This Easy Lemon Shortbread Cookie recipe is definitely for the lemon lover and cookie lover. Zested lemons flavors these buttery slice and bake cookies and a pretty yellow sanding sugar adds a delightful crunch. It is hard to resist the melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness.
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During the spring the two lemon trees in my backyard produce an abundance of bright yellow lemons. The limbs start drooping from the weight, which is actually a good thing since it makes it easier to reach the tall branches. I love my trees but picking the lemons requires full body armor because lemon trees are notorious for having thick and super pointy thorns. Since I have deer in my yard this is one thing they won’t eat, so my lemons are safe, however, the rest of my garden is fair game.
Just picked lemons
Now that the lemons are picked it’s time to start making some treats and you can’t go wrong with these lemon cookies. They are easy to make and take four ingredients. And, to make them extra special you can roll the dough in colored sugar for a little sparkle.
- Butter – unsalted is best, but if you have salted butter, use it
- Sugar – just white
- Cake Flour – this will make these cookies nice and tender
- Lemons – needed for the lemon zest
- Sanding Sugar – used to coat the outside of the cookies for flavor and crunch, and it looks really pretty too!
- Food Coloring – make sure it’s yellow
Let’s bake cookies
Did I mention how easy these cookies are to make? Another reason to love them.
It is best to use a stand mixer for this heavy dough. You can also start the recipe with a handheld mixer then stir in the flour with a wooden spoon.
Step 1. Measure the sugar into a medium-sized bowl and zest the lemons over the sugar. Then with your fingers mix the lemon zest and sugar together. This releases the oils in the lemon zest and flavors the sugar.
Step 2. Add the butter to a large mixing bowl and beat until it’s fluffy.
Step 3. Mix in the lemon-sugar mixture then add the flour by the ½ cups. Just mix until no flour is visible.
Step 4. When your dough is made divide it in half and roll into logs about 2 inches wide. If you are rolling the cookies in the colored sanding sugar you need to do that now. You want the dough logs to be warm from rolling so the sugar will stick to the dough.
Step 5. Wrap the logs in wax paper and chill for about an hour. At this point, you can wrap these cookie rolls in plastic wrap for another day or put them in freezer bags to freeze for later.
Step 6. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. After the cookies have chilled, cut the dough logs into ¼″ slices and place on baking pans, bake for 30 minutes. If you are baking frozen dough, let the dough sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes then slice and bake. That’s it, shortbreads are so easy.
Why do you chill shortbread cookies?
Shortbread cookies contain a large amount of butter and chilling the dough before baking solidifies the butter. If you don’t chill the dough the cookies will melt too fast in the oven and lose their shape.
Rolling shortbread cookies in sugar
One thing I have added to these cookies is rolling them in colored sanding sugar. This is optional but I love the color and crunch it gives to the shortbreads. Since I bake a lot I keep white sanding sugar on hand and color it to go with what I am baking. You can also use regular sugar but it will not bake as well as the sanding sugar.
What is sanding sugar?
Sanding sugar is perfect to use when baking. This sugar has large sparkly crystals that do not dissolve in baking and add a nice little crunch to your baked goods.
Try sprinkling sanding sugar on top of all types of baked goods like bread, scones, turnovers, or muffins.
How to make colored sanding sugar
It is easy and actually kind of fun to color the sugar. Simply put your sugar in a bowl, add a few drops of gel food coloring and stir. Pretty amazing!
If you want to roll the dough in the colored sugar do this immediately after you roll it into the logs. You have to do this while your cookie dough is warm so the sugar will stick to it.
Mix ~ Roll ~Chill ~ Slice ~ Bake
Try these One Hot Oven tips
Add other flavorings such as vanilla bean, citrus, ginger, grated chocolate, or chopped pecans to the dough
Make confetti shortbreads by mixing in colored sprinkles
Roll the dough logs in colorful sprinkles, nonpareils, or powdered sugar
Make a flavored powdered sugar by mixing in cinnamon, allspice, cocoa powder, or cardamom and roll the dough in this
Instead of slice and bake cookies, roll the dough and cut it into shapes
My favorite technique is to zest citrus directly over sugar and mix it together. You will get highly flavored sugar that brings out the best of the citrus flavor in your baked goods.
Want to learn how to measure lemon juice and lemon zest for recipes, make sure to read these lemon tips.
What do you do with the lemons once you zest them? Just cut them in half and juice them using a citrus reamer. You can make a small glass of lemonade or you can freeze the lemon juice to use for later.
Wanting more shortbread recipes?
Rose Flavored Shortbread Cookies have a hint of rose flavor baked right in and these cookies are topped with rose petals.
Spiced Shortbread Cookies have the spicy flavors of chai with a sweet chai icing.
More lemon recipes to make and enjoy
If you love lemon recipes here is a favorite Lemon Cake Recipe. This tasty cake is moist with bits of lemon in the cake and it’s topped with a sweet lemon glaze.
Iced Lemon Cookies are bursting with fresh lemon flavor inside the cookie and in the sweet frosting.
Don’t forget to pin to your cookie board on Pinterest
Baking supplies for this recipe
I get asked about my copper cooling rack. This round rack is the perfect size for a batch of cookies and the copper color is so pretty.
A super important tool for the kitchen is a Microplane grater/zester, it the perfect way to grate lemons and all citrus. Also, use for grating ginger and nutmeg.
Easy Lemon Shortbread Cookies
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Colored Sanding Sugar
Colored Sanding Sugar - Optional
- Place the sanding sugar in a large bowl and add a few drops of yellow food coloring, mix well to incorporate the color throughout the sugar. You can also use regular white sugar for this.
Making the shortbread cookies
- Place the sugar in a medium-sized bowl. With a citrus zester, zest the three lemons over the sugar, then mix the sugar and zest together.
- Using a stand mixing or a hand-held mixer, add the softened butter to a large bowl and beat until light and fluffy on medium speed.
- Gradually add the lemon-sugar mixture and mix on medium speed until incorporated.
- With the mixer on medium-low speed mix in the cake flour ½ cup at a time, mixing well with each addition
- Divide the dough in half and form into two logs ½" thick.
- If you are using the sanding sugar, immediately roll the dough logs into the sugar to completely coat the dough. You want the dough to be a bit tacky from rolling into the logs for the sugar to stick.
- Wrap the dough logs in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for one hour.
- Preheat the oven to 300° F. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
- Slice the dough into ¼" slices and place on the baking sheets.
- Bake the shortbreads for 30 minutes, let sit for 5 minutes on the baking sheet then place on a cooling rack to completely cool.
- Store cookies in an airtight container for up to a week.
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From learning to cook on a farm in Indiana to culinary school in California, my passion for food is never-ending. Turning on my oven to bake something for friends and family is my happy place, and I am glad to be here at One Hot Oven sharing both sweet and savory recipes with all my baking friends.