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Sweet, creamy lemon filling on top of a shortbread crust, these Lemon Bars are the essential dessert for a BBQ or picnic! Ina Garten's recipe for lemon bars is lemon perfection and is the ONLY recipe you need for lemon bars. You can't help but to smile while devouring this simple, beautiful, summer dessert.
*This post was updated on 7/6/20 with updated text and photographs. The recipe is the same*
I have a serious love for lemons. A SERIOUS love.
I love making lemon desserts (my other top favorites include Lemon Biscotti, Lemon Cookies with White Chocolate & Lemon Ricotta Cake!), but the all time, queen of lemon desserts HAS to be the lemon bar.
Ina Garten has been an inspiration to me for so long. I love trying her recipes, they're all so fabulous! I knew that her recipe for Lemon Bars would be no different.
Lemon bars are the perfect summer dessert
I have fond memories of having these bars on a summer day out by the pool or at family picnics & BBQs.
Silky smooth, cool lemon filling on top of shortbread crust, dusted with powdered sugar...in the words of Ina, "How bad could that be?"
I'm a believer that for a classic treat such as this, you gotta keep it basic. Don't be tryin' to get fancy with lemon bars; you just don't need to.
They are DIVINE as is and this recipe showcases the lemon in all of it's natural, beautiful, bright, citrus-y glory.
What makes this lemon bar recipe so spectacular?
More lemon & The perfect filling
This recipe tops all of the other Lemon Bar recipes because it uses the most lemon I've ever seen. It calls for 1 whole cup of fresh squeezed juice, along with a ton of lemon zest. From my research, zest is missing in a lot of lemon bar recipes, and sorry but, that's a fail. All of the oils and richness of the fruit lie within the zest. Gotta zest it up people!
It totally takes these lemon bars from good to *I'm speechless* - good.
Secondly, I'm obsessed with the filling. It is thick and ultra creamy, basically lemon pudding on top of an amazing crust. I've had so many lemon bars that have that weird, gelatinous, overcooked stretchy textured filling- you know what I'm talking about?
Nope, not these. The filling is gooey and perfect and I just love it.
How to make Lemon Bars
Lemon bars are quite easy to make and you don't need any fancy ingredients -
For the Crust
For the Lemon Filling
- Fresh lemon zest
- Fresh lemon juice
And of course, powdered sugar for topping.
If you can source yourself some Meyer Lemons, I definitely recommend it!! They are less acidic, sweeter and have a deeper, richer citrus flavor than normal lemons.
The crust of the bars is essentially a shortbread cookie. Once the crust ingredients are mixed together, the dough will form large crumbles. Dump the dough into a greased 9x13 pan that's lined with foil (don't be tempted to use parchment! I made the mistake of using it once and the filling mixture leaked underneath the bottom - it ruined the whole batch).
Do not overbake the crust
Don't let the crust get too dark because when it goes back in for the second bake, it will get even more dark. That's why it's important to not over bake it the first time!
Bake the crust until it is lightly golden brown. And when I say lightly, I mean it. Very light golden brown is almost the point where it's hard to detect. As you can see below, just the tips of the crust are a darker hue than the rest.
Once the crust is baked, remove it from the oven and allow it to cool fully. The lemon mixture comes together quickly, so you don't want to make it too soon. I would say wait at least 30 min after the crust comes out to start making the lemon mixture.
Mix up all of the remaining ingredients and pour the mixture into the baked, cooled crust. Bake again until the center is set.
Allow the lemon bars to cool fully and then stick them in the fridge to chill. Once chilled, cut into squares or into fancier triangles.
Keep them stored in the fridge.
Can Lemon bars be frozen?
Yes! Lemon bars can be frozen and they are actually SUPER delicious frozen. The filling stays semi-soft so they do not freeze into rock hard bricks and will defrost quickly once removed from the freezer.
Here's how to freeze lemon bars
Once they are baked and chilled, cut into squares and lay them on a tray with space in between each bar. Freeze the tray and once each bar is individually frozen, you can lay them carefully in a resealable freezer bag or in an airtight container. This way, they won't stick to each other.
Allow to thaw overnight in the fridge and you'll have perfect, make ahead lemon bars!
Can you leave lemon bars at room temperature?
In short, lemon bars need to be chilled and stored in the fridge.
You should not leave them out at room temperature for extended periods of time, especially in hot weather or in the sun. They will be fine to sit out at for an hour or so, but for food safety, store them in the fridge.
For the Crust:
- 1 c of butter (or 2 sticks, softened at room temp)
- ½ c granulated sugar
- 2 c all purpose flour
- ⅛ tsp salt
NOTE: *you'll need about 6-7 lemons to get 1 cup of juice*
- 6 eggs (room temp)
- 3 c granulated sugar
- 2 tbsp grated lemon zest
- 1 c freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 c flour
- powdered sugar (for dusting the bars)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Line a 9x13 pan with foil, allowing the ends to hang over the sides of the pan (do not use parchment) and lightly spray with non-stick cooking spray.
- In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar using a hand mixer. Add the flour and salt and mix just until large crumbles form.
- Press the dough evenly into the pan, ensuring to build the crust up on all sides.
- Bake the crust for 15-20 minutes or until VERY lightly golden brown. Allow to cool for 30min before starting the filling mixture.
- In another large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, flour, zest & lemon juice.
- Pour the lemon mixture into the cooled crust. Bake for 30-35 minutes until filling is set (it can be slightly jiggly in the middle). Allow to cool to room temperature and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours (best overnight).
- Lift the bars out of the pan with the foil and set on a large cutting board.
- Dust with powdered sugar before cutting into bars and serving.
- Store lemon bars in the fridge for up to 3 days (can also be frozen).
- Don't forget to zest your lemons before juicing them.
- If you can get Meyer Lemons, I highly recommend it! They are a little sweeter and have a deeper, richer citrus flavor.
Recipe adapted from: Ina Garten
- Prep Time: 15
- Cook Time: 60
- Category: Bars
- Cuisine: American
Keywords: Ina Garten's Lemon Bars, Lemon Desserts