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Creamy Lemon Squares

The lemon bars of your dreams take just 15 minutes of prep: Stir together a mere three ingredients to create a sunny, puckery filling for a buttery shortbread crust.

  • Prep:
  • Total Time:
  • Yield: Makes 16
Creamy Lemon Squares

Source: Everyday Food, June 2008

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, plus more for dusting
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, (spooned and leveled)
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • 3/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 3 lemons)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan. Line bottom with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two sides; butter paper.

  2. Make crust: Using an electric mixer, beat butter, sugar, and salt until light and fluffy. Add flour, and mix on low just until combined. Press dough into the bottom and 1/2 inch up sides of prepared pan; prick all over with a fork. Bake until lightly golden, 15 to 20 minutes.

  3. Make filling: In a large bowl, whisk together yolks, condensed milk, and lemon juice until smooth. Pour over hot crust in pan; return to oven, and bake until filling is set, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool completely in pan.

  4. Refrigerate until filling is firm, about 2 hours or up to 3 days. Using paper overhang, lift cake onto a work surface; cut into 16 squares, and dust with confectioners sugar.

Reviews (85)

  • grammy22 16 Sep, 2014

    After reading reviews, I can't help but wonder if some didn't inadvertently use evaporated milk instead of sweetened condensed milk, or the wrong size can?

  • taleeya 13 Sep, 2014

    I have made these a lot! From the very 1st time, they came out perfect. As long as you follow the recipe, you can't go wrong. I've never had a problem with the custard setting. In fact, I just doubled the recipe, again came out just as it should. Nice lemon flavor, creamy texture, and super tasty. Always a big hit!!!!

  • WriterToronto 20 Sep, 2013

    These squares were a big hit in my household. They turned out perfectly. For an added lemony flavour, I added the zest from two of the lemons. Delicious!

  • Heady_Anne 2 Aug, 2013

    I just took these out of the fridge, dusted them with confectioners' sugar, cut them and tasted one. Delicious! I am so glad that I made these before I read the reviews, otherwise I might have looked elsewhere. I am an amateur baker and usually stick with cookies. These are simple, the directions are clear, the smell in the house as they bake is heavenly and they taste great. I'm bringing these to a party tonight and will be proud to say they're mine (and Martha's).

  • DinahGrateful 2 Jun, 2013

    Firstly, let me say that I've no doubt that Martha's version was delish! I'm posting this out of puzzlement not criticism as to why several of us couldn't get the filling to set in the oven?

    At first I thought I'd mis-measured etc. Checked everything and not that. Then I read other's comments who had the same problem so I felt better in that I wasn't alone! The centre wld bubble but not set properly. What could be the factor causing this when all of us are using the same ingredients?

  • Darcie Defreitas 6 Apr, 2013

    Ms_wannabe any shortbread crust you make is hard to spread evenly in pan it takes practice. And my bars never need food coloring you must be doing something incorrectly

  • Darcie Defreitas 6 Apr, 2013

    I just think it would be best to leave this recipe to those who have experience in baking. I read the reviews and you are turning people away when your issues with the recipe is your own mistakes. Made recipe over a dozen times and took few times to perfect but they are perfect.

  • MS_wannabe 22 Mar, 2013

    Mustard color in appearance, unpleasant tasting, hard to pat crust in pan. What more can I say. These were terrible! Made them yesterday, threw them out today and made my standby recipe from the Barefoot Contessa. Condensed milk is great for no-bake, but becomes mealy when baked. Love your recipes, Martha, but this one gets a Zero rating from me!

  • rainy_days 25 Aug, 2012

    Made these -- don't really recommend. The crust was very difficult to get evenly in the pan, and instead of the pretty yellow color these have, mine were almost a light muddy brown -- the color of sweetened condensed milk -- rather than this lemony yellow, which had to have involved food coloring. They look so unappetizing that no one wants to eat them, even though they taste okay.

  • judylenzin 25 Jun, 2012

    ...almost forgot... this recipe reminds me of a Key lime pie I do... 3 limes plus a little zest added in, the same quantity of condensed milk, 2 egg yolks... the crust is done with graham crackers or Petit Beurre (18) and 60 g butter... that's more like a third of a cup than a half. Same timing.

  • judylenzin 25 Jun, 2012

    This recipe is a real snap... very straightforward! I did need 5 lemons, though... glad I had extras on hand. And for those of us in a metric system, my can of 400 g of condensed milk was a perfect quantity. I love these squares!!!

