Chef John's Lemon Bars Recipe -
Chef John's Lemon Bars Recipe
39 Photos
How to Make Lemon Bars
Sweet, tart, and custardy, these easy bars are the lemon pie of cookies. See more

Chef John's Lemon Bars

Recipe by  

"This is one of my favorite cookies of all time, although technically they're closer to a pie than a cookie. Nothing prepares you for that intense, awesome sweet-tart lemon flavor and custard, perfectly contrasted against that crisp, sweet buttery shortbread cookie."

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Ingredients Edit and Save

Original recipe makes 1 8x8-inch pan Change Servings
  • PREP

    20 mins
  • COOK

    50 mins

    1 hr 40 mins


  1. Place an oven rack into middle position in oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly oil an 8x8-inch baking dish.
  2. Place 1 cup flour and butter in a mixing bowl and mash with the back of a spatula or wooden spoon until thoroughly combined. Mix in 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar, vanilla extract, and salt; mash mixture together until mixture looks like a slightly crumbly cookie dough.
  3. Moisten your fingers with a little water and press dough into bottom of prepared baking dish. Use a fork to prick holes all over the crust.
  4. Bake crust on center rack in the preheated oven until crust edges are barely golden brown, 22 minutes.
  5. Beat eggs and egg yolks together in a bowl; whisk in white sugar and 2 tablespoons flour until smooth. Add lemon juice and lemon zest; whisk for 2 minutes. Pour lemon custard over crust.
  6. Bake on center rack until custard is set and top has a thin white sugary crust, 25 minutes. Let cool completely before cutting into bars. Dip knife into very hot water, run around the edge, and cut into 16 squares. Dust cookies with 1 teaspoon confectioners' sugar.
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  • Cook's Note:
  • To add a meringue topping, whisk 1 egg white in a bowl until it forms a ribbon, add 1 tablespoon of white sugar, and whisk until mixture holds soft peaks. Spoon meringue into a resealable plastic bag, cut a corner off the bag, and squeeze meringue on top of cut bars in a decorative pattern. Brown meringue lightly with a kitchen torch.
  • Tip
  • Aluminum foil can be used to keep food moist, cook it evenly, and make clean-up easier.

Reviews More Reviews

Most Helpful Positive Review
May 26, 2013

This is definitely the best lemon bar (square) I have ever tasted! I like to add 1/4 teaspoon baking powder to both the crust and the filling. It will help to get those tall, chewy bars (squares). I love how Chef John gives us those excellent tips, such as beating the filling for 2 minutes, and wetting the knife before cutting the bars. Just follow the recipe exactly, and you will get your prize-winning lemon bars (I mean, lemon SQUARES!). Expect lots of complements!

Most Helpful Critical Review
Nov 14, 2013

The flavor of these bars is excellent, and I love that they filled my kitchen with the aroma of lemon pie as they were baking. However, the baking times listed were much too long for my oven. The crust was ready in just 10 minutes, and the custard layer in about 18. I never had the thin, white crust on top as the recipe describes; my custard got light brown and bubbly. The powdered sugar did a fine job of hiding the bubbly, ugly top. The crust stuck horribly to my non-stick pan (I did, indeed, oil it first), so be liberal with the oil or cooking spray. I'll definitely keep practicing with this recipe until I get it right for my oven and equipment.

May 18, 2013

This recipe is almost like the one I've made for many years with three exceptions: no vanilla in the crust, only two eggs, and baking soda in the custard. I have to say that I really like how this version turned out and will replace my old recipe with this one. I did double it because I have to gift at least half of it to someone else, and I knew my family would be very sad if they didn't get any. I wish I had a kitchen torch so I could have tried the meringue option! (I do not need another kitchen tool!) Thanks, Chef John, for another winner!

Jun 02, 2013

I have made many lemon bars in my time. For some reason this one is the best. The crust is flaky like my English grandma's tarts and pies. The custard filling delicious and slightly tart. I might add a bit more zest next time to make it even more spunky. This one is replacing all my other recipes.

Feb 09, 2014

Thanks, Chef John! Oh boy, these are goooood. I've made some pretty good lemon bars in my life, but hubby and I both agree these are the best. The filling is very lemony, with a perfect balance of tartness and sweet. It set up wonderfully. I'm not 100% sold on the crust, as I tend to prefer one a bit more substantial and firm, but that is simply my preference. This crust is excellent, as long as you are aware it is more flaky than firm. Two comments, though, and both on the crust. I'd suggest mixing the salt with the flour first, then adding the butter. I also had a hard time with the finger-wetting bit. The crust kept sticking to my hands. I gave up and dusted my fingers with flour, instead. MUCH easier. EDIT 2/9/14: I made the bars yet again (I've lost count how many times now) and changed the crust a little. Same ingredients, but mixed the dry ingredients in a food processor. Pulsed in CHILLED butter cut into pieces (like pastry crust), then lightly pressed it all into the pan. It came out perfect!

Sep 08, 2013

I craved lemon bars my entire pregnancy and the day i finally made this recipe...i went into labor! Im not saying these bars are magic, but im not saying these bars arent magic either. Either way they are the best lemon bars i have ever tasted and i was thrilled to have some left when i came home from the hospital.

Aug 12, 2013

Fantastic. For one thing, the timing instructions were dead on for both the crust and final product, which is rare in a baking recipe. One more minute would have been too long. The crust makes these lemon bars stand out. This crust has to be handled like a pie crust. If you follow the instructions and don't over work the dough, and very gently press it into the pan (I barely wet my fingers), you will get a delicious, flaky crust. Too much mixing or too firm of pressing will make it more dense. I do not have a good zester, so I used only 1/4 tsp of zest and it was plenty lemony. Final note--I used organic eggs, which tend to have an orange color as eggs are actually supposed to. I was worried that the custard would look too orange as it was quite orange pre-baking, but it turned out bright yellow after baking.

Jun 25, 2013

My favorite dessert is lemon meringue pie, so when I saw this quick and easy treat that could possibly give me my lemon fix without all the work of a pie, I was all over it! I actually had my 3 and 4 year olds make this all by themselves. (I just scooped the ingredients for them, they poured them in and mixed them and I baked it). These are super yummy and very lemony. You MUST use fresh lemon to get the real lemon flavor.


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  • Calories
  • 153 kcal
  • 8%
  • Carbohydrates
  • 21.8 g
  • 7%
  • Cholesterol
  • 51 mg
  • 17%
  • Fat
  • 6.7 g
  • 10%
  • Fiber
  • 0.3 g
  • 1%
  • Protein
  • 1.9 g
  • 4%
  • Sodium
  • 47 mg
  • 2%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

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