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Martha's Favorite

Zesty Lemon Bars

This recipe, courtesy of Amy Scherber and Toy Kim Dupree, can be found in "The Sweeter Side of Amy's Bread."

  • Yield: Makes 20 bars
Zesty Lemon Bars


For the Crust

  • 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces, plus more for pan
  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt

For the Topping

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons plus 3/4 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the center of oven. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking pan.

  2. To make crust: In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, confectioners' sugar, cornstarch, and salt; process to combine. Add butter to processor and process until mixture is pale yellow and resembles a coarse meal, about 10 seconds. If you don't have a food processor, whisk together flour, confectioners' sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a large bowl. Add butter and work into flour mixture using a pastry blender or your fingers.

  3. Pour crust mixture into prepared baking dish, pressing down with your fingers to create a 1/4-inch-thick layer along the bottom and 1/2-inch up the sides, pressing firmly at the edges to seal. Transfer pan to freezer and freeze for 30 minutes. Transfer to oven and bake, rotating pan once during baking, until golden brown, about 20 minutes.

  4. Meanwhile, make the topping: In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, eggs, and flour; stir in lemon juice, milk, and salt until well combined.

  5. Remove baking pan from oven. Stir topping and pour into warm crust. Return pan to oven and continue baking until topping is just set but not browned, about 20 minutes.

  6. Transfer baking pan to a wire rack to cool completely. Cut into 20 squares. Serve immediately or wrap each bar tightly with plastic wrap and keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

Reviews (32)

  • Charlie Cooks 30 Apr, 2014

    Like it, but it needs tweaking. While there may be some objection to zest, this dish needs the zest of two lemons in the topping (very finely grated off a Microplane). What you get with just the juice is a citric acid bomb with not as much lemon taste as you might imagine there would be. There is also probably a half cup of sugar too much in the filling. The first sensation in the mouth is over-the-top sweetness which quickly gives way to the citric acid with lemon fighting to be noticed.

  • haleforty 10 Mar, 2014

    if you like a more lemony layer, try these:
    i love them. they're tart and sweet, and lemony. a perfect balance.

  • DemeterQ 5 Jan, 2012

    These are the best lemon bars I have ever made. I have not made them since getting a new oven, but with my old oven they were a little raw on top. So to fix I turned on the broiler but kept them on the bottom rack. They were then cooked perfectly and just lightly browned on top.

  • chefchel 8 Dec, 2011

    I have made this for the last few years substituting the butter with canola oil, and the milk with almond, coconut, or rice milk for a great dairy free alternative.(Keep measurements the same) Even dairy lovers enjoy these! If you are in pinch for lemon juice I recommend Minute Maid's 100% lemon juice concentrate (no preservatives or additvies), I use the entire bottle and it makes these wonderfully tangy!

  • fluffygeckos 16 May, 2011

    These lemon bars came out delicious!!!! everybody who tried them LOVED them! I cut the sugar to 1 1/2 cups instead of 2 and they were still sweet. the only problem was that they were a bit gooey and sticky to eat. but other than that they were lovely!

  • okricky 28 Apr, 2011

    I have made this recipe and it is great before pouring curd on crust have added toated sliveed almonds they float to the top when baking. Then when cooled have made a raspberry puree just the juice and glazed the top. Raves all around

  • aurinha 7 Mar, 2009

    I made it and i love the taste of curdle and the crust, so easy to do. I'm brasilian, my dad and friends that eat thinck its too acid, whem eated hurts next the ear, hehe.. i had to eat all the bars, but i did not maght ...i'll try to do the curdle with orange juice next time.

  • AndreaRobin 4 Mar, 2009

    I finally got a chance to make these and I have to admit they were pretty good, I found the crust a little to buttery tasting, but my friends who were here all loved it and asked for the recipe. and if it were up to my husband, I would definately make ths again, he really loved them!!!

  • lordjaga777 26 Feb, 2009

    I am disappointed with this recipe. Adding the liquid (to the hot crust) made the eggs curdle. I am an experienced cook. Has this happened to anyone else?