  • giannagirl 22 Sep, 2011

    I've made these three times and each and everytime they were wonderful. So, so lemony and creamy. Everyone goes crazy for these. I have to make extra just so I can enjoy them too!

  • burntcaramel 13 Sep, 2011

    I made this the other night but the filling was too runny. After I baked it, the eggs curdled and sad to say it wasn't too appetizing to look at. I'm an amateur baker, I guess more detailed instructions would have helped.

  • akire32 18 Mar, 2011

    So good!!! Tart, creamy filling and buttery, chewy crust <3 I added the zest of 2 of the 3 lemons I used to the filling. A previous poster mentioned the color of the filling...It's definitely a pastel yellow, not bright lemon yellow...I added two drops of lemon food coloring just to see what difference it would make. I also saved the egg whites and made a quiche :)

  • everettsmom 11 Mar, 2011

    My squares turned out lovely, even though I only got a 1/2 cup of lemon juice from my 3 lemons, and I forgot to prick the dough before baking it. I imagine using less lemon helped with it being too sour as some people have said. I also zested the lemons in. They look just like the picture, and I can see how not using paper would make it near impossible to get the squares out without breaking or cracking. Overall, great taste and texture. I've already added this to my recipe book!

  • Alexie 21 Feb, 2011

    I just made these and they are delicious! Very easy recipe and make sure to use the parchment -easier to pull out from the tray after being chilled for a few hours. My husband loves lemon squares and these are a new favourite!

  • BetsyB 21 Feb, 2011

    I made these yesterday - they are not good . The flavor is too lemony/tart and the color is not appealing - they turned out an ugly mustard color - NOT lemon yellow. I did get enough juice from 3 large lemons, but what a waste. I will try some other lemon bar recipe. From the condensation from the fridge, they got watery on the top, and soaked up all the powdered sugar on top, and refridgeration made the crust really hard to cut.

  • Janicebrunell 19 Feb, 2011

    obwhit, you can always use aluminum foil instead of parchment to create a sling for things like this.

  • MMaggieMae 18 Feb, 2011

    Reminder: evaporated milk cannot be substituted for condensed milk in a recipe. Also, I haven't tried this particular recipe, but those with similar techniques will not have the desired consistency when the preparation is complete, requiring the chill time (in the case of this recipe, at least 2-3 hours) to reach the serving texture.

  • Knavery 8 Jan, 2011

    I followed all the instructions except one, I used evaporated milk instead of condensed milk since it's what I had. I panicked when the filling was watery so I baked it for 15mins longer and it thickened a bit but not as firm as it should be. I'll try it again :(

  • obwhit 30 Aug, 2010

    Lemon squares were delish! I omitted the parchment paper because i didn't have it on hand. I would NOT recommend it, it was impossible to get the first one out.

  • barbcarp 29 Aug, 2010

    I am so tired of listining to you people rant about nutritional info, Martha Stewart has never put the nutritional info in her recipes and you all know this. If you are so set on the nutritional info find another web site to get recipes from. There are plenty of them on the web with the info you are so worried about.
    The lemon bars came out perfect.

  • barbcarp 29 Aug, 2010

    I am so tired of listining to you people rant about nutritional info, Martha Stewart has never put the nutritional info in her recipes and you all know this. If you are so set on the nutritional info find another web site to get recipes from. There are plenty of them on the web with the info you are so worried about.
    The lemon bars came out perfect.

  • patcash 28 Aug, 2010

    Has anyone else had a problem with this site being slow? It seems to take forever to scroll down the page and also when I type my comments there is nothing appearing in the section until I have finished typing. Very strange. I think Martha may have too much on her pages as to advertisements. That is what a computer friend of mine said anyway. : )

  • elizardi1 28 Aug, 2010

    If it was bitter, you may have gotten part of the white pith when you zested the lemons.

  • Stargazer_m85 26 Mar, 2010

    SUPER EASY! and Divine! I made these from my gramma who loves lemon, I've always been a lime lover myself, but these are absolutely delicious. So easy to make! Yum!

  • Madhi 23 Mar, 2010

    so I had half a can of condensed milk left and I wanted to make it so I cut the recipe in half and since it won't fit into my 8" pan anymore i decided to make individual squares..well more like rounds in a regular muffin tin. I added only 1/4 cup of lemon juice..thats all I had. I kept the crust in the oven for only 15 mins b/c it started turning brown. I only baked them for 20 mins..they were yummy wen warm..almst like little puddings! Wil try tmrw mornin once its been in the fridge THANX!!!

