Lemon Shortbread Cookies

Classic lemon shortbread cookies are crisp, buttery, and melt in your mouth delicious. Lemon zest and lemon glaze take this cookie over the top! A lemon lover's dream come true!
↓ Recipe ↓ Video Print Recipe
Total Time: 2 hrs 13 mins
Serves: 48 cookies
closeup of lemon shortbread cookies

Light, buttery and crisp lemon shortbread cookies with a tangy lemon glaze. Incredibly easy to make and takes less than 15 minutes! Hello easy! 

closeup of lemon shortbread cookies

I love making these lemon shortbread cookies for Christmas because they ship so easily but they are a fantastic cookie to make any time of the year. Especially if you’re a lemon lover like me!

LEMON SHORTBREAD COOKIE INGREDIENTS

lemon shortbread ingredients

I love a strong lemon flavor so I’m using lemon zest, lemon juice, lemon extract, AND citric acid which is basically powdered lemon! You can totally leave out the citric acid if you want but if you are a lemon lover then you won’t be sorry. You can find citric acid in the canning supply aisle at your grocery store. 

LEMON SHORTBREAD COOKIES STEP-BY-STEP

These cookies are so simple to make, I had my daughter Avalon lend me a hand. She enjoys adding in the ingredients and of course, taste-testing. If you want to have your kids help you bake more often but get stressed out from the mess, the easiest way to let them help is to measure everything out ahead of time and all they have to do is add it to the bowl when you tell them. 

Step 1 – Whisk together the flour, salt, and citric acid in a bowl. Set aside.

Step 2 – Cream your softened butter and sugar together for 2-3 minutes until it’s light and airy. There isn’t any leavening in this recipe so this air is what will give your cookie its lift and texture.

creamed butter and sugar

Step 3 – Add in your room temperature egg, lemon extract, and zest and mix until it’s incorporated. 

Step 4 – While mixing on low, slowly add in your flour mixture and mix until the dough just begins to stick together. Do not over-mix or you’ll end up with chewy, tough cookies. 

lemon shortbread cookie dough

Step 5 – Press the dough into a log shape that is about 3″ in diameter. 

shaping lemon shortbread into a log

Step 6 – Roll the log in some sanding sugar or sprinkles if you desire. I think it makes the cookie so pretty! 

rolling lemon shortbread dough in sanding sugar

Step 7 – Wrap the cookie dough in plastic wrap and let it chill for at least two hours or overnight. 

Step 8 – Preheat your oven to 350ºF and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. 

Step 9 – Slice your dough into 1/4″ thick pieces. 

slicing lemon shortbread cookie dough with a knife

Arrange them on the cookie sheet with about 1″ of space in between. The cookies will not spread so don’t worry about them running into each other. 

lemon shortbread cookies on a pink cookie sheet with parchment paper

Step 10 – Bake your lemon shortbread cookies for 12-14 minutes or until they just start to get golden around the bottom edge. They will be soft when they first come out of the oven but once they cool down they will be perfect. I transfer my cookies to a cooling rack after about 5 minutes out of the oven. 

Step 11 – Whisk together your sifted powdered sugar and lemon juice to make your glaze. Drizzle the glaze over the top of your cookies with a spoon or use a piping bag. 

piping glaze onto baked lemon shortbread cookies on a cooling rack

After 24 hours, the glaze will be firm and you can package the cookies to ship or to stack for storage. 

stack of lemon shortbread cookies tied with red and white twine

TIPS FOR THE BEST SHORTBREAD COOKIES

  • Don’t over-mix your dough or you’ll end up with chewy shortbread instead of crisp.
  • I find these cookies to be the easiest if I make the dough a day in advance. Knead the dough until it just starts sticking together then roll the dough into a log and wrap it in plastic wrap.
  • Let the dough chill overnight or for a minimum of 2 hours and the dough will be very easy to slice and bake. Chilling the dough also keeps the shortbread from spreading while it bakes. 
  • Don’t overbake your shortbread. There will be some very light browning around the edges and that’s it. If you overbake them, they will be very hard and dry instead of light and crisp.

lemon shortbread cookies on a white plate with gold edge on a yellow napkin

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A SHORTBREAD COOKIE AND A SUGAR COOKIE?

Sugar cookies and shortbread cookies are similar but have some differences. Sugar cookies are typically lighter, sweeter, and softer than a shortbread cookie and often decorated. Shortbread cookies are denser, more crumbly, and less sweet than sugar cookies. Shortbread cookies are typically made with a ratio of one part sugar, two parts butter, and three parts flour. 

Sugar cookies typically have baking powder or baking soda which causes the cookies to rise and have a lighter texture. Shortbread cookies do not have any baking powder or baking soda and rely on the air whipped into the butter/sugar for their texture. 

woman and girl biting into lemon shortbread cookies

WHY IS IT CALLED SHORTBREAD?

Shortbread is so named because of its crumbly texture (from an old meaning of the word “short,” as opposed to “long,” or stretchy). In this case, we’re talking about gluten strand development. When water comes in contact with gluten (in this case, flour) then the strands of gluten get longer and longer causing the dough to become chewier and chewier. Sometimes this is a good thing, like when you’re making bread or pasta.

But in cookies, we don’t want them to be chewy, we want them to be crisp. Shortbread is made by coating the flour in butter first, so that the liquid in the dough cant reach the gluten as easily, causing the cookies to be crisper. Pie crust is also a type of shortbread. 

closeup of lemon shortbread cookies with lemon glaze on a cooling rack

WHY IS MY SHORTBREAD CHEWY?

