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Small Batch Lemon Bars

This is the best lemon bars recipe! Made with a buttery shortbread crust, this small batch recipe yields 3 to 4 small lemon bars - a wonderful amount for anyone cooking for one. The classic lemon filling is the perfect balance of tart and sweet. These bars are so easy to make too!

A stack of three lemon bars on a plate with lemon slices and pink flowers in the background

This lemon bar recipe has been a long time in the making. Lemon bars have always been a favorite dessert of mine.

Years ago, when my kids were all living at home I would make big trays of these citrus bars for my family to enjoy. My kids and my husband loved them and I loved seeing their faces light up when they saw the bars on the counter.

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I've wanted to create a small batch lemon bars recipe for many years but scaling down my large batch recipe was quite a challenge.

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Lemon Bars

Every element of this dessert needed to be perfect - the filling had to be soft but not runny. The flavors had to be balanced; not too tart and not too sweet, and the crust needed to be soft yet sturdy enough to hold the filling.

From time to time I would revisit my small batch recipe notes to see what I could tweak to make the recipe right.

While the bars were always tasty, they were never quite perfect. Until now...

A lemon bar on a plate dusted with powdered sugar

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Homemade Lemon Bars

A few weeks ago, a reader emailed me requesting a recipe for a small batch of lemon bars. This email excited me because frankly, I had forgotten about this recipe. Her email became my "excuse" to pull out my notes and focus on it again.

I love hearing from readers and always want to provide you with new single serving recipes for your favorite foods.

I know that lemon bars are a favorite dessert for many so I'm thrilled to announce that after much testing and adjusting, we now have this wonderful Small Batch Lemon Bars recipe.

These perfect lemon bars have a buttery shortbread crust, a custard-like filling that has just the right balance of tartness and sweet, and a filling that is not runny or too messy.

I've tested the bars using different sized baking dishes to see which ones worked best. In the pictures shown, the lemon bars were baked in a 5-inch baking dish.

I also tested them in smaller round 8.5-ounce ramekins. If you use ramekins this size, the recipe will yield two.

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How To Make Lemon Bars

All great lemon bar recipes begin with a tender, buttery shortbread crust.

See recipe box below for ingredient amounts and full recipe instructions.

For the crust, you will need:

  • softened butter
  • sugar
  • flour
  • cornstarch
  • salt

Note: this shortbread crust is a tried and true crust recipe. You will also find it used in our Pecan Pie For One recipe.

  • Making lemon bars is a two-step recipe. You must first make and bake the crust.
  • Baking the crust without the filling allows to crust to set without absorbing too much of the moisture from the lemon filling which would make the crust soggy.
Dough for lemon bars in a small baking dish on a tray with lemon halves

Lemon Bar Filling

Perfect lemon bars require an absolutely perfect filling and I have to say this filling meets all expectations.

You will need:

  • one egg
  • sugar
  • flour
  • lemon juice
  • After baking the crust, make the filling and pour it over the crust.
Lemon filling for lemon bars in a small baking dish on a tray with lemon halves

Bake for 15 to 17 minutes in a 350° F (177° C) oven.

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How To Store Lemon Bars

Since this is a small batch recipe, you won't have many bars to store. But if you choose to store a couple, just cover the bars and refrigerate. They will stay good for up to 3 days.

Tips For Making The Best Lemon Bars

Follow these easy tips to guarantee the best small batch of lemon bars:

  • The Best Size Dish To Use For A Small Batch Of Lemon Bars
    • Use the baking dish that is recommended in this lemon bars recipe or use one that is very close in size. The size of the dish you use matters greatly when making these bars.
    • If you use a dish that is too large, the bars will be flat and might cook faster.
    • If you use a dish that is too small, the filling might overflow and the baking time might be longer.
    • The dish I use most often in this recipe is a 5-inch baking dish.
    • When I want to make two individual desserts, I will use two 8.5-ounce ramekins.
  • The Perfect Lemon Bars Crust
    • When making the shortbread crust, be sure to press the dough firmly and tightly into the pan. You can do this by using the back of a spoon or the bottom of a drinking glass.
    • Also remember to bake the crust without the filling first. The crust needs a little bit of a head start. Bake it for about 18-20 minutes before adding the filling.
  • The Perfect Lemon Bars
    • I would suggest blending the lemon filling with an electric hand mixer. You could whisk the filling by hand but the sugar won't fully incorporate into the mixture as well. It will still taste incredible, but won't be a bright yellow color.
    • You will know when the lemon bars are fully cooked when the edges begin to brown slightly and the center is no longer jiggly.
    • Allow the bars to cool completely before slicing them into squares. This may take about 30 minutes of cooling time in the pan and then additional time on a cooling rack.
A stack of three lemon bars on a plate with lemon slices and pink flowers in the background

