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Lemon Shortbread Bars

Scott Phillips

Yield: Yields 2 dozen 2-inch-square bars.

Making the crust of these classic lemon bars with melted (rather than softened) butter keeps it nice and crisp, in contrast to the creamy lemon filling.


For the crust:

  • Non-stick cooking spray, vegetable oil, or melted butter for the pan
  • 7 oz. (14 Tbs.) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to just warm
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. table salt
  • 9-1/2 oz. (2 cups plus 2 Tbs.) unbleached all-purpose flour

For the lemon topping:

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1-1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 Tbs. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 tsp. table salt
  • 3/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from 3 to 4 lemons)
  • 1 Tbs. packed, finely grated fresh lemon zest (from 2 lemons, using a rasp-style grater)
  • 1 Tbs. confectioners’ sugar

Nutritional Information

  • Nutritional Sample Size per bar
  • Calories (kcal) : 170
  • Fat Calories (kcal): 70
  • Fat (g): 8
  • Saturated Fat (g): 4.5
  • Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 0
  • Monounsaturated Fat (g): 2
  • Cholesterol (mg): 55
  • Sodium (mg): 75
  • Carbohydrates (g): 24
  • Fiber (g): 0
  • Protein (g): 2


Make the crust:

  • Line a straight-sided 13 x 9 inch metal baking pan with foil, letting the ends create an overhanging edge for easy removal. Lightly coat the sides of the foil (not the bottom) with nonstick cooking spray, oil, or melted butter to prevent the lemon topping from sticking.
  • In a medium bowl, stir together the butter, sugar, and salt. Stir in the flour to make a stiff dough. Press the dough evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Prick the dough all over with a fork. Refrigerate the pan for 30 minutes (or freeze for 5 to 7 minutes), until the dough is firm.

  • Meanwhile, position a rack near the center of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F.
  • Bake until the crust is golden and set, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile,  make the lemon topping.

Make the topping:

  • In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar, flour, and salt together until smooth, about 1 minute. Whisk in the lemon juice and zest.

  • Pour the topping over the hot crust. Return the pan to the oven and increase the heat to 350°F. Bake until the topping is set in the center (it no longer wiggles when the pan is moved) and the edges are golden, 20 to 25 minutes.

  • Set the pan on a metal rack to cool until the crust is completely firm, at least 1 hour. (For faster cooling, put the bars in the fridge once the pan is no longer piping hot, or even outside in winter.)
  • When the bottom of the pan is cool, carefully lift the bars from the pan using the foil sides and transfer them to a cutting board. Separate the foil from the bars by sliding a spatula between them. Sift the confectioners’ sugar over the lemon topping. Cut the bars into 2-inch squares.

Make Ahead Tips

The bar cookies will keep, refrigerated, for 3 to 4 days. Serve at room temperature.


For the best results, measure your flour by weight instead of volume. (1 cup of all-purpose flour equals 4-1/2 oz.) If you don’t have a scale, be sure to use the proper technique when filling your measuring cups.


Rate or Review

Reviews (13 reviews)

  • LesleyW | 12/01/2020

    Easy - delicious. What more can you say? Turn out perfectly every time. This recipe is included in the Fine Cooking cookie book. I have made so many recipes from this book it is looking very worn.

  • chefwannabe | 10/26/2018

    I love these bars! I find the melted butter makes the crust very easy to make. The fact that you don't have to make a lemon custard on the stove also simplifies the recipe . I do find though that 25 minutes of final baking isn't nearly enough it needs at least 30 minutes . Also, I always use a well greased glass baking pan and skip the foil and I have no trouble cutting the bars.

  • kak59 | 06/19/2017

    I love these lemon bars! I make them pretty much exactly as described here, although I always skip the step of freezing the dough before baking, and I have not had any problems with this. Also, I do not bother to spray the sides of the foil-covered pan with cooking spray and have not had problems getting the lemon bars to detach when cool (but, I usually let these chill for 12 hours before cutting - makes them very easy to deal with).

  • BarbaraJoScott | 06/17/2013

    Gooey deliciousness. I added about 1 tsp of ground ginger to my recipe, because I love ginger. Based on another reviewer's remarks, I used a glass dish and omitted the aluminum foil, which I hear isn't healthy for cooking anyway (if touching the food). I buttered the dish well as instructed and sliced the edges with a sharp knife after it had cooled for an hour. I measured and cut out 19 squares with a sharp knife -- dipping it in scalding water frequently, so as not to leave tear marks on the surface. I carefully lifted out one corner with said knife and a silicone spatula. The rest came out very easily with the spatula. I love lemon, and these bars are divine! Happy baking. (And thank you Fine Cooking for teaching me how to cook/bake. Ive been a loyal subscriber for many, many years.)

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