  • psofey 23 Feb, 2010

    These were not my favorite. The creamy idea was good, but I think I prefer the old standard lemon bars with their more translucent topping. I zested the lemons into the filling for this recipe and I thought it ended up with a slightly bitter taste. My family, however, devoured them very quickly and loved them.

  • ccbachman 10 Nov, 2009

    I love this recipe. I used my food processor to make the crust which worked out great! Love the creamy topping. I will make these again. Yum.

  • tlcocco 10 Nov, 2009

    This recipe is even better if you the zest of the lemons in the crust.

  • hinsdale 15 Apr, 2009

    I made these at Easter and they were enjoyed by all. Great taste and so easy to make. Will make these again, no question.

  • NatalieWheeler 18 Mar, 2009

    Hey,

    I tried this recipe cause it sounded yummy and it was going to satisfy my pregnancy craving. I followed the recipe exactly and it didn't work out for me at all. I think there might be something missing in the ingredients for the filling to help make it thicken up. It was all too runny! If there would've been something in it to thicken it up, I'm sure it would've turned out better!

  • BreeLeeD 26 Dec, 2008

    These are definitely very creamy and very lemony! Such a refreshing (and easy!) dessert! I had to use 4 large lemons to get 3/4 cup lemon juice, though.

  • AnyPenny 5 Nov, 2008

    Delicious and easy. The lemon juice, condensed milk, and buttery crust flavors go smashingly together. Highly recommended!

  • Kelticlady 21 Oct, 2008

    These are very good, but to make them over- the- top- wonderful, serve with fresh raspberries on top!

  • finlander 30 Sep, 2008

    Instead of making the 'crust', use already prepared sugar cookie dough. Mold into bottom of the pan, shape it with fingers and 'dock' it with a fork....bake. When cool add filling and return to oven as called for in recipe.

  • illinoisbelle 11 Aug, 2008

    we made these for dinner with the extended family. all liked the filling but not the crust.

  • lilysnana55 10 Aug, 2008

    twinky666: I apologize if I came off close minded-I, too, watch nutrition info because I watch carbs and calories carefully. I agree with nmeyer that people really serious about the numbers in their food should be doing the math themselves, as I explained how I do for myself when nutrition numbers may be missing from a given food. I was trying to give a positive suggestion, not ridicule anyone.

  • lilysnana55 10 Aug, 2008

    twinky666: I apologize if I came off close minded-I, too, watch nutrition info because I watch carbs and calories carefully. I agree with nmeyer that people really serious about the numbers in their food should be doing the math themselves, as I explained how I do for myself when nutrition numbers may be missing from a given food. I was trying to give a positive suggestion, not ridicule anyone.

  • PuffyBird 9 Aug, 2008

    Buy an extra lemon. I used three large ones, and I had only 2/3 cup juice. I made up the difference with a lime which everyone seemed to like.

  • nmeyer 5 Aug, 2008

    Anyone who is that concerned about the nutrition information need only collect individual label info from each ingredient, figure for the amount you are using of each, add together information for all ingredients, divide for number of servings... Nutrition information for lemons and other fruits and veggies can be found online if you look for it. Even if a recipe does have nutrition labels, they will rarely match your product exactly because your measurements will be different as well as the info for the brands that your using and serving sizes always vary...If your that concerned you should be doing the math yourself anyway.

  • geralynlan 1 Aug, 2008

    A solution for eliminating the "eggy" taste is to buy jello brand pudding and pie filling. I add quite a lot of lemon juice to it and follow box directions. With the additional lemon and lemon zest (if you wish) it really tastes homemade and I get compliments.

  • karenchaconas 22 Jul, 2008

    I made these for a special birthday party, so I doubled the ingredients. HOWEVER, I left out a full portion of lemon juice!!! They turned out just wonderful...deeelisssh...just not as much pucker! I made them again with the correct amount of lemon juice and, of course, even more deeeelisssh! Great recipe!

  • Tatjana 21 Jul, 2008

    Made these last week, they were wonderful. Will use less sugar for the dough next time. The filling was just right, not too tart and not too sweet. I could only find unsweetened condensed milk, so I added a 1/2 cup of confectioners' sugar. Turned out well. The filling set perfectly, let the pie cool completely and then put in the fridge overnight. Will definitely make these again.

  • twinky666 16 Jul, 2008

    Angelwings55: There are many people in the world who need the nutritional values of food whether it's nutritious or not. Diabetics (for one example) use them for the carb info so they can enjoy the occasional treat and give themselves the correct amount of info, heart patients have to watch what they are putting in them as well.....everyone should be able to enjoy the occasional treats in monderation....since you were wondering.....Open your mind!!

