Again with the word best. I have said before I feel like it is thrown around way too much, even by me. But these really are the best lemon bars and not just because I say so. But...I say so and lemon bars have been my go-to dessert of choice since pretty much forever.
What makes these THE BEST lemon bars?
A few things. And I will start with the best part for me - a thick AF layer of lemon curd. I have spent most of my life wishing all the lemon bars I was eating had less shortbread crust and more lemon. SO I created just that...the lemon to shortbread ratio is 2:1 on these bars and you won't be sad about it.
And this brings me to the crust. Also what makes these the best. And this lemon bar recipe has a PISTACHIO shortbread crust. You read that right. A buttery shortbread cookie laced with ground pistachios.
If you've never had pistachios and lemons together, well you're missing out. They are just the loveliest of combos. And if you live in Chicago, here is a little secret - Do-Rite donuts sells a Pistachio Meyer Lemon donut and it is a life changer. And also happens to be where I got the idea for these lemon bars with pistachio shortbread.
Is lemon curd difficult to make?
Not even a little bit. I am always baffled that boxed lemon bar mix exists, because making the filling is quick, simple and so so SO much better than I imagine dried powdered lemon curd mix would be.
You will need:
- lemon juice - really try to squeeze your own, the concentrated stuff in the bottle has a metallic taste
- vanilla extract - it really goes well with lemon
So the best lemon bars being extra thick and all, do take longer to cook than your average lemon bar. You don't want to cut into them and have the filling be runny, so make sure you cook them long enough. They may brown a bit on the top and that is A-OK.
Don't skip prebaking the crust a bit because you want that contrast of the slightly crisp, buttery crust and the soft lemon curd.
And my last but not least tip is to poke holes in the shortbread before prebaking, this helps hold the curd to the crust, and helps the crust to not bubble up when baking.
They get a quick dusting of powdered sugar when cooled and should be eaten chilled. Store them in the fridge.
The best lemon bars (with pistachio shortbread crust)
For the shortbread
- ½ cup melted butter
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ⅓ cup of finely chopped UNSALTED pistachios I grind in a food processor
- 1 cup +1 tablespoon of flour
For the lemon curd
- 2 cups sugar
- 6 eggs
- 1 cup of lemon juice
- zest of two lemons or a tablespoon of zest
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons of flour
- Heat oven to 325 and have a rack ready in the middle of the oven. Butter or spray an 8-inch square baking pan. You can also line with parchment after buttering for easy removal of the whole thing.
- Combine all the ingredients except the flour and mix well. Add your flour, and stir, with a wooden spoon or spatula until all combined. It will be thick and seem like a cookie dough. Press the dough into your greased baking dish and push down until basically even, poke your holes with a fork in the crust. Do this part gently, you don't have to poke all the way through the bottom. Bake for 25 minutes or until lightly brown. Remove from the oven.
- For the filling, add your sugar and lemon zest to a bowl and with your flingers smush together - this sounds odd, but it will release the oils in the zest and flavor the sugar nicely with extra lemon. Whisk the four into the sugar. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk until totally combined. Pour this onto the warm shortbread and continue to bake about 45-50 minutes to fully set the filling.
Some other lemon-y favorites of mine