How to Make Lemon Bars

Here is how to make lemon bars, an easy dessert that is perfect for spring and summer.

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Few desserts capture the essence of summer quite like homemade lemon bars. With their irresistible combination of tangy citrus filling and flaky, buttery crust, lemon bars make a delicious and easy dessert recipe for any occasion.

Whether you’re hosting a backyard barbecue, planning a picnic in the park, or simply craving a sweet treat to brighten your day, homemade lemon bars are one of the best summer dessert ideas to consider.

In this post, we’ll explore making perfect lemon bars—from selecting the juiciest lemons to achieving the ideal balance of tartness and sweetness. Get ready to elevate your lemon dessert game and delight your taste buds with the ultimate recipe for homemade lemon bars.

What are Lemon Bars?

Homemade lemon bars, also known as lemon squares, are a delicious dessert that consists of a creamy, tangy lemon filling that sits on top of a buttery shortbread crust.

Lemon bars typically have a bright yellow color and a refreshing citrus flavor, making them a popular treat for various occasions such as parties or picnics, especially during the summer. But you can also enjoy lemon bars as a sweet indulgence any time of year.

The lemon filling in homemade lemon bars is usually made from a mixture of fresh lemon juice, lemon zest, sugar, eggs, with a bit of flour or cornstarch to thicken it.

Choose plump, ripe, fresh lemons to use for juicing. Lemons that are fresh, but slightly soft when you press into them, are often good for juicing.

The lemon filling mixture is whisked until it’s creamy, and then poured over a pre baked shortbread crust, usually made from a combination of flour, butter, and sugar.

Once assembled, the lemon bars are baked until the filling is set and the crust is golden brown. After cooling and dusting the lemon bars with powdered sugar, the bars are typically cut into squares or rectangles for serving.

The result is a deliciously tangy and sweet dessert that’s perfect for those who love citrus flavors. It’s also great for people who love lightly flavored desserts.

Lemon Bars are a Classic Summer Dessert Idea

Lemon bars are a go to dessert for summer parties and backyard cookouts. The bright, refreshing flavor of lemon bars is like enjoying a burst of sunshine in every bite. Lemon bars are the perfect contrast to heavy, indulgent desserts, making them one of the best summer dessert ideas.

Lemon bars are also easy to serve, which makes them a total lifesaver for outdoor gatherings. Just cut the lemon bars into squares ahead of time, and your guests can grab them and go while they’re mingling and having a blast.

Plus, you can whip lemon bars up in advance and stash them in the fridge for a day or two until showtime—talk about stress free party prep!

And let’s not forget about the presentation, because that’s where the real fun begins. Once the baked lemon bars have cooled, dust them with a little powdered sugar for a touch of elegance, or go all out and serve the bars with a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

You can also add fresh berries or mint leaves for a pop of color and extra deliciousness when it comes to flavor!

So, whether you’re hosting a big summer bash or just kicking back with a few family members or friends in the backyard, lemon bars are the ultimate crowd pleaser. Lemon bars are refreshing, they’re easy to make ahead of time, and they’re guaranteed to steal the show at any summer gathering or cookout.

Once they taste this easy lemon bars recipe, don’t be surprised if your guests are begging you for the recipe!

What Ingredients are Used to Make Lemon Bars?

Here is a list of ingredients that are typically used to make homemade lemon bars. Each ingredients plays a role in creating the deliciously tangy and sweet flavor and creamy texture that homemade lemon bars are famous for having.

  • Butter. Butter serves as the base for the shortbread crust, providing richness, flavor, and a tender texture. It also helps bind the crust ingredients together.
  • Granulated sugar. Sugar sweetens both the crust and the lemon filling. When used in the crust, sugar adds sweetness and helps create a slightly crispy texture. In the filling, it balances the tartness of the lemon juice and enhances the overall flavor.
  • All purpose flour. Flour is used in both the crust and in the filling. In the crust, flour provides structure, and it helps bind the ingredients together. When added to the filling, flour acts as a thickening agent, helping to set the lemon mixture as it bakes.
  • Eggs. Eggs serve as a binding agent and provide structure to the lemon filling. They also contribute to the texture, helping to create a smooth and creamy consistency.
  • Freshly squeezed lemon juice. Fresh lemon juice is the star ingredient of lemon bars, providing the tangy and refreshing flavor that defines this dessert. Fresh lemon juice adds acidity and brightness to the filling, balancing the sweetness of the other ingredients.
  • Lemon zest. Lemon zest, the outer peel of the lemon, contains aromatic oils that bring intense lemon flavor to the bars. Grated lemon zest adds depth of flavor and enhances the citrusy profile of the filling, making it one of the most important ingredients—besides lemon juice—in the bars.
  • Salt. Salt enhances the flavor of the lemon bars crust by balancing the sweetness and adding a subtle savory note. Salt also helps to intensify the other flavors in the recipe.
  • Powdered sugar. Powdered sugar is used as a garnish for the finished lemon bars. It adds a touch of sweetness and adds a pretty, frosted look to the lemon bars. Plus, powdered sugar can help to balance the tartness of the lemon filling.