Even though we are coating the flour in butter first, you can still end up with chewy shortbread if you knead your dough too much. Keep your dough chilled and try not to handle it too much. The warmer the dough gets the softer the butter gets and will no longer be coating the flour. 

The dough can be made the day before and refrigerated or frozen up 3 months in advance. Defrost, cut, and bake!

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Did You Make This Recipe?Leave a rating and tell me how it went!
closeup of lemon shortbread cookies

Lemon Shortbread Cookies

Classic lemon shortbread cookies are crisp, buttery, and melt in your mouth delicious. Lemon zest and lemon glaze take this cookie over the top! A lemon lover's dream come true!
5 from 4 votes
Print Rate
Prep Time: 1 min
Cook Time: 12 mins
chilling: 2 hrs
Total Time: 2 hrs 13 mins
Serves: 48 cookies
Calories: 91kcal

Ingredients

Lemon Shortbread Cookies

  • 8 ounces (227 g) unsalted butter, room temperature 1 cup
  • 6 ounces (170 g) granulated sugar 1 cup
  • 1 large (50 g) egg, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 12 ounces (340 g) all-purpose flour 2 cups
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon citric acid optional, just adds an extra lemon-tart flavor

Lemon Glaze

  • 7 ounces (198 g) powdered sugar, sifted 1 3/4 cups
  • 3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice plus more if needed

Instructions

  • Whisk together your flour, salt, and citric acid in a bowl and set it aside.
  • Cream your softened butter and sugar together in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment for 1-2 minutes until it's light and fluffy.
  • Add in the room temperature egg, lemon extract, and zest and mix until combined.
  • While mixing on low, add the flour mixture to the egg mixture until the dough just begins to stick together. Do not over-mix.
  • Divide the dough in half and roll into logs about 3" in diameter. Roll in sanding sugar sprinkles if you desire. It adds a nice sparkle to the finished cookie.
  • Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for two hours or overnight.
  • Preheat your oven to 350ºF and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Slice your lemon shortbread dough into 1/4" thick slices. Arrange them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper with about 1" of space in between each cookie. They won't spread.
  • Bake at 350°F (180°C) for 12-14 min until slightly golden brown around edges.
  • Let your cookies cool for 5 minutes then carefully transfer them to a cooling rack to fully cool down.

Lemon Glaze

  • Sift your powdered sugar and whisk in your lemon juice. Add more if the glaze is too thick.
  • Drizzle the glaze over the cookies with a spoon or a piping bag. The glaze will fully set up after 24 hours and then the cookies can be stacked or packaged.

Notes

BEFORE YOU START

1. Bring all your ingredients to room temperature or even a little warm (eggs, buttermilk, butter, etc) to ensure your batter does not break or curdle. 
2. Use a scale to weigh your ingredients (including liquids) unless otherwise instructed (Tablespoons, teaspoons, pinch etc). Metric measurements are available in the recipe card. Scaled ingredients are much more accurate than using cups and help ensure the success of your recipe. 
3. Practice Mise en Place (everything in it's place). Measure out your ingredients ahead of time and have them ready before you start mixing to reduce the chances of accidentally leaving something out.

TIPS FOR THE BEST SHORTBREAD COOKIES

  • Don't over-mix your dough or you'll end up with chewy shortbread instead of crisp.
  • I find these cookies to be the easiest if I make the dough a day in advance. Knead the dough until it just starts sticking together then roll the dough into a log and wrap it in plastic wrap.
  • Let the dough chill overnight or for a minimum of 2 hours and the dough will be very easy to slice and bake. Chilling the dough also keeps the shortbread from spreading while it bakes. 
  • Don't overbake your shortbread. There will be some very light browning around the edges and that's it. If you overbake them, they will be very hard and dry instead of light and crisp.

Nutrition

Serving: 1cookie | Calories: 91kcal (5%) | Carbohydrates: 13g (4%) | Protein: 1g (2%) | Fat: 4g (6%) | Saturated Fat: 2g (10%) | Cholesterol: 14mg (5%) | Sodium: 51mg (2%) | Potassium: 11mg | Fiber: 1g (4%) | Sugar: 8g (9%) | Vitamin A: 124IU (2%) | Vitamin C: 1mg (1%) | Calcium: 3mg | Iron: 1mg (6%)

 

 

13 comments on “Lemon Shortbread Cookies

    1. One cup of all purpose flour is 6 ounces. 6 ounces = 170 grams so that’s how I got 340 grams for two cups of flour and why I prefer using a scale for measuring

  1. Hello! I can’t wait to try these. Is there a substitute for the citric acid?

  2. Can I substitute lemon juice for the extract? I know it is not probably a 1:1 ratio, but I prefer the real lemon juice. Thanks!

    1. No you can’t. Lemon juice has barely any flavor when you bake it but you can use lemon zest which has a strong lemon flavor 1:1

  3. Hi Liz. What type of butter do you use? Would undated sweet cream be good to use for this recipe? And what type of lemon extract because I don’t really like the Mc Cormicks brand

    1. Hi, I usually use Darigold unsalted butter. And any lemon extract will work!

  4. Hi Liz. What type of unsalted butter and lemon extract do oh use for this recipe? Would unsalted sweet cream work for cookies?

  5. Can I add freeze dried blueberries to this to make lemon blueberry shortbread cookies?

  6. 5 stars
    I luuuuuuuv shortbread and these cookies are absolutely delicious! They’re extra lemony with that pop of citric acid. They’re rich and buttery and super easy to make and I’ll definitely add this recipe to my portfolio.

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