Lemon Shortbread Cookies

5 from 8 votes

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These Lemon Shortbread cookies are soft and buttery. Perfect recipe for spring, tea parties, and light baking. Lots of citrus flavor and topped with a lemon glaze.
A white round plate with three Lemon Shortbread dipped in glaze surrounded by lemon slices and more cookies

Soft and buttery Lemon Shortbread cookies are a perfect treat! Packed with lots of lemon flavor in a simple biscuit.

A white round plate with three Lemon Shortbread dipped in glaze surrounded by lemon slices and more cookies

Why you Will Love This Recipe

Oh my WORD these easy lemon shortbread cookies are one of the best things I have made in a long time. They are a great spring or summer cookie including for holidays like Easter. But I love to make them all year long!

I am an absolute lemon lover, and if I am eating something that claims to be lemon, I want to KNOW it is there and have it hit me over the head with lemon flavor.

Shortbread cookies are popular for being buttery cookies with a crumbly texture. And this simple recipe is perfect for any lemon lover.

These lemon cookies are best when topped with a quick homemade lemon glaze!

Cookies dipped in glaze spread out on a cutting board with lemon wheels

Ingredients

Let’s talk about the ingredients you need to make these lemon biscuits. Full quantities and details can be found in the recipe card at the bottom of the post.

All Purpose Flour

Unsalted Butter – it is best to use unsalted so that we can control how much salt is in the cookies

Powdered Sugar – see modifications section below regarding powdered vs granulated sugar based on the type of cookie you want to make

Lemon Zest – from fresh lemons and key for getting amazing lemon flavor without adding too much moisture

Lemon Juice – fresh lemon juice is best! Plus we need zest anyway 🙂 I do not recommend using lemon extract as it has an artificial flavor.

Salt

Simple Lemon Glaze – optional but I love the additional punch of lemon and touch of sweetness it brings.

A pile of Lemon Shortbread on a plate without glaze

How to Make the Cookies

Full details can be found in the recipe card below. This area provides some additional insights and tips to keep the recipe card concise.

Add the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, salt, and lemon zest) into the food processor. Pulse to combine well. Adding the lemon zest here lets us really incorporate the zest oils into the ingredients to make a lemon sugar!

Add COLD butter scattered across the flour. Room temperature softened butter would result in cookies that spread. Also add the 1.5 Tablespoon lemon juice. Pulse to combine.

You do not want to over process the dough. It should still look crumbly. The dough should stick together when squeezed. If too dry, add a little more water or lemon juice and briefly incorporate.

Remove the cookie dough from the processor and shape into a log to your desired diameter on a clean work surface. I tend to aim for around 2 inches (5 centimeters).

Wrap up the dough log in parchment paper or plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. This is important so the cookies do not spread when baked.

Preheat your oven to 325F (160C).

Remove the shortbread dough log from the paper and using a serrated knife, slice the dough into ½ inch (1.25 cm) (or thinner) pieces.

Place the cookies on a silicone mat or parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake approximately 20 minutes, until the bottom edges that touch the baking sheet are just starting to turn a golden brown.

Remove the cookies from the oven. Place the cookies on a wire rack to cool. The cooling rack allows heat to escape from the bottom so they do not get soft from the steam.

If desired, dunk or drizzle with the lemon glaze when the cookies are cool. Sprinkle with more lemon zest on top of the wet glaze to set. Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

A picture of three Lemon Shortbread on a small round white plate from top

Cooking Tips for the Shortbread

Unlike most cookies, you are not trying to get a golden brown shortbread.

The shortbread should still be rather pale. Look for the very bottom edge of the cookie to just start turning a light golden brown. This is when you want to pull them out of the oven!

Try to not make the cookies too thick, because trying to get them cooked through without over cooking the outside is a little tricky.

If you do want them thicker, I recommend cooking them in one large piece in a baking dish or square pan. Use the same ingredients but instead of rolling into a log, follow the instructions for my Coffee Shortbread Recipe at step 5.

A close up of one Lemon Shortbread cookie

Modifications and Substitutions

If you are baking the cookies in a baking dish, then there is no need to chill first since everything is trapped together in one place with nowhere to leak to. To make them this way, follow the instructions after making the dough for our Olive Oil Rosemary Shortbread.

Making the cookies can also be done without a food processor. Make the dough by hand by pinching the butter into the flour mixture in a large bowl, or using a pastry cutter or fork. If it gets too warm from your hands, chill for a few minutes before continuing.

Soft or Crisp Cookies

I learned the magic of different sugars by accident one time when I was making my Cherry Limeade Tart.

