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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 white plate

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.

I've wanted to create a small batch lemon bars recipe for quite some time and I'm very excited to finally share this small batch lemon bars recipe with you today.

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Why This Recipe Works

  • Lemon bars are so easy to make.
  • The buttery crust is similar to a British shortbread cookie which is evenly pressed into a 5-inch square baking dish. It's sturdy enough to support the creamy lemony filling.
  • The filling for these bars is smooth and silky and we've made the filling twice as thick as the crust which makes them so pleasant to eat.
  • This small batch recipe is the perfect size for one or two people.
  • These bars can be baked in a 5-inch baking dish or in two round 8.5-ounce ramekins

Ingredient Notes

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

  • Butter: Softened butter is used in the shortbread crust.
  • Sugar: Granulated sugar is used to make the crust and is also used in the lemon curd filling which adds sweetness and flavor to the pie. It also works with the egg to set up the lemon filling.
  • Flour: All-purpose flour is used in the crust and a small amount is added to the filling. It gives structure to the crust and helps to thicken the lemon filling.
  • Cornstarch: This ingredient is used in the shortbread crust. It provides structure to the shortbread while keeping the cookie crust soft and light.
  • Salt: A small amount is used in the crust for added flavor. I use kosher salt in the crust because this is the type of salt I use in just about all of my recipes. This type of salt enhances the flavor of foods without making them taste too salty. Kosher salt has no iodine, which can lead to a bitter taste to foods salted with table salt. You may use 1/8 teaspoon of table salt instead.
  • Egg: One egg adds structure to the bars.
  • Lemon juice: I highly recommend using lemon juice squeezed from fresh lemons. 

How To Make This Recipe

  • Make the crust: In a small bowl, 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.

Baking the crust without the filling allows the crust to set without absorbing too much of the moisture from the lemon filling which would make the crust soggy.

shortbread cookie crust in a small red square baking dish next to sqeezed lemons
  • 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.
lemon bar filling before baking in a small dish
  • Bake for 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.
one square lemon bar on a green plate

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Expert Tips

  • 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. 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.
    • 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.
  • To make it easier to remove the lemon bars from the baking dish, you can line the dish with parchment paper and leave the edges longer. This helps to easily pull out the bars by lifting up the parchment paper.
  • 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.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How Do You Soften Butter?

The butter needs to be softened to make the shortbread crust. Softened butter should still be cool to the touch but when you press your finger into the butter, your finger will leave an indentation. The best way to soften your butter is to put it out on the kitchen counter for a half hour before you want to use it. Another way to quickly soften butter is to put the cold butter in the microwave for 10 to 15 seconds. If you use this method, be sure to watch carefully - you don't want the butter to melt at all.

What Should Lemon Bars Look Like When They Are Done?

After the recommended bake time, the edges of the bars should be golden and the filling should be set and no longer wobbly in the center. If the filling looks loose or runny, you will need to bake the bars a little longer.

How Do You 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 up to 3 days.

Ways To Use Leftover Ingredients

If you have any ingredients left over from this lemon bars recipe, you might like to consider using them in any of these single serving or small batch recipes:

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If you would like additional 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.

If you’ve tried these lemon bars or any recipe on One Dish Kitchen please let me know how you liked it by rating the recipe and telling me about it in the comment section below.

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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, lemon bars
Servings: 4 bars
Calories: 225kcal
Author: Joanie Zisk

Ingredients

For The Crust

  • 2 ½ tablespoons salted butter , softened
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • ¼ cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • teaspoon salt

For The Lemon Filling

  • 1 large egg
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 ½ tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice
  • Optional: powdered sugar, for topping

Instructions

Make The Crust

  • In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the butter and sugar until well blended. Add the flour, cornstarch, and salt and mix until combined.
  • Press the dough firmly into a lightly buttered baking dish using the back of a spoon or your fingertips. 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.

Notes

Expert Tips
  • 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. 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.
    • 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.
  • To make it easier to remove the lemon bars from the baking dish, you can line the dish with parchment paper and leave the edges longer. This helps to easily pull out the bars by lifting up the parchment paper.
  • 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.

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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About The Author

23 thoughts on “Small Batch Lemon Bars”

  1. 5 stars
    The lemon bars are fantastic! I’m glad the recipe makes a few otherwise I would probably eat the whole pan in a day or so.❤️

  2. small batch lemon bars are the best i have ever had, would like to make them everyday. Thank you, thank you for a fabulous recipe.

  3. Stefanie Neubauer

    I am a gardener and recently, I was only able to produce one meyer lemon on my indoor lemon tree. So this question brought me to your website, what can I cook with one lemon? I found your recipe to be perfectly scaled for one lemon, but still with all the full flavor and decadence of a true lemon bar. I wrote about the experience on my blog and introduced my readers to your wonderful website and recipes…For when we gardeners have “issues”, and are forced to cook smaller batches but still want to treat our hard-earned vegetables to a recipe that is worthy of them!

    https://tubtotable.com/2020/11/01/even-if-you-only-have-one-lousy-meyer-lemon-you-can-still-make-lemon-bars

    1. Hi Stefanie, I’m so happy to hear that you enjoyed the lemon bars. Thank you so much for taking the time to let me know and for sharing our site with your readers. I’m intrigued by the idea of an indoor garden. My husband and I will be relocating soon to a part of the country where it snows so an indoor garden is very appealing to me. I’m looking forward to learning more from your site. Thank you again.

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