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This old fashioned Lemon Squares recipe is easy to make from scratch with just 7 ingredients and 10 minutes of prep! The sweet and tart lemon curd filling sits on top of a flaky, buttery shortbread crust for a simple and delicious treat. Serve the classic lemon bars at picnics, bridal showers, afternoon tea parties, or holiday dessert buffets. Everyone loves the fresh, bright citrus flavor!

Side shot of a small plate full of the best lemon squares stacked

Classic Lemon Bars with Shortbread Crust

These lemon squares (or “lemon bars”) are a classic, old-fashioned dessert that has been loved for generations. With layers of buttery shortbread crust, creamy lemon filling, and a dusting of powdered sugar, the easy dessert bars look and taste fancy — but they’re so simple to make! Serve them for just about any special occasion, including Easter brunch, a bridal shower, baby shower, or just a casual summer picnic or Sunday supper. With 10 minutes of hands-on prep, you can have a big tray of lemon squares made from scratch with only a handful of pantry staples!

This recipe is a slight variation of the lemon bars recipe that I originally found in the VeryVera cookbook, but it’s also almost identical to a number of other classic lemon bars that I’ve come across in some of my vintage community cookbooks. If you’re looking for a dessert that’s just like Grandma used to make, then this is it. The old-fashioned recipe yields the best lemon squares, and there’s no need to mess with a good thing!

A green tray of classic lemon bars dusted with powdered sugar.

Ingredients

This is a quick overview of the ingredients that you’ll need to make these easy lemon square bars. As always, the exact measurements and the specific instructions are included in the recipe box at the bottom of this post.

  • Butter: I like salted butter to balance the sweetness in this dessert. The melted butter forms the base of the shortbread crust.
  • All-purpose flour: included in both the shortbread crust and in the filling. A small amount in the lemon curd filling gives it structure.
  • Confectioners sugar: sweetens the shortbread crust and adds a pretty dusting on top of the bars.
  • Granulated sugar: sweetens the lemon filling and helps the eggs set.
  • Baking powder: a leavener that gives the filling a little bit of lift.
  • Eggs: the base of the filling; provides structure and helps the lemon curd set.
  • Lemons: both the juice and the zest from fresh lemons give these bars that fresh burst of citrus flavor!
Process shot showing how to make lemon squares

How to Make Lemon Squares from Scratch

One of the easiest dessert recipes that you’ll ever make from scratch, these lemon bars only require about 10 minutes of actual hands-on time. Bake them well in advance, though — they need to cool completely before you can slice them.

  1. Make the shortbread crust by stirring together melted butter, flour and confectioners sugar.
  2. Press the crust into a greased and floured 9 x 13-inch baking dish. I like to use the flat bottom of a measuring cup to press the crust into an even layer.
  3. Bake the crust in a 350° F oven for 15-20 minutes, just until it’s a light golden brown.
  4. Whisk together the filling with the granulated sugar, flour, baking powder, eggs, lemon juice and lemon zest while the crust is in the oven.
  5. Pour the filling over the warm crust.
  6. Bake at 350° F for about 25 more minutes, or until the filling is set.
  7. Cool completely before dusting with confectioners sugar and slicing into squares.
Square shot of lemon bars with shortbread crust on a small white plate

How to Know When Lemon Squares are Done

You can tell that the lemon bars are done when you jiggle the pan and the center of the filling doesn’t wiggle. The bars will continue to firm up and set as they cool.

How to Cut Lemon Squares

It’s very important that you wait for the lemon squares to cool completely before cutting. This can take up to 3 hours, so be patient. If you slice the bars at room temperature, they will be soft and slightly gooey — but they should not be runny. Wipe your knife after each slice for a clean cut. It’s even easier to cut the bars when they’re chilled. If possible, let the bars cool at room temperature for about 1 hour, and then transfer to the refrigerator to chill and set for a couple of more hours.

