Classic Lemon Bars


Our simplest (and best) recipe ever, plus two new flavor ideas.

Southern Living Classic Lemon Bars on a board cut and ready to serve

Victor Protasio; Food Stylist: Chelsea Zimmer; Prop Stylist Christine Keely

Active Time:
20 mins
Chill Time:
1 hrs 30 mins
Total Time:
2 hrs 40 mins
16 bars

Everyone loves a classic lemon bar, and this recipe gives you just that, an unfussy, lemon-forward treat with two easy variations for when you want to be a little fancy.

The filling isn’t shy on tart citrus flavor, with a brightness that only fresh lemon juice and zest can provide. The crust has a shortbread-like texture, and carries a nice crunch that compliments the smooth, dense, yet delicate filling. The final dusting of powdered sugar on top adds just enough sweetness to round out the bars. 

Although delightful and special on their own, the topping variations provide two ways to dress up these bars. The blackberry-mint topping is a little fancier and matches the sour-sweet tanginess of the lemon nicely. It also adds a gorgeous deep purple pop of color, whereas the pistachio topping is more textural, adding a nice crunch to contrast the silky filling.

No matter how you choose to top these bars, it’s important to bring your eggs to room temperature first. That tiny step helps the batter come together faster (to prevent over-mixing) and allows the curd to set consistently in the oven.


  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided

  • 1 cup granulated sugar, divided

  • 1/2 cup salted butter, cubed and softened

  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt

  • 6 large eggs, at room temperature

  • 1 cup fresh lemon juice (from 6 large lemons)

  • 1 Tbsp. grated lemon zest

  • Powdered sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in center position. Coat an 8-inch square baking pan with cooking spray; line bottom and sides with parchment paper, leaving a 1-inch overhang.

  2. Make crust:

    Stir together 1 cup of the flour and 1/4 cup of the granulated sugar in a medium bowl. Add butter. Work butter into flour mixture, using your fingers, until a shaggy dough forms and no large chunks remain, about 1 minute. (Mixture should hold together when squeezed.) Press evenly into bottom and about 1/2 inch up sides of prepared pan.

    Bake, uncovered, in preheated oven until lightly browned, 20 to 25 minutes.

  3. Mix filling:

    Meanwhile, whisk together remaining 1/2 cup flour, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Add eggs and lemon juice, whisking mixture just until combined. Pour through a fine mesh strainer into a large bowl, using a spatula to press mixture through strainer. Discard solids. Whisk in grated lemon zest.

  4. Bake lemon bars:

    Reduce oven temperature to 300°F. Carefully pour filling over crust. Bake, uncovered, until filling is set around edges and jiggles slightly in center, 20 to 25 minutes.

  5. Chill lemon bars:

    Transfer to a wire rack, and let cool 20 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until filling is completely set, 1 hour, 30 minutes to 3 hours.

  6. Finish and serve:

    Carefully lift up and out of baking pan, using parchment paper as handles. Transfer to a cutting board. Cut into squares. Sprinkle lemon bars with powdered sugar just before serving.

Pistachio Lemon Bars

Southern Living Pistachio Lemon Bars on a plate to serve

Victor Protasio; Food Stylist: Chelsea Zimmer; Prop Stylist Christine Keely

Prepare recipe as directed through Step 5. After cutting in Step 6, top bars evenly with 1/4 cup chopped pistachios and 1 Tbsp. lemon zest. Dust lightly with powdered sugar.

Blackberry-Mint Lemon Bars

Southern Living Blackberry Mint Lemon Bars on a plate to serve

Victor Protasio; Food Stylist: Chelsea Zimmer; Prop Stylist Christine Keely

Prepare recipe as directed through Step 5. While bars cool, combine 2 cups blackberries, 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar, 1 Tbsp. lemon juice, and a pinch of salt in a small saucepan. Cook on medium- high, stirring often, until berries are jammy, about 20 minutes. Let cool to room temperature, 20 to 30 minutes. After cutting bars in Step 6, spoon berries over top, omitting powdered sugar. Garnish with fresh mint leaves.

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