Lemon Shortbread Cookies

These lemon shortbread cookies are a fan favorite, and once you try them, you'll see why! They're tender, buttery, and filled with bright lemon flavor.

Lemon Shortbread Cookies

When life hands you lemons, make lemon shortbread cookies! When we first planted our lemon tree, I had this romantic idea that I’d be able to pick fresh lemons all year round. Obviously, I’m not good with plants, or I would have known that the famous saying is literally true. You get lemons once a year, and you get a lot of them. Needless to say, life has been lemony lately in many ways, but today it’s all about these lovely lemon shortbread cookies.

Creaming butter and lemon zest in a stand mixer

Lemon Shortbread Cookies Ingredients

When I was testing this recipe, I made a ton of lemon shortbread cookies. I tried vegan and gluten-free shortbread cookies recipes with different oils and flours, all sorts of things. During the process, I was stressing out. Some cookies were dry, some were burned, and some flattened out like pancakes (not the good kind). I’m just lucky that Jack, being the kind taste tester that he is, made sure not a crumb went to waste.

So what did I end up with? A straightforward, delightful lemon butter cookie recipe. Here’s what’s in it:

  • All-purpose flour – Sometimes complicated problems demand simple solutions. I tried all sorts of flours in this recipe, but good old AP yielded the best results every time.
  • Butter – It gives these lemon shortbread cookies a delicious buttery flavor and melt-in-your-mouth texture.
  • Sugar – For sweetness.
  • Lemon juice and zest – You couldn’t make lemon shortbread cookies without them! They fill these treats with bright lemon flavor.
  • Fresh thyme – My twist. 🙂 I adore the combination of lemon and thyme in these cookies. It’s so surprising and refreshing; I think you’re going to love it too!
  • And sea salt – To make all the flavors pop!

Find the complete recipe with measurements below.

Shortbread cookie dough

How to Make Lemon Shortbread Cookies

The recipe is pretty simple and straightforward. Here’s how it goes:

First, make the dough. Cream the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the sugar and beat until fluffy, followed by the lemon juice, zest, and thyme. Mix again. Then, add the flour and salt and mix until just combined.

Rolling out lemon shortbread cookies

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and flatten it into a 1″ disk. If it’s sticky, wrap it up and chill it for 15 to 30 minutes, or until it’s firm, but still pliable.

Next, roll out the dough and cut out the cookies. My favorite part! Aim for the dough to be about 1/4″ thick. Then, use cookie cutters to cut out any shapes you like. Like in my sugar cookie recipe, I recommend starting at the edges of the dough and working inwards, puzzling together the cutters to cut out as many cookies as you can. Transfer the cut-outs to parchment-lined baking sheets, and re-roll the scraps to make more cookies.

Then, bake! Transfer the cookies to a 350° preheated oven, and bake until the edges are starting to turn light brown. Transfer them to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

Finally, share them with someone you love!

Hands putting cookie cut-outs on a baking sheet

Lemon Shortbread Cookies Tips

  • Use softened – not melted – butter. The first step of this recipe, creaming the butter, is what gives these cookies their perfect light texture. In order to cream the butter, it needs to be soft, but not melted. To soften your butter, you’re going to need to plan ahead. Remove it from the fridge, set it on the counter, and let it sit for a couple of hours while it comes to room temperature. We’ve all tried to speed up this process in the microwave, but take it from me: letting your butter soften at room temperature will always yield the best results.
  • Bake one sheet at a time. Temperatures vary throughout an oven, so baking one sheet at a time is the best way to ensure that your cookies cook evenly. You don’t want ones on the bottom rack to burn before the top rack starts to brown! Pop any cut-outs that don’t make it onto the first sheet in the fridge until you’re ready to bake them.
  • Pair them with a cup of coffee or tea. Who doesn’t love a hot beverage and a sweet treat on a cold day? The thyme and lemon flavor makes these cookies especially delicious with tea, but they pair nicely with coffee and hot chocolate too. Enjoy!

Lemon Shortbread Cookies with thyme leaves

More Favorite Cookie Recipes

If you love these lemon thyme shortbread cookies, try one of these cookies next:

4.9 from 56 reviews

Lemon Shortbread Cookies

Prep time
Cook time
Total time
These Lemon Shortbread Cookies are a delightful addition to a holiday cookie plate, but I love making them at all times of year. Enjoy them on their own or with a hot cup of tea!
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 30
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • ⅓ cup cane sugar
  • Zest of 1 medium lemon
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Cream the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the sugar and beat until fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Next, add the lemon zest, lemon juice, and thyme and mix again. Finally, add the flour and salt and mix until just combined. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and flatten into a 1” disk. If the dough is sticky, wrap and chill for 15 to 30 minutes until firm but still pliable.
  3. Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface until about ¼“ thick. If desired, you can roll the dough between two pieces of parchment paper. Use 2” cookie cutters to cut out desired shapes. Transfer to the baking sheet and bake for 10 to 14 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned. Keep any extra cut-out cookies in the fridge until ready to bake.
  4. Remove from the oven and transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool. Store at room temperature for up to 5 days.

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Rate this recipe (after making it):  

  1. Kelsey

    These are great! I’ve made them twice in one week already. I used 1 tsp dried lavender since I don’t have thyme right now, but I’ll definitely try thyme once I’ve got it. Lovely flavor and texture. We like how they taste 1 or 2 days after baking. And a simple lemon glaze never hurt anyone 😉

  2. Judy

    This is one of the best cookie recipes! I always recueve compliments. The thyme adds something interesting visually and in flavor.

  3. Lita

    This recipe doesn’t make 30 , more like 10-15. I’d suggest to Double the recipe folks.

  4. Meg

    Hi! I love your recipes and can’t wait to try this one. Have you tried making the dough for these cookies ahead of time and freezing it? Do you think that will work?

    • Nell

      I’d be interested in the answer to this too, Meg. Personally I don’t see that they wouldn’t freeze.

      • Jeanine Donofrio

        Hi Nell, these freeze really well!

  5. Susanna

    I love this recipe! I will admit to substituting whole grain flour and coconut sugar, but it still came out beautifully. The lemon and the thyme are just wonderful.

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Susanna, I’m so glad you loved them!

  6. Christina Noel

    This recipe came out so good! I made the mistake of melting my butter so going to let it sit at room temp for a couple of hours next time and probably double it up. Thanks for sharing!

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      I’m glad you enjoyed them!

  7. Tatiana

    Just made these and I wish I doubled the recipe. One thing I’m having to do was put it in the fridge for longer than 30 minutes. Not sure why but I did a test bake and it spread a little after having it in the fridge for 30 mins. Really awesome recipe can’t wait to bake the whole batch.

  8. Rebecca

    I am mesmerized by your art- from recipe creation, the the journaling your story (in shorter order) to make it come to life. Even photo & video production. You are gifted and a gift.

    Thank you!

  9. Jenn

    Made these this morning, doubled the recipe thank you, they are delicious

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)

      Hi Jenn, I’m so glad you loved them!

  10. Jackie

    Made these and they were fabulous. Can I freeze dough so it is on hand for easy baking?

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Jackie, we haven’t tried freezing the dough, but freezing the final baked cookies works great.

  11. Amelia

    These are in the oven! I was wondering if you could include weight measurements. My dough was super dry and tough to get it to stick together which probably would have been prevented had I weighed at least the flour 🙂

  12. Lisa

    does it matter if the butter is salted or not? If I use salted butter should I omit the sea salt?

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)

      Hi Lisa, you could use salted butter and omit the sea salt. Hope you enjoy!

  13. Laura

    Dis you have any success with making these dairy free?

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)

      Hi Laura, we haven’t tested a vegan version of this recipe, but Earth Balance buttery sticks or another vegan butter might work here. In that case, I would omit the salt because the butter will already be salted.

  14. monica

    Can the dough be simply pressed into a pan & baked instead of cut out?

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)

      Hi Monica, I think that would work, but without testing it, I’m not sure what the timing would be.

A food blog with fresh, zesty recipes.
Photograph of Jeanine Donofrio and Jack Mathews in their kitchen

Hello, we're Jeanine and Jack.

We love to eat, travel, cook, and eat some more! We create & photograph vegetarian recipes from our home in Chicago, while our shiba pups eat the kale stems that fall on the kitchen floor.