5 Ingredients or Fewer

Lemon Bars With a Salty Olive Oil Crust

April 22, 2021
30 Ratings
Photo by Ty Mecham
Author Notes

An almost-classic lemon bar. The sweet, tart lemon curd is thicker than usual and the shortbread crust has a little secret: There’s no butter. Instead, we use fruity, savory olive oil, plus a generous amount of salt. —Emma Laperruque

Test Kitchen Notes

This is one of our Big Little Recipes. Read more here: 5-Ingredient Lemon Bars Are a Classic With a Lil' Twist. —The Editors

Watch This Recipe
Lemon Bars With a Salty Olive Oil Crust
  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour 20 minutes
  • Serves One 8- by 8-inch pan (16 bars)
Ingredients
  • Crust
  • 2 1/2 cups (320 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup (161 grams) olive oil
  • Lemon curd
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 3/4 cups (350 grams) sugar
  • 7 tablespoons (56 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (240 grams) fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 3 lemons, zested (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Heat the oven to 325° F. Line an 8x8-inch baking pan with parchment. The easiest way to do this is to cut a roughly 11- by 11-inch square. Now cut slits inward from each corner—this will help the paper fold into place. Place the parchment inside and smooth out with your hands.
  2. Make the crust. Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Mix with a spoon to combine. Add the olive oil and mix again until a lumpy dough forms. There should be no dry spots, but it won’t come together into a single mass—don’t overmix!
  3. Dump the olive oil dough into the lined pan and use your hands to pat it flat. Use a fork to prick the dough—figure 15 or so times, evenly distributed.
  4. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, rotating halfway through, until puffed and golden-brown.
  5. Meanwhile, mix the lemon curd. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk until smooth.
  6. When the shortbread timer goes off, re-whisk the lemon mixture if it’s been sitting around awhile. Use oven mitts to gingerly pull out the oven rack. Carefully pour the lemon mixture onto the hot crust. Even more carefully, push the rack back and close the oven. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until the edges of the lemon bar are slightly puffed and the center barely jiggles.
  7. Cool at room temperature until just warm to the touch—at least 30 minutes—then chill in the refrigerator completely. Use the parchment to remove from the pan, then cut into 16 squares.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Michelle Tam
    Michelle Tam
  • Antoinette Di Ciaccio
    Antoinette Di Ciaccio
  • AJerusalemArtichoke
    AJerusalemArtichoke
  • Jean Marchione
    Jean Marchione
  • helicopterina
    helicopterina
Emma is the food editor at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles on the fly, baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., and writing about the history of pie in North Carolina. Now she lives in New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's award-winning column, Big Little Recipes (also the cookbook in October 2021!). And see what she's up to on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.

44 Reviews

osborns August 24, 2020
I made this recipe yesterday, and it was delicious! Mine looked more the the picture at the top of the article (where they have a slight skin on top) than they do at the video. Is there a reason for this, or just
lighting? Mine also cracked when cooling, but I think that’s because I removed them from the pan too soon because I needed the pan immediately. I substituted Bob’s Red Mill 1-1 Gluten Free Baking Flour in the shortbread and filling and it turned out perfectly.
 
swanbianca February 17, 2021
I used King Arthur GF flour blend for the crust. I also added 1/4c of water, because I know gf flour blend tend to need more moisture than regular AP flour. My crust came out pretty tough.
 
Michelle T. May 5, 2020
Hi Emma! Made these and love them! Thanks for the recipe. Just a question: I zested 3.5 lemons but otherwise followed the recipe to the letter. A taster said it was good, but felt there was a bit of a ... soapy? taste and we can’t figure out if it’s the extra zest, or the EVOO, or the fact that we use citrus detergents a lot and are thereby confused lol, etc. Do you have any insights? Thanks again!
 
Author Comment
Emma L. May 6, 2020
Hi Michelle, so glad you enjoyed the recipe! Sorry to say I'm not sure what that taste might have been...maybe the extra zest?
 
Michelle T. May 8, 2020
Hi Emma! Yes, it was roundly enjoyed, will be making one more after bestie loved the slab I sent her, thanks again! I found that what helped was baking the tart again till the base was more crumby + the curd looked more like yours, which took an extra 90mins in my small electric oven, haha. Though that could be because it spent a night in the fridge after the initial time in the oven :) Was much happier with the result and the slight soapiness disappeared after that!
 
jmoo October 24, 2019
These are so good and bloody easy! I used Bob's Red Mill 1-to-1 Gluten-Free All-Purpose flour (for a wheat intolerant friend) and they came out great. I added thyme to the lemon mixture. It set-up beautifully. I would personally like it a little bit more zingy (I love VERY tart bars), but this is going to be my go-to lemon bars recipe from now on! Thank you!
 