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Favorite Lemon Recipes

If you like these lemon bars, you might also enjoy these wonderful single serving lemon recipes:

For more information on the cooking and baking dishes I use in our “recipes for one”, please visit our FAQ page.

For examples of the dishes used at One Dish Kitchen, please visit our Store page.

3 lemon bars stacked |One Dish Kitchen

Small Batch Lemon Bars

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Cool: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keywords: lemon
Servings: 4 bars
Calories: 225kcal
Author: Joanie Zisk

Ingredients

For The Crust

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons butter , softened
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

For The Lemon Filling

  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice

Instructions

Make The Crust

  • Mix together the butter and sugar until well blended. Add the flour, cornstarch, and salt and mix until combined.
  • Press the dough firmly into the prepared baking dish using the back of a spoon. Bake 18-20 minutes, until lightly golden. Remove from the oven and set aside.

Make The Filling

  • In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, sugar, flour, and lemon juice until very well mixed. Pour the filling over the crust and bake 15-17 minutes, until edges begin to brown lightly and center is not jiggly.
  • Remove from the oven and transfer to a rack to cool completely.
  • Top with powdered sugar, if desired.

Nutrition

Serving: 1bar | Calories: 225kcal | Carbohydrates: 37g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 71mg | Sodium: 156mg | Potassium: 19mg | Sugar: 28g | Vitamin A: 295IU | Vitamin C: 2.1mg | Calcium: 8mg | Iron: 0.7mg

The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

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The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

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About The Author

16 thoughts on “Small Batch Lemon Bars”

  1. I love your website! I am a widow and now live alone. It is so nice to be able to cook a variety of meals and not eat the same thing for days at a time. I’m actually looking forward to meal time now.
    Thank you!

  2. 5 stars
    I made these this afternoon. Hubby absolutely loved them! I used a tip from a previous baker and doubled the filling. I had to adjust my baking time- keep an eye on it and loosely cover with foil so it wouldn’t over brown a near the end. Huge hit at my house. When I make them for my coffee partner, I will probably use the recipe as printed. Thank you so much for sharing.

    1. Thank you for taking the time to let me know you enjoyed the lemon bars, Pat. I actually just made them today for my college-aged daughter who is heading home tonight. Great idea to double the filling, thank you for sharing how that worked for you.

      Joanie

  3. 5 stars
    I made these tonight and they are delicious! Thank you for posting the recipe. I may try with lime juice next time but wouldn’t change anything else.

    1. Thank you, Connie. I’m so happy you loved the lemon bars. I’ve made them with lime juice and they’re spectacular!

  4. Hi Joanie
    I tried this rebels for the first time. It was simple and delicious.
    Thank you so much for sharing this recipe.

  5. Carita Ribich

    5 stars
    I have used arrowroot in this recipe as well as almond flour and it still turns out great! Many thanks for coming up with one dish recipes! I am sure there are many out there besides Susan and myself who would agree!

  6. Sarah Holstein

    5 stars
    These are indeed the perfect lemon bar, the crust was superb & the filling ? I have no words. Well done, & thank you for this gem.

    1. Hi Susan,
      I’ve never used arrowroot powder in place of cornstarch in this recipe so I can’t tell you if it would work. If you try it, please let me know how it worked out.
      Joanie

  7. These are the perfect lemon bards (I’ve been making the full-size recipe for a while now). Love this smaller recipe option – so will my waistline

  8. I love your recipes. I am alone and found it hard to find recipes for just one person. Keep up the great work and keep those recipes coming.

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