For me, lemon is a flavor that goes so well with the warmer months. It brightens up any dish including, of course, dessert! For these Lemon Crumb Bars, I mashed together a bunch of my recipes and added in this citrus rockstar.
I came out on the other side with an amazing recipe for reimagined lemon bars with loads of lemon flavor and buttery goodness.
Not sure you'll find a better bite than this!
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I vote for lemon
When it comes to easy, summery treats to bring to your neighbor's backyard barbecue or your kid's end-of-school party, I highly recommend baking up some of these delicious Lemon Crumb Bars.
Lemon Crinkle Cookies are another really, really, really good option. Don't force me to pick which one is my fave. It's like choosing a favorite child. Can't be done.
(Unless you're my mom and you secretly have a favorite, but adamantly swear you don't. C'mon mom, we all know it's me!)
Why you’ll love this recipe
- No one can resist the super soft buttery crust and streusel crumble topping
- It’s a popular and easy recipe guaranteed to score rave reviews from absolutely everyone
- From-scratch thick and creamy lemon filling has just the right balance of sweet-and-tart
- All the flavor of your favorite lemon pie with none of the hassle of a pie crust!
Three layers make the best lemon bars
I recently published a simple recipe for Soft and Chewy Sugar Cookies that are not only the bomb (does anyone say that anymore?), but also serve as the perfect crust, aka layer #1, in these Lemon Crumb Bars.
Instead of rolling the sugar cookie dough into balls and dipping them in sugar, spread the batter out in a pan and bake until just golden brown.
Layer #2 is a traditional lemon bar filling, but taken to the next level. Lots of egg, fresh lemon juice, and sugar to balance out the tartness of the lemon.
Add in a bit of flour and baking powder to make up this lemon curd-like filling. It has just the right amount of sweet and just the right amount of tart.
And, last but not least, the layer that sets these Lemon Crumb Bars apart. Layer #3, the butter crumb topping, is what really brings these bars to another level.
I borrowed the crumb topping from my Double Crumb Crumb Cake to take these lemon bars from good to amazing!
The crumb topping gives these bars a buttery, crumbly contrast to the texture of the curd-like filling and the chewy sugar cookie crust. Oh so perfect!
How long does lemon last in the fridge when you have leftovers? Check out my storage tips so you can make more lemon desserts!
Ingredients & Substitutions
- All-purpose flour and cake flour: mixing the two makes the sugar cookie base super soft and tender. For the topping, you’ll only use all-purpose flour
- Baking soda and baking powder: these add a bit of lift to the crust
- Salt: to balance out the sweet flavor
- Butter: use room temperature butter for the crust and chilled butter for the crumbly topping
- Sugar: the combination of brown sugar and granulated sugar gives the lemon bars the perfect amount of sweetness
- Eggs: you’ll need 1 for the crust and 4 for the filling. Use them at room temp so they easily blend in with the other ingredients
- Vanilla extract: I like to use the good stuff instead of imitation vanilla
- Lemon juice and lemon zest: fresh lemon is best. If you need to substitute, be sure to use bottled lemon juice, not lemon extract
Add in the dry ingredients with the mixer on low speed. Mix just until combined. Don’t overmix or your crust will be tough!
Use a spatula or your hands to press the dough into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake for 15-20 minutes. The crust is done when the edges turn light brown.
Make the butter crumb topping. In a separate bowl blend all-purpose flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and lemon zest. Using your fingers, a fork, or pastry cutter, work in the butter. Combine it until the ingredients are combined but the streusel is still crumbly.
Pour the lemon filling over the hot crust. Then sprinkle the streusel on top of the lemon filling. Return the baking dish to the oven for 28-32 minutes. For the best results, bake until the filling doesn’t jiggle.
Cool the creamy lemon bars on a wire rack before cutting. Waiting takes some patience, but it’s so worth it.
- Read through the entire recipe and ingredient list before beginning. Each section has similar ingredients, so you’ll want to assemble all of these and divide them appropriately according to the recipe. For instance, sugar, eggs, brown sugar, and lemon (juice and zest) appear multiple times. Figure out how much of each ingredient you’ll need in total then divide them up so you’re ready to start baking. This will make the process much quicker and easier for you - promise!
- Use fresh lemons for this recipe. First, zest them then, juice them. If you don't have a zester, you can use a box grater. Use the side with the finest cut (aka, smallest holes). To extract the most juice from your lemon(s), roll them on the counter a few times while still whole, putting pressure on them with your palm. You can even use your elbow to put more pressure on them if your lemon(s) are particularly firm. Cut in half and squeeze through a strainer to catch all the seeds and any excess pulp directly into a measuring cup
- There are three layers to these bars and I recommend preparing the second two layers (lemon filling and crumb topping) while the first (cookie crust) is baking. That way, once the cookie crust comes out of the oven, you'll have both layers prepared and ready to place on top of the baked cookie crust. Pop it back in the oven for about 30 minutes and you're all set!
Like this recipe? Follow me on Pinterest for lots more recipes just like this one! And don’t forget to pin this recipe for later by clicking on one of the images below the recipe. Or, click on any of the images in this post to save to Pinterest.
What can I use instead of parchment paper for lemon bars?
For a parchment paper substitute, line the bottom of the pan with non-stick aluminum foil. Or use regular foil coated with cooking spray.
How long does it take lemon bars to set?
For super-easy slicing, first cool the bars for an hour at room temperature. Then chill the pan in the fridge for another hour or two.
Can lemon bars be frozen?
Yes! Keep them in the refrigerator for up to a week or freeze them in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Thaw them at room temperature when you’re ready to eat.
FOR ALL MY FAVORITE BAKING TOOLS INCLUDING THOSE USED TO MAKE THIS RECIPE, CHECK OUT MY BAKING RESOURCES PAGE!
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Sugar Cookie Crust
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup cake flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup brown sugar packed
- 1 large egg room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 4 large eggs room temperature
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- ⅓ cup fresh lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup brown sugar packed
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest zest of 1 large lemon
- 1 cup unsalted butter room temperature
Prepare Sugar Cookie Crust:
- In a medium bowl, combine the flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a medium sized bowl. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add in the egg and vanilla and mix until well combined, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. With the mixer on low, mix in the dry ingredients just until the dough is well combined. Do not over mix. Press dough into prepared baking pan, using a spatula to spread in an even layer. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until just starting to brown around edges. While crust is baking, prepare lemon filling and crumb topping.
Prepare Lemon Filling:
- Whisk together all ingredients until well combined.
Prepare Crumb Topping:
- In a large bowl, mix together flour, granulated and brown sugars, and lemon zest until well blended. With fingertips, work in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
- Pour lemon filling over warm cookie crust. Sprinkle crumb topping evenly over lemon filling. Bake for 28-32 minutes or until lemon filling looks set and no longer jiggly. Allow to cool completely before slicing into squares.
- Bars will keep at room temperature for up to 5 days
- If you plan to bring these to an outdoor event, I recommend wrapping them in foil and packing them in a cooler with some ice packs. This will prevent the lemon filling from melting and dripping all over
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