Lemon bars are made with a tangy, sweet lemon curd filling and a thick, buttery shortbread crust. They are bright, vibrant, and so refreshing! A near 50/50 ratio of filling to crust is what gives these the perfect balance of flavor and texture.
These lemon bars are seriously addicting! You won't be able to stop at just one. The thick lemon curd is perfectly tangy, sweet, and sits beautifully on top of the crisp, buttery shortbread crust. Just a heads up, you're going to need a ton of eggs and lemons to make these, so make sure you stock up on plenty of each before you start!
What You Need to Make Lemon Bars:
For the Shortbread Crust:
- Flour: All-purpose flour.
- Sugar: Granulated sugar makes the crust perfectly sweet.
- Egg yolks: 2 large egg yolks. Yolks add fat, flavor, and richness to the crust. They also help to bind the dough together.
- Vanilla extract
- Butter: Shortbread crusts are made with a high amount of fat, usually a 2:1 ratio of flour to butter (measured in weight, not volume). Make sure you are using unsalted butter. If all you have is salted butter then leave out the added salt or your crust will be way too salty!
For the Lemon Curd Filling:
- Eggs: 8 whole and 6 yolks, large.
- Cream of tartar: A little cream of tartar helps enhance the lemon flavor.
- Vanilla extract
- Fresh-squeezed lemon juice: You need 1 and ½ cups of fresh lemon juice. 8 large lemons should be enough, but just to be safe it's best to have a few extra. Never use bottled lemon juice! Bottled lemon juice is concentrated and way too strong!
- Butter: Unsalted butter. Again, if all you have is salted butter then leave out the added salt.
How to Make Lemon Bars:
Preheat your oven to 350° and line a 9 x 13" rectangular cake pan with parchment paper. Leave some overhang to make removing and slicing the lemon bars easier.
Make the Shortbread Crust:
In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, salt, egg yolks, and vanilla extract. Add the melted butter and stir with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together and is cohesive. Use your hands to press the dough and pack it down tightly into the bottom of the parchment-lined cake pan. Use a fork to poke several holes in the dough, which helps the lemon filling sink in and adhere to the crust better. Pre-bake the crust for 18 minutes.
While the crust bakes, start making the lemon curd filling:
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, egg yolks, sugar, salt, cream of tartar, and vanilla extract until smooth and pale yellow in color.
In a separate bowl, whisk the fresh-squeezed lemon juice and flour until smooth and the flour is dissolved.
Melt the unsalted butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the lemon juice/flour mixture and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until thick.
Remove from heat and very carefully pour the hot liquid into the bowl of the eggs/sugar mixture. Whisk the eggs constantly while you do so they don't scramble.
Once that's all added, pour everything back into the pot and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly. Once it comes to a boil, continue to cook and whisk for 3 minutes or until very thick.
Remove from heat and strain into a bowl through a sieve to get rid of any lumps. Use a whisk to help it pass through the sieve.
Pour the strained lemon curd into the warm, prebaked crust and use a spatula to spread it out evenly. Bake in the 350° oven for 12-14 minutes.
Let the lemon bars cool at room temperature, then cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours (overnight is best) so the lemon filling can fully set.
Use a very sharp, clean knife to slice into square bars. Clean the knife between each slice. Dust the tops of the lemon bars generously with powdered sugar before serving.
Tips for Making Lemon Bars:
- Make sure you're using a cake pan with squared edges, don't use a pan with rounded edges or some of the lemon bars won't have any crust.
- When straining the lemon curd, use a spoon to press as much of it through the sieve as you can. Scrape the strained curd off of the opposite side of the sieve and into the bowl.
- Don't let the crust cool too much before you add the lemon curd or it won't adhere as well.
- After the lemon filling has set fully in the fridge, you can place the lemon bars in the freezer for an hour or two, which makes it easier to get clean slices.
How to Store and Freeze Lemon Bars:
Lemon bars can be kept out at room temperature for a few hours, and they stay fresh, covered tightly, in the fridge for 1 week. They also freeze very well! After you've sliced the lemon bars, place them in a pan with large sides, cover tightly, and set the pan in the freezer overnight until they're fully frozen. You can leave them in the pan or transfer them to a large plastic bag and keep them in the freezer for up to 4 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge or at room temperature for about an hour.
More Lemon Recipes:
- 9 x 13" cake pan
- 3 and ¼ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ¾ tsp. salt
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), melted
Lemon Curd Filling:
- 8 large eggs
- 6 large egg yolks
- 3 cups granulated sugar
- ½ tsp. salt
- ½ tsp. cream of tartar
- 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
- 1 and ½ cups fresh-squeezed lemon juice
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- ½ cup unsalted butter
- powdered sugar, for dusting the tops of lemon bars
- Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line the bottom of a 9 x 13" cake pan with parchment paper and leave a little hanging over the sides to make removing the lemon bars easier.
Make the Shortbread Crust:
- In a large bowl, whisk the flour, granulated sugar, salt, egg yolks, and vanilla extract. Stir in the melted butter and use a wooden spoon to mix the dough until it comes together and is cohesive.
- Add the dough mixture to the parchment-lined pan and use your hands to press and pack it down tightly and evenly into the bottom.
- Use a fork to poke several holes in the dough. Bake the crust in the preheated oven for 18 minutes. While the crust bakes start making the lemon filling.
Make the Lemon Curd Filling:
- In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, egg yolks, granulated sugar, salt, cream of tartar, and vanilla extract.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the fresh-squeezed lemon juice and flour until smooth and the flour is dissolved.
- Melt the butter in a large pot. Add the flour and lemon juice mixture and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until thickened.
- Carefully pour the hot lemon mixture into the bowl with the eggs, whisking the egg mixture constantly so the eggs don't scramble. Add everything back into the pot and return to the stove over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, whisking constantly until thick. You'll want to cook it for about 6-8 minutes over medium heat and keep whisking the entire time. Once the mixture comes to a boil it will thicken rapidly.
- Remove from heat and strain the mixture through a sieve into a large bowl. Use a whisk to promote it going through the sieve. Use a spoon to scrape the strained curd from the opposite side of the sieve. Once you have most of it strained through, use a spoon to push as much of it as you can through the sieve.
- Pour the strained lemon curd into the warm prebaked crust and use a spatula to spread it out evenly. Bake for 12-14 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature. Cover the pan and refrigerate for at least 3 hours (overnight is best) before slicing and serving. Dust the tops of the lemon bars generously with powdered sugar before serving.