These light and buttery lemon shortbread cookies are made with a bold lemony citrus flavor that is both sweet and zesty. It’s the perfect shortbread cookie for spring and summer and uses only 6 simple ingredients to make!
Citrus desserts are perfect for summer. They are light and sweet at the same time. These simple lemon shortbread cookies include fresh flavor inside a buttery cookie.
Shortbread is typically a thin and crumbly cookie that has a light crunch and a sweet taste. For these shortbread cookies, you’ll need a basic mix of flour and sugar to form the dough. It’s then flavored with lemon zest and lemon extract for a perfectly satisfying treat that’s great to bring to BBQs or to enjoy poolside.
Why You’ll Love This Shortbread Recipe
- These citrus shortbread cookies are flavorful, but they aren’t heavy! This makes them the perfect treat for warmer weather that won’t weigh you down.
- They’re made with just 6 simple ingredients. You can find all the ingredients you need to make these cookies at your local grocery store.
- You can make an entire batch of these cookies in one hour or less which includes the 15 minutes it takes to chill the dough.
- You can make a double or triple batch to freeze for later.
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Salted Butter – Softened butter brings the dough together and adds a rich buttery flavor to the shortbread. You can use unsalted butter but you may also want to add a pinch salt to the dough.
- Powdered Sugar – The texture of powdered sugar is best for shortbread because it dissolves into the dough evenly.
- All-Purpose Flour – The main dry ingredient in the cookie dough helps bind all the ingredients together to form the perfect cookie. You can substitute with gluten free 1:1 flour.
- Lemon Zest & Lemon Extract – You’ll need both fresh lemon zest and lemon extract to add the perfect amount of lemon flavor to these easy shortbread cookies. Use store-bought or homemade lemon extract.
- Milk – A bit of milk helps loosen the dough so it can be kneaded properly.
A note about citrus extracts: Lemon extract is concentrated lemon flavor so it’s best for these cookies. You can substitute with fresh lemon juice, but it won’t yield as much flavor. You can also substitute with other types of citrus extracts, such as orange extract or key lime.
How to Make Lemon Shortbread Cookies
Step 1. Beat the butter. Add the butter to the stand mixer and beat until it becomes nice and fluffy.
Step 2. Add remaining ingredients to form the shortbread dough. Add in the sugar, and lemon zest then gradually add the flour in batches until well incorporated. Pour in the milk and lemon extract and mix until a shaggy dough is formed. Form it into a disk and wrap in plastic to chill in the fridge.
Step 3. Form the cookies. Roll out the chilled dough onto a lightly floured surface, then using a cookie cutter or biscuit cutter cut out the cookies and place onto the prepared baking sheets at least ½ inch apart. Place cookie sheets in the freezer to help firm up the butter to prevent spreading.
Step 4. Bake lemon shortbread. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Remove from the freezer and bake for 12 to 14 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven and transfer to a baking sheet to let cool before serving. Glaze with icing or frost if desired.
- Chill the dough. It’s important to not skip the step of chilling the dough before baking. Since you are using room temperature butter and not melted butter, keeping the cookie dough cool will help keep the texture of the cookies intact.
- Don’t overbake. Even though these shortbread cookies will be a bit crunchy, you don’t want them to be dried out. Bake just until golden brown which will take anywhere from 12 to 15 minutes depending on your oven.
- Bake evenly. To make sure each cookie bakes evenly, use the same size cookie cutter or use a biscuit cutter.
Add melted chocolate! Garnish these cookies with a drizzle of melted white chocolate or a simple icing or glaze.
Shortbread cookies typically have a different ingredient ratio than regular cookies as they don’t have any leavening ingredients or eggs to make them rise which keeps them light and crunchy.
It’s best to use powdered sugar in this recipe as granulated sugar is more gritty and takes a bit longer to dissolve into the dough. By using powdered sugar you’ll get a smooth and tender cookie.
If the dough isn’t chilled before baking, the butter will spread making a flat cookie that turns hard and chewy. Chilling the dough also gives the flavors a chance to blend together properly.
More Lemon Desserts
Lemon Shortbread Cookies
- 1 cup salted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons milk
- 1 teaspoon lemon extract
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
- Beat the butter on medium speed using a hand or stand mixer until it is light and fluffy.
- Turn the mixture to low speed and add in the powdered sugar and lemon zest. Mix until well incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
- With the mixer on low speed, gradually add in the flour.
- Next add in milk and lemon extract.
- Keep mixing until a shaggy dough forms – about 1 minute. Form the dough into a disk and wrap it in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 15 minutes (this will help make and dough easier to roll and cut).
- On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough until it is 1/4" thick.
- Using a cