Lemon Shortbread Cookies are a refreshing butter cookie and a sweet glaze with a bright citrus pop. You’ll love this classic cookie recipe!

Lemon Shortbread Cookies stacked on cooling rack

Lemon desserts are my absolute favorite and these easy lemon shortbread cookies are bursting with that bright citrus flavor both in the light, buttery cookie dough and the sweet lemon-y glaze.

I’m all about a lemon ice box pie or some awesome lemon cupcakes but those aren’t desserts I make everyday.

This classic shortbread cookie is so easy to make you can have it any time …. and if you’re a lemon dessert lover like I am I bet you have everything you need to make it in the pantry right now.

Whip them up during the any time of the year for a little bite of sunshine or make them as an Easter or Mother’s day dessert and serve with a side of homemade lemon curd to sandwich between two cookies for the ultimate dessert!

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ingredients for Lemon Shortbread Cookies

Ingredients You’ll Need

You’ll need two sets of ingredients for the shortbread cookies. One for the cookies themselves and the other for the lemon glaze.

For the lemon flavored shortbread cookies, you’ll need:

  • All-purpose flour – I recommend all-purpose flour for this recipe.
  • Butter – Use unsalted butter at room temp for this.
  • Caster sugar – Caster sugar is a superfine granulated sugar. In a pinch, you can use regular granulated sugar, but it might make the cookies a bit gritty.
  • Flavoring – You’ll need 1 lemon for the lemon zest, vanilla extract, lemon extract, and a small amount of salt

For the lemon icing, you’ll need:

  • Powdered Sugar – The powdered sugar provides the sweetness to the frosting and does not create a gritty texture like granulated sugar would.
  • Lemon extract – The lemon extract provides a fresh lemony flavor to the icing.
  • Water – You can use tap or filtered water if you prefer.
Lemon Shortbread Cookies cooling on rack

Instructions

Here’s what you need to get the perfect lemon cookies every time.

Step 1 – Mix the wet ingredients. Before starting, preheat the oven to 350 °F. As it heats, beat the room temperature butter until it is creamy in a medium mixing bowl.

Once it is creamy, add the sugar and mix it thoroughly. Next, add the lemon zest, vanilla extract, lemon extract, and salt and continue to mix until they are combined.

Step 2 – Add the flour and chill the dough. Once the flavoring is added, slowly add the flour 1 cup at a time until it just starts to come together.

When the dough is ready, create a ball of dough and flatten it slightly before wrapping it in plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour in the fridge.

Step 3 – Make the cookies. Remove dough from the refrigerator after an hour passes. Lightly flour your surface and roll the dough out to about 1/4 inch thickness then use your cookie cutter to cut out the cookies.

We use 3 inch round shaped cookie cutters, but if you want to use other shapes, you definitely can.

As you cut them, place the cut-outs on a parchment lined baking sheet. Once they are all ready, place the cookies on the tray in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Step 4 – Bake. Remove the cookies from the fridge. Place the trays in the oven and bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until the cookies are golden brown. Allow them to cool completely. 

Tip: If your cookies spread slightly you can neaten the edges up by using the cookie cutter on the hot cookies to trim them back into perfect circle shapes.

Step 5 – Glaze. Once the cookies are completely cooled lightly coat them in lemon icing. Let the icing firm up and then serve.

stacked Lemon Shortbread Cookies

Adding the Lemon Glaze

The lemon icing is very easy to make and add to the cookies. Here’s what you need to do.

Step 1 – Make the glaze. In a small bowl combine the powdered sugar, lemon extract, and slowly add water 1 teaspoon at a time stirring in between each. You want the consistency to be thin enough to pour slowly, like syrup.

Step 2 – Glaze the cookies. Once the cookies are cooled and glaze is ready, drizzle or spoon over the tops of the cookies OR turn the cookie upside down and dip the top of the cookie into the glaze.

Use the bottom of a spoon to smooth the glaze over the top of the cookie before setting it down on a cooling rack to let the glaze firm up. Allow the icing to harden before serving the cookies.

Optional: I like to sprinkle just a little bit of lemon zest over the glaze while it is still wet to add just a little color but it is not required.

Caster sugar vs. Granulated Sugar 

Caster sugar is a much more finely ground version of granulated sugar. The main advantage is that it dissolves faster. In some recipes, like souffles and meringue, bakers often prefer to use this sugar because it dissolves faster ensuring that the finished dish won’t have a gritty texture.

