Lemon sugar cookie bars are easy to make and perfect for spring and summer. These tender sugar cookie bars are filled with lemon zest and have a sweet, soft lemon flavor that you'll love.
Lemon sugar cookie bars are the perfect addition to your next picnic or spring gathering. These bars are tender, lemony, and incredibly easy to make.
All you need are a few practical baking ingredients to make a batch of your own. The best part about making sugar cookie bars is that you simply spread the batter into a 9x13 pan and bake! There's no need to portion out individual cookies, which can be time consuming and tedious.
Ingredients and substitutions
- Unsalted butter - Can be substituted with salted butter (you'll want to omit the salt listed in the recipe). Your butter should be room temperature - not cold, not melted.
- Granulated sugar - Adds sweetness and moisture to the bars. You'll need some additional granulated sugar to sprinkle on top before baking to create that crunchy sugar crust. I don't recommend reducing the sugar in this recipe because your bars could turn out dry.
- Large eggs - Eggs should be room temperature. Set them on the counter 1 hour before baking or place your whole eggs in a small bowl covered in warm tap water for 15 minutes.
- Vanilla extract - Enhances the flavor of your bars.
- Lemon - You'll need one large lemon for this recipe. We're using the zest and juice for a light and sweet lemon flavor. I recommend zesting two lemons if you'd prefer a stronger, tart lemon flavor.
- All-purpose flour - I have only tested this recipe with all-purpose flour. If you have a different flour on hand, I suggest searching for a recipe using your preferred type of flour. Many times it's not an easy 1:1 substitution and a recipe written for a particular flour will turn out better.
- Baking powder - Cannot be substituted with baking soda - these are two different ingredients that will react differently with the other ingredients listed. Check the expiration date before beginning - expired baking powder will result in a flat, dense cookie.
- Salt - enhances the flavor of your cookie and balances the sweetness without making them "salty".
Tips and tricks
Cream your butter and sugar - The act of creaming in baking incorporates sugar into softened butter to create an even, fluffy texture throughout the dough. This process also helps your bars rise in the oven. Use a hand mixer or stand mixer for best success.
Preparing your lemon - First, zest the entire lemon. I recommend using a microplane for easy zesting. Then, slice your zested lemon in half and juice. For a stronger lemon flavor, zest an additional lemon (but don't add additional juice - this changes the acidity and rise of the batter).
To bring butter to room temperature quickly - Unwrap and slice butter into small pieces, leaving it on the counter and in the wrapper or a small bowl for up to 30 minutes. Small pieces warm up faster than a whole stick.
To bring eggs to room temperature quickly - Place whole eggs into a bowl and cover with very warm tap water. Eggs come to room temperature in about 10 minutes using this method.
Spread batter into an even layer - Your batter will be thick, so you'll need to use a spatula to spread the batter evenly to the edges of your prepared pan. Either grease a 9x13 baking pan or line with parchment for easy removal after baking.
Frequently asked questions
Sugar cookie bars will keep in a tightly sealed container at room temperature for 3 to 5 days. To help keep your bars fresh longer, add a slice of sandwich bread to the container and replace as it gets stale. The bread slice helps keep your bars soft and moist.
Yes, sugar cookie bars can be frozen for up to 3 months in a tightly sealed, freezer-safe container.
Zest one additional lemon or add a teaspoon of lemon extract. Do not add more lemon juice. Lemon juice can change the texture and acidity of your bars, preventing proper rise in the oven. Most of the lemon flavor in this recipe comes from the lemon zest, not the juice.
Yes, a batch of whipped buttercream frosting or lemon cream cheese frosting would make a great topping for these lemon sugar cookie bars. Omit the listed sugar topping, allow your bars to cool completely, then spread your frosting on top before slicing and serving.
Dry baked goods can happen for several reasons. If any of the moisture-adding ingredients have been reduced, like sugar, butter, or eggs, this can cause baked goods to turn out dry. If too much flour was added (I recommend weighing your flour or using the spoon and level method), baked goods can turn out dry. Lastly, baking too long in the oven can dry out baked goods. Allow your bars to cool completely before slicing and serving, because slicing into hot bars releases steam, which dries them out.
Lemon Sugar Cookie Bars
- 1 cup (198 g) granulated sugar
- 1 cup (226 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest, *double for a strong lemon flavor
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2.5 cups (300 g) all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup (48 g) granulated sugar, reserved for topping
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a 9x13 baking pan with parchment paper or lightly grease the bottom and sides and set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, add butter and sugar. Using a hand mixer or stand mixer, mix at medium speed until light and fluffy, about a minute. Add eggs, vanilla extract, lemon zest and lemon juice, then beat until fluffy, about a minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- In a separate bowl, sift together dry ingredients - flour, baking powder, and salt. Slowly stir dry ingredients into wet ingredients until just combined.
- Pour into prepared pan and use a spatula to spread evenly to the edges. Batter will be thick.
- Sprinkle up to ¼ cup of reserved granulated sugar evenly over the top of the batter.
- Bake for about 20-22 minutes, or until bars are lightly browned around the edges and beginning to lightly brown across the top. To test with a toothpick for doneness: Insert toothpick into the center of the pan. If toothpick comes out with wet batter, the bars are not done. Continue checking every 2 minutes. If toothpick comes out dry or with a few crumbs, your bars are done.
- Place pan onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely before slicing.
- Use one large lemon to make this recipe as written for a light and sweet lemon flavor.
- *For a stronger tart lemon flavor, zest an additional lemon and add the zest to the batter. Do not add additional lemon juice, as this can affect the rise of your bars in the oven.
- Once completely cooled and sliced, store bars in an airtight container at room temperature. Bars will keep for 3-5 days. To keep them fresh for longer, add a slice of bread to the container and replace when bread gets stale. Bread will help keep the bars soft and moist.