If you're a lemon lover, you'll love these buttery Lemon Shortbread Cookies. These buttery cookies have a subtle lemon flavor from the fresh lemon zest and are the perfect melt-in-your-mouth cookie when you want something just a little sweet.
These easy shortbread cookies are based on my classic shortbread cookies recipe and come together with just a handful of simple ingredients you probably have in your pantry.
The cookies keep for weeks when stored properly and you can make the dough well in advance for on-demand treats! Plus they are a great year-round cookie and perfect anytime with a cup of coffee or tea.
The basic shortbread cookie recipe is so good that I use it as the base for some of my most popular cookies: Cranberry and Pistachio Shortbread Cookie and one of my favorites: Apricot Pistachio Shortbread Cookie.
The Ingredients for These Shortbread Cookies
Below are the ingredients for this recipe:
- Unbleached All-Purpose Flour. Use all-purpose unbleached flour for this recipe.
- Unsalted Butter. Butter adds flavor and produces a nice tender cookie. You can use salted butter, but don't add the additional salt that the recipe calls for. It's also important to use a good quality butter that tastes good. Make sure to use room temperature butter for the best texture and to ensure the dough comes together.
- Granulated Sugar. Granulated sugar produces nice crisp edges and helps with the light browning on the bottom edge of the cookie.
- Fresh Lemon Zest. The lemon zest contributes to the burst of lemon flavor you taste when you bite into these delicious cookies.
- Fresh Lemon Juice. The lemon juice bumps up the flavor in this delicious butter cookie.
- Egg Yolk. The egg yolk adds tenderness to the cookie, making them softer.
- Kosher Salt. The salt bumps up all the other flavors.
These cookies have a 3-2-1 ratio which refers to the ratio between flour, butter, and sugar - 12 ounces of flour, 8 ounces of butter, and 4 ounces of sugar. This ratio ensures that the cookies won't spread and they will hold their shape. This recipe will produce some of the best cookies you've ever tasted.
How to Make Easy Lemon Shortbread Cookies
Place the sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Zest the lemons into the sugar and use your fingers to rub the zest into the sugar and make lemon sugar.
Add the butter and salt to the lemon sugar and beat on medium speed with the paddle attachment until the ingredients are combined and the mixture is creamy.
Add the egg yolk and lemon juice, and mix on medium speed until the egg yolk and juice are incorporated. Add the flour to the sugar-butter mixture and mix on medium-low speed until the flour is mixed in and the dough starts to come together.
The dough will initially appear crumbly, but will eventually come together into large pieces. Mixing the flour in at a low speed is important to prevent the development of too much gluten.
Pour the shortbread dough onto a lightly floured surface and use your hands to lightly knead the dough until it forms a uniform mass. Roll the dough until it's 1/4-inch thick. The dough will have a crumbly texture at first, but will eventually come together as you knead it.
Use a 2-inch round cookie cutter (or your favorite cookie cutters) to cut out the cookies and reroll the dough scraps to cut out the remaining cookies.
Chill the unbaked shortbread cookie dough for at least 20 minutes or up to 2 days before baking.
Bake the cookies at 300 degrees F on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. If you want a little color on your cookie, increase the oven temperature to 325 degrees and start checking the cookie after 15 minutes.
The cookies are done when you see a little browning on the bottom edge of the cookies. Remove the cookies from the oven, allow them to cool briefly on the baking pan then move them to a wire rack to finish cooling.
How to Store These Shortbread Cookies
Store the cookies in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. Shortbread cookies keep remarkable well, so they can be enjoyed for a long period of time. These cookies also ship well if you want to send them to friends and family.
Pro Tips for Making This Recipe
- Weigh the ingredients. The ratio of flour, butter and sugar are the key to the cookies keeping their shape. Too much flour will result in a dry, crumbly cookie and too little flour will result in a cookie that spreads.
- Use great tasting butter. The taste of the butter is very prominent once the cookies are baked so make sure your butter tastes great.
- Bake the cookies on parchment paper instead of Silpat. I noticed that the bottom of the cookies flare out just a little bit when baked on Silpat
- When baking multiple batches, don't place unbaked cookies on a warm baking sheet.
Recipe - Frequently Asked Questions
The cookie dough can also be frozen for up to 2 months after cutting out the shapes. Freeze the cookies in a single layer on a baking sheet and then place the cookies in a freezer bag. When baking the cookies straight from the freezer allow an extra 5 minutes for baking.
I haven't tested this recipe with gluten-free flour so I don't know how they will turn out.
Shortbread Cookie Variations
If you like this variation on my classic shortbread cookie recipe please try these other variations on the blog:
There are multiple variations that you can try on your own and here are just a few ideas:
- Make Vanilla Shortbread Cookies by adding vanilla extract and vanilla beans to the recipe.
- Add your favorite spice: cinnamon, cardamom, or nutmeg
- Add chopped nuts, dried fruit, or dark chocolate
- Make Brown Sugar Shortbread Cookies by replacing the granulated sugar with light or dark brown sugar.
- Dip the cookie in dark chocolate or white chocolate.
The possibilities are endless and this is a great cookie recipe to experiment with. The cookie dough can also be frozen for up to 2 months after cutting out the shapes. Freeze the cookies in a single layer on a baking sheet and then place the cookies in a freezer bag. When baking the cookies straight from the freezer allow an extra 5 minutes for baking.
I hope you try these amazing shortbread cookies. If you do make it please rate the recipe below. And please subscribe to the baking newsletter to get updates on the newest recipes.
Lemon Shortbread Cookies
- 8 ounces (227 grams) unsalted butter room temperature
- 3 teaspoons lemon zest
- 4 ounces (113 grams) granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 large (20 grams) egg yolk
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 12 ounces (340 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
- Place the sugar in the bowl of an electric stand mixer. Zest the lemons directly onto the sugar, until there is about three (3) teaspoons of zest.
- Place the butter, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment and mix on medium speed until the mixture is smooth, about 2 minutes.
- Stop the mixer, scrape down the bowl, add the egg yolk and lemon juice and mix in on medium speed just until the ingredients are incorporated.
- Add all the flour and mix it in on low speed just until all the flour is mixed in. The dough will be crumbly at this point. Increase the mixer speed to medium and mix until the dough has completely come together and forms a dough.
- Turn the cookie dough out onto a lightly floured surface. You can also turn it out onto a large piece of parchment paper or Silpat. Use your hands to shape the dough into a rectangle and lightly flour the top of the dough. Do not use too much flour, just enough to keep the rolling pin from sticking.
- Roll the dough out to 1/4-inch thick. Use a 2-inch round cookie cutter to cut out the cookies. Place the cookies on parchment-lined cookie sheet or board. Prick each cookie in the center with a fork. Pricking the cookies will ensure that the steam releases as they bake and you'll end up with an even cookie.
- Chill the dough in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes. Chilling the dough will help the cookies hold their shape when baking.
- Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Line a half baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the cookies on the baking sheet 1-1/2 inches apart.
- Bake the cookies for 20-22 minutes. The bottom of the cookies will be lightly golden brown.
- Take the cookies out of the oven and allow them to cool for about 5 minutes on the cookie sheet before moving them to a wire rack to completely cool.
- At this point the cookies are ready to eat.
- Store the cookies in an airtight container for up to two weeks.