Lemon Shortbread Cookies

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Tender cookies are bursting with lemon flavor in these easy lemon shortbread cookies. Bring a little sunny flavor into the day with a quick batch!

Shortbread cookies are quickly becoming some of my absolute favorites.

Last year I shared with you the festive checkerboard cookies, and this year I knew I wanted to keep up the shortbread trend.

Lemon cookies on a wooden cutting board.

Enter these tasty lemon shortbread cookies, using both lemon zest and lemon juice for flavoring.

They’re wonderfully tender, and while they pack a lot of lemon into each bite, the powdered sugar provides enough offset to make this the ideal afternoon tea treat.

Even if winter has gotten gray and gloomy outside, these lemon shortbread cookies never fail to brighten my day.

Lemon cookies on a cooling rack.

Why you’ll love this recipe

  • Minimal ingredients Shortbread doesn’t need eggs or leavening, which means they can be whipped up with staple ingredients. The only extra you need is a lemon!
  • No chilling required – This roll-out dough doesn’t need any chilling before shaping or baking, so the cookies are ready in a jiffy. Plus, not having to find space in my fridge for dough is always a bonus in my book!
  • Fresh lemon flavor – With both lemon zest and lemon juice, these cookies have just the right about of sweet-tart citrus flavor. 

Ingredients for lemon shortbread cookies

Full list of ingredients with quantities is within the recipe card.

You’ll need:

Ingredients for lemon cookies on a marble counter.

Butter – I use unsalted butter for cookies, so I can adjust the salt as needed. If you use salted butter, make sure to omit the added salt!

Use room temperature butter so it can mix well into the dough.

Flour – All-purpose flour is my go-to here. I have not tried making these cookies gluten-free, but an all-purpose gluten-free blend should work well.

Powdered sugar – I use powdered sugar in these cookies instead of granulated because it helps create a very light, melt in your mouth texture. 

You’ll also need powdered sugar for the glaze.

Lemon – Depending on the size of your lemons, you might just need 1, but I always recommend grabbing extra just in case. Seedless lemons are great for juicing.

Salt – Just a little salt helps boost the other flavors. It also balances the sugar and lemon.

How to make this recipe

Start by preheating your oven to 325°F and lining two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners. This will prevent the cookies from sticking to your pans or from getting too dark on the bottom.

In the bowl of a stand mixer or using a handheld electric mixer, beat together the softened butter and half of the powdered sugar. (The remaining half is for the icing.) Beat until smooth and fluffy.

Zest your lemon over a cutting board. Measure out 1 tablespoon and set aside the rest for decorating the cookies. Reserve the zested lemon.

Add the 1 tablespoon lemon zest to the butter and sugar and beat again until incorporated.

Now, add the flour and salt, and beat again.

The dough will look very crumbly and shaggy at first, but as you keep beating it will come together. 

Lightly dust a clean work surface with powdered sugar and scoop the shortbread dough out onto the sugar.

If needed, gently knead together to bring all the dough together smoothly.

Roll out into a rough rectangle about 1/8-inch thick. Use a knife or pizza cutter to slice dough into squares, rectangles, or triangles.

You can also use cookie cutters, making sure they are dusted with powdered sugar to prevent sticking.

Transfer the cookies to the prepared baking sheets. The cookies do not spread, so they can be close together.

Gather any dough scraps, re-roll, and cut into more cookies.

Place the baking sheets in the oven and bake the cookies for 10-11 minutes. Shortbread should be pale, with only light browning on the bottoms of the cookies.

Let cool on the pans for about 2 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. 

When the cookies are cooled, juice the lemon.

In a bowl, whisk together the remaining powdered sugar and 1-2 tablespoons of the lemon juice until you have a smooth, pourable glaze.

Add more lemon juice if the mixture is too thick, or more sugar if it is too runny.

Set the rack of cookies over a baking sheet or piece of parchment to catch the drips.

Dip one end or one corner of the cookies into the glaze, then let the excess drip off before transferring to the wire rack. Repeat with all the cookies.

Sprinkle on the reserved lemon zest before the icing hardens. You can also add sprinkles instead, or leave unadorned.

Once the icing has set, store in an airtight container.

Lemon cookies on a wooden cutting board.

Recipe substitutions

If you can’t get fresh lemons, bottled lemon juice can be used in place of fresh-squeezed. Additionally, in place of the lemon zest you can use a little bit of lemon extract.

I personally do not like the flavor of bottled dried lemon peel, but it will work in a pinch. Keep in mind that dried peel is more potent, so use only 1 teaspoon in this recipe.

Cake flour can be substituted for all-purpose flour to create an even lighter cookie, but you’ll want to add a little bit more to ensure your cookies aren’t too crumbly. Start with 2 tablespoons extra cake flour and add more as needed.

Lemon sugar cookies on a wooden cutting board.

Storage tips

Shortbread cookies store very well! They will keep in an airtight container for about 5 days.

If you choose to not add the icing, they will stay fresh even longer.

You can also freeze lemon shortbread cookies. Make sure to freeze them only after they have cooled completely and the icing has set.