Antoinette D. October 23, 2019
I can’t wait to try this crust! Emma, do you think it would work with my already made and stashed in the freezer lemon curd? How might you modify your recipe, if necessary.
 
Author Comment
Emma L. October 23, 2019
Hi, yay! Hm that's a tricky one, since in this case, the lemon curd bakes directly on the crust. The easiest route might be simply baking the crust completely, cutting it into squares while warm (just like shortbread), then serve these with your lemon curd alongside for dunking. Not quite a lemon bar, but it'll still be fun and delicious (and then you won't risk ruining your already-made lemon curd!).
 
AJerusalemArtichoke September 29, 2019
Possible to freeze or refrigerate the dough ahead of time?
 
Author Comment
Emma L. September 30, 2019
Yes, you can definitely refrigerate it! Just make sure it's wrapped well.
 
SandraM July 9, 2019
I was preparing to cook the curd while the crust baked.....😏. Joy!!! No cooking needed, just stirring!
I was already thinking about making these again, before I'd even finished the first batch.
The crust is crumbly (and savory) a perfect contrast to the lemon curd. That curd is so dang good! I still can't believe how easy this was to make. I had visions of cutting into a jiggly mess, but the texture held up and looked good.

Highly recommend this for the lemon lovers.
 
Jean M. June 17, 2019
The best lemon bars ever! Easy to make also!
 
Author Comment
Emma L. June 17, 2019
Wow! Thanks, Jean :)
 
helicopterina May 5, 2019
Loved this! Thank you. If you have any tips re how to wrap for freezing and/or how long these can keep in airtight tupper in the fridge — am all ears. https://www.instagram.com/p/BxE6crcBMJB/?igshid=1h9m6v3a1se1w
 
lisa G. April 27, 2019
I made it with a passion fruit curd instead of lemon, just so yummy!
 
Author Comment
Emma L. April 29, 2019
That sounds wonderful!
 
Darian April 7, 2019
This recipe was SO easy! I followed the instructions exactly (pan size/shape, cooking times, etc) and they turned out very well. The crust definitely has a hint of salt that nicely counterbalances the rich tartness of the curd. Personally I liked the thicker layers of crust and curd than we usually find in lemon bars; the balance was perfect and the overall mouthfeel seemed more satisfying. Ironically, with olive oil instead of butter, I felt the crust more closely resembled a pie crust than a shortbread. As such, I did think it was a bit more crumbly than I would have preferred - more for neatness of eating rather than taste! My husband suggested a simpler solution - use a spoon instead of a fork ;-)
 
Francesca S. March 24, 2019
This looks like an amazing recipe... Do you have a suggestion For a pan size to make a larger quantity and still get the same thick square?
 
Author Comment
Emma L. March 24, 2019
Hi Francesca! Doubling the recipe would nicely fit into a 9x13-inch baking pan. I'm not sure exactly how much longer the baking times would be—I'd just start checking at the times in the original recipe and look for the same visual cues. Hope this helps!
 
Francesca S. March 24, 2019
Thank you so much I’m hoping to include this on our Easter brunch at Cherokee Tavern in West St. Paul, Mn
 
noa January 10, 2019
This was an amazing recipe that I enjoyed making and will over and over again! Everyone that tasted it love it. They came out exactly like the picture of recipe! The only thing that I prefer is a thinner crust so will probably use a rectangular pan that is a bit longer . I think it will produce more bite size type squares. Thanks again!
 
Author Comment
Emma L. January 10, 2019
Thanks so much—so glad you enjoyed!
 
Taylor October 27, 2018
This is a great recipe and a really interesting twist on a classic. My favorite thing about food is balance - I love dark chocolate and I'm not really into overly-sweet things like marshmallows unless they're balanced by cream etc. Naturally, lemon bars are a favorite of mine.
This recipe somehow manages to make lemon bars so much more summery. I made the recipe exactly as stated (using weight measurements rather than volume). Not only did it turn out perfectly (albeit with a 5min longer bake at each step), but it was so much easier than I was expecting (curd isn't precooked, crust is one-bowl simple). The crust turned out perfectly (no splitting or greasiness) and I loved that it was very thick (thin crust is a pet peeve of mine). The fruity flavors of olive oil (I used EVOO) enhanced the nuances of the lemon curd and added a savory undertone to cut some of the sweetness, which is part of why these are so refreshing. I personally found the lemon bar layer a bit too tall, although the texture was smooth, thick and tender (not at all gloppy like implied in the description). Overall a really good recipe!
 