  • marywaspe 14 Jul, 2008

    I have just made these, and they are delicious. I had no problem with the mixture setting. I would make them again, so easy also.

  • lilysnana55 14 Jul, 2008

    I liked the taste and texture of these bars, but my DH found them too acidic. I had to bake the crust longer than the max time listed and the filling took 40 minutes to be "set". I used the standard custard doneness test: knife coming out clean. I worried they might be too "done" after the chilling, but that was not the case. I will probably make these again, just not for my guy.

  • lilysnana55 14 Jul, 2008

    I liked the taste and texture of these bars, but my DH found them too acidic. I had to bake the crust longer than the max time listed and the filling took 40 minutes to be "set". I used the standard custard doneness test: knife coming out clean. I worried they might be too "done" after the chilling, but that was not the case. I will probably make these again, just not for my guy.

  • lilysnana55 13 Jul, 2008

    Champagne-since desserts are not usually meant to be nutritious, I can see why they don't put the info on these. I suggest you buy yourself a book called The Complete Book of Food Counts by Corinne T. Netzer. Find each ingredient in the book and do the math. There are some online calculators, as well, but I find this book and my adding machine just as fast and easy.

  • lilysnana55 13 Jul, 2008

    Champagne-since desserts are not usually meant to be nutritious, I can see why they don't put the info on these. I suggest you buy yourself a book called The Complete Book of Food Counts by Corinne T. Netzer. Find each ingredient in the book and do the math. There are some online calculators, as well, but I find this book and my adding machine just as fast and easy.

  • rosiecq 11 Jul, 2008

    I made these for the second time today, my family can't get enough of them! Easy, and delicious.

  • gnell 11 Jul, 2008

    Made these bars last weekend. the taste was very sweet..I could not get the filling to set. so they were to runny. Maybe I need to know the brand of the ingredents

  • cklogan 11 Jul, 2008

    smoothness - 4 eggs or 4 egg YOLKS ??? recipe calls for yolks only.

  • therieber101 11 Jul, 2008

    I made these two days ago and they turned out delicious. My family loved them. Just followed the recipe and the filling set fine. I will make these again.

  • smoothness 10 Jul, 2008

    made it yesterday. way overly sweet and the filling wouldn't set. i'd stick to the tried and true (and three ingredients as well): 3/4c lemon juice, 1c sugar, 1 eggs.

  • keldikyle 8 Jul, 2008

    My bars turned out to be disappointing. The crust was perfect, but the filling was terrible. The "eggy taste" was very strong! I had to dump it.

  • ebocage 7 Jul, 2008

    I made these for our comunity party. They turned out perfect. Putting them in the freezer to firm them up made it easier to place in a container for taking along to the party. By the time they were served, they were the perfect consistency. I like them frozen too...yep, I snuck one.

  • ronocera 7 Jul, 2008

    My family loved these squares. They couldn't decide if they liked the crust or the filling better. Be sure to refrigerate after cooled.

  • kosherbakerinkc 7 Jul, 2008

    Made these as written. Easy and delicious. Didn't discern any egg taste. Next day made with fresh squeezed key lime. Also, excellent. Everyone enjoyed them at our July 5th barbecue.

  • Champagne 7 Jul, 2008

    I'm really disappointed (and incredibly surprised!!) that nutritional info is not included with the recipes!

  • claudiapas 7 Jul, 2008

    Those who prefer lighter egg taste can try adding some zest to the four yolks filling, or can substitute some of the two egg yolks for two spoons of corn starch or finally substituting the lemon juice for lime juice. Lime breaks the egg flavor more effectively. I like eggy though! Cheers!

  • starrjewell 6 Jul, 2008

    My guess is yes....but I have not done that myself. I think the caterer I worked for may have. I know they keep well otherwise because they had them around all the time...just because they were a favorite of eveyone who worked there. I'm not in touch with anyone there or I'd have the real answer.
    Worth a batch to find out.
    Sandy

  • dkbuckley 6 Jul, 2008

    Looks like everyone and their dog wants to know if these bars freeze well. I would like to know the same, so if anyone out there has an answer I would welcome it. I too do some catering and it looks like something that I could make plenty of and if it freezes, all the better--thanks, Diana

  • starrjewell 6 Jul, 2008

    Here is a similar recipe you might enjoy trying with no sweetened condensed milk
    1 c butter
    1/2 c powdered sugar
    2 c flour
    Follow same directions as this recipe but this will fit 9x13 pan
    4 whole eggs
    2 c granulated sugar
    6 T flour
    6 T lemon juice
    grated rind of one lemon
    Stir gently...do not beat.
    Pour over baked crust and bake 25 mins.
    Leave in pan to cool; cover with foil. Next day, cut into bars and roll in powdered sugar.
    From a caterer who made tons for parties.

