Lemon Shortbread Cookies are quick, easy, and melt-in your-mouth cookie! Shortbread are the best cookies; the bright lemon flavor is a great addition to a Christmas cookie tray, Easter dessert table, or anytime!
Who doesn’t love shortbread cookies? Great as a summer cookie, a year-round favorite. Try my famous Scottish Shortbread Cookies, these Lemon Sandwich Cookies, Marbled Sugar Cookies, and these Pan-banging Sugar Cookies!
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Why You Will Love This Recipe for Lemon Shortbread Cookies
- Delicious Cookie Recipe – Enjoy a light melt-in-your-mouth texture with lemony hints and simple ingredients.
- Year-Round Favorite – Buttery lemon shortbread cookies is perfect for the holiday season but great all year long!
- Quick Cookie Recipe – It only takes 30 minutes to make shortbread, 15 minutes to prep, and 15 minutes to bake!
Simple Ingredients for Lemon Shortbread Cookie Recipe
- Butter | Room-temperature real butter is essential to a perfect shortbread cookie recipe. Add ¼ teaspoon of kosher salt if using unsalted butter.
- Powdered sugar | Also called confectioners sugar and, icing sugar instead of using granulated sugar.
- Flour | I use organic, unbleached all-purpose flour in my baking.
- Salt | A dash of kosher salt contrasts and highlights the sweeter notes.
- Lemon | I recommend using fresh squeezed lemon juice for the best results. You also need fresh lemons for lemon zest, which adds a vibrant lemon flavor; use less for a subtle lemon flavor.
- Lemon icing | Make a batch of easy homemade lemon icing with the juice from one fresh lemon, powdered sugar, a splash of vanilla extract and a pinch of lemon zest, if desired.
How to Make the Best Lemon Shortbread Recipe
Step 1 | Combine dough ingredients and chill
First, add butter, lemon juice, salt, and powdered sugar to a stand mixer or a large bowl with a hand mixer. Use the paddle attachment to cream the ingredients until light and fluffy at least 4-5 minutes on medium-high speed, scrape down the sides of the bowl.
In a medium bowl, sift the flour and the salt together. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture a little at a time on low speed until just incorporated.
Use your hands to shape the shortbread dough into two discs. Wrap them in plastic wrap and chill for about half an hour.
- If preferred, lemon shortbread may also be made in a food processor, add the ingredients listed and pulse just until the dough is combined for the best flavor.
Step 2 | Roll dough and cut out cookies
Next, preheat the oven to 325° F (165° C). After at least 30 minutes of chilling, take the dough disc out of the fridge one at a time. On a lightly floured surface (or use powdered sugar) roll the dough to a little over ¼ inch thickness.
Grab a cookie cutter, dip it in powdered sugar to prevent it from sticking, and begin cutting out the cookies. Place the cookies on parchment paper-lined baking sheets as you go. The recipe yields about 36 cookies, depending on the cookie cutters’ size and shape and the dough’s thickness.
Step 3 | Bake cookies and cool
Slip the cookie sheet into the preheated oven and bake for about 8-10 minutes. Once the edges of the shortbread cookies are just turning golden brown, remove them from the oven and let them cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes. Then, carefully move the cookies to a wire rack to cool. As the cookies cool down, make the delicious lemon icing.
Step 4 | Make icing, and enjoy!
In a medium bowl, add the powdered sugar, vanilla extract and lemon juice. Whisk the ingredients, adding more lemon juice if needed.
The icing should have a consistency like honey – a little thick but still runny. Drizzle the icing over the cookies when completely cooled, sprinkle with fresh lemon zest if desired or these fun snowflake sprinkles, and dig in!
- To make the same shapes as I did, I recommend a 6 cm Fluted Circle Round Cookie Cutter, and I used this cookie cutter set for the flowers. You can also use your favorite cookie cutters in any shape or theme!
- Be careful not to overmix the dough ingredients so your cookies are light and not overly dense.
- Don’t skip chilling the dough – This prevents the dough from spreading in the oven.
Variations & Substitutions
If you don’t feel like icing the cookies, sprinkle them with caster sugar, demerara, or your favorite sparkling sugar.
Lemon shortbread bars
Instead of rolling and using cookie cutters, press the lemon shortbread dough into a 9×9 inch square pan that has been greased and lined with parchment paper (leave some overlap on the edges to make it easy to lift them out).
Prick the cookies like these easy shortbread cookies with the tine of a fork all over (this helps them not puff up), and if desired, score the lines to cut on your lemon shortbread. I guarantee these will become your favorite cookies.
