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. ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 350ยฐ 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 donโ€™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:


5.0 from 25 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!
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 30
Ingredients
  • ยฝ cup butter, softened
  • โ…“ cup cane sugar
  • Zest of 1 medium lemon
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • 1ยผ cups all-purpose flour
  • ยผ teaspoon sea salt
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350ยฐF 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 1โ€ 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 ยผโ€œ thick. If desired, you can roll the dough between two pieces of parchment paper. Use 2โ€ 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.

This post is sponsored by Method Home. Thank you for supporting the sponsors that keep us cooking!

70 comments

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Rate this recipe (after making it):  

  1. Liese
    02.09.2017

    So from your trial batches you concluded that coconut oil cannot sub for the butter? I usually sub coconut oil for butter in recipes …usually using 1/2 to 2/3 of butter amount.

  2. Jeanine Donofrio
    02.09.2017

    I couldn’t get coconut oil to work without these flattening out way too much. But if you have success, please let me know!

  3. thank you for this, it inspires me to re-engage with shortbread, it’s never been one of my favorites, but love the idea of lemon flavored shortbread, sounds a lot better!

  4. Tiffa
    02.09.2017

    I just made these cookies in little heart and star shapes. I usually suck at baking, but these turned out to be sooo cute and delicious. Thanks a ton!!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      02.10.2017

      Yay, I’m so glad you enjoyed them!!

  5. I’ve planned to cook’em in the next coming weekend for a “thรจa party” I’m goingo to set with some firends of mine! I bet they will be delicious!
    Thanks a lot for the inspiration and the, as usual, clear step by step explanation.
    Cheers

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      02.10.2017

      you’re welcome, I hope you enjoy!

  6. wow these look sooooo tasty xx

    cristynottingham.blogspot.co.uk

  7. Izzy
    02.11.2017

    These look so yummy!
    I love the cute heart shape you made them. Your photos are also stunning. x
    Izzy -https://pinchofdelight.wordpress.com

  8. Sandra Diane Lee
    02.12.2017

    These are absolutely sublime! They turned out delicious! They are my edible valentines for my children and grandchildren along with chocolate pecan cookies! Lemon and thyme coupled with shortbread are delicious!!

    • Sandra Diane Lee
      02.12.2017

      5 stars but unable to choose rating when posting comment first time:-)

  9. these look just so delish,I like everything with lemon in it so I might give this recipe a try x

    todaysouhaila.blogspot.com

  10. Alyssa from hermodernkitchen.com
    02.13.2017

    When I saw the post title, a little part of me was scared to read the recipe as I thought you may have ‘shorted’ the shortbread by using coconut oil! Happy to see you stayed true to shortbread with butter!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      02.17.2017

      Ha! Well I tried, but then realized that butter has it’s time and place ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. Leanna from coloradospringsloanstoday.com
    02.15.2017

    I did those cookies yesterday! My boyfriend ate all – I ate just 2. Definitely need to do more ๐Ÿ˜€

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      02.17.2017

      oh, ha! well I’m glad he loved them ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. Brie
    02.15.2017

    My husband is a big lemon dessert fan so I made these for him for Valentines Day. I am not a huge lemon dessert fan but I LOVED these!! They were so subtle and delicious and wonderful. Thank you, I will continue to make this recipe when I need a special something!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      02.17.2017

      Hi Brie! I’m so glad you and your husband loved them!

    • Yvette
      05.21.2019

      I made these and I don’t know what I done wrong, but my dough was so dry. I had to add more lemon juice. Then they were pliable. And tasted really good.

  13. Maria from almostproperly.com
    02.15.2017

    I love love shortbread!! Lemon and thyme are one of my favorite flavor combos. In a crisp little shortbread cookie I have no doubt that the flavors would add a subtle flavor that would taste totally delicious!! Shortbread cookies are a favorite in our house, too. So any new variation will surely be welcomed.

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      02.17.2017

      Thanks Maria, let me know if you give these a try!

