Classic Lemon Bars with Shortbread Crust

I just love a good lemon bar and they are one of the simplest feel good desserts with minimal ingredients. The soft lemon filling with a lightly sweetened shortbread crust is bright and crunchy, making it irresistible. This lemon bar recipe has been passed down from multiple family generations and it doesn’t disappoint. You won’t be able to eat just one bar, as we usually eat half the batch in one sitting! 

Tips for Making Lemon Bars

This is a must to always use fresh lemons! As lemons are the star of this dessert and the bottled concentrate versions just don’t taste the same. If you want to add some zing, use the lemon zest in the filling or as a topper. I never use lemon extracts either, as the real thing is best.

I highly recommend making a double batch, as the bars are even better when they are thick. For one batch use a 8 inch glass square dish to make about 12 bars. However, I always make a double batch that fits into a 9x13 inch glass square dish.

Grease a baking dish with butter or oil. Then add parchment paper on top. The parchment paper makes for easy clean up and it lifts the lemon bars right out without it breaking on you.

To get a nice shortbread crust make sure the butter is cold going into the food processor. This helps the mixture stay powdery and it’s easier to handle while pressing into baking dish.

The trick to get the perfect lemon bar is to pour the filling on the crust while it's still hot. You take the tray out of the oven and pour the filling right onto the crust. Then back into the oven to bake until the filling gets some color. 

Now when the bars come out of the oven, they may not seem done. Don’t worry as the bars will keep cooling as they sit and cool. These bars do take some time to chill and if you rush this step they will break on you. Just be patient but I know it’s hard! You can always put them in the fridge for 30 minutes to speed up the cooling process!

This dessert is perfect to make ahead of time and then leave in your freezer. Make sure to cut the bars and let them freeze on a sheet tray. After bars are frozen, wrap in plastic wrap and store in the freezer for up to 2 months. When ready to eat just thaw bars and dust powder sugar on top or lemon zest.

What If Your Lemon Bars Have Bubbles, Whites Spots or Have Some Browning on Top?

Lemon bars on marble cutting board

Now after you bake your bars you may notice small air bubbles on top of the filling (could be white) or maybe just some browning. Some batches don’t have this happen, while others do but just know it’s normal! The bars still taste as delicious and flavorful.

The bubbles are made from the air in the eggs, as they rise throughout the mixture. Some batches have it, some don’t. Some browning means the sugar started to caramelize on top. This happens to my bars often as my oven’s temperature isn’t very steady. You could drop the temperature down to 325F but I actually like the color contrast. Nevertheless, the lemon bars taste the same and adding that powder sugar helps create that beautiful top layer!

What You Need For This Recipe?

8x8 Baking Dish
Parchment Paper
Food Processor
Medium Size Mixing Bowl
Lemon Juicer
Zester (optional to zest lemon rind on top of bars)
Have you made lemon bars before or any type of citrus bar?
I've subbed in grapefruit, pomegranate or juiced oranges to mix up this wonderful recipe. The filling will take on any citrus color too. Please let me know how you like this Lemon Bar recipe! It’s a family recipe and a keeper.

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