This Old Fashioned Lemon Bar recipe is easy and quick but still uses a classic shortbread crust and a tangy and sweet custard filling of eggs and lemon juice. It's a small 8X8 recipe that is easy to double for more lemon squares.
We frequently make this super easy recipe as a treat for small groups like coffee meetups, bake sales, or special family meals. A single batch of lemon bars is usually correct, but a double 9X13 batch is about the same amount of work.
Based on All Recipes - The Best Lemon Bars, with a few modifications and simplifications.
- Butter—salted or add a pinch of salt
- Sugar—white granular sugar
- Flour—all-purpose flour
- Sugar—white granular sugar
- Flour—all-purpose flour
- Lemon juice and zest (optional)
- Powdered sugar
👨🍳How to Make Lemon Bars
- Mix the shortbread crust of softened butter with sugar and flour. Press the crust into a prepared 8X8 pan and bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Or make the optional graham cracker crust.
- Mix the custard filling with sugar, flour, eggs, and lemon juice.
- Pour the filling into the baking dish and bake for 20 to 22 minutes until the filling is set.
- Cool at room temperature and dust with powdered sugar.
- Refrigerate before cutting.
This is a summary of the steps and ingredients. See the printable recipe card or the step-by-step photo instructions below for complete instructions.
🥣How to Make the Optional Graham Cracker Crust
A Graham cracker crust can be used if you wish instead of the shortcake crust.
Crush 16 sheets of Graham crackers. Add ¼ cup powdered sugar, ½ teaspoon cinnamon, and ¼ teaspoon salt if using unsalted butter. Mix to combine. Melt 5 oz. butter and mix in well.
Press into the bottom of the properly prepared dish and run up the side about ¼ inch. Bake at 350° for 8 to 10 minutes to firm up.
⬆️How to make a double "family size" recipe
This is a very easy recipe to double if you need a large amount.
- Use the recipe card and adjust the number of servings to double.
- Use the amount of ingredients in the ingredient list, not the instructions—those do not adjust.
- A double recipe fits in a 9X13 baking pan.
- Bake for about 25 minutes or until the filling is set.
🍋About the Lemons and Lemon Juice
A medium lemon will have 2 ½ to 3 tablespoons of juice, so use two medium lemons for the ⅓ cup of juice.
There is some improvement with real fresh lemon juice, so use them if you have them. Plus, you may add some lemon zest for more taste–about one tablespoon will do.
The second advantage of bottled lemon juice is that this becomes a complete pantry recipe with ingredients I always have on hand.
Other Juice: You can get different flavors by using orange or other juices.
❄️How to Store Lemon Bars
Do not store leftovers at room temperature. They are okay for a few hours for serving but should otherwise be refrigerated.
Refrigerate for 3 days in an airtight container. On the 4th day, they start to lose texture.
To freeze, skip the dusting of powdered sugar, if possible. Cut into serving size and freeze for a few hours, separated on a tray. After the initial freeze, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and seal in a Zip-Lock bag. They should be good for 4 months.
A full recipe, which is what I usually make, uses an 8X8 or 6X9 dish. A 9-inch round will also work. I prefer glass or good non-stick.
A double recipe fits a 9X13 baking pan or cake pan.
Use parchment on the bottom and butter the sides. You will still need a knife around the outside to remove it.
Helpful Tip: Putting a few dots of butter in the corners of the bottom of the pan will keep the parchment from shifting.
This recipe is listed in these categories. See them for more similar recipes.
Step-by-Step Photo Instructions
All images are for a double batch. All discussion is for a single batch.
Preheat the oven to 350°. Prep an 8X8 baking dish. Give it a light brush of butter, then cover the bottom with parchment paper—a dot of butter in each corner will hold the paper in place.
Soften ½ cup (one stick) of butter in the microwave. Mix the softened butter, 1 cup of all-purpose flour, and ¼ cup of sugar. If unsalted butter, add ⅛ teaspoon salt. It will look crumbly. You can mix by hand, but it is easier with a small mixer.
Press into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until firm and lightly brown.
Whisk together ¾ cup of sugar and 2 tablespoons of flour. Add 2 eggs and the juice of 1 medium lemon or 3 tablespoons of lemon juice. Mix well.
Pour the lemon/egg mixture over the baked crust—bake for 20 minutes.
Remove from oven, cool for 1 hour at room temperature, and dust with powdered sugar.
Cool in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours before cutting with a sharp knife into about 2-inch squares.
Old Fashioned Lemon Bars
- ½ cup butter - 1 stick
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ⅛ teaspoon salt - if using unsalted butter
- ¾ cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 large eggs
- 1 medium lemon - 3 tablespoons of lemon juice
- 1 tablespoons lemon zest - optional
- 1 tablespoons powdered sugar
- NOTE: Images are for a double recipe. Preheat oven to 350°. Prep a 9 by 13 baking dish. Give it a light brush of butter, then cover the bottom with parchment paper. You may also use crossed sheets of parchment paper.
- Soften ½ cup (one stick) of butter in the microwave. Mix the softened butter, 1 cup of all-purpose flour, and ¼ cup of sugar. If unsalted butter, add ⅛ teaspoon salt. It will look crumbly. You can mix by hand, but it is easier with a small mixer.
- Press into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until firm and lightly brown.
- Whisk together ¾ cup of sugar and 2 tablespoons of flour. Add 2 eggs and the juice of 1 medium lemon or 3 tablespoons of lemon juice. Mix well.
- Pour the lemon/egg mixture over the baked crust—bake for 20-22 minutes until the filling is set.
- Remove from oven, cool for 1 hour at room temperature, and dust with powdered sugar.
- Cool in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours before cutting with a sharp knife into about 2-inch squares.
Your Own Private Notes
- An easy recipe to double in a 9X13 pan and add a few minutes to the cooking time.
- You may use fresh lemons or lemon juice.
- If you want a Graham cracker crust instead of shortbread, see details in the post.
- If using fresh lemon, add some lemon zest for more taste–about 1 tablespoon will do.
- Be sure to cool completely before cutting.
- The bars should be refrigerated for storage and should be good for 3-4 days.
To adjust the recipe size:
You may adjust the number of servings in this recipe card under servings. This does the math for the ingredients for you. BUT it does NOT adjust the text of the instructions. So you need to do that yourself.
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Editors Note: Originally published February 7, 2017. Updated with expanded options, refreshed photos, and a table of contents to help navigation.