  • deffie 6 Jul, 2008

    Please add to your recipes nutritional values, as I need to know how many carbs etc.

    Thank you, Deffie

  • thesuze 6 Jul, 2008

    Do you think these would still be good if I froze them? I'm catering a big party in mid-August and I'd like to make some things ahead.

  • wonder1 5 Jul, 2008

    No, I used Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk. Guess I need to try this again, and see how the next batch turns out! Thanks for responding greeneyz7!

  • greeneyz7 4 Jul, 2008

    Condensed milk and evaporated milk are as different as night and day...condensed milk is thick and sweetened and great in pies and cookies, evaporated milk you could use in your coffee...

  • kathycurrentfamilysingerknitter 4 Jul, 2008

    did you whisk the eggs and sweented condensed milk-if you used evaporated canned milk this will not work?

  • wonder1 4 Jul, 2008

    I don't know what I've done wrong, but my lemon squares WILL NOT SET. I have now baked them for over an hour and they are like lemon soup. The juice of my three lemons didn't come anywhere near 3/4 cup so had to make up the difference with Real Lemon. I think 3/4 cup of lemon juice was just way too much. Any way to save this mess?

  • emmachas 4 Jul, 2008

    Icrook, Is that the entire recipe? Is it also for an 8' pan? Thanks for sharing!

  • sherriberri519 4 Jul, 2008

    Icrook - I know a lemon pie recipe that in no way tastes of egg. It's a similar recipe to this lemon bar, which is why it caught my interest. Graham Cracker crust, two cans condensed milk, lemon juice and zest to taste (at least 3 lemons' worth) and two egg yolks. The original recipe came from Eagle's and didn't call for baking, but I bake it at 325 for 25 minutes to take out the raw egg yolk worry. Add extra zest for zingy-ness... It's very simple. Serve chilled.

  • SusanCarpenter 4 Jul, 2008

    to lcrook (looking for a non-eggy recipe) - the one I love is from The Wooden Spoon Dessert Book - Same recipe for crust as Martha's, but the filling is as follows:
    In a small bowl, beat 2 eggs. Add, blending well after each addition, 1 c sugar, 1/2 t baking powder, 2 T flour, zest from one lemon, and 3 1/2 T lemon juice. Complete recipe as in Martha's. This recipe has never let me down - very lemony and not eggy tasting at all.

  • zariazoe 4 Jul, 2008

    Can these be frozen

  • karensalga 4 Jul, 2008

    These are one of my husbands favourites and very easy to make. My husband loves lemon tasting items. I have made them for our neighbours and friends today and they now what the recipe as well. Karen Marley

  • Nicolewinter 4 Jul, 2008

    mrsbeardsly you can try this website to convert

    http://www.calculateme.com/Volume/index.htm

  • mrsbeardsley 4 Jul, 2008

    I'm from England - any ideas how to convert these measurements into grams/ounces xxx

  • choux 19 Jun, 2008

    Is it possible to use a jar of gourmet lemon curd? ... or would it not set?

    Thank you.

    Choux

  • dinomom 17 Jun, 2008

    These bars were very good and easy to make. Although I had to use 6 smallish lemons to get enough juice.

  • lcrook 10 Jun, 2008

    I just made these last week. They were very easy to make, and had a good tartness to them....which I love. The only problem I have had with finding a good lemon bar is that I seem to always taste the egg in them. For people that don't mind that, these would be great. On that note, the BEST Lemon Bar I've ever had, was at Tom's Cookie's in Macy's Cellar, San Francisco. They DO NOT have an "eggy" taste to them. Any suggestions for recipes to try that may not have that "egg" taste?

  • sharonv 6 Jun, 2008

    Can these bars be frozen?

  • sharonv 6 Jun, 2008

    Can these bars be frozen?

  • schatzie 2 Jun, 2008

    I made these yesterday. Very easy, creamy and delicious. I added freshly zested lemon peel to the mixture.

  • schatzie 2 Jun, 2008

    I made these yesterday. Very easy, creamy and delicious. I added freshly zested lemon peel to the mixture.

  • Susan71353 1 Jun, 2008

    Oh I can't wait to try these lemon squares......I have other recipes for these but these look lucious

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