  14. Nikky
    02.16.2017

    Made these on Valentine’s Day and my bf loved them! He happily devoured about 4 in one sitting…and I have a slightly bigger cookie cutter than the one used here. Deliciously lemon-y and the thyme is a great touch!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      02.17.2017

      Yay, I’m so glad you both enjoyed them! ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. Helen C from helensfashionblog.blogspot.co.uk
    02.17.2017

    Such a beautiful bake, and I loved hearing the back story about your lemon tree, you are so lucky to have one. It was actually funny I stumbled across this blog post, and also a coincidence mainly because I made very similar shortbread heart biscuits myself for Valentineโ€™s Day. Mine didnโ€™t have lemon or thyme in them, although Iโ€™m sure they added to the flavour. Fabulous photography too, happy baking! ๐Ÿ™‚ xx

    Helen | Helenโ€™s Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle Blog

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      02.17.2017

      thank you Helen!

  16. Wendy Gerster
    02.21.2017

    These were really good! I was a bit dubious about the thyme but thought I`d be daring and give it a go. What a great combination! And they were so nice and crisp, too. Thanks a lot for the recipe.

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      02.28.2017

      I’m so happy you enjoyed them! Way to be daring, I’m glad you liked the thyme ๐Ÿ™‚

  17. Indian restaurant edmonton
    05.24.2017

    These are so simple and perfect. Iโ€™d love them with a cup of coffee.

  18. Kacy from library.uonbi.ac.ke
    06.05.2017

    This can work for beginners (of baking), thanks for sharing some simple recipes like this one.

  19. vivian
    06.07.2017

    Excellent cookies and simple to make. I made them cat shaped as a thank you for our vet who has gone above and beyond in the care of our 20 year old diabetic tuxedo cat. Thanks for a great recipe! 5 stars (can’t get the star thingy to work)

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      06.07.2017

      aww, those sound so cute – wishing your cat all the best! I’m so happy you enjoyed the recipe ๐Ÿ™‚

  20. Sharon S
    07.11.2017

    I made these yesterday with fresh thyme from my garden. They were very good, but we couldn’t taste the thyme (which is the reason I tried these cookies). I may try them one more time and reduce the lemon zest and increase the thyme. Also, I am lazy, so instead of rolling the shortbread out and using a cutter, I rolled it into a log, stuck it in the frig and just sliced off as many cookies as I wanted to bake.

  21. Fernbeds from nicominixturner.com
    07.26.2017

    These are excellent! I added lime instead of lemon and added a bit of coconut. Great consistency!

  22. Wendy
    08.13.2017

    These are great! Very lemony with a lovely bit of thyme. I think rosemary would also work well in these.

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      08.14.2017

      I’m so glad you enjoyed them! Yes, I think rosemary would be lovely ๐Ÿ™‚

  23. Wendy
    08.23.2017

    Good evening…I just made these cookies from.your recipe. They turned out incredibly lovely. Thank you so much for being generous in sharing this absolutely Devine shortbread cookie recipe.

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      08.25.2017

      Hi Wendy, thank you so much for coming back to let me know! I’m glad you enjoyed them ๐Ÿ™‚

  24. Samantha
    09.13.2017

    Can you freeze the dough? Or how long do you think it could last in the fridge before baking? I wanted to make these ahead of time. Thank you!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      09.13.2017

      Hi Samantha, the dough was really difficult to work with if refrigerated for more than an hour or so. These are best made and baked on the same day.

      • Samantha
        09.13.2017

        Thank you! I found other recipes for shortbread cookies that say you can freeze them after baking…. will try with small batch. Can’t wait to try your recipe!

  25. Julia
    09.17.2017

    I just made them and they’re fabulous! Very easy, not too sweet, just lemon-y enough. I ended up baking them about 16 minutes and they crisped up nicely. Great with a cup of coffee. Thanks!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      09.18.2017

      Hi Julia – I’m so glad you liked the cookies!