Vegan or Dairy-Free Shortbread
Make vegan shortbread cookies by replacing the butter with a plant-based butter alternative or coconut oil.
Gluten-Free Lemon Shortbread
It’s easy to make gluten-free lemon shortbread cookies! Substitute the all-purpose flour with a gluten-free flour blend – I prefer almond flour or a blend of gluten-free all-purpose flour and almond flour. Then, ensure your other ingredients are gluten-free.
Keto Lemon Shortbread Cookies
For low-carb lemon shortbread cookies, replace the all-purpose flour with finely ground almond flour. In the icing, replace powdered sugar with a good powdered sugar replacement, this is my favorite.
Whole Wheat Lemon Shortbread
To make the buttery cookies a bit healthier, you can substitute some all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour, giving them a nuttier flavor and a heartier texture.
Shortbread add-in ideas
- More Lemon Flavor: Lemon lovers may also want to include lemon extract or lemon oil, just a touch though, don’t overpower the butter cookies in the dough and icing recipe.
- Other Citrus Flavors: Swap the lemon for lime or orange by replacing the fresh juice and zest.
- Lavender Lemon Shortbread Cookies: Use ½- 1 teaspoon culinary lavender and ¼-1/2 teaspoon lavender extract; add carefully as the lavender can be overpowering.
- Add Poppy Seeds: Another popular combination is lemon and poppy seeds.
- Add Nuts: Mix in ground almonds and almond extract for nutty notes.
- Coconut Lemon Cookies: Stir in sweetened shredded coconut for a tropical taste or use a combination of regular flour and coconut flour.
- Shortbread Sandwich Cookies: Try this delicious lemon shortbread sandwich cookie recipe!
- These are my favorite cookie sheets and cooling racks.
Frequently Asked Questions
A few tips and tricks will help you make the best batch of shortbread cookies yet! First, it’s crucial to use high-quality butter since it is one of the primary flavor contributors to texture. Second, never overwork the cookie dough.
Combine the ingredients just enough to evenly distribute them and gently form into a ball to roll flat. Lastly, always chill the dough for at least half an hour before cutting and baking.
Overmixing the dough and adding too much flour or powdered sugar to the work surface when rolling the dough and not chilling the dough are the most common mistakes.
Shortbread is more dense and crumbly than classic sugar cookies because of the higher ratio of butter to flour.
Make these lemon shortbread cookies in advance by making the dough and storing it in the fridge for up to five days or freezing it for up to two months. Then, let the dough come to room temperature, bake as directed, and drizzle with the simple lemon glaze.
Store at Room Temperature – These lemon shortbread cookies will keep at room temperature in an airtight container for about 4-7 days on the countertop.
Refrigerate – Store the lemon cookies in the fridge to keep them fresh for seven days.
How to Freeze Shortbread Cookies
Save leftover cookies or make them ahead of time by freezing them for up to three months in an airtight container. If the cookies are iced, add parchment paper between each one to prevent them from sticking. Then, move the cookies to the fridge to thaw overnight or to the countertop to thaw in a few hours.
How to freeze lemon shortbread cookie dough
I love freezing cookie dough. Freeze the lemon shortbread cookie dough wrapped well in plastic wrap and then placed in a ziplock baggie; freeze up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in fridge roll and cut and bake as directed.
What to Serve with Easy Lemon Shortbread Cookie Recipe
To get a light melt-in-your-mouth shortbread texture, do not overmix the dough – Combine the ingredients until they are combined.
Best drinks to serve with lemon shortbread cookies
Be sure to check out all of my holiday drink recipes, both hot and cold, without alcohol and non-alcoholic! Of course they are amazing with a simple cup of coffee, but here are a few of our favorites:
Pomegranate Cocktail Recipe (Best Thanksgiving Punch)
This fun drink is the best Thanksgiving punch! Pomegranate cocktail has pomegranate juice, cranberry juice, orange liqueur, fresh lemon juice and a splash of chilled club soda to make it all sparkle! A vodka punch recipe that is easily adapted to be non-alcoholic!
Cranberry Lemon Drop Martini
This Cranberry Lemon Drop Martini is a sweet-tart; bright, delicious and festive holiday cocktail! With easy make-ahead cranberry simple syrup.
Easy Wassail Hot Cider Recipe (non-alcoholic)
This Easy Wassail Recipe (non-alcoholic) is perfect for warming your soul during the holiday season. Made with fresh fruit, a variety of juices, classic apple cider, and fragrant seasonal spices, sipping on a steaming mug of wassail is sure to put you in the holiday spirit!