One question that cooks often have is: Can you substitute bottled lemon juice for fresh lemon juice when making homemade lemon bars?

In a pinch, you can substitute bottled lemon juice for fresh lemon juice when making lemon bars, but it may affect the flavor and overall quality of the bars to some extent.

Fresh lemon juice has a vibrant, bright flavor with natural acidity and citrus notes that can elevate the taste of the lemon bars. Grated lemon zest, especially, adds to the tangy, lemony flavors of the bars.

Bottled lemon juice, on the other hand, may contain preservatives or other additives, which can result in a slightly different flavor profile. Bottled lemon juice may also lack the freshness and complexity of flavor that fresh lemon juice can provide to the bars.

If you use bottled lemon juice to make lemon bars, consider adding some grated lemon zest or a small amount of lemon extract to the filling to help enhance the lemon flavor and fresh flavors.

How to Make Homemade Lemon Bars

Here’s how to make lemon bars—you’ll be surprised at how easy it is.

To make lemon bars, start by preheating your oven to 350°F. Grease a 9×13 inch baking dish or line it with parchment paper, to help make cleanup easier later.

Next, prepare the shortbread crust. In a large mixing bowl, cream together 1 cup of softened, unsalted butter, ½ cup of granulated sugar, and ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract until light and fluffy.

Gradually add 2 cups of all purpose flour and ¼ teaspoon of salt to the bowl, mixing until the dough becomes crumbly. Press the shortbread mixture evenly into the bottom of the prepared baking dish evenly to form the crust.

Bake the crust in the preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until it’s lightly golden brown. While the crust is baking, prepare the lemon filling.

In another mixing bowl, whisk together 2 cups of granulated sugar and ½ cup of all purpose flour. Add 6 large eggs, ⅔ cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice (juice from about 4 to 5 lemons), salt, and the zest of 2 lemons to the bowl.

You could also add an extra egg yolk or two or a small amount of lemon extract to the filling for more richness or flavor.

Whisk everything together until the ingredients are well combined and smooth. Cover and refrigerate the lemon filling until the shortbread crust is ready.

Once the shortbread crust is baked, remove it from the oven and let it cool for about 10 minutes. Pour the lemon filling over the crust, using a spatula to spread it evenly.

Return the baking dish to the oven and bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes, or until the filling is set and the edges are lightly golden brown.

Place the baking dish with the lemon bars on a wire rack to cool. Allow the lemon bars to cool completely before serving.

Once the bars are completely cooled, refrigerate the lemon bars for at least 1 hour to firm up the filling before cutting into bars.

If desired, dust the top of the cooled lemon bars with powdered sugar before serving for a decorative touch.

And that’s it! Now you can have delicious homemade lemon bars ready to enjoy. They’re perfect for any occasion, from parties to picnics, or simply as a sweet treat to indulge in.

Should You Add Extra Eggs to Lemon Bars?

Adding extra egg yolks to the lemon filling can enhance the richness and creaminess of the bars. The additional yolks can contribute to a smoother texture and a more luxurious mouthfeel.

If you prefer a slightly denser and silkier lemon filling, you can try adding one or two extra egg yolks to the filling mixture while whisking up the lemon bar filling ingredients.

How to Store Lemon Bars

Once baked, lemon bars can typically be stored for about 3 to 4 days when they are properly stored. It’s best to store the lemon bars in an airtight container in the refrigerator to help maintain their freshness and prevent them from drying out.

Make sure to allow the lemon bars to cool completely before placing them in the container for storage. Bring the lemon bars to room temperature before serving for the best texture and flavor.

