Lemon Shortbread Cookies

Crumbly, zesty and utterly delightful, my Lemon Shortbread Cookies are like a burst of sunshine on a winter's day. These buttery cookies make the perfect gift for lemon lovers and are delicious alongside a cup of coffee or afternoon tea.

When life gives you lemons, I say make cookies! Lemon Shortbread Cookies to be exact. These gloriously buttery, zesty treats are sure to put a smile on your face, even on the greyest of winter days.

With a double hit of lemon flavour, these melt-in-the-mouth cookies are always a winner, and the perfect addition to your baking repertoire this holiday season.

Lemon Shortbread cookies on a tray.

Ingredients

To make Lemon Shortbread Cookies, you need the following main ingredients:

  • White Sugar: I use plain white sugar for baking these cookies. Here in Europe, everyday sugar is already relatively fine, but if it is coarser where you live you may like to use caster sugar instead.
  • Butter: I always use unsalted butter in all of my baking so that I can control the amount of salt in the final product. If you can only get salted butter, leave the pinch of salt out of the recipe.
  • Fresh Lemon Zest: We double up in this recipe using lemon zest in the cookie dough, and sprinkle lemon sugar over the top for extra zingy flavour. It’s important to use organic or unwaxed lemons in the recipe as the skin is suitable for eating.
  • Plain or All-purpose flour: Plain flour is suitable in this recipe, if you’d like to make gluten-free shortbread, simply use your favourite GF flour blend.
  • Cornstarch: This adds a lovely lightness to the cookies. You can replace it with rice flour or potato flour. If you are using gluten-free flour, use this instead of the cornstarch.

The complete ingredient list and detailed instructions are in the recipe card at the bottom of the page.

Instructions

Lemon Shortbread is one of the easiest cookies to make, so it’s a great recipe to bake with kids. The trick is to be gentle with the mixture and bake it just until golden brown for the best results and the most irresistible flavour.

  1. First, use your fingertips to rub the sugar and lemon zest together. This releases all of the fragrant lemon oil and smells so amazing you can’t help but smile. Then you need to beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy (an electric mixer is always best for this).
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch and salt, then stir it into the creamed butter. Knead briefly with your hands until it just comes together, then tip into a 20x30cm / 8×12 in. baking dish lined with baking parchment paper.
  3. Use the back of a spoon to press the crumbly dough evenly across the base of the dish, smoothing the top. Use a small, sharp knife to mark out the cookies into rectangles or diamonds and prick it all over with a fork.
  4. Bake in the middle of the oven for 25-30 minutes until lightly golden brown all over. While the shortbread is baking, make a little more lemon sugar for the topping, and sprinkle it all over the hot shortbread as soon as it comes out of the oven. This adds a real burst of lemon flavour.
  5. Leave to cool for 10 minutes, then carefully lift out of the baking dish. Use a sharp knife to cut while warm, then leave to cool on a wire rack.
Baked Lemon Shortbread cookies.

Variations

Shortbread is the base for so many different flavours!

  • All citrus zests are wonderful, so you could make lime or orange shortbread.
  • Add vanilla seeds or vanilla extract for a classic cookie.
  • Flowers like rose and lavender are another classic combination or even herbs and spices like lemon thyme (my favourite) or cinnamon.
  • Really love lemon? You could make up a simple lemon glaze like the one in my Lemon Bundt Cake recipe and drizzle it over the top.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I store shortbread and how long will it keep?

Shortbread should be stored in a cookie tin, lined with a paper towel or paper napkin. It will keep for weeks in a cool environment, but I bet it gets eaten up before you have anything to worry about (it does in my house anyway!) If you’d like to store them for a very long time, keep them in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer.

Can I make gluten-free shortbread?

Of course, in fact, shortbread is uniquely suited to being GF. Sub out the flour and cornstarch for a GF flour mixture.

Lemon Shortbread Cookies on a plate with lemons and a coffee cup.

Looking for more delicious cookies?

Why not try some of my favourites below!

Easy Overnight Bread Rolls Title Card.
New Zealand Afghan Biscuits
Raspberry and Almond Cale
Sweet and Spicy Devilled Sausages
A close up of lemon shortbread fingers on a plate.

Lemon Shortbread Recipe

Lemon Shortbread cookies on a tray.

Lemon Shortbread Cookies

Jay Wadams
Crumbly, zesty and utterly delightful, my Lemon Shortbread Cookies are like a burst of sunshine on a winter's day. These buttery cookies make the perfect gift for lemon lovers and are delicious alongside a cup of coffee or afternoon tea.
4.75 from 4 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Serves 14 Cookies

Ingredients
 

  • 150 g white sugar
  • 2 Tbsp lemon zest, finely grated
  • 225 g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 300 g plain or all-purpose flour
  • 50 g cornstarch
  • pinch of sea salt or kosher salt

for the topping:

  • 2 Tbsp white sugar
  • 1 Tbsp lemon zest

Instructions
 

  • PREPARE: Heat the oven to 180°C / 350°F / Gas 4 and line a 20x30cm (8x12in.) oven dish with baking parchment paper.
  • CREAM BUTTER AND SUGAR: Weigh the sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer, add the lemon zest, then use your fingers to rub the lemon zest into the sugar releasing all of the fragrant oils. Cube the butter and add to the mixer. Beat butter and sugar together using the paddle attachment until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes.
  • MIX DRY INGREDIENTS: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch and sea salt. Add to the butter mixture and mix on low speed until just combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl to ensure all of the butter is mixed in. Knead gently with your hands until the mixture begins to clump together, then pour into the prepared oven dish.
  • SMOOTH AND MARK: Use the back of a spoon to smooth the shortbread dough, pressing it down in an even layer. Use a small, sharp knife, mark out the surface of the dough into rectangles, then prick it all over with a fork.
  • BAKE: Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes until a light golden colour. While the shortbread is baking, rub together the remaining sugar and lemon zest for the topping.
  • SPRINKLE AND COOL: When the shortbread is ready, remove it from the oven and sprinkle immediately with the lemon sugar topping. Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the baking dish before transferring to a cooling rack. Slice into rectangular fingers before serving.

Notes

Depending on how hot your oven is at the top, your shortbread may take a little less or a little longer to bake. Start checking at 25 minutes and if it is a lovely light golden brown you are good to go.

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Nutrition

Serving: 1cookie | Calories: 255kcal | Carbohydrates: 32g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 35mg | Sodium: 3mg | Potassium: 29mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 13g | Vitamin A: 403IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 9mg | Iron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Leave a review or a star rating and let me know how it was! Use the hashtag #daysofjay on Instagram so I can see your delicious creations.
Course | Sweet Things
Cuisine | Scottish
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Jay Wadams
Jay Wadams

Jay Wadams is a cookbook author, food photographer and Le Cordon Bleu Gastronomy and Nutrition graduate. Based in Italy 🇮🇹 Germany 🇩🇪 and Australia 🇦🇺.

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