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These lemon shortbread cookies are so light, they literally just melt in your mouth! They are the perfect balance between sweet and sour and are bursting with a bright lemon flavor. One bite is all you need to be hooked on this delicious lemon shortbread!
Lemon is one of my all time favorite dessert flavors. From lemon poppyseed cake to lemon meringue cookies, to easy lemon bars, I will never get sick of any lemon desserts!
As a trained pastry chef I have played with lots of different flavor profiles but always seem to come back to lemon in my top 3!
This time we’re making lemon shortbread! Shortbread is traditionally baked with one part sugar to two parts butter which gives it a higher fat content. This is what creates the melt in your mouth feeling when you bite into a shortbread cookie.
Why you’ll love this recipe
- This is an easy recipe with only 7 ingredients you probably already have at home
- You do not need a mixer for these cookies, just a good bowl and spatula
- The cookies are so light and melt in your mouth
- The recipe makes 24 cookies- perfect for gifting during the holidays.
- Lemon– You’ll need both the juice and zest
- Unsalted Butter- You’ll need to use this softened. Learn how to soften butter quickly with these easy steps.
- Confectioners Sugar– this offers that melt in your mouth feeling
- Flour– All purpose flour is what is used here.
- Vanilla Extract– optional to use if you want extra flavor.
- Kosher Salt– to bring out the flavor
- Turbinado Sugar– also known as sugar in the raw. For sprinkling and totally optional!
How to make Lemon Shortbread Cookies
- Make the cookie dough -In a medium sized bowl combine the softened butter and confectioners sugar. Mix by hand or on low speed in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add in the lemon zest, juice, and extract and mix to combine. Add in the flour and salt, and mix until a firm dough is formed.
- Chill the dough– Once the dough has come together shape it into a disc and wrap it in plastic wrap. Chill the dough in the fridge for an hour.
- Roll and cut- Unwrap the dough onto a large piece of parchment paper. Cut another piece of parchment paper and place it over the top of the dough. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough to 1/2″ thick and cut out shapes with a cookie cutter. Place the cookies 1 1″2 inches apart on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Repeat the process with the scraps until all the dough is used.
- Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes or until the edges turn golden brown. Garnish them with some coarse sugar and lemon zest.
Chilling the dough
You might be asking- ” Do I really need to chill the dough?” YES you really have to.
You need to roll out the dough while it’s still cold but pliable so that the cookie cutter keeps its shape.
These cookies have a lot of butter in them and the butter needs to be chilled before putting it into the oven. If you try to bake them without chilling they will definitely spread out of their shape.
If you chill them, the cookies will keep its shape (even with sharp edges!) really well!
Tips for shortbread success
- If the dough is getting too warm and sticky to roll, just add it back to the fridge for another few minutes for it to firm up.
- Roll out the cookies in between parchment paper. You can also roll them out onto a floured surface but I find that parchment paper is easier and less messy!
- Bake the cookies on parchment paper for easy clean up.
- Measure your dry ingredients correctly. Spoon flour into a measuring cup and then level it off with a knife. Never scoop flour with your measuring cup.
- To lift the cookies more easily- cut the cookies out and take away the scraps. Chill the cookies on the parchment paper (lay them on another tray) for 5 minutes, then lift them with an offset spatula onto their baking sheet.
- Use any fun cookie cutter shape you can find!
Storing and Freezing
Storing- Store the shortbread in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days. The freeze well too!
Freezing- Place the cookies in a freezer safe bag and squeeze out all the air. Freeze for up to 3 months.
Why is my shortbread dough crumbly? You need more butter, add in a tbsp at a time until it comes together.
What cookie cutter should I use? I used a round scalloped cookie cutter but you can use any that you have on hand. If the cookie is very large add 2 minutes on to the baking time.
Why is my shortbread dough falling apart? It needs to be chilled. Chill it in the fridge for 10 minutes and try again.
Find more lemon and shortbread recipes here:
- Italian Ricotta Cookies (with lemon)
- Cranberry Orange Shortbread Cookies
- Raspberry Lemon Linzer Cookies
- Easy Lemon bars
- Coconut Lemon Cookies
Melt in your Mouth Lemon Shortbread Cookies
- 1 cup unsalted butter softened (227g)
- 1/2 cup confectioners sugar (56g)
- 2 tsp lemon zest From 1 lemon
- 1/2 tsp lemon juice
- 1/4 tsp vanilla extract optional
- 2 cups flour (240 g)
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- turbinado sugar optional for garnish
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
- In a medium sized bowl or the bowl of a hand or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the 1 cup butter and 1/2 cup confectioners sugar together on low until light and airy, about 30 seconds to 1 minute.
- Add the 2 tsp lemon zest, 1/2 tsp lemon juice, and 1/4 tsp vanilla extract (if using) and mix lightly to combine. Add in the 2 cups of flour and 1/4 tsp kosher salt. Mix until a unified dough forms.
- Shape the dough into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill in the fridge for 1 hour. Unwrap the dough and place it between 2 pieces of parchment paper. Roll the dough into 1/2" thickness and cut out shapes using a cookie cutter. Repeat the process with scraps. You might have to chill the scraps for a few minutes again before re-rolling. Lift the cookies using an offset spatula 1 1/2" apart onto their baking tray.
- If possible chill the cookies for another 10 minutes on the baking tray.
- Bake for 10-12 minutes until firm. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar or more lemon zest if you want!
Patrick H says
These cookies came out great, except I didn’t roll them out. I made a log and chilled it, then cut the cookies into 3/8 inch thick slices and baked. Great lemon and butter flavor.
Sam Adler says
So glad you liked them Patrick, thank you so much for making them and letting me know! Happy Holidays!