If you want a crisp, firm cookie, use granulated sugar. (Or caster sugar).

If you want a soft cookie, which is what this recipe makes, use powdered sugar.

They are a 1 for 1 substitution (same quantity regardless of sugar type), so simply use whichever sugar you want based on how crisp or soft you want the shortbread to be.

A hand dunking a lemon shortbread into lemon glaze

Glaze for Cookies

I just love to make my lemon glaze for these tea cookies.

The lemon is a perfect pairing to the lavender flavor, enhancing that hint of citrus, and reminding you of having a cup of tea in front of you.

When you add the glaze, you can either dunk the cookies or drizzle it on top. But regardless of how you use it, make sure the cookies are cool first! If the cookies are warm, the glaze will slide off.

FAQs

What is the difference between cookies and shortbread?

Ratios and ingredients are what make cookies and shortbread different.
Cookies typically have eggs, and shortbread does not.
Shortbread also uses more butter for the same amount of flour, which makes the shortbread more crumbly and soft.

Why do you put shortbread in the fridge before baking?

Having the log chilled will make it much easier to cut and will also help prevent the cookies from spreading and the butter leaking out of the cookies because it is too warm.
If the butter leaks out, you are going to lose flavor and texture of the cookies.

Why did my shortbread cookies go flat?

The cookies could flatten from the butter melting too fast. This occurs if your oven is too hot.
If you know your oven runs hot, use a temperature slightly lower.
It is also important to make sure the dough is chilled and not too warm when you bake it which will help prevent the butter from melting and spreading too fast.
Also, do not put the cookies in the oven until it is done preheating. The heating process is a higher heat blast that will affect your cookies.

Pin image of Lemon Shortbread with glaze on a plate and title at top

More Shortbread Cookie Recipes

Shortbread Cookies

A collection of delicious shortbread cookies!

A white round plate with three Lemon Shortbread dipped in glaze surrounded by lemon slices and more cookies

Lemon Shortbread

These Lemon Shortbread cookies are soft and buttery. Perfect recipe for spring, tea parties, and light baking. Lots of citrus flavor and topped with a lemon glaze.
5 from 8 votes
Print Pin Rate Save Recipe
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Easter, Spring, Vegetarian
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Chilling Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 18 pieces
Calories: 182kcal

Equipment

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (250 grams)
  • cup powdered sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 3 Tablespoons lemon zest (approximately 3 lemons)
  • 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks, 226 grams) cold, cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 1 ½ Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 cup lemon glaze optional (½ batch of link)

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 325°F with the rack in the middle position.
  • In a food processor, add the flour, sugar, salt, and lemon zest. Pulse together a few times to mix.
    2 cups all-purpose flour, ⅔ cup powdered sugar, ¾ teaspoon salt, 3 Tablespoons lemon zest
  • Add the butter chunks around the flour along with the lemon juice. Pulse again until the dough starts to come together. Do not over process. It should still look crumbly. The dough should stick together when squeezed. If too dry, add a little more water or lemon juice and briefly incorporate.
    1 cup unsalted butter, 1 ½ Tablespoons lemon juice
  • Dump the dough onto a large sheet of parchment paper. Start pressing it together into a log shape, and roll up the paper around it to help make it into a log. Twist the ends and place in the refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes.
  • Remove the dough log from the paper and using a serrated knife, slice the dough into ½ inch (or thinner) pieces.
  • Place the cookies on a silicone mat or parchment lined baking sheet. Bake approximately 20 minutes, until the bottom edges that touch the baking sheet are just starting to turn a golden brown.
  • Remove the cookies from the oven. Place the cookies on a wire rack to cool.
  • If desired, dunk or drizzle with the lemon glaze when the cookies are cool. Sprinkle with more lemon zest on top of the wet glaze to set. Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.
    1 cup lemon glaze

Notes

You can also make this by hand by pinching the butter into the flour mixture, or using a pastry cutter or fork. If it gets too warm from your hands, chill for a few minutes before continuing.
If you want to make these in a square pan and cut them into triangles or rectangles, follow instructions for Lemon Lavender Shortbread Cookies after making the dough.

Nutrition

Serving: 1cookie (1/18) | Calories: 182kcal | Carbohydrates: 21g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 27mg | Sodium: 100mg | Potassium: 23mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 10g | Vitamin A: 316IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 7mg | Iron: 1mg
By on July 2nd, 2021

About Kim

Kim has grown up with a passion for cooking good food! You can find her in the kitchen experimenting with new recipes, making dog treats, and eating Italian food!

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