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. πŸ™‚ 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 350Β° 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 32 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
  • Β½ cup butter, softened
  • β…“ cup cane sugar
  • Zest of 1 medium lemon
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • 1ΒΌ cups all-purpose flour
  • ΒΌ teaspoon sea salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 350Β°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 ΒΌβ€œ 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. colleen kennelly

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

    • Jeanine Donofrio

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

  2. Peggi

    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

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

  3. Rebecca

    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

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

      • Rebecca

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

  4. Aileen from fruit-ion.com

    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

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

  5. Glenda Clarke

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

  6. Bee

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

  7. Kathy

    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

  8. michelle

    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

  9. Jill

    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

      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 πŸ™‚

  10. Bianca

    These were delicious πŸ™‚ 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!

  11. Julia

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

  12. Sonia

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

    • Jeanine Donofrio

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

  13. Julia

    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

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

  14. Samantha

    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

      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

        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!

  15. Wendy

    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

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

  16. Wendy

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

    • Jeanine Donofrio

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

  17. Fernbeds from nicominixturner.com

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

  18. Sharon S

    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.

  19. vivian

    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

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

  20. Kacy from library.uonbi.ac.ke

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

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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.