If you need to store the lemon bars for longer periods, you can freeze the bars for up to 2 months. Wrap the lemon bars tightly in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil before placing them in a freezer safe container or zip top bag.

Thaw the frozen lemon bars overnight in the refrigerator before serving them.

What to Serve with Lemon Bars

Lemon bars are a fantastic dessert option for gatherings, like summer potlucks and backyard barbecues. Lemon bars are not only delicious, but they’re also versatile when it comes to pairing them with other foods.

Here are some of of the best ways to serve lemon bars:

  • Fresh Berries. For refreshing flavors, serve lemon bars with a side of fresh berries like strawberries, blueberries, or raspberries. The combination of tangy lemon and sweet berries is a match made in heaven and adds a vibrant burst of color to a party dessert spread.
  • Whipped Cream. A dollop of homemade whipped cream is a must have when serving lemon bars. It adds a light and creamy texture that balances out the tartness of the lemon filling, creating a perfect harmony of flavors.
  • Vanilla Ice Cream. For a more indulgent option, pair lemon bars with a scoop of creamy vanilla ice cream. The contrast of cold, smooth ice cream against the tangy bars is simply irresistible, especially in summer.
  • Mint Garnish. Garnish lemon bars with fresh mint leaves for a pop of color and a hint of herbal flavor and freshness. Mint adds a sophisticated touch, and it complements the citrusy flavor of the bars beautifully.

Lemon bars are a crowd pleasing dessert that never fails to impress. Whether you’re hosting a dinner party or a casual get together, serving lemon bars with these complementary foods can earn rave reviews from guests.

Homemade Lemon Bars Recipe

Here is how to make easy lemon bars, a classic summertime dessert.

Homemade Lemon Bars Recipe

Here is a classic recipe for homemade lemon bars that are perfect for spring desserts and summer potlucks.
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword easy dessert recipes, lemon recipes, summer recipes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 20 bars
Author Sweet Bacon & Pecans

Ingredients

For the crust:

  • 1 cup 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all purpose flour sifted
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

For the lemon filling:

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • ½ cup all purpose flour
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 egg yolks optional
  • cup freshly squeezed lemon juice from about 4 to 5 lemons
  • ½ tsp lemon extract optional
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • For dusting (optional)

For the dusting (optional):

  • Powdered sugar

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9×13 inch baking dish or line the baking dish with parchment paper, to make it easier to remove the lemon bars.
  • In a large mixing bowl, cream together the softened butter, granulated sugar, and vanilla extract until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  • Gradually add the flour and salt to the butter mixture, mixing until the ingredients are crumbly to make a shortbread mixture. Press the shortbread mixture evenly into the bottom of the prepared baking dish to form the crust.
  • Bake the crust in the preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crust is lightly golden brown. Let the crust cool for a few minutes before adding the lemon filling.
  • While the shortbread crust is baking, prepare the lemon filling. Add 2 cups of granulated sugar and ½ cup of flour to a large mixing bowl. Whisk the flour and sugar together until they are well blended.
  • Add the eggs, egg yolks (optional), lemon juice, lemon extract (optional), salt, and lemon zest to the bowl, and whisk until the ingredients are well combined and smooth. Cover and refrigerate the lemon filling until the shortbread crust is baked and cooled.
  • Once the shortbread crust is baked, remove it from the oven and pour the lemon filling over the baked crust, spreading it evenly.
  • Return the baking dish to the oven and bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes, or until the filling is set and the edges are lightly golden brown.
  • Allow the lemon bars to cool completely in the baking dish on a wire rack. Once cooled, refrigerate the lemon bars for at least 1 hour to firm up the filling before cutting the dessert into squares or bars.
  • If desired, dust the top of the cooled lemon bars with powdered sugar before serving.

Notes

  1. For best results, use freshly squeezed lemon juice to make the lemon bar filling. 
  2. For best texture, make sure the butter for the crust is softened, but not melted.
  3. When pressing the crust into the baking dish, use the back of a spoon or a spatula to ensure the crust evenly distributed and pressed into the dish.
  4. Allow the lemon bars to cool completely before cutting to ensure clean slices.
    Store leftover lemon bars in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 to 4 days.
  • Featured photos by rjgrant via Canva.com
  • Photos and images are for illustration purposes only.

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