Front shot of old fashioned lemon squares recipe served on a white table among fresh lemons

Storage Tips

Store lemon bars in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. You can also freeze the lemon bars before dusting with powdered sugar. To do so, wrap the bars tightly and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw frozen bars in the refrigerator overnight and dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Recipe Variations

  • Graham Cracker Crust: instead of the traditional shortbread crust, you can make the bars with a graham cracker crust.
  • Lime Bars: swap out the lemon juice and zest and replace it with an equal amount of fresh lime juice and lime zest.
  • Lemon Basil Bars: add a couple of tablespoons of chopped fresh basil to the lemon filling.
  • Lemon Blueberry Squares: add about 1 cup of fresh blueberries to the lemon filling.
Three creamy lemon squares with shortbread crust on a small white plate

Tips for the Best Lemon Squares

  • Use a glass baking dish if possible, or a ceramic dish as an alternative. Metal pans can sometimes give the bars a metallic aftertaste.
  • Use freshly-squeezed lemon juice (not bottled juice) for the best flavor.
  • When zesting the lemon, be sure that you’re only scraping off the outer layer of the peel (this is where the essential oils and delicious flavor can be found). Be careful not to grate any of the white pith from the fruit, because that is bitter and definitely not what you want in your bars.
  • Allow the bars to cool completely before dusting with sugar and slicing. I like to cool the bars at room temperature for about 1 hour, and then refrigerate the pan for at least 2 more hours before cutting.
  • If you notice little white bubbles on the top of your bars after baking, that’s totally normal. These little air bubbles rise to the top as the eggs cook. Just dust the cool bars with powdered sugar and the bubbles will be undetectable!
Front shot of easy lemon squares served on a green cake stand

More Lemon Recipes to Try

Side shot of a small plate full of the best lemon squares stacked

Lemon Squares

Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 45 minutes
Cooling Time 3 hours
Total: 3 hours 55 minutes
Servings 24 squares
Calories 196 kcal
These sweet and tangy old-fashioned Lemon Squares are easy to make from scratch with just 10 minutes of prep!

Ingredients
  

FOR THE CRUST:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, melted
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup confectioners sugar, plus extra for dusting at the end

FOR THE FILLING:

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease and flour a 9 x 13-inch glass baking dish.

Prepare Crust:

  • In a large bowl, stir together melted butter, flour and confectioners sugar until completely combined. Press the mixture into the prepared baking dish. I like to use the flat bottom of a measuring cup to gently press the crust into an even layer.
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown, then remove from the oven and set aside.

Prepare Filling:

  • While the crust is in the oven, make the filling. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour and baking powder. Add the eggs, lemon juice and lemon zest; whisk until completely combined.
  • Pour the filling over the hot crust. Return to the oven and bake for 25 minutes.
  • Cool completely on a wire rack. Dust with additional powdered sugar, slice into squares and serve.

Notes

  • Use a glass baking dish if possible, or a ceramic dish as an alternative. Metal pans can sometimes give the bars a metallic aftertaste.
  • Use freshly-squeezed lemon juice (not bottled juice) for the best flavor.
  • When zesting the lemon, be sure that you’re only scraping off the outer layer of the peel (this is where the essential oils and delicious flavor can be found). Be careful not to grate any of the white pith from the fruit, because that is bitter and definitely not what you want in your bars.
  • Allow the bars to cool completely before dusting with sugar and slicing. I like to cool the bars at room temperature for about 1 hour, and then refrigerate the pan for at least 2 more hours before cutting.
  • If you notice little white bubbles on the top of your bars after baking, that’s totally normal. These little air bubbles rise to the top as the eggs cook. Just dust the cool bars with powdered sugar and the bubbles will be undetectable!

Nutrition

Serving: 1squareCalories: 196kcalCarbohydrates: 28gProtein: 2gFat: 8gSaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 48mgSodium: 79mgPotassium: 36mgFiber: 1gSugar: 19gVitamin A: 276IUVitamin C: 2mgCalcium: 12mgIron: 1mg
Keyword: classic lemon bars, lemon bars, lemon squares
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Author: Blair Lonergan
blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

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