Lemon shortbread cookies are a lemony twist on a classic shortbread cookie recipe complete with a simple lemon glaze. They’re a wonderful addition to any holiday dessert tray any time of year!
Love lemon desserts? Be sure to make these lemon classic bars and this lemon poke cake too!
Table of contents
Easy Lemon Shortbread Cookies
Spring is around the corner so the sun shines just a little longer. What better way to celebrate that than a deliciously bright and zesty lemon shortbread cookies recipe?
These lemony buttery cookies melt in your mouth and have a hint of fresh lemon zest in the cookie and fresh lemon juice in the icing. The balance of sweet and tart is best described as similar in flavor to lemonades Girl Scout Cookies if you’ve ever had them.
Unlike lemonades (the other lemon-flavored Girl Scout Cookies) which are fruitier in taste, the subtle refreshing lemon flavor is bright and vibrant without being too overwhelmingly sour.
They are the perfect lemon cookies for all you lemon lovers out there and are so easy to make too!
For the Cookies
- Unsalted butter, room temperature: Lemon shortbread cookies get their buttery, melt-in-your-mouth texture from the high-fat content thanks to the butter. It also helps to deliver the signature crumbly bite.
- All-purpose flour: It’s important to measure flour correctly in any baking recipe. Flour gives the cookie its structure and also adds to the perfect texture.
- Powdered sugar: Delivers sweetness which is essential in any shortbread cookie but especially to counteract the tartness. Using powdered sugar, otherwise known as confectioner’s sugar, helps to prevent the cookies from spreading or becoming too crispy.
- Cornstarch: The secret to helping prevent the cookies from becoming too crumbly. Shortbread is known for its crumbly texture, but sometimes we want them a little less crumbly and a little softer.
- Lemon zest: You’ll need the zest of one lemon. Don’t forget to wash it well first!
For the Icing
- Powdered sugar: Dissolves in lemon juice easily without leaving granules behind and adds a deliciously sweet balance to the citrus.
- Lemon juice: Freshly squeezed from the lemon you just zested.
- Yellow food coloring: This is completely optional for increasing the yellow color in the icing.
1. Add a splash of vanilla or vanilla bean paste to enhance the flavors.
2. If you prefer an even softer cookie, adding egg yolks to the batter can increase the softness in the dough.
3. Top with festive sprinkles before the icing sets. Yellow or pastel for Easter, green and red for Christmas, etc.
4. Omit the icing on top and dip them in melted chocolate for a chocolaty lemon flavor.
5. Add some chopped nuts to the batter for extra crunch.
6. For extra lemon flavor, drop some lemon extract into the dough mixture.
7. Sprinkle the glaze with a little coarse granulated sugar.
8. Add some white chocolate chips to the batter.
How to Make this Recipe
With a short list of simple ingredients, the entire batch of lemon shortbread cookies is ready in just over 20 minutes. An easy choice when it comes to what cookies to bake all year!
Step 1: In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment or large mixing bowl, beat the softened butter with an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy.
Step 2: To a separate mixing bowl, add the flour, powdered sugar, cornstarch, and lemon zest.
I find using a Microplane just over the bowl the easiest way, but if you have a box grater you can use it too.
Step 3: Gradually add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and beat on low speed, scraping down the sides as you go, until all of the ingredients are fully incorporated.
Step 4: Transfer the dough to a piece of waxed paper, plastic wrap or parchment paper and shape it into a square. Wrap it up and chill the dough for at least 2 hours.
Step 5: Place the chilled dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll it out to about ¼” – ½” thick. Use round cookie cutters and transfer the cut outs to a prepared cookie sheet with 2” of space between each one.
Step 6: Bake cookies in a preheated oven at 375° F for 11-14 minutes until barely golden brown on the bottom. Allow them to cool completely on a wire cooling rack before adding any icing.
Step 7: Make the icing in a small bowl by whisking together the lemon juice and powdered sugar. Flip the cookies over so you’re icing the bottoms and spread the lemon icing to the edges of each one with the spoon.
Allow them to set on the wire rack then enjoy!
- Don’t forget to bring the butter to room temperature ahead of time.
- If you’re not ready to bake yet, make the shortbread dough ahead of time and keep it chilled for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 2 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight and continue as directed.
- Use any favorite cookie cutters you want depending on the occasion.
- Press a design into the cookie tops before baking. The icing won’t cover it up, since the icing goes on the bottom!
- Just bake until slightly golden around the edge. Any more than that and it can alter the taste. They will also continue to bake a bit on the baking sheet once out of the oven.
- These cookies are just as tasty without the glaze, so feel free to omit it if preferred.
Can I make more than one batch?
You can! Just remember not to bake your second batch on a baking sheet that is already hot. Either wait until it’s completely cooled to use the same one, or use a completely different one and bake them at the same time.
Ways to serve lemon shortbread cookies?
I could eat these all day and truth be told I might have already gone that route.
Sometimes I’ll have a cookie with my morning cup of coffee or tea. They’re great for an afternoon snack, or to pack in school lunch boxes, and of course, they’re perfect as a dessert with a scoop of ice cream!
Do I need to chill the dough?
Yes! Do not skip the chill time. There is a lot of butter in these cookies, so to keep them from spreading the dough needs a chance to set so the butter can solidify again. That way, it’ll take longer to melt in the oven, preventing the cookies from spreading too thin.
What if my dough is too hard after chilling?
Just let it sit and warm up a bit. It shouldn’t take too long.
How to store them?
Keep them in an airtight container on the counter for up to 5 days. They don’t need to be refrigerated, although if you like cold cookies, you can keep them chilled.
Can I freeze shortbread cookies?
These freeze really well. I suggest layering them with parchment paper or wax paper in a freezer-safe bag so they don’t freeze stuck together. Keep them frozen for up to 2 months.
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Lemon Shortbread Cookies
For the cookies
- 1 cup unsalted butter room temperature
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ cup powdered sugar
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- 1 lemon zested
For the lemon icing
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- Juice of one lemon
- Yellow food coloring optional
- In a large mixing bowl, add the softened butter and beat on medium speed with electric mixer with a paddle attachment for about 5 minutes until fluffy.1 cup unsalted butter
- In a separate mixing bowl, add the flour, powdered sugar, cornstarch, and lemon zest.1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, ½ cup powdered sugar, ¼ cup cornstarch, 1 lemon
- Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter and beat on medium speed until all of the dry ingredients are incorporated, be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl after each addition.
- Place the the dough on a piece of waxed paper or parchment paper and shape it into a square. Wrap the paper around the dough and refrigerate for 2 or more hours.
- When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375° F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Place the chilled dough on a lightly floured surface and roll it out to about ¼ to ½ inch thick.
- Using a round cookie cutter, cut the cookies and place them onto the prepared baking sheet 2 inches apart.
- Bake for 11 – 14 minutes and allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet completely.
- If icing, transfer the cookies to a wire rack and flip the cookies over so the bottoms are facing up.
- In a small bowl, add the lemon juice and powdered sugar and whisk together.1 cup powdered sugar, Juice of one lemon, Yellow food coloring
- Spoon the icing over each cookie and spread it to the edges with the spoon.
- Allow the icing to set completely
Nutritional facts are estimates and are provided as a courtesy to the reader. Please utilize your own brand nutritional values to double check against our estimates. Nutritional values are calculated via a third party. Changing ingredients, amounts or cooking technique will alter the estimated nutritional calculations.
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