Lemon Bars with Shortbread Crust

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Lemon Bars with Shortbread Crust are a timeless dessert. They feature a smooth and zesty lemon filling baked on a buttery, barely sweetened crust.

Ina Garten Lemon Bars on cutting board with lemons

The Best Lemon Bars

I could probably write a poem dedicated to how much I love lemon desserts. And to claim something is the best? That takes some proof. So, I give you this recipe for Ina Garten lemon bars.

The sweet and sour, tangy and tasty all blend together into a luscious dessert that I can’t make often enough. I’ve played with many different lemon bar recipes over the years and I keep coming back to Ina Garten’s lemon bars.

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My family has adapted the recipe just a tiny bit over time. We prefer powdered sugar in the crust over granulated sugar, for a shortbread that tends to melt in your mouth. However, either one will work nicely.

This has been my favorite lemon dessert ever since childhood and I’m so excited to share these easy lemon bars with you today.

lemon bar on small white plate with blue and white napkin and fork

Lemon Bars with Shortbread Crust

The smooth, slightly tart filling pairs like a dream with the sweet, buttery shortbread. There are a couple of things to remember when working with this crust.

First of all, you will need to press the crust dough into the pan and pre-bake the crust before adding the custard. This is important, my friends. The mixture will be very dry and crumbly, but it will press nicely into the bottom of the pan.

shortbread crust before pressing it into pan

Several people have commented that their crust rose to the top while baking (still delicious, but not the desired result here) and that’s often due to the fact that they skipped that step.

Second, you will need to prick the crust a few times with a fork before baking. This is called docking the crust. The holes allow steam to escape, enabling the crust to stay flat against the baking dish when it isn’t held down by a filling.

Without docking, the crust may puff up irregularly during baking. The goal here is a flat shortbread crust to hold the lemon filling.

shortbread crust with docking marks

Easy Lemon Bars

What’s not to love about a creamy, tangy, sweet Lemon Bar? Is there anyone who does not love them??

Lemon desserts have a way of brightening up the gloomiest of winter days. The beautiful yellow color alone is cheery. Just writing about the crisp citrus flavor makes my mouth water.

lemon filling poured over shortbread crust

These very easy lemon bars are made by pouring a lemon custard filling over the baked and fully-cooled shortbread crust.

The eggs in the custard create a bright, clear consistency for the filling. An entire cup of fresh lemon juice, plus lemon zest as well, gives the filling plenty of lemon flavor and tartness.

sliced lemon bars on cutting board before sprinkling with powdered sugar
powdered sugar topped lemon bars on board

Easy Lemon Bar Recipe

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease a 9 x 13-inch baking pan. To make the crust, beat together the butter and powdered sugar until fluffy.
  2. Gently stir in the flour just until combined. Press the dough into the bottom of the 9×13-inch pan. Prick the crust with a fork a few times.
  3. Bake at 350 F for 16-18 minutes or until lightly browned. Let cool completely.
  4. Meanwhile, to make the filling, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour.
  5. Pour over the cooled crust. Bake at 350 F for 35-40 minutes or until the filling is set. Let cool. Dust with powdered sugar before serving. Store in the refrigerator.
sliced lemon bars on cutting board

Why do my lemon bars have a crust on top?

A thin crust on top of lemon bars is a common feature and is usually formed as a result of the baking process. (See above for a close-up photo of the top crust.) The crust forms when the sugar in the lemon bar mixture caramelizes and browns during baking, creating a slightly firm, crispy layer over the bars.

The top crust isn’t always visible, as we all enjoy sprinkling powdered sugar on top of the bars before serving. On very rare occasions, when making lemon bars, the shortbread may rise to the surface. (I’ve seen this happen once in 20+ years of making lemon bars.)

This happens because the filling has found its way to the bottom of the pan, either through cracks in the crust or gaps at the edges of the pan.

To prevent this, take care to press the crust firmly into the pan and don’t leave any gaps or cracks in the bottom. If there are any nooks or crannies when the crust doesn’t cover the bottom and edge of the pan, it won’t stay at the bottom.

closeup forkful of lemon bar

Have I mentioned enough that I can’t have too many lemon desserts in my life? I make lemon crinkle cookies and Lemon Blueberry Bread on a regular basis – and when I must, I even share them with my family and friends.

