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 35 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. Indian restaurant edmonton

    These are so simple and perfect. I’d love them with a cup of coffee.

  2. Wendy Gerster

    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

      I’m so happy you enjoyed them! Way to be daring, I’m glad you liked the thyme 🙂

  3. Helen C from helensfashionblog.blogspot.co.uk

    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 Valentine’s Day. Mine didn’t have lemon or thyme in them, although I’m sure they added to the flavour. Fabulous photography too, happy baking! 🙂 xx

    Helen | Helen’s Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle Blog

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      thank you Helen!

  4. Nikky

    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

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

  5. Maria from almostproperly.com

    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

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

  6. Brie

    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

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

    • Yvette

      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.

  7. Leanna from coloradospringsloanstoday.com

    I did those cookies yesterday! My boyfriend ate all – I ate just 2. Definitely need to do more 😀

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      oh, ha! well I’m glad he loved them 🙂

  8. Alyssa from hermodernkitchen.com

    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

      Ha! Well I tried, but then realized that butter has it’s time and place 🙂

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


  10. Sandra Diane Lee

    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

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

  11. Izzy

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

  12. wow these look sooooo tasty xx


  13. I’ve planned to cook’em in the next coming weekend for a “thèa 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.

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      you’re welcome, I hope you enjoy!

  14. Tiffa

    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

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

  15. 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!

  16. Jeanine Donofrio

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

  17. Liese

    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.

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.