  26. Sonia
    10.20.2017

    Delish! Easy to make. I used a tea spoon of dried thyme instead of fresh and it worked out just right!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      10.21.2017

      so glad you loved them! thanks for the tip about the dried thyme!

  27. Julia
    12.24.2017

    Just made this, slathered on some plum jam…it may have been the best bite Iโ€™ve ever had. Now I have to wait till desert tomorrow to have more.

  28. Bianca
    02.11.2018

    These were delicious ๐Ÿ™‚ I didn’t have cane sugar so had to settle with caster sugar. Needed to cook mine for round 13 minutes. Lovely lemon taste. Thank you!

  29. Jill
    03.10.2018

    10/10, delicious!

    This is such an easy recipe – I had a cooking vibe going on this morning and I am so glad I found this. The cookies are flaky, buttery, and perfectly lemony. The thyme adds an amazing kick. They taste great with tea & milk as they’re crunchy on the edges, soft in the middle, and so flaky throughout.

    Our thyme plant is going crazy so it was a great chance to use the trimmings in something sweeter, and lemons are abundant around us right now! Definitely a recipe to keep somewhere easy to reach.

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      03.14.2018

      Hi Jill, I’m so glad you loved the cookies! And I’m so jealous that you have so much thyme growing, I can’t wait for spring ๐Ÿ™‚

  30. michelle
    11.19.2018

    Thank you – I now make these annually for a cookie swap – I cut them in triangles and claim that they are “trees.” I’ve done thyme and rosemary and love them. What is your experience with baking in advance and freezing them? Thank you again! Michelle

  31. Kathy
    12.24.2018

    Hello, Is there anything that can be used in place of the butter to make this recipe vegan? Allergy to dairy..unfortunately. Thank you, Kathy

  32. Bee
    04.05.2019

    Shortbreads are my favorite cookies and Iโ€™m always on the look out for new ways to make them, these sound so delicious, will bake a batch this weekend!

  33. Glenda Clarke
    05.26.2019

    A beautifully light, buttery and fragrant shortbread. I absolutely love this recipe!

  34. Aileen from fruit-ion.com
    07.08.2019

    I was fresh out of thyme, but made these using lavender instead (and with coconut sugar and an additional 1/2 tsp. of lemon juice). Shortbread is usually not my cookie of choice, but I love lemon, and these cookies did not disappoint! Looking forward to exploring more recipes from here!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      07.10.2019

      I’m so glad you enjoyed them! I think lemon and lavender are such a wonderful pairing ๐Ÿ™‚

  35. Rebecca
    09.10.2019

    Have you tried using dried herbs instead of fresh? I have so much dried stuff and would rather use that than have to buy fresh.

    • Rebecca
      09.10.2019

      Just saw the comment above. Will try with that and see how it goes. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Rebecca
        09.10.2019

        WAS DELICIOUS!!!! omg dried works great!!! will 100% make this again! ๐Ÿ˜€

  36. Peggi
    09.22.2019

    I have made these cookies several times, So Delicious
    Today I used Freeze Dried Strawberries with a little lemon
    They came out Delicious

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      09.23.2019

      ooh, that sounds super delicious, thanks for the idea!

  37. colleen kennelly
    10.15.2019

    Yum. I actually used my lemon thyme for these. I LOVE ANYTHING LEMON. These were great with a cup of tea.

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      10.18.2019

      I love using lemon thyme in them as well :). I’m so glad you enjoyed these!

  38. katie
    12.17.2019

    these were excellent! so easy to make too!

  39. Kelly Scouten
    05.17.2020

    Yup! These are winners! Thanks for the recipe.

  40. Chantelle
    08.08.2020

    Would love to know if u could use Lime?

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      08.08.2020

      you could! I might skip the thyme in that case.

  41. Courtney R
    10.17.2020

    I absolutely love these. I didn’t know what to expect but these are really great! They are dainty little cookies and have a fresh flavor. Thanks!!

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.