The way to make the best lemon bars is to use a buttery shortbread crust and real lemon curd as the filling. These classic lemon bars are bright and tart with the perfect contrast of crust and filling.
Lemon Bar Recipe Overview
The best lemon bars start with a slightly sweet and buttery shortbread crust. The crust is then topped with a thick layer of real lemon curd.
The lemon curd for these lemon bars is made without flour and without cornstarch, keeping the color bright and the flavor fresh and tart! These bars are very reminiscent of lemon meringue pie!
How to Make the Best Lemon Bars
The process of making these lemon bars is actually quite easy. Simply follow this step-by-step process.
Step 1: Prepare a Buttery Shortbread Crust
Shortbread crust comes together very quickly by combining the ingredients in the mixing bowl all at once. The mixture will be very crumbly when it goes into the parchment-lined pan.
Use damp fingers to firmly and evenly press the dough into the pan and use a fork to dock the dough all over. Par-bake the crust before adding the lemon curd filling.
Step 2: Prepare the Lemon Curd Filling
All of the ingredients for the lemon curd go into a medium saucepan all at once. Whisk these ingredients together and cook over low heat, stirring continuously, until the curd starts to bubble and thicken.
Strain the prepared curd into a bowl or right over the prepared crust. This will catch any lumps that may have formed and produce silky smooth lemon bars.
Step 3: Bake the Lemon Bars
Tent the baking pan with foil, making sure it does not touch the lemon curd filling. This will provide a steamy environment for the lemon bars to create a very smooth glossy top. Bake the bars for about 15 minutes to set the lemon curd.
Step 4: Cool & Chill
After the lemon bars are cooled to room temperature, chill them for at least an hour in the refrigerator to completely set the filling before serving.
Step 5: Store
Lemon bars should be stored covered in the refrigerator to prevent spoilage and to keep the filling set.
Tips, Tricks, & Techniques
- Cooking the lemon curd on low heat while whisking continuously is key to making a smooth curd. Even though the curd will be strained, this technique minimizes the chance of coagulated eggs in your filling.
- Fresh lemon juice is truly the only way to go to make the absolute best tasting lemon bars. One lemon usually yields about 2-3 tablespoons of juice so you will likely need about 5-6 lemons for this recipe.
- The lemon juice could be swapped out with other citrus juice to make various citrus bar flavors!
The BEST Lemon Bars
This recipe makes the absolute best lemon bars! A buttery shortbread crust is matched with real lemon curd filling creating lemon bars that are bright and tart with the perfect flavor contrast of crust and filling.
For the Shortbread Crust
- 1 stick (4 oz, 112 gr) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/3 cup (2.3 oz, 65 gr) granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
- 1 cup (4.25 oz, 119 gr) all-purpose flour (*see note for gluten free substitution)
For the Lemon Curd Filling
- 4 large eggs
- 4 large egg yolks
- 1 cup (7 oz, 196 gr) granulated sugar
- 1 cup (8 oz, 236 ml) fresh lemon juice (from about 5-6 lemons)
- 1 TBSP grated lemon zest
- pinch of salt
- Prep: Preheat the oven to 350 F (177 C). Line an 8×8″ (20×20 cm) or 9×9″ (23×23 cm) square baking dish with parchment paper.
- Make the Crust: In a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer, combine all of the ingredients for the crust until it becomes very crumbly. Pour the crumbs into the prepared pan and use damp fingers to press the dough evenly into the pan. Use a fork to dock the dough all over. Bake at 350 F (177 C) for 20-22 minutes until the edges of the crust begin to brown.
- Make the Lemon Curd: While the crust is baking, prepare the lemon curd. Add all of the ingredients for the lemon curd into a medium saucepan and whisk together. Heat over low heat, whisking continuously until the mixture bubbles and thickens.
- Bake the Lemon Bars: Pour the lemon curd through a fine mesh sieve over the par-baked crust. Loosely tent a piece of foil over the pan, making sure it is not touching the curd. This will create a steamy environment for the bars resulting in a very smooth and shiny top. Bake at 350 F (177 C) for 15 minutes.
- Cool: Remove the piece of foil and allow the bars to cool to room temperature. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour before serving.
- Serve: These lemon bars are very tart and thick, therefore cutting them into 16 pieces is the perfect size. Dust squares with powdered sugar before serving, if desired.
- Store: Store leftover lemon bars covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- Gluten Free Lemon Bars: The all-purpose flour in the crust can be swapped with a gluten free flour blend such as Bob’s Red Mills Gluten Free Baking Blend or Cup 4 Cup Flour.
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