There are so many great recipes for Lemon Squares aka Lemon Bars. For a long time, I considered this one the best. As of now, I still do.
Smooth Lemon Squares Filling
Originally from Cook’s Illustrated, this recipe has a slightly creamier, smooth lemon filling thanks to some half & half cream. I think the half & half is what makes these better, as it curbs the acid from the lemon. Also, being a fat, it carries the flavor and helps prevent the lemon bar filling from tasting quite so eggy.
Melted Butter Crust
Over the years I’ve changed the lemon bar crust. The original one from CI calls for cold butter, powdered sugar and cornstarch and is made in a food processor. I like to use extra soft/almost melted butter, granulated sugar and flour. The crust is just as good (though the texture is different) and it’s a lot more convenient. If you want a firmer crust and don’t mind using the food processor, the original powdered sugar & cornstarch version is in the notes.
8 Inch Pan Lemon Squares or 1/8 Sheet Pan
I’ve always made these in a metal pan, but I’m pretty sure using an 8 inch glass dish would be fine. If you need to make a larger batch, the original 13×9 inch pan recipe is here. Recently, I made them in a 1/8 sheet pan. The bars come out thinner, but still very good. I think the thin ones are a little easier to eat, and I kind of like the ratio of crust to filling. But either pan size will work just fine.
Even Less Eggy Tasting — Update
These Lemon Squares aren’t eggy tasting, but if you are really sensitive to egg and want to make double sure you don’t taste it, you can try this tip. Crack the eggs into a bowl before using and use a fork to remove the chalaza (also known as “white stringy stuff”. It sort of helps, but you’ll still taste some egg. I do think it makes the filling smoother.
Quite Possibly The Best Lemon Squares Ever
- 1 cup all-purpose flour (130 grams), pastry flour okay too
- 4 tablespoons granulated sugar OR powdered sugar (50 grams granulated or 30 grams powdered)
- 1/8 teaspoon salt, increase to 1/2 if using unsalted butter
- 8 tablespoons salted butter, gently melted (114 grams)
- 2 large eggs
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar (130 grams)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (9 grams)
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice, strained if you have time
- 3 tablespoons half & half (light cream) Or use 1 1/2 T. cream and 1 1/2 T. milk
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- Grease and flour an 8 inch square metal pan or a 1/8 sheet pan. You can use parchment paper or foil if desired, but be sure to grease and flour the lined pan.
- In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, sugar and salt. Pour in the gently melted, cooled, butter and stir to make a soft dough. Press into the bottom of the greased pan. Chill the dough lined pan for about 30 minutes or until ready to bake.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. When oven is preheated, bake the pre-chilled crust (above) for 18-20 minutes or until edges are very lightly browned. If you prefer a less browned crust, bake at 325 for 25 to 28 minutes.
- While the crust is baking, crack the eggs into a bowl and use a fork or tweezers to remove the white stringy things (chalazae).
- A few minutes before the crust is ready, whisk together all filling ingredients until smooth. REDUCE OVEN HEAT.
- Again, reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Stir filling, then pour filling over the warm crust. Bake for 20 minutes or until filling no longer appears wet and shaky. It won't look completely done, but if small bubbles have formed on the surface it should be ready to remove. It will set as it cools.
- Set on a wire rack and cool to room temperature. Lift from pan, place on cutting board, dust with extra powdered sugar, trim edges and cut into bars.
Firm, Powdery, Food Processor Version Crust
- 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour (114 grams)
- 1/3 cup powdered sugar (40 grams)
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch (16 grams)
- 3/8 teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks (84 grams)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. When oven is preheated, bake the pre-chilled crust (above) for 18-20 minutes or until edges are very lightly browned.
Love lemon bars, but normally if the lemon layer is too thin, i’m disappointed. Made these today and was so happy that the lemon layer was thin and yet it packed a real LEMON wallup……..
I should have added that I used your “minor” changes too. 🙂
I made the 9×13 inch version and used half and half. They are excellent! Thanks for helping me choose a recipe. They were perfect for the party because they cut nicely and people could pick them up to eat them.
It just so happens that I tasted the real thing at Central Market last week and my thoughts were that they were the best lemon squares I’ve ever tasted and I’ve tried many different versions. They are a favorite of mine. Thanks for this recipe! I’ll be trying it very soon.
Delicious! I have a lemon tree and boy has it been fruitful this year!
I wanted to use my lemons before it was too late for them. I used your recipe and it is delicious. I will adjust it the next time and use less powdered sugar so the filling is a little more lemony.
About to try these for my daughter’s bridal shower!!! Wish me luck!
I buttered & floured a glass pan instead. Used a fork to blend butter into flour for the crust. Turned the heat up to 375*, then down to 350*. Used the same times & they were GREAT! Filling firm & shiny, textures just right. I’ll make these again, happily.
Thanks for sharing a small batch recipe! Mine are still in the oven, but I can’t wait to taste them tonight 🙂
I made these last night as a birthday treat for one of my bosses. They were easy and delicious! I also made your Caramel Filled Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Bars for the party since the boss doesn’t like cake. People were raving about both bars. I know that when I make one of your recipes, I will never be disappointed. And neither are the recipients!
