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Shortbread fingers stacked on white surface

Easy Lemon Shortbread

  • Author: Paula Montenegro
  • Prep Time: 85
  • Cook Time: 45
  • Total Time: 2 hours 10 minutes
  • Yield: 16 sticks 1x
  • Category: Cookies
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: International


Shortbread is a glorious mix of butter, sugar, and flour. I added lemon zest and it became even better, with a nice zing cutting through that buttery amazingness. The dough can be refrigerated for a day before baking and the baked shortbread keeps very well. A great holiday idea!


Units Scale
  • 3/4 cup (175g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 and 1/4 cups (175g) all-purpose or cake flour
  • Large pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest
  • 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract (drops, literally)
  • 1/2 cup (70g) powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1-2 tablespoon granulated sugar, for topping


  1. Have ready a 9-inch (20x20cm) square baking pan that has been buttered or sprayed with baking spray.
  2. Line it with parchment paper: take a large piece of parchment paper of about 8 inches (almost as wide as the pan) and cover the bottom and two sides of the pan. The other two sides will remain buttered but not lined with paper. This will help you remove the shortbread after it's baked. 
  3. In a large bowl mix soft butter with the lemon zest and vanilla.
  4. Add the powdered sugar and incorporate well so there are no lumps. I recommend sifting the sugar before adding, or sifting it directly over the butter mixture as I do.
  5. Add the flour and salt in 2 parts, mixing with the spatula until it is smooth, well combined and no dry spots remain. 
  6. Transfer the dough to the prepared pan, scattering small amounts on the bottom. 
  7. With your hand, lightly pat the dough until it covers the whole surface. Make sure the edges are covered. Make it as even as possible, but relax because it will not be very smooth. 
  8. Refrigerate the whole pan, covered in plastic wrap, for 1 hour or up to 24 hours. 
  9. Preheat oven to 325°F/160*C.
  10. Sprinkle the granulated sugar over the top before baking.
  11. Bake the shortbread for 40-45 minutes, until the top is dry, it has puffed a little and is beginning to color. You can leave a couple more minutes if you want a more golden shortbread. Just don’t let it dry out.
  12. Let cool 10 minutes on a wire rack and carefully cut into sticks or squares o triangles with a smooth bladed knife. 
  13. Let cool on the cooling rack completely, lift the whole square of the pan with the aid of the parchment paper, and carefully break each piece. 
  14. Keep in airtight cookie jars or tins.


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.

Dough: once you have it patted in the pan, the unbaked shortbread can be kept for 24 hours in the fridge, or frozen for up to a month, always well wrapped. Bake directly from the freezer. 

Make-ahead: shortbread keeps well for several days in airtight tins or jars. 

Flavor variations: use another citrus, add a teaspoon of your favorite spice, drizzle a lemon glaze after the shortbread is baked and cooled down, add a tablespoon of ground nuts to the dough.


  • Serving Size: 1/16
  • Calories: 134
  • Sugar: 4.5 g
  • Sodium: 45.1 mg
  • Fat: 8.7 g
  • Carbohydrates: 12.9 g
  • Protein: 1.2 g
  • Cholesterol: 22.9 mg

Keywords: lemon shortbread