Author Comment
Emma L. October 28, 2018
Thanks for reporting back, Taylor! It sounds like we have similar taste in desserts—I'm not one for overly sweet things either. So glad you enjoyed the recipe.
 
Kristen October 17, 2018
Where can I find the bakeware in the video?
 
Author Comment
Emma L. October 17, 2018
Hi Kristen! Not sure of the exact model that was used here, but something like this should do the trick: https://www.amazon.com/Ateco-3-Inch-Professional-Square-Baking/dp/B004VMGCXM/ref=sr_1_15?ie=UTF8&qid=1539797827&sr=8-15&keywords=baking+pans+8+x+8
 
katharine K. February 3, 2019
I think it was this pan — a USA pan. USA Pan Bakeware Square Cake Pan, 8 inch, Nonstick & Quick Release Coating, Made in the USA from Aluminized Steel https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0029JMMRE/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_IZNvCb773CZHE I could be wrong but in any case, I have six of their pans and they’re of high quality, clean easily, and bake contents evenly.
 
KB April 4, 2019
It must be either the Chicago Metallic or Calphalon pan, NOTE there is a line of metal rim that runs diagonally along the edge from one corner. It can't be Ateco because Ateco pan has handles on 4 sides for easy lifting. It can't be the USA Pan recognized by its darker color and iconic ridges. So, https://www.amazon.com/Chicago-Metallic-5237983-Uncoated-Textured/dp/B07JH2PR5S https://www.amazon.com/Calphalon-BW3208-Classic-Bakeware-Nonstick/dp/B0009EYITG/ref=sr_1_4 Hope it helps.
 
Amelia S. September 18, 2018
I'm afraid this recipe did not work for me. I love intense flavors and these sounded delicious. But my shortbread crust was way, way too liquid/greasy. Yes, I measured everything correctly (but I didn't weigh it, which could have been the problem, especially with the flour?). My dough never set. Not at 45 minutes, 50, 55, 60. No browning, nothing. So I went ahead and added the lemon curd, and some of the dough floated up into the curd. The curd itself set perfectly in 30 minutes (so I don't think my oven is the problem). And the curd tastes fine, but the crust, I assume due to the extra 15 minutes in the oven, is bitter. Not in a pleasant way. And no, it's not the oil itself, I tasted it before I added it to the flour mixture. So I really can't see what I did wrong.

What I should have done, of course, was add a couple extra tablespoons of flour when I mixed in the oil and saw that it didn't look like the description at all. That's on me. The recipe is well-written in that I knew what to look for at each step. Mine just didn't turn out.
 
Sue September 14, 2018
These Lemon bars are easy & deelish! I normally avoid making most recipes due to the labor involved in making the curd. So glad I tried these, and will make again! I'm going to attempt freezing - don't need that many Lemon bars. In my life!
 
Author Comment
Emma L. September 14, 2018
So glad to hear you liked 'em—thanks, Sue!
 
Francyn T. September 6, 2018
Hi!
Can we freeze the lemon squares?
 
Author Comment
Emma L. September 7, 2018
Hi Francyn! I haven't tried that myself, but a few of our community members seem to have done so successfully! More details on our Hotline: https://food52.com/hotline/28152-freeze-lemon-squares
 
Sweet A. September 10, 2018
Thanks for the tips on freezing the lemon squares!
 
Pamela September 6, 2018
What about doubling the recipe? Will I need to extend cooking times for either the crust or the curd?
 
Author Comment
Emma L. September 6, 2018
Hi Pamela! Doubling the recipe in one pan would roughly amount to a 9- by 13-inch dish. The baking time would likely increase, but I can't say for sure since I haven't tested that adaptation. If you give it a try, let me know how it goes! Another option is buying a couple of disposable 8- by 8-inch pans and using those—then you can follow the recipe as is and eliminate any guesswork. Hope this helps!
 
Cory B. September 6, 2018
These were so amazing!! Love love love.
 
Author Comment
Emma L. September 6, 2018
Thanks, Cory!!
 
Julia September 6, 2018
Would using a gluten free flour here work? Maybe one that is cup for cup equivalent to regular flour? Looks like a great recipe!
 
Author Comment
Emma L. September 6, 2018
Hi Julia, thanks! I haven't tried a gluten-free alternative with this recipe. If you do want to give it a go, a 1:1 flour blend (like Cup4Cup) is probably your best bet. If you try, let us know how it goes!
 
Lynnie April 17, 2019
When we need to use gf flour (for a partucular family member) we always use King Arthur’s. It is cup-for-cup and I have found it gives the most consistent results and best texture and flavor. That’s just been my experience for what it’s worth.