Best appetizers to serve with Lemon Butter Cookies
Make a party out of it! Serve this great recipe with some of our favorite appetizers, like this Cowboy Crack Dip and Baked Cranberry Cream Cheese Dip, and try these easy 3-Ingredient Cranberry Meatballs.
Cowboy Crack Dip Recipe (Hot or Cold)
Not your average Philadelphia cream cheese dip recipe. Cowboy Crack Dip is cheesy, creamy, savory, and fresh — the perfect appetizer. This Crack Dip recipe is a classic appetizer ideal for your next party; like the big game, holiday get-togethers, a clear party favorite!
Best Baked Cranberry Cream Cheese Dip Recipe
This easy baked Cranberry Cream Cheese dip is perfect for the holiday season. 4 ingredients to this cheesy, sweet-tart, salty, and savory hot dip.
Use homemade or leftover cranberry sauce.
Easy 3-Ingredient Cranberry Meatballs (Crockpot)
Easy 3-Ingredient Cranberry Meatballs are tender and slow cooked in a tangy cranberry and barbecue sauce. Just dump the ingredients into your crockpot and heat!
More Zesty Lemon Desserts
- Easy Italian Lemon Ricotta Cake Recipe
- Old Fashioned Lemon Bars Recipe
- Lemon Dump Cake Recipe
- Lemon Ice Cream
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Best Easy Lemon Shortbread Cookies Recipe
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- 1 cup butter room temperature (if using unsalted, add ¼ teaspoon kosher salt)
- ½-⅔ cup powdered sugar use more if a sweeter cookie is desired
- 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour sifted
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 – 3 teaspoons lemon zest depending on how lemony you want them to be
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream (mix until light and fluffy) together the butter, powdered sugar, lemon juice until light and fluffy.
- Add in the sifted flour, lemon zest and salt and mix until just combined. Try not to overmix. Using your hands, bring the mixture together to form a dough. Divide into two discs and wrap in plastic wrap for best results and the limit spreading refrigerate for around 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 325° F (165° C).
- Remove from the fridge, and sprinkle a little powdered sugar or flour onto a clean surface. Roll out the dough to be slightly thicker than ¼ inch thick. Using cookie cutters dipped in powdered sugar (you can use whichever one you like), cut out your shortbread shapes. Place on parchment-lined baking sheets.You will get about 21-32 cookies, depending on the size of your cookie cutters.
- Place in the preheated oven and bake for 9-10 minutes or until the edges are slightly golden.
- Remove from the oven, and allow to cool on the pan for 2 minutes. Move to a cooling rack and cool completely. Prepare the icing while the cookies cool down.
Storage TipsLemon shortbread cookies will last beautifully when stored in an airtight container on the counter for 3-4 days. For longer storage, refrigerate up to 7 days and freeze up to three months.
Variations & Substitutions
- Extra Lemon: You can enhance the lemon flavor by using both lemon zest and lemon extract. Start with ½-1 teaspoons of lemon extract and adjust to taste.
- Lime or Orange Shortbread: Instead of using lemon, you can make lime or orange shortbread cookies by swapping out the citrus zest and juice. Lime and orange will provide unique and delicious flavor profiles.
- Lavender Lemon Shortbread: Add a subtle floral note to your cookies by incorporating culinary lavender. You can finely chop dried lavender flowers or use culinary lavender extract. Be cautious not to overdo it, as lavender can be strong..
- Lemon Poppy Seed Shortbread: Start with 1-2 tablespoons of poppy seeds for a slightly nutty flavor.
- Almond Lemon Shortbread: Add almond flour or almond extract to your shortbread dough for a nutty and fragrant twist. Start with ¼ to ½ cup of ground almonds or ½ teaspoon of almond extract.
- Coconut Lemon Shortbread: Mix in shredded coconut for a tropical flavor. About ½ cup of sweetened shredded coconut works well.
- Shortbread Sandwich Cookies: Create a lemon shortbread sandwich cookie by sandwiching lemon curd or a lemon-flavored buttercream between two cookies. Try this lemon shortbread sandwich cookie recipe!
- Herbed Lemon Shortbread: Add a savory twist by incorporating fresh herbs like rosemary or thyme. About 1-2 tablespoons of finely chopped herbs should suffice.
Gluten-Free Lemon Shortbread | To make gluten-free lemon shortbread cookies, use a gluten-free flour blend or almond flour instead of all-purpose flour. Ensure your other ingredients are gluten-free as well.I like using almond flour.
Keto Lemon Shortbread Cookies | Replace the all-purpose flour with finely ground almond flour! That’s it!
Whole Wheat Lemon Shortbread | For a slightly healthier version, substitute some of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour. This will give the cookies a nuttier flavor and a heartier texture.