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A stack of lemon cookies on greenish wood board, several cookies in background

Lemon Shortbread Cookies

A twist on our very popular lemon shortbread recipe, this 5-ingredient recipe makes a more delicate, crisp cookie with a melt-in-your-mouth quality. The lemon flavor can be adjusted to your palate and is topped with a zesty powdered sugar glaze. The unbaked dough can be frozen for a month and it keeps well for a week or more after they're baked.

  • Total Time: 1 hour 25 minutes
  • Yield: 24 small 1x

Ingredients

Units Scale

For the cookies:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (cake flour also works)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Pinch of salt

For the glaze:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2-3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Extra lemon zest, to decorate

Instructions

  1. Use a bowl and spatula, an electric beater, or a stand mixer. If using the last two, make sure you beat at the lowest speed. 

For the cookies:

  1. Mix soft butter with powdered sugar in a large bowl. 
  2. Add the grated zest and lemon juice. Mix well. 
  3. Add the flour and salt. Do it in 2 parts, partially mixing the first before adding the second part. This will help integrate everything better. 
  4. Don’t over mix at this point. We don’t want to overwork the dough after the flour is added as it will make the cookies tough. 
  5. The final cookie dough is soft, pliable, and smooth. 
  6. Wrap in plastic wrap or freezer sheets and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 3 days. 
  7. Preheat the oven at 350°F/180°C.
  8. Have ready a buttered baking sheet. Or line it with parchment paper. 
  9. Roll the cold dough on a lightly floured surface. If too cold, wait 15 minutes and see how it goes. Don’t let it come to room temperature or anything like it; it should be cold but able to be rolled. 
  10. As you roll, make 1/4 turns and make sure it’s not sticking to the surface. You can also turn it over once during rolling. 
  11. Roll it between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick. 
  12. Cut shapes with your chosen cookie cutter or cutters and place on the prepared cookie sheet leaving an inch or so between them. 
  13. Bake cookies for 10 minutes, turning the sheet front to back at mid baking. 
  14. Watch closely after 6-7 minutes as these cookies bake quickly. They should be dry and barely colored. 
  15. Let cool completely on a wire cooling rack before glazing. 

For the glaze:

  1. Mix the powdered sugar with 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice until well mixed.
  2. Keep adding lemon juice until it's thin as maple syrup and completely smooth. 
  3. Put the cookies on a wire rack on a clean surface, like the kitchen counter.
  4. Drizzle the glaze over the cookies and let them drip down. You can collect the drips before they dry and use them again. 
  5. Sprinkle with some lemon zest if you want, let the glaze dry, and eat. 
  6. Baked cookies, before glazing, keep in a metal tin or tight cookie jar for a week or more. 

Notes

Organization: always read the recipe first and make sure you have all the ingredients, at the right temperatures, and also the rest of the equipment and space to make it. This will make the process so much easier!

Baking time: keep in mind that all ovens and pans are different, even if they look the same or very similar. The baking time in my recipes is as accurate as it can be, but it might take you more or less time. You can use a thermometer that is placed inside the oven (like the OXO oven thermometer) to check that your oven is at the right temperature. I recommend you keep track of how your oven works and what tiny details you might need to adjust. 

Lemon flavor: it takes quite a lot of zest and juice to make the lemon flavor shine. You can also add some pure lemon extract to the cookie dough or to the glaze for an extra boost. 

Vanilla extract: I decided not to use it so you could taste the lemon more. But you can add a few drops of pure vanilla extract or paste, 1/4 teaspoon or so. 

Refrigeration time: it's essential that you refrigerate the dough for 1 hour (at least) before rolling and baking. It will help the cookies keep their shape and achieve that 'short' quality that will make them snap when you bite them.

Large batch: you can easily double or triple this recipe. Divide into two pieces (or three if making a lot of cookie dough) so you roll it a piece at a time and don't worry about it losing temperature.

Freezing: it keeps well frozen for a month. Maybe more. Always well wrapped. Check out our Freezer Baking guide with more tips. 

Flavorings: you can take this basic shortbread cookie recipe and flavor it with another citrus like orange or lime, add some spices (ground cinnamon or cardamom), or a tablespoon of your favorite liqueur.

Glaze: we love a simple glaze with lemon juice, but you can also dip them in a chocolate glaze for a completely different flavor combination. 

  • Author: Paula Montenegro
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Refrigeration time: 60 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Category: Cookies
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: International

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1/24
  • Calories: 87
  • Sugar: 7.4 g
  • Sodium: 25.1 mg
  • Fat: 3.9 g
  • Carbohydrates: 12.7 g
  • Protein: 0.7 g
  • Cholesterol: 10.2 mg

Keywords: lemon shortbread cookies