These really are the best lemon bites ever! i made them for a new years bbq and everyone raved. i am the biggest lover of lemon meringue pie and these tasted SO devine!
Wow I have yet to try these!
Your directions are so much more clear than recipes in other websites.
I’m definitely bookmarking this.
Thanks for the review, Audrey.
I just made these. I thought the crust was great but the filling wasn’t quite lemony enough for me. Also I like a greater filling to crust ratio. The best lemon squares I have ever made was from Fine Cooking. I guess they are actually lemon cheesecake squares, they have a creamy lemon cheesecake layer with a tart lemon curd layer on top, really a fantastic contrast.
I just made these, too – brought them to a Thanksgiving gathering. I doubled the recipe and made them in a 9 1/2 x 11 pan, or whatever that size is. They disappeared quickly.
They really are delicious, and the crust has a nice firmness that makes them easy to handle. I LOVE lemon, so for me the lemoniness was fantastic. We have a lemon tree, so I got to use my own lemons – bonus!
Highly recommended! Thanks again, Anna!
I saw this recipe yesterday and had the craving to make them so i did!! These bars are delicious!!! I really like the crust, and since im not a HUGE lemon fan, i think next time if I make the crust thicker and the filling just a little thinner, they will be perfect!! But they are delicious!! Im a huge fan of your blog!!! Thanks!!!
I love ANYTHING lemon, so I’ll just have to try these and let you know if these are, indeed, the best lemon squares in the world. They certainly *look* like they could be.
Oh yeah… just sign me up – these are gorgeous and I’m sure will make my top 10 too.
In the recipe I did I used 2/3 cup of Blood Orange Juice (our product is fresh squeezed from Italy). I didn’t add any zest at the time since the actual fruit wasn’t in season. Honestly, I didn’t think it needed it. It held up pretty well but I think in a month or so when the oranges are in season again I will try it with some zest. The juice I can get year round so that isn’t a problem.
If you say it I just have to believe it :)!
Anna, you are my hero. I love lemon squares, but haven’t found them to be reliable for guests. They always taste good, but if they don’t cut cleanly and aren’t nice to serve….I consider them a bust and I avoid making them for special occasions or to take to a party. I’m going to try this recipe and see if it fits the bill. They look wonderful. FYI, I had a FABulous tiramisu experience this weekend (there are cookies in tiramisu, you know!) just looking for afficiando’s to critique. Thanks for the porthole into your world…I love Lizzie’s new nickname…the lizard!!! jb
Oh, you know how I love your top 10. In fact, we made your apple bars from last fall’s top 10. I think those are my favorite recipe that I’ve even taken off your website. They are always a huge hit. Ok, the lemon bars are on the list now too.
Katrina, me too.
Therese, my chores didn’t involve cleaning. It was more like paying bills, filling out forms and finding outfits for this job I have to do today.
Lori, since you seem to know your lemon bars, I’d love to hear what you think of these.
Heidi and Sarah, yes — I am not hesitant to say these are the best. Well, maybe I am since I used the term “possibly”, but they are the best I ever made.
Daisy, that’s an interesting idea! Did you use some orange zest as well? It seems like the bars would still need more acid. Or is blood orange juice very acidic? I’ve never tried it.
Patricia, thanks for stopping by! Good to hear from you.
Shannon, sorry it’s gloomy. Maybe the sun will come out a little later.
It’s pretty gloomy here in SC today and I was looking for a bright, sunny dessert to make for dinner tonight! I knew I could count on you, girl! 🙂
My mouth is watering, Anna.
These look pretty good! I will have to try them.
I took a lemon bars recipe and used the Blood Orange Juice that my company sells and I think it turned out well. I just really like citrus bars, period.
I love lemon bars, these look really good!
wow, the best ever, that is high praise indeed!
Oh my goodness, a must try for me right now 🙂 Can I just say, you’re my baking savior at the moment? Lol, I’ve been so bored and a classic, promising recipe like this is just perfect:) Thank you so much, I love your site and commentary 😛
These look divine! I hate to kill the lemon theme, but do you think these would taste just as good with key lime juice instead? I have some that I need to use up from a batch of key lime cupcakes. Regardless, I can’t wait to make these!
Do you need to use foil? Can I use baking paper instead? What is the purpose for the foil? We have a morning tea coming up tomorrow so I’ll be making these YUM! Thank you for sharing!
I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE lemon bars so these are on the list to try!
OH…..lemon bars are among my top 5 favorite things in the whole world (husband and kids come before, but then it’s lemon bars, next on the list). I’ll have to make these asap. They look amazing.
Lemon!!! LOVE IT!! Anything with lemon….cookies, breads, bars…even cleaning products, which I have been doing TOO MUCH OF LATELY.
I should be baking instead of cleaning! You got it right sister!! Bake…don’t clean. In fact the clean police were just here….step away from the broom maam…drop the bucket now!
They finally talked me out of….cleaning under the stove!! tee hee!!
Remind me to tell you of the cooking experience I had with my sisters this weekend! You will never guess what we made??!!
They LOOK quite possibly like the best ever! 😉 Sure wish sometimes we could try each other’s goodies instead of just look at them!