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. Maryam

    I just made these cookies and they were heavenly💕💕Thank you for sharing this💕💕

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      I’m so glad you loved them!

  2. Mat

    Really nice but I rolled them out to 1/4 “ thick which ar the time I thought that seems super thin… I think next time I will try rolling them out maybe 3 times as thick closer to 3/4 “” as when I looked back over the photos where u are placing them on the baking tray your ones definitely look way way thicker than what Ihad at 1/4” haha. Keen to try again and roll them thicker

  3. Kim

    Made these and they’re AMAZING. I didn’t have a cookie cutter so I used a whiskey glass to cut the circular shape. I even used the design on the outside of the glass to print a subtle design on the cookie. That being said I made 7 cookies.

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      I’m so glad you loved them!

  4. Shauna

    Can I use regular granulated sugar instead of cane sugar?

  5. Mary

    Great cookies! Didn’t have any fresh thyme on hand so I left that out, but they still turned out great. Had to bake them for a bit longer to get that golden colour – about 15-20 minutes. The dough was definitely trickier in the sense that it was a bit crumbly as I was rolling it so you have to be gentle with it. I was worried they would fall apart in the oven but they came out perfect! Definitely recommend giving them a go.

  6. Moreana

    Hello Jeanie,
    I just tried your recipe, with fresh lemon thyme from a friends garden. It realy ads a special note and we love it!
    Will defnitly add those cookies to my cookie sale this summer!

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      I’m so glad you loved them!

  7. Andrea

    Can I make a week ahead and freeze them? will they lose their consistency? or How early can I make them if I refrigerate them? Thanks!

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Andrea, yes, they freeze well.

  8. Janet Moon Drawdy

    Unsalted butter?

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      yes, unsalted

  9. Elizabeth Terry

    I made this recipe about six months ago and the cookies were delicious. I just made the recipe today and the first batch of dough was so dry I couldn’t roll it. I refrigerated it and it was better but still somewhat dry. I made the recipe again and the dough was dry again ( I thought I mismeasyred the first time) so I added a little egg white Ann’s then it was too sticky. I ended up up baking both recipes. Flavor’s pretty good but they don’t look as good as when I made them before. Any thoughts as to why the dough consistency was off?

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Elizabeth, that’s so strange! I wonder if you packed your flour in the measuring cup differently the 2nd and 3rd time (Here’s our post about measuring flour and how it can be inconsistent: https://www.loveandlemons.com/how-to-measure-flour/)

      Or perhaps you used a different brand of flour or a different brand of another ingredient?

    • Jujube

      This just happened to me :(. It seems it was as if I had added too much flour despite of having followed the instructions

  10. Rebecca Tennenbaum

    Looking forward to making these! How far ahead can you make the dough and refrigerate? Thank you!

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Rebecca, you could probably make them the day ahead – when you go to bake them, leave the dough out at room temp until it’s pliable/rollable since it’ll get too hard in the fridge.

  11. Alexis Starratt

    Do you recommend salted or unsalted butter for this recipe please?

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Alexis, unsalted butter.

  12. Carol

    I can bake in a pan and then cut into bars?

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Carol, I haven’t tried that but I think it should be fine – you might need to increase the baking time, depending how the middle of the bars are baking.

  13. Lucy Austin

    Would it work to use dried thyme instead of fresh?

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Lucy, I think fresh thyme is best here, if you don’t have any, I would just skip it – they’ll still be delicious lemon cookies.

  14. M

    Excited for this recipe! Is it okay to use powdered sugar?

  15. Micro

    These were really good! If I make them again I think I would add more sugar and a little less thyme but other than that these were great!

  16. Mary

    I would love to give these a try, but I would need to use gluten free flour. I scrolled through the comments and didn’t see anyone who said they tried g.f. flour.
    Would it work, do you think? What adjustments would be needed?
    Thank you!

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Mary, I haven’t tested these with GF flour so I’m not sure it would work. It’s usually pretty different in recipes like this. This is my favorite site for GF baking, you might see if she has a shortbread recipe: https://bojongourmet.com/

    • Victoria

      Bob’s Red Mill 1-1 Gluten-Free All Purpose Flour (blue bag, not the red one) works perfectly for me.

  17. Courtney R

    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!!

  18. Chantelle

    Would love to know if u could use Lime?

    • Jeanine Donofrio

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

    • Melody

      Yup! I tried it and they taste absolutely fab!

  19. Kelly Scouten

    Yup! These are winners! Thanks for the recipe.

  20. katie

    these were excellent! so easy to make too!

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.