Place in an airtight container or freezer bag. Use wax paper or parchment paper between the layers of cookies to prevent sticking together in the freezer.

Freeze baked cookies for about 1 month. Thaw at room temperature.

Lemon cookies on a wooden cutting board.

Cookies 4 Kid’s Cancer

This recipe is part of The Sweetest Season, an annual virtual cookie swap co-hosted by Erin of The Speckled Palate and Susannah of Feast + West. Every year, food bloggers get together to share new holiday cookie recipes to make and give.

This year we are raising money for Cookies 4 Kids’ Cancer, which is a recognized 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to funding research for new, innovative and less-toxic treatments for childhood cancer.

Since 2008, Cookies for Kids’ Cancer has granted nearly $18 million to pediatric cancer research in the form of 100+ research grants to leading pediatric cancer centers across the country. From these grants have stemmed 35+ treatments available to kids battling cancer today.

Help us raise money for this important cause! Donate through our fundraising page.

Another exciting thing is that Cookies for Kids’ Cancer is in a matching window with their friends at OXO, meaning OXO will be matching every dollar raised through the end of 2023, up to $100,000. Whatever money we raise will automatically double on our fundraising page!

A hand holding a lemon cookie over a cutting board.

Other cookies you’ll love

In the mood for more baking? 

For a no-roll, no shaping shortbread, go with my classic shortbread recipe.

Mexican hot chocolate cookies are always a hit with my friends and family, for a little bit of spice with your chocolate!

Iced gingerbread spritz are perfectly festive. They’re bite-sized and ideal for a cookie box.

For more fruit flavors, go with raspberry white chocolate cookies. And for a springtime take on the holiday favorite, make sugar cookie blossoms!

Make lemon shortbread with lemon glaze for your cookie swap today!

Love this recipe? Please leave a 5-star review below!
It means so much when you enjoy my recipes, so let me know how it goes and leave a comment if you have any questions.

Lemon sugar cookies on a wooden cutting board.

Lemon Shortbread Cookies

Lemon shortbread requires just a handful of ingredients for bright, sunny flavor. Perfect for perking up a cookie box!
Author : Megan Myers
5 from 62 votes
Print Pin Recipe Review
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 36
Calories 90 kcal


  • 16 tablespoons unsalted butter, (2 sticks), softened
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, divided use
  • 1 medium lemon
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt


  • Preheat oven to 325°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or reusable liner.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment (or using a bowl with an electric mixer), beat together butter and powdered sugar until light and creamy.
  • Zest lemon and measure out 1 tablespoon. Set aside the remaining zest and lemon.
  • Add the lemon zest to the butter mixture and beat until incorporated.
  • Beat in flour and salt. It will be crumbly at first, but keep beating until it comes together and cleans the sides of the bowl.
  • Lightly dust a clean countertop with powdered sugar. Scoop out the dough and roll into a rectangle about 1/8-inch thick. Cut into rectangles, squares, or triangles.
  • Transfer to the prepared baking sheets. Gather dough scraps, re-roll, and cut into cookies.
  • Bake for 10-11 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheets for 2 minutes, then transfer lemon shortbread to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • To make the icing, juice the reserved lemon. Whisk 1 to 2 tablespoons juice into the remaining 3/4 cup powdered sugar until you have a smooth, pourable icing.
  • Set the rack of cookies over a baking sheet to catch drips. Dip one end of the cooled cookies into the icing. Let the excess drip off into the bowl, then place back on the wire rack. Repeat with remaining cookies. Sprinkle on the reserved lemon zest before the icing hardens.
  • Once the icing is set, store cookies in an airtight container.


  • If using salted butter, omit added salt.


Calories: 90 kcalCarbohydrates: 11 gProtein: 1 gFat: 5 gSaturated Fat: 3 gCholesterol: 13 mgSodium: 17 mgPotassium: 13 mgFiber: 0.3 gSugar: 5 gIron: 0.3 mg

Nutrition information is provided as a courtesy and is an estimate based on online calculators. Any nutritional information found on Stetted should be used as a general guideline only.

Tried this recipe?Leave a comment below!

About Megan

I focus on fresh ingredients and easy methods, with spins that keep meals interesting. Dinnertime shouldn’t be stressful or complicated, and I’m here to help you enjoy the time spent in the kitchen. Read more…

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  1. 5 stars
    I could so some serious damage to a batch of these! Love the tang of lemon to these decadent buttery shortbread cookies! Stellar recipe!

  2. 5 stars
    Love these cookies, such a good cause too! Thank you for sharing them, my second batch is just coming out of the oven! They smell dreamy!

  3. 5 stars
    These buttery, citrusy cookies were a total hit at my cookie exchange – SO yummy! I love that they’re cut in squares or rectangles instead of messing around with cookie cutters and dough scraps. Just brilliant!

  4. 5 stars
    These are the most perfect lemony shortbread cookies I’ve ever had. SO perfect and SO wonderful for sharing throughout the holiday season and year-round. Thanks for this excellent recipe!

  5. 5 stars
    These are so beautiful! I cannot wait to try these lemony cookies. Thank you for being a part of The Sweetest Season this year, Megan.