The best homemade lemon bars! These lemon bars feature a pistachio shortbread crust that’s crisp, nutty and deliciously buttery. The shortbread crust gets flooded with my go-to honey lemon curd that’s bright, zippy and slightly floral thanks to the honey.

a lemon bar dusted with confectioners' sugar set in a white plate with a fork

Tips for Making a Great Nutty Shortbread Crust

These lemon bars feature the most delicious buttery shortbread crust made with toasted pistachios and whole-wheat flour. It’s a simple crust recipe but it packs major flavor. Here are a few things to keep in mind when making these lemon bars with shortbread crust:

  • Use raw, unsalted shelled pistachios (raw almonds also work). Avoid using roasted and salted pistachios. We’ll be toasting the nuts and adding salt—two variables I want you to be able to control.
  • Toast the pistachios. Toasting the nuts prior to processing them into a flour is important for two things. One, it unlocks and deepens their flavor, which will make the crust truly taste pistachio-y! And two, toasting the nuts makes for a crispier crust. 
  • Cool the nuts before blending. It’s SO important to let the nuts cool prior to processing them into a flour. Processing warm nuts will result in nut butter. To speed up the cooling process, transfer the nuts to a small plate or bowl and toss in the freezer for 5 or so minutes.
  • Use a combination of granulated sugar and confectioners’ sugar (powdered sugar). I tested this crust recipe with just about every kind of sugar and natural sweetener you could imagine. And the best results? Plain ‘ol granulated sugar and powdered sugar. Granulated sugar creates crunch (as opposed to brown sugar which makes the crust slightly chewy) while the confectioners’ sugar adds tenderness.
  • Let the crust cool completely before adding warm lemon curd. This is a departure from most lemon bar recipes which call for pouring warm lemon curd right over a warm crust. First of all, those crusts never get crispy enough for me. And two, I found the warm ground nuts needed to cool completely in order to crisp up before being topped with curd.
Lemon bars dusted with confectioners' sugar and set on a table

How to Make Shortbread Crust (Step-by-Step Photos

step by step images showing how to make a shortbread crust
Pulse the pistachios and sugars into a fine flour. Add flour, salt and cardamom and pulse to combine.
step by step images showing how to make a shortbread crust
Add butter and process until mixture resembles wet sand. Add an egg yolk and process until a dough forms.
step by step images showing how to make a shortbread crust
Press into a foil-lined baking pan.

Honey Lemon Curd

My go-to recipe for lemon curd is made with honey instead of white sugar. For one, I love using natural sweeteners whenever I can. And two, it adds so much more flavor to the curd than granulated sugar. Honey adds a slight floral note which pairs wonderfully with the pistachios and cardamom in the shortbread crust. 

This curd recipe uses quite a bit of lemon zest—a packed quarter of a cup! It sounds like a lot, and it is, but this is what gives the curd most of its flavor. Once the curd is cooked, you’ll pass it through a fine-mesh sieve to strain out all of the zest. The cooking process extracts all of the lovely lemon flavor from the zest so it’s no longer needed (plus no one wants to eat all that zest). 

lemon bar on a white plate with a bite taken out

Ingredients Needed for Lemon Shortbread Bars

  • raw, shelled and unsalted pistachios (need ¾ cup)
  • granulated sugar 
  • confectioners’ sugar (aka powdered sugar)
  • white whole-wheat flour (regular whole-wheat will also work, but the crust will be a bit darker)
  • kosher salt
  • ground cardamom 
  • 1 dozen large eggs
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • honey (½ cup)
  • 6 lemons
Lemon bars dusted with confectioners' sugar and set on a table

Want more lemon recipes? I’ve got ’em!

If you give these pistachio lemon bars a try, be sure to let me know! Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo & tag @zestfulkitchen on Instagram. I love hearing about and seeing your ZK creations!

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Lemon bars dusted with confectioners' sugar and set on a table

Lemon Bars with Pistachio Shortbread Crust

  • Author: Lauren Grant
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cooling time: 2 hours
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 hours
  • Yield: 9 bars 1x
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baking

Description

These pistachio lemon bars are bright, zippy, nutty and buttery. A flavor upgrade from classic lemon bars, the crust features toasted pistachios, whole-wheat flour and a dash of cardamom. Why stop there? Use honey in the lemon curd to add a floral note that pairs well with the pistachios.