You can generally substitute either one for the other because they contain the same amount of water and flavor. We use caster sugar in this recipe because it dissolves faster in the creamed butter creating a soft crumbly shortbread.

Why Do You Put Shortbread in the Fridge Before Baking? 

The large amount of butter in the dough means they are more likely to spread as they bake. When you chill them  before baking them, the butter has a chance to re-harden. The hardened butter will melt more slowly in the oven, allowing the cookies to hold their shape and not spread nearly as much. 

In other words, don’t skip the chilling step! You’ll end up with a pan full of melted cookies if you do. 

If your cookies do spread slightly you can neaten the edges up by using the cookie cutter on the hot cookies as soon as they come out of the oven to trim them back into perfect circle shapes.

Lemon Shortbread Cookies on cooling rack

How to Store Them

Once the glaze is completely dry you can store the cookies for up to 1 week. Place the cookies in an airtight container with wax paper or parchment paper between each layer of cookies. Seal container tightly and store at room temperature.

If you want to freeze the shortbread cookies you should put the cookies in a gallon freezer bag, with wax paper or parchment paper between each layer of cookies. Seal the bag tightly removing as much air as possible then place in the freezer for up to 1 month. If you are worried about the cookies being crushed in the freezer you can place the prepared bag in a freezer-safe container before storing.

hand holding Lemon Shortbread Cookies

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Servings: 18
Prep Time: 2 hrs
Cook Time: 20 mins
Total Time: 2 hrs 20 mins

Lemon Shortbread Cookies

Lemon Shortbread Cookies stacked on cooling rack
Print Recipe
5 from 2 votes

Ingredients

Cookies:

  • 2 cup All-purpose flour
  • 1 cup Unsalted butter, room temp.
  • 1/2 cup Caster sugar, this is superfine granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon Vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon Lemon extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon Salt

Lemon Glaze:

  • 1 cup Powdered Sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Lemon extract
  • 2-3 teaspoons Water

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 °F.
  • In your mixing bowl beat room temperature butter until it is creamy.
  • Add the sugar and mix thoroughly.
  • Add lemon zest, vanilla extract, lemon extract, and salt and continue to mix until ingredients combine.
  • Add the flour 1 cup at a time until the mixture just starts to come together.
  • Create a ball of dough and flatten it slightly before wrapping it in plastic wrap and chilling it for 1 hour.
  • Remove dough from refrigerator.
  • Lightly flour your surface and roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thick.
  • Use 3 inch round cookie cutter to cut out cookies.
  • Place cookie cut-outs on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
  • Place cookies on the baking sheet into the refrigerator for 20 minutes.
  • Remove from refrigerator and bake for 8 – 10 minutes, or until cookies are a light golden brown around the edges.
  • Remove the cookies from the oven and let them cool on the baking sheet for 5-10 minutes. Then remove from the baking sheet and let them cool completely on a cooling rack.
  • While the cookies cool mix together your lemon glaze ingredients in a medium bowl. Add the water one teaspoon at a time until the glaze reaches the consistency of syrup.
  • When the cookies have cooled and glaze is ready, drizzle or spoon the glaze over the tops of the cookies OR turn the cookie upside down and dip the top of the cookie into the glaze.
  • Use the bottom of a spoon to smooth the glaze over the top of the cookie before setting it down on a cooling rack to let the glaze firm up.
  • Allow the icing to harden before serving the cookies.

Notes

Tip: If your cookies spread slightly you can neaten the edges up by using the cookie cutter on the hot cookies to trim them back into perfect circle shapes.

Nutrition

Serving: 1cookie, Calories: 189kcal, Carbohydrates: 23g, Protein: 2g, Fat: 10g, Saturated Fat: 7g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 27mg, Sodium: 34mg, Potassium: 19mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 12g, Vitamin A: 315IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 6mg, Iron: 1mg
Nutrition Disclaimer: We are not certified nutritionists. Nutrition facts are an estimate and are provided as a courtesy. They are generated by an online API which recognizes ingredient names and amounts and makes calculations based on the serving size. Results may vary.
Author: Kat Jeter & Melinda Caldwell
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: easter, lemon, shortbread cookie