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Old Fashioned Lemon Squares

These old fashioned lemon squares are easy to make and absolutely delicious. With a flakey shortcrust and tangy lemon top, these are just like the ones your Grandma would make.

Lemon Squares on a plate

I love lemon. As far as desserts go, if I could only ever have one flavour for the rest of my life, I would pick lemon. I know that would surprise a lot of people, because I’m a well known chocolate lover, but when it comes to desserts and treats, I love the fresh, tanginess of lemon. These lemon squares, or bars as some prefer to call them, would top the list.

This recipe for old fashioned lemon squares is special. It is a recipe that has been in my family for many years, very likely more than 70 years. As far as we know it originates back to my Great Granny C. It is quite possible it goes back further, but we don’t know for sure. Unfortunately I never met my Great Granny as she passed before I was born, but I have definitely been told all about her, and especially what a great baker she was. These lemon squares are fondly remembered by everyone who had the fortune of eating them from her kitchen.

Lemon squares in a stack

It took a while to track down this recipe, but thanks to some detective work from my mom, and a cousin, we found it. After making these myself I can see why they are so fondly remembered, they are absolutely the best lemon squares I’ve had.

I hope your family enjoys them as much as we do.


Start by making the crust. This is a shortcrust, so there are only three ingredients, four if you count the tiny pinch of salt.

Add the ingredients to a food processor and pulse until it resembles fine crumbs.

I’m not sure how Granny C. did this part as the instructions are not extensive, I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t have used a food processor, most likely using a fork or pastry blender instead. If you prefer you can certainly do it that way too.

Press the crust into an ungreased 9×9 pan. It will be very dry and crumbly, but I promise, it will come out beautiful and flakey. Place in the oven to bake for 20 minutes until set.

After baking the crust remove it from the oven so you can top it with the lemon filling.

Simply whisk all the ingredients for the filling together and pour it over the crust. The recipe calls for the juice and zest of one large lemon. For me, that was about four tablespoons of juice (I picked a really big lemon), you can use more or less depending on your taste.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes until top is set.

Remove from the oven, allow to cool completely, then remove it from the pan, cut it into squares and dust it with powdered sugar.

Serve them to your family and watch them disappear.

Lemon Squares on a plate

Does your family have any favourite recipes that have been handed down through the generations? Leave me a comment and let me know.


  • I’ve mixed the crust ingredients and it is very dry, will it be ok? Yes, as long as you remember to put the butter in there, it will work out. Just press it into the pan and let the cold butter do its magic.
  • Can I use bottled lemon juice? For sure, if you don’t have lemon on hand and want to use bottled juice, you absolutely can. You will want to use 3-4 tablespoons depending how much lemon you like.
  • Can you freeze lemon bars? Yes you sure can (and they are pretty great frozen). Make sure you cut them into squares before freezing and if freezing in layers in a container be sure to separate the layers with wax paper or parchment paper.
  • Do lemon bars need to be refrigerated? Because of the custard layer, lemon bars should be refrigerated if you are not going to eat them within a day. Just place them in an airtight container, they should last a couple weeks.
Lemon bars in a stack


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Lemon squares in a stack

Old Fashioned Lemon Squares

Old fashioned lemon squares just like Grandma's. These easy to make squares have a flakey short crust and tangy lemon filling. Perfect for afternoon tea or a light dessert.
4.64 from 99 votes
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Course: Cookies & Squares, Dessert
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 16 Squares
Calories: 132kcal
Author: Deanna


For the Crust

  • 1 Cup Flour All purpose
  • ½ Cup Cold butter cut into cubes
  • ¼ Cup granulated sugar
  • Pinch of Salt

For the Top

  • 1 Cup Icing sugar plus additional for dusting the top after baking
  • 2 Large eggs beaten
  • 2 tablespoon Flour All purpose
  • ¼ teaspoon Baking powder
  • 1 Large lemon, juiced 3-4 tablespoon juice
  • Zest of same large lemon 2 tsp


For the Crust

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees
  • Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until it resembles fine crumbs
  • Press into an ungreased 9×9 pan.
  • Bake for 20 minutes, then remove from the oven to add lemon top.

For the Lemon Top

  • Increase oven temperature to 350 degrees
  • Whisk all the filling ingredients together and pour over the base.
  • Place in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until top is set.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
  • Run a knife along the edge of the lemon bars to loosen it from the pan, then turn it out onto a cutting board.
  • Cut into 16 squares, then dust with powdered sugar.


This is an old-fashioned recipe, at least 50 years old, from a time when people wanted a nice treat but did not make them as huge as we do now.  The lemon custard layer on this square is thinner than the lemon bars you may be used to getting at your local bakery.  You can double the ingredients for the filling to make the custard layer twice as thick if you wish.  You will need to increase the cooking time by 5-10 minutes.  So check at the 25-minute mark and check again every 3-5 minutes until it feels set.  However, I’ve always found this recipe to be perfect as is.


Calories: 132kcal | Carbohydrates: 17g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 36mg | Sodium: 59mg | Potassium: 22mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 11g | Vitamin A: 207IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 9mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered estimates. Actual nutritional content will vary with brands used, measuring methods, portion sizes and more.

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Recipe Rating


Sunday 16th of April 2023

What kind of sugar for the crust? Cant wait for try!


Monday 17th of April 2023

Just regular, granulated sugar. (I'll update the recipe card as well). Enjoy!


Sunday 20th of March 2022

Just made these lemon bars again! Their a hit at my house the family loves them!! Thank you again!


Monday 21st of March 2022

Thank you so much! I'm so happy to hear that you love them.


Sunday 5th of September 2021

is "icing sugar" the same as powdered sugar? so, the filling uses powdered sugar, not granulated sugar, is that correct? thank-you


Sunday 5th of September 2021

Yes, that is correct. Powdered sugar and icing sugar are the same and is what is used for the filling.


Tuesday 23rd of March 2021

The lemon squares are good but I got more of the taste of butter from the crust. I used fresh lemons and lemon zest. Next time I will cut the butter in half for the crust and add even more lemon and zest. Great Recipe but I need more lemon flavor.


Wednesday 24th of February 2021

Absolutely delicious and so easy to make! Thank you so much for sharing! We will be making these again soon!!