Easy Zesty Lemon Bar Recipe

Mary and Brenda Maher

By Brenda & Mary

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My first encounter with the vibrant essence of organic lemons was at a bustling farmer’s market. The people were awesome, and the air was filled with their aromatic perfume. All of that inspired me to experiment with this delightful homemade lemon bar recipe.

Lemon Bars recipe

Let’s go through the simple steps to create these delectable treats. They will give you a burst of sunshine with every bite.

Why You Should Try Out This Easy Recipe

There are many reasons why I think you’ll fall head over heels for this recipe:

  • It’s a classic dessert with simple elegance. Lemon bars strike the perfect balance of sweet and tart flavors that will tantalize your taste buds. The buttery shortbread crust provides a delightful contrast to the bright, tangy lemon on top.
  • This lemon-baking recipe is not only straightforward but also incredibly satisfying. As you whip up the luscious lemon curd, you’ll feel like a pro and watch it set into beautiful bars. It’s an easy recipe that yields impressive results.
  • One of the best things about this recipe is that it can be adapted to suit various dietary preferences and restrictions. Whether you’re gluten-free, vegan, or dairy-free, you can easily substitute ingredients to make these bars work for you.
  • Making these lemon bars is an excellent way to learn essential baking skills that will serve you well in the long run. You’ll know how to balance flavors, achieve the perfect crust-to-filling ratio, and master the art of a smooth, luscious lemon topping. It’s a great recipe for novice bakers to level up their game.
easy Lemon Bars

8 Basic Steps to Make Lemon Bars

Ingredients

Here are the ingredients you’ll need to make the best lemon bars:

Shortbread Crust

  • Unsalted butter: Make sure it’s fully melted so it incorporates evenly with the sugar and flour. Don’t skip this step, as it’s the base of the crust.
  • Granulated sugar: This adds sweetness to the crust and helps balance the tartness of the lemon filling.
  • Pure vanilla extract: It introduces more depth to the flavor department.
  • Salt: A pinch of salt prevents the crust from becoming too sweet.
  • All-purpose flour: I like to use a bit more flour than usual to ensure a solid foundation for the lemon bars. You can get away with 2 cups, but an extra 2 tablespoons make a big difference.

Lemon Filling

  • Granulated sugar: Sugar not only sweetens the filling but also helps set it up with the eggs.
  • All-purpose flour: This adds structure to the lemon filling, just like in the shortbread crust.
  • Large eggs: We need 6 of them. They are the backbone of the lemon filling, providing most of the structure. Don’t even think about reducing the number of eggs!
  • Lemon juice: Freshly squeezed lemon juice is a must. You can experiment with other citrus flavors. But for classic lemon bars, try to stick with the real deal.
  • Optional: Confectioners’ sugar (powdered sugar) for dusting (if you want a fancy touch).

Instructions

1. Preparation:

Begin by setting your oven to 330°F (165°C). I find that using a glass baking pan, specifically a 9×13-inch one, works best for this recipe. Avoid metal pans to prevent overbaking. Line your pan with parchment paper with extra overhang on the sides. This little trick makes removing the bars so much easier later on.

2. Make the crust:

Start by combining melted butter, sugar, vanilla extract, and salt in a medium-sized bowl. Add flour to the mixture and stir until everything is uniformly combined. Don’t worry if the dough is quite thick.

3. Bake the crust:

Make the holes for the filling

Press this dough evenly into the bottom of your prepared pan. Pop this in the oven for about 20 minutes. What you’re looking for is a light golden brown coloring along the edges.

4. Make the holes for the filling:

Once you achieve that, take it out. However, keep the oven on – you’ll need it shortly. Poke holes all over the hot crust with a fork or a pastry cutter. Don’t go all the way through; just enough to make it a bit tacky. This is a trick I swear by, as it helps the filling adhere better.

5. Make the filling:

Lemon Bars filling

In a larger bowl, sift together sugar and flour to avoid any lumps. Add in eggs and add lemon juice, whisking until everything is well incorporated and smooth.

6. Bake the crust (with filling) again:

Pour the filling over your warm crust and return it to the oven. Bake for about 25 minutes. The center should not jiggle when you give the pan a gentle nudge.

Lemon Bars final

7. Cooling:

Remove the crust from the oven and let it cool completely at room temperature, which usually takes a couple of hours. I find that chilling it in the refrigerator after it’s cooled down for another couple of hours firms it up perfectly for cutting.

8. Finishing and serving:

Dust with confectioners’ sugar if you want. Lift the crust out by the parchment paper overhang and dust generously. Finally, slice it into squares. To achieve super clean cuts, wipe your knife after each slice.

