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Easy slice and bake Lemon Shortbread Cookies
Simple little shortbread cookies with a big lemon flavor
These cookies are a favorite with friends and family every time I make them. I always seem to have extra lemons on hand and combined with a few basic pantry ingredients, we can have easy slice and bake Lemon Shortbread Cookies ready in a flash!
As you know, a great shortbread cookie should taste a little buttery and practically melt in your mouth. Incredible texture is everything. As there’s only a few ingredients in the entire recipe, quality is very important. Be sure you use good quality butter for best results.
How to infuse plenty of lemon flavor in these little cookies:
The first thing we do when making these cookies is zest two fresh lemons. We always make sure we’re not zesting any of the white pith, as it will make the cookies taste bitter.
Next we combine the fresh lemon zest with a few tablespoons of granulated sugar in a food processor. Process and pulse until the zest breaks down and releases the fragrant and flavorful lemon oils into the sugar.
Once infused with lemon zest, the granulated sugar becomes slightly moist almost like sand, and turns a beautiful yellow color. This method of making lemon sugar ensures there’s plenty of lemon flavor in every bite, of every cookie.
We use this same lemon sugar method in many of our most popular lemon recipes. Lemon sugar infuses terrific lemon flavor in our Lemon Crumble Breakfast Cake, Lemon Cheesecake, Tangy Lemon Bars, Lemon Cookies with Lemon Cream and also our Lemon Bundt Cake.
Do you have to make lemon sugar for this recipe?
No you don’t have to make lemon sugar first. You’re welcome to just add lemon zest to your cookie dough. You’ll still need the granulated sugar, too.
However, if you don’t make lemon sugar I’m afraid you might think the cookies don’t have enough lemon flavor. Trust me, lemon sugar is a simple step that makes a big difference in these Lemon Shortbread Cookies.
Ingredients needed to make Lemon shortbread Cookies:
For the cookie dough:
- fresh lemon zest from 2 lemons (no white pith!)
- granulated sugar
- unsalted butter softened to room temperature
- powdered or confectioners sugar
- vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
- all-purpose flour
For the lemon icing and/or coarse sugar coating:
- powdered sugar
- fresh lemon juice
- coarse sugar
- egg white
How to make Lemon Shortbread Cookies
To make the cookie dough:
First combine the lemon zest and a few tablespoons of granulated sugar in a small food processor. Pulse until the sugar is bright yellow in color and the zest is broken down into tiny flecks.
Next beat the butter until smooth and creamy using an electric mixer. Add the lemon sugar, powdered sugar, vanilla and salt. Beat until well blended.
Add half the flour to the butter mixture and beat on low until combined. Blend in all remaining flour. The dough will be crumbly but should hold together when pinched.
Turn the crumbled dough out onto a large piece of wax paper. Pat and squeeze the crumbs into a log 12-inches long. Wrap the dough tightly in the wax paper and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 4 days.
When ready to bake, slice the dough into 1/2-inch thick rounds and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake in a preheated oven until the bottoms are lightly browned.
Optional coarse sugar coating:
Once the dough is well chilled, brush the entire log lightly with a beaten egg white. Roll the log in coarse sugar to coat. Slice and bake as directed.
Serve the cookies as-is or top with a simple lemon glaze.
Or, skip the coarse sugar coating and drizzle with lemon icing and sprinkles.
Do you have to glaze these cookies?
I always add at least a little lemon icing or a drizzle, for the tangy lemon bite we love. The shortbread itself is not very sweet so the fresh lemon juice icing really sets them apart.
The icing doesn’t have to be thick or cover the entire top of the cookie. A light glaze or simple zigzag drizzle adds plenty of flavor and just enough sweetness.
As the cookies are not overly sweet they can easily support both the coarse sugar coating and a little icing. I love the sweet crunch the sugar coating adds to each bite and bet you will too!
We’ve used many different kinds of coarse sugar over the years and love them all. However, we prefer something like turbinado for these cookies as we did on our Pecan Sandies.
Our favorite shortbread cookies recipes:
We’re crazy about easy slice and bake shortbread cookies. Here are a few more of our favorite recipes you might also like to try:
- Pecan Sandies
- Chocolate Shortbread Cookies with walnuts
- Chocolate Chunk Shortbread Cookies
- Pistachio Shortbread Cookies
Can you freeze Lemon Shortbread Cookies?
Yes you can freeze shortbread cookies with great success!
- Freeze the dough in a log to slice and bake later;
- Freeze the cookies after they’re baked and cooled;
- Or you can freeze any leftover cookies even after they’re iced!
These fool-proof cookies are so easy to make and are loved by all who try them. We often bake these cookies ahead then serve with a bowl of homemade ice cream.
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Lemon Shortbread Cookies
For the cookie dough:
- zest from 2 lemons no white pith
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 10 tablespoons unsalted butter softened (5oz)
- ½ cup powdered sugar (57g)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour (226g)
For the lemon icing:
- 1 cup powdered sugar (115g)
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice more or less for desired consistency
Optional coarse sugar coating:
- 1 egg white lightly beaten
- ½ cup turbinado or other coarse sugar for rolling
To prepare the cookie dough:
- In a small food processor combine the lemon zest and granulated sugar. Pulse until the sugar is bright yellow and the zest is broken down into tiny pieces.
- In a large mixing bowl beat the softened butter with an electric mixer for 1 minutes or until creamy and smooth. Add the lemon sugar, powdered sugar, vanilla and salt. Blend on medium until combined. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula and blend again.
- Add half the flour to the butter mixture and mix on low until combined. Add the remaining flour and blend on low until the dough is crumbly and the flour is all incorporated. The dough will be crumbly but should hold together when pinched.
- Turn the crumbled dough out onto a large piece of wax paper. Pat and squeeze the crumbs into a log 12-inches long. Wrap the dough tightly in the wax paper and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to overnight.
- To bake, preheat oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, set aside.
- Remove the dough from the refrigerator. (See instruction below if adding coarse sugar coating) Lay a 12-inch ruler next to the dough log. Make hashmarks with a knife at 1/2-inch intervals. Using a large thin, sharp knife, slice the log into 24 (1/2-inch) rounds. Divide the cookies between the prepared baking sheet about 1-inch apart. Bake for 10 to 13 minutes or until the bottoms are very light brown and the tops are just set. Don't over bake. Cool completely on a wire rack before adding the lemon glaze.
- OPTIONAL coarse sugar coating: When ready to slice and bake, brush a beaten egg white over the well chilled dough log. Roll the dough log in coarse sugar, pressing firmly to adhere. Slice and bake as directed above.
To prepare the lemon glaze:
- Whisk together the powdered sugar and lemon juice. Add a little fresh lemon juice or powdered sugar until you reach the desired consistency. Drizzle, dollop or spread the glaze over the cooled cookies. Top with additional lemon zest or sprinkles, if desired.
- Allow the icing to set before storing in an airtight container at room temperature.
- Cookies will keep well for up to 5 days at room temperature.
- The butter must be very soft or the dough won’t mix well and may seem dry.
- Make sure you don’t over-measure the flour. Stir the flour in the bag, then lightly spoon into a measuring cup. Level off the top with the dull side of a table knife. Or, use weight measurements as indicated.
- If the cookie dough splits or breaks apart when slicing, simply piece it back together into a round and bake.
- The cookie dough can be made ahead and stored tightly wrapped in wax paper and plastic wrap for up to 4 days before baking.
- The dough can also be frozen for up to a month. Defrost frozen dough in the refrigerator for about 4 hours before slicing.
- Baked and iced cookies also freeze well sealed in an airtight container.