  • mykele 22 Feb, 2009

    Many serious bakers prefer kosher salt as it has no
    chemical additives. It is pure salt and one has to use
    twice as much as regular table salt. It also is not

  • kenji 21 Feb, 2009

    coarse salt is just kosher salt...haven't noticed that it is expensive. plus, if you try it on say, eggs, you will notice a pure salt, don't knock it until you try it. unbleached flour is just more natural, not expensive. king arthur makes unbleached flour that is wonderful. lemons are all different sizes, hard to recommend the correct number.

  • GwenHex 20 Feb, 2009

    it seems every cookie recipes on here calls for coarse salt. now, this recipe is not included, but the majority of recipes i've found on here always call for some expensive ingredient or something someone without access to every store in america can get to. we need recipes for the rest of us not on tv.

  • azarvand 19 Feb, 2009

    where is the rest of my comment? Anyway, in summary, too much salt in crust, but would make again.

  • azarvand 19 Feb, 2009

    I have made lemon bars many times, so I wanted to try a new recipe- i like this one b/c it calls for a lot of lemon juice

  • mykele 19 Feb, 2009

    The "zesty" part of this recipe would be lemon zest that is NOT included in the recipe for some reason. I have never made a lemon bar recipe without lemon zest....guess they just forgot.

  • josephinebat10 17 Feb, 2009

    The last few comments are playing right into the hands of MUMTAZ by remarking about her ( I T ? ), take NO NOTICE of her ( I T'S ? ) comments and just enjoy what Martha is offering us with her scrumptious recipes. By the way, I love this one, I've made it many times.

  • aeo072659 16 Feb, 2009

    chefette86. Thanks for the heads up, I really appreciate it! And the website is nothing to talk about, that is for sure!

  • DavidRush 16 Feb, 2009

    judehanna, you will probably get a quarter of acup of juice from one large lemon, and mumtaz, just go away please, you will get no converts here...

  • Junecutie 16 Feb, 2009

    I love these bars, but I don't see what is "zesty" about them. Maybe you could add dried rosemary, basil, or sage. Or mabe even add dried hot red chili peppers. Now that would be zesty! On another subject, I have seen dozens of MUMTAZ's comments, and they all read the same. Every time I see one I report it as inappropriate and beg the website wizards to ban MUMTAZ from leaving comments on this site. But nothing every happens. I guess we all just have to accept being annoyed!!!

  • redwine48 16 Feb, 2009

    Mumtaz; I've tried and it ain't so hot. When I could not bookmark the site, that told me that I would not be coming back.

    Now , for this recipe! It is very good. I put the extra teaspoon of lemon juice in it because I like them a little more tart. Then when I dust them with powder sugar they are not as sweet.

  • judehannah 16 Feb, 2009

    I would appreciate a note in the recipe stating approximately how many lemons to have for the lemon juice. I have no idea how many to buy! Ten? Twenty?

  • cdstar 16 Feb, 2009

    Naama, As with brining meats, use half the amount of salt if using table salt compared with coares salt. Table salt is a smaller grind and so is saltier by measure than coarse salt.

  • tazzie102 16 Feb, 2009

    Leaflet2 there will be no diffence if you use bleached or unbleached flour it just prefance or what ever you want to use it does not affect flavor ( bleached flour use checicals to whiten it ) i prefore to use the unbleached flour

  • naama 16 Feb, 2009

    So much salt??

  • leaflet2 16 Feb, 2009

    in case I don't have unbleached all purpose flour, what will happen to my recipe?

  • gailanne 16 Feb, 2009

    Cyn, Rumford make a no-GMO cornstarch which is perfectly healthy. You need it in this recipe for proper crust consistency.

  • dottyweber 16 Feb, 2009

    since when is cornstarch "unhealthy"?i

  • dorrainelmt 16 Feb, 2009


  • cynsteinberg 16 Feb, 2009

    Why oh why do you need to use cornstarch? Is there a healthier substitute?

  • DemeterQ 15 Dec, 2008

    Very good, better tasting than any others I have made. I will make again for sure!. Next time I will try the sugar dusting as well.

  • mlarcher 5 Dec, 2008

    I have also always sprinkled my lemon bars with powdered sugar. It just makes them more festive.

  • lnbee 5 Dec, 2008

    Dusting with confectioner's sugar after it cools is a great way to finish this tasty bar.

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