How To Make Lemon Bars
Lemon Bars in the plate

Tips on Making Lemon Bars

There are a few things to keep in mind when making this fresh lemon recipe:

  • Like other baking goods, I’ve found that bringing the eggs and lemon juice to room temperature is the best idea. But I’ve made these bars with cold eggs and lemon juice before, and they still turn out great, too. Use whichever temperature works best for you.
  • Sifting can be a pain but don’t underestimate it. Sifting the flour and sugar together before adding the eggs and lemon juice ensures that the flour incorporates fully and doesn’t end up with lumps. Skip it, and I promise you’ll notice a difference. It’s a great help if you have a sifter. As a bonus, you can use it to dust the bars with confectioners’ sugar later.
  • This sweet lemon recipe needs fresh juice. When it’s out of the question, you can substitute it with other fresh-squeezed citrus like grapefruit or blood orange. Note that if you’re using a sweeter citrus, you might want to reduce the sugar content slightly.
  • If you’re looking to make a smaller batch, you can easily halve the recipe and bake the bars in a 9-inch square pan. Just adjust the baking time accordingly, and you’ll be good to go.
  • These bars are super flexible when it comes to storing and freezing. If you have any leftovers, just pop them in the refrigerator, and they’ll keep for up to a week. You can even make the bars in advance and freeze them for up to 3-4 months. Thaw them in the refrigerator when you’re ready to serve. Just wrap them individually in foil or plastic wrap and store them in a large bag or container.
  • If you’re looking to pair your lemon dessert with a delightful frosting, you could consider the lemon buttercream frosting. For a berry twist, go for the raspberry buttercream frosting that would complement the lemony flavor beautifully. The chocolate fudge frosting might provide a good contrast if a richer option is your thing.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to Know When My Lemon Bars Are Set?

Check if the center of your lemon bar is still jiggly. If it’s not, and the edges are set, you’re good to go. Remember that the filling will continue to set as the bars cool down. If you’re unsure, add a few more minutes to the baking time to ensure they’re perfectly set.

Can I Make Lemon Bars Without Eggs?

Absolutely. You can use thickening agents like cornstarch or agar agar as a substitute for eggs. This will help achieve the right consistency for your lemon bars.

My Lemon Bars Are Too Sweet. How to Avoid That Next Time?

Increase the amount of lemon zest and juice to balance out the sweetness. Alternatively, you can reduce the sugar in the filling or add a pinch of salt to enhance the other flavors and reduce the overall sweetness. Experiment with these options to find the perfect balance for your taste buds.

—Thanks for stopping by. I hope you’ll enjoy making and devouring these homemade lemon bars as much as I do.

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Lemon Bars recipe

Lemon Bar

A zesty lemon bar recipe that melds refreshing tartness with sweet bliss, complete with a buttery shortbread crust. It's the pure summer vibe that you enjoy!
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Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Cooling Time: 3 hours 10 minutes
Total Time: 4 hours
Servings: 24 Bars
Calories: 125kcal
Author: Brenda Maher

Ingredients

Crust

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 ⅓ tsp pure vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 cups + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour

Filling

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 6 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 cup lemon juice, about (4 lemons)
  • Powdered sugar (optional for dusting)

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 330°F (165°C). Line a 9×13-inch glass baking pan.
  • Make the crust by combining melted butter, sugar, vanilla extract, and salt using a medium bowl. Add flour and stir until combined.
  • Press the dough into the prepared pan and bake it for 20 minutes.
  • Once done, make holes in the baked crust with a fork or a pastry cutter. Keep the oven open.
  • Sift sugar and flour. Whisk in eggs and fresh lemon juice until smooth.
  • Pour the filling over the crust and bake for 25 minutes.
  • Let the crust cool completely, then chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours.
  • Dust with powdered sugar and slice into squares with a sharp knife.

Notes

  • Fresh lemons can be substituted with other citrus fruits (you may have to reduce sugar a bit).
  • Room-temperature eggs and lemon juice help with smooth incorporation.
  • Sifting flour and sugar is essential for structure.
  • The recipe can be halved and baked in a 9-inch square pan.
  • Bars can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week or frozen for 3-4 months.
  • Leftovers can be kept for up to a week in the refrigerator (wrap them in foil or plastic wrap and store them in a large bag or container).

Nutrition

Calories: 125kcal | Carbohydrates: 17g | Protein: 1.5g | Fat: 3.4g | Cholesterol: 34mg | Sodium: 48mg | Potassium: 21mg | Fiber: 0.2g | Sugar: 11g | Calcium: 20mg | Iron: 0.2mg
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Mary and Brenda Maher

Mary & Brenda Maher

Mary & Brenda Maher, are the founders of Cake Girls, a Chicago-based online baking shop specializing in cake supplies, party decor, and DIY cake tutorials. They are known for their elaborate and artistic cake creations, which have been featured on the Food Network Challenge and in a reality show, Amazing Wedding Cakes.

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