Classic Lemon Bars

These Classic Lemon Bars with a shortbread crust are the lemon bars that you remember! The recipe is from a vintage church cookbook, and it’s packed with lemon flavor.

stack of three lemon bars on a small green cake stand.

Lemon lovers, THIS is your dessert!

These Classic Lemon Bars are simple, straightforward, and exactly what you remember: soft and custard-like lemon filling on top of a buttery shortbread crust.

I tested a few recipes to land on this one. Most vintage church cookbooks had very similar recipes, with minor changes to ingredients. Some had baking powder, some didn’t. Some had lemon zest, some didn’t. Some had salt in the filling, others had it in the crust.

After a few rounds of trials and some taste testing, this lemon bar recipe was determined to be the winner.

It has the perfect amount of lemon flavor. Salt in the crust complements the sweetness without detracting from the lemon in the filling. And the texture is spot-on: gooey and custard-like, but not runny.

If you love citrus desserts, don’t miss this classic Lemon Poke Cake or this Lemon Poppy Seed Bread!

Jump to:

Ingredients

lemons, eggs, sugar, flour, and other ingredients.

Be sure to check the recipe card below for a full list of ingredients and instructions!

You just need some simple pantry/refrigerator staples for this recipe. Here are a few things to note:

  • You’ll need one, maybe two lemons. It depends on how juicy/big they are.
  • Don’t skip the baking powder. It gives the bars the classic every-so-slightly chewy texture and a crackly crust on top. Bars made without it are a little soft.
  • Need to soften butter in a hurry? Check the “Notes” section of the recipe card (below) for a shortcut!

How to make classic lemon bars

For the shortbread crust, cream together the softened butter, powdered sugar, and flour with a hand mixer. It won’t form a dough—it’ll be more dry and only stick together when you smush it together with your hands.

flour and butter mixture in a glass bowl with a hand mixer.

Pat it into a parchment-lined 8×8-inch dish. Press firmly but don’t pack it in super tightly.

Bake the crust at 350°F for 18–22 minutes, or until light brown around the edges.

While the crust is baking, whisk together the filling: eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, flour, and baking powder. The baking powder adds a slight chewiness to the filling, and gives it the characteristic crackly crust on top.

glass mixing bowl filled with a lemon mixture and a whisk.

Pour the lemon mixture over the hot-from-the-oven crust, and bake for about 25 minutes, or until lightly golden on the edges, and the center doesn’t jiggle when you jostle it.

Let cool completely, then dust with powdered sugar and slice into bars.

9 lemon bars topped with powdered sugar on a white marble board.

Storage and freezing

Store the lemon bars either at room temperature or in the refrigerator, in an airtight container. They’ll last for about a week before they start to get hard.

You can freeze lemon bars, tightly sealed, for up to 3 months. Defrost in the refrigerator or at room temperature.

The lemon Bars are runny. What happened?

If the bars are runny, one of two things is the culprit:

  • They haven’t baked long enough. If you jostle the pan a bit as you’re taking them out of the oven, the center should not jiggle at all.
  • You cut them while still warm. The bars should be fully cool before cutting for the cleanest slices.

Thankfully this recipe has some flour in the filling, which helps the lemon bars set up as well.

pile of lemon bars with shortbread crust on a green cake pedestal.

More old fashioned Bar Cookies You’ll love

📖 Recipe

stack of three lemon bars on a small green cake stand.

Classic Lemon Bars

Published by Kate
This classic lemon bar recipe has a sweet and tart lemon custard on top of a shortbread crust. They are lemon bar perfection!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 9 servings
Calories 261 kcal

Ingredients
  

For the crust:

  • ½ cup unsalted butter softened
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup powdered sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

For the filling:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Line an 8×8-inch baking pan with parchment paper or spray with cooking spray.

For the crust:

  • In a large bowl, cream together the butter, flour, powdered sugar, and salt with a hand mixer.
  • Pour into the prepared pan and flatten into an even, compact layer with your hands (press firmly but don’t pack it super tightly).
  • Bake for 18–22 minutes, or until lightly brown around the edges.

For the filling:

  • While the crust is baking, whisk together all of the filling ingredients in a large bowl.
  • Remove the crust from the oven and immediately pour the filling over the top. Return to the oven for 23–27 minutes, or until the center no longer jiggles when you shake the pan gently.
  • Let cool and sprinkle with additional powdered sugar. Slice and serve.

Video

Notes

Need to soften butter in a hurry? Cut the butter into tablespoon-sized slices, and place on a plate. Microwave for 10–15 seconds on defrost. Flip and microwave for another 10–15 seconds on defrost. Voila! Softened butter in a hurry.
Store the lemon bars in a covered container either at room temperature or in the refrigerator. They’ll last up to a week. You can also freeze lemon bars for up to 3 months. 
Double the recipe to make a 13×9-inch dish. You may need to increase the baking time for the filling by a few minutes.
Make sure the bars are fully cool before cutting. This ensures that the filling isn’t runny.
 

Nutrition

Calories: 261kcalCarbohydrates: 38gProtein: 3gFat: 11gSaturated Fat: 7gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0.4gCholesterol: 63mgSodium: 104mgPotassium: 39mgFiber: 0.4gSugar: 26gVitamin A: 368IUVitamin C: 2mgCalcium: 24mgIron: 1mg
Keyword classic lemon bars, lemon bars
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