Fresh blackberry frosting and citrusy lemon combine in a delicious way in this ultra-moist Lemon Blackberry Cake. Every bite of this cake reminds me of summer.

This creamy, tangy no-bake lemon cheesecake with a graham cracker crust is smooth and bursting with lemon flavor, a bright and refreshing dessert for lemon lovers. The best part is it only takes a handful of ingredients.

Cherry, bright yellow lemon desserts always look lovely on a potluck table and are a fun change from the usual chocolate treats at that type of event. It’s pretty much guaranteed that you’ll come home with an empty pan every time.

sliced lemon bars on cutting board

Easy Lemon Bars

4.45 from 29 votes
Lemon Bars with Shortbread Crust are a timeless dessert. They feature a smooth and zesty lemon filling baked on a buttery, barely sweetened crust.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Additional Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 50 minutes
Cuisine: American
Servings: 24 bars


Crust Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter room temperature
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 2 cups all purpose flour

Filling Ingredients

  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest
  • 6 large eggs room temperature
  • 1 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • powdered sugar for dusting


Crust Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9×13-inch pan with butter. Set aside.
  • Combine the butter and powdered sugar in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer until fluffy. Stir in the flour just until combined.
  • Press the dough into the prepared pan and prick the crust a few times with a fork. Bake for 16-18 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool completely.

Filling Instructions

  • In a large bowl, combine the sugar with the lemon zest and rub with your fingers to mix thoroughly. Add the eggs and whisk smooth. Whisk in the lemon juice and then add the flour. Whisk to combine. Pour the filling over the cooled crust.
  • Bake at for 35-45 minutes, until the filling is set and the top is golden brown. Let cool. Dust with powdered sugar before serving. Store in the refrigerator.


Serving: 1bar · Calories: 270kcal · Carbohydrates: 45g · Protein: 3g · Fat: 9g · Saturated Fat: 5g · Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g · Cholesterol: 67mg · Sodium: 79mg · Fiber: 1g · Sugar: 32g
Tried this recipe?Mention @chocolatewithgrace or tag #chocolatewithgrace!

{originally published 7/7/16 – recipe notes and photos updated 3/28/23}

close up of lemon bars with lemons in background
How To Make Perfect Lemon Bars

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  1. debora says

    Hi! I made them yesterday and they’re delicious. But.. It’s hard to detach from pan, and generally- it seems as though the crust is up, and the mushy lemon dough is down. How is that possible? I did, of course, bake thr crust first..
    Any help or comment?

    • Anelo says

      5 stars
      I just made these. They came out perfect. I baked them on parchment paper and they are easy to take out. I don’t know why yours came out upside down. Maybe you didn’t press down the crust hard enough? I also pressed some crust up on the sides in the dish before baking, just a bit and poured the filling on the crust while it was still a little warm(I got impatient lol) Perhaps that helped.

  2. Donna says

    5 stars
    I made these lemon bars and everyone loved them. I just have a question about them. How does the crust end up on top? Does this happen when you make it? I followed the instructions.
    Thank you for sharing

  3. Robin Finston says

    I made these too & the crust ended up on top. I even used parchment paper & the lemon layer went below the parchment. I followed directions to a tee & I don’t know what happened.

  4. Elin says

    5 stars
    Made these today, turned out so delicious! Love lemons in baking, gives it a freshness that is hard to achieve in baking otherwise.

  5. Stephanie says

    Hi! I want to make this recipe but I am curious about some of the reviews discussing how the crust ends up on top…really curious how that physically happens and would love some more details on that snafu. Thanks

  6. Michelle says

    I also made these and the crust went to the top as well. I’m thinking that when I baked it the crust made an air bubble and then when I poured the lemon mix it got underneath and made it all lift to the top. I’m thinking that if you were to poke holes with a fork through the crust, or cook the lemon mix in a pot a bit so it thickens and then spread it on top of the crust before you bake it, that it would solve that problem. (Going to try it tomorrow and see if that works.)

  7. Vpl says

    5 stars
    Made these tonight. It was so good.

    I baked the crust a little longer and before baking, I poked holes in the crust with a fork. It came out perfect.

  8. Carol says

    5 stars
    I have made these several times now. They are the best lemon bars ever! Only thing I do different is that I put a lemon flavored frosting on top. Powdered sugar, lemon juice mixed together.

  9. Yvonne says

    4 stars
    I made these last night. As others are saying the crust went on top. Well mine ended up with crust on top and the bottom lol. And the lemon mix is in the middle. I dont know what I did put they look pretty cool. I like how the lemon ended up in the middle. ?

  10. Gigi says

    5 stars
    The lemon bars were great! I followed directions step by step. The texture and flavors were as expected. I think is important to make sure the bottom crust is cook well and brown a little. Also let the crust cool completely before pouring filling. I believe these 2 steps are very important

  11. Nena says

    I made these and they came out perfect. After cooling in the fridge and before serving I sprinkled the powdered sugar on top but it dissolved into the lemon. I sprinkled more and same thing. Any reason why ?
    I ended up putting a dollop of whipped cream
    on top.

    • Mallory says

      The fridge causes condensation on the top and that absorbs the powdered sugar. Cool them on the counter and then sprinkle with powdered sugar and it shouldn’t dissolve.

  12. Christine Majewski says

    5 stars
    I have made these several times. No issues with the crust. People just rave over them. Perfect combination of delicate crust and lemony topping.

  13. Brianna says

    My lemon bars got brown on top but still weren’t set after almost 40 mins of baking. Wondering what happened? I did walk away from my mixer while it was beating eggs and sugar and it was very light and fluffy when I came back, maybe I over whipped my eggs? Also, my oven had been on for hours as I had been baking up a storm for Thanksgiving, maybe it was too hot? Everything else I did exactly as written.

  14. Cheryl says

    1 star
    Like almost everyone else that commented my crust ended up on top. They also stuck to the dish despite following directions and pressing it down with parchment paper. I reduced the sugar a bit but they are still to sweet. I am disappointed in this recipe

  15. Karen says

    5 stars
    Made these bars and I too had the issue with the crust coming on both bottom and top so I did a little bit of research and made some changes for the next batch. First of all I used a 2 1/2 inch high pan since there is a lot of liquid filling. Since the filling went underneath the parchment I-laid parchment Side by side (overlapping them )which made it taller all the way Around avoiding any leakage. The last thing I did was to cook the crust about 30 minutes Creating a nice brown nutty flavor. When it started getting really brown and I covered it lightly with parchment so that it would not burn. They came out amazing!! The flavor of the brown crust really added to the sweet tart filling. This recipe is now my go to with the above changes.

  16. Peach says

    5 stars
    I made these last night and they are so delicious! They are a perfect summer treat and the consistency is perfect. Next time I have a party to go to I will definitely be making these!!

  17. Amanda says

    5 stars
    Dear Grace,

    These are dangerous! I have made them over a dozen times and this will be my go-to recipe until I kick the bucket. I have tried sooo many recipes over the years and this is hands down everyone’s favorite. I butter the pan under the shortbread for an easier lift when I’m getting it out of the pan, and I put a tablespoon of lemon zest into the shortbread mixture for extra lemon-iness. Thank you for such an easy, foolproof, lemon bar recipe!

  18. Anita says

    5 stars
    Best lemon bar recipe hands down! Every time I make this my friends want them all because they’re so good!!

  19. Meghan says

    Really keen to give these a go. Can I substitute lemons for limes? With a tree outback, I would love to use what’s on it..

  20. Victoria Martinez says

    I used your perfect lemon bar recipe and had nothing but issues. The crust was perfect and I allowed it to cool while I had to run to town. And I mixed up all the filling ingredients and put it in the oven for the recommended 30 to 35 minutes. The top was brown almost immediately. The filling never set, it was incredibly jiggly even giving it an extra 20 minutes of cook time. The top just kept getting browner and browner. This recipe did not work for me. If you have any ideas I would appreciate it. My elevation is 3700 feet. I want some perfect lemon bars! I am a veteran baker looking for a better recipe than the one I have been using. Yours had a very thick lemon layer and looked delicious. Help!

    • Mary says

      Hi Victoria! Thanks so much for taking the time to write a detailed comment and let me know that there might be an issue with the recipe. I really appreciate that. It’s been a few years since I’ve made these. Elevation really shouldn’t have affected this particular recipe. Fortunately, I have a bag of lemons in the kitchen today and plenty of snow outside to keep me home. I’m going to remake them and see if I can figure out what might have happened.


    Didn’t make yet, but concerned with 3 cups sugar. Can sugar be cut ,say to 1.5 or 2 cups?
    Just looking, has my mouth watering with such desire to have a couple bars.