Ingredients

Scale

Pistachio Shortbread Crust

  • ¾ cup (100g) raw, shelled and unsalted pistachios 
  • ¼ cup (60g) granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons (14g) confectioners’ sugar + more for dusting
  • ¾ cup (100g) white whole-wheat flour
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt 
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom 
  • 1 large egg yolk (20g)
  • 4 tablespoons (60g) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes  

Honey Lemon Curd

  • 5 lemons
  • 8 large egg yolks (150g)
  • 2 large eggs (100g)
  • ½ cup (175g) honey 
  • pinch kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced

Instructions

Heat oven to 350ºF (176ºC) with rack set in middle position. 

Make foil sling for 8-inch square baking pan by folding 2 long sheets of foil to be 8 inches wide each. Lay sheets of foil in pan perpendicular to each other, fold extra foil over edges of pan. Push foil flush to pan, into corners and up sides. Coat with nonstick spray. 

Arrange pistachios in an even layer on a baking sheet. Toast in oven until fragrant and starting to brown, 5–8 minutes. Let pistachios cool completely. (I pop mine in the freezer for 10 minutes to quicken the process).

Process pistachios, sugar, and confectioners’ sugar in food processor until pistachios are finely ground, about 20 seconds. Add flour, salt and cardamom and pulse until combined, about 5 pulses. 

Scatter 4 tablespoons butter over top and process until mixture resembles damp sand, about 15 seconds. With processor running, add yolk and process until dough forms a rough ball, about 15 seconds. 

Transfer mixture to prepared foil-lined pan and press firmly into an even layer. Bake until crust is fragrant, golden brown all over, and dry to touch, 20–25 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking. Let crust cool completely; at least 1 hour. 

For the filling, zest lemons using a microplane; zest should measure a packed ¼ cup. Juice lemons and measure out ¾ cup juice (195g). Add lemon zest and lemon juice to a medium saucepan with egg yolks, eggs, honey, and a pinch of salt; whisk together until smooth. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with whisk or rubber spatula, until mixture thickens slightly and registers 165–168°F, about 8 minutes.

Immediately remove saucepan from heat and stir in 4 tablespoons butter until completely incorporated. Strain lemon curd through fine-mesh sieve into a bowl then pour warm curd over cooled crust; slightly turn and rotate pan to even out filling in pan.

Bake until filling is shiny and opaque and center jiggles slightly when shaken, 12–16 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking. Let bars cool completely in pan, about 2 hours. Using foil overhang, lift bars from pan and transfer to cutting board. Cut into squares and chill until ready to serve. Dust with confectioners’ sugar (optional) and serve.



Notes

Storage: For the best quality, enjoy these lemon squares  on the same day as they’re made. I like to chill them once they have completely cooled at room temperature. Stored in the refrigerator, these will last up to three days. Stored any longer and the crust will start to soften and the lemon curd will start to weep.


Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 bar

Keywords: Lemon bars with shortbread crust, Lemon shortbread bars, Pistachio lemon bars

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About The Author

Lauren Grant is a professional culinary food scientist, food writer, recipe developer, and food photographer. Lauren is a previous magazine editor and test kitchen developer and has had work published in major national publications including Diabetic Living Magazine, Midwest Living Magazine, Cuisine at Home Magazine, EatingWell.com, AmericasTestKitchen.com, and more.

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Comments

  1. Really enjoyed the tangy lemon flavor with the hint of cardamom. I like that it’s not cloyingly sweet. Very easy to make. I assume you add the chilled butter to the curd after heating on stove. Also, I saw you recommended to put curd through sieve before baking to remove lemon zest but it’s not mentioned in the recipe. Thanks

    1. Hi Karen! I’m so happy to hear you enjoyed the lemon bars and that you were happy with the sweetness. And goodness, the amount of times I tested this recipe you’d think I’d have the instructions written to a T. I’ve updated the recipe with those missing steps—thanks for the heads up on that!