Lemon Bars Recipe

A great lemon bar should have a no-nonsense tart-sweet curd filling above and a flaky-yet-firm short bread crust below. The two together create an experience that approaches religious.

The secret to lemon bars isn’t in the ingredients per se (a top-notch lemon curd filling is defined more by what you leave out of it than what you put into it), it’s in the technique. Too many lemon bar recipes call for a liquid filling to be poured into an unbaked crust. This simplifies the process to be sure, but creates a soggy, paste-like bar. Pre-baking the crust, then pouring on the warm curd while the crust is still hot creates the magic texture combo. You’ll need a candy thermometer to get the process just right. The ingredients are:

8 ounces soft butter
10 ounces (2 cups) all-purpose flour
3.5 ounces (1/2 cup) sugar
a pinch of salt
Lemon curd cooked to 170 degrees F (you’ll need 50% more than the recipe makes, but it scales up very easily)
Powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat your oven to 350 and have all the ingredients for your lemon curd laid out and waiting. Combine the crust ingredients in a bowl or in the bowl of a mixer and stir until a soft dough comes together. Press into a 9″ x 13″ baking dish. Let the crust rest for 10-20 minutes, then bake it for 20 minutes until it is lightly golden.

Meanwhile, prepare the lemon curd. Ideally, what you’d like to do is combine all the ingredients (save for the lemon zest) and start the cooking about five minutes before the crust is due to come out. Once the curd hits 170, take it off the heat. Remove the pan from the oven, stir the zest into the curd and pour it into the crust. Return the pan to the oven for 10-12 minutes, until the curd reaches it’s final temperature, 196 degrees F, and thickens.

Remove the pan from the oven and cool on a wire rack for 45 minutes, then refrigerate at least two hours or overnight. Slice and serve.

10 thoughts on “Lemon Bars Recipe”

    1. That recipe will scale up just fine as it is, though you may want to reduce the zest somewhat in larger quantities, lest the lemon flavor become a little too intense.

  1. If you were making a lemon bar with a more jam-like filling using sugar, whole eggs, lemon zest + juice, and flour instead of lemon curd, what amounts of each would you recommend using?

    Also, if you were using lime juice + zest in place of lemon in the above method, would the ingredients (mainly sugar) need to be adjusted to balance the tartness? If so, what would the amount be?

    I hope you don’t mind the questions 🙂

    1. Hi Andrew!

      I love questions! However I’m not sure about the filling you’re describing. I’d think whole eggs would make a much thicker custard than a curd, since a curd only has yolks and most of the coagulating proteins in eggs are found in the whites. I think I’ve heard of some flour-based curds, but I’ve never made one. As for using limes instead, you don’t need to adjust the sugar at all, since lemons and limes are similar enough in terms of sweetness and tartness. Cheers, – Joe

      1. Thanks for the response, Joe. I have to admit, the thought of making a curd intimidates me, but I may just breakdown and try your recipe since the bars look so good!

  2. Hey Joe…
    a couple questions for you. I have been working with one lemon bar recipe that comes from a well-known cook and cookbook author and it has failed every time in the end, no matter the adjustments I make – so I’m kind of on a mission to find THE recipe, that works for me every time. Eyeing your recipe, I’m wondering how your taking the temperature of the curd after its in the oven, and secondly, how are you getting the lemon bars out of the pan to cool… are you lining your pans with parchment that overhangs the side of the pot to create easy lifting? or are you cooling them in the pan, on a wire rack and putting them in the fridge overnight?

    1. Hi Alice! Have you seen the photo tutorial about this? Look under the Miscellaneous Desserts & Cookies menu over to the left and click on Lemon Bars. It should explain most everything. But as for measuring temperature, I use a $15 Taylor digital thermometer I got at a restaurant supply shop. It gives a fast read for pretty much every job!

      – Joe

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