peel foil down and cut into squares. Sprinkle with powdered sugar just before serving.
- Cook’s Illustrated
- Food Network
- Fine Cooking
- Gabriel’s Bakery
Update Notes: This post was originally published September 8, 2014, and on April 22, 2019, was updated with one or more of the following: step-by-step photos, video, updated recipe, new tips.
If you love these Easy Lemon Bars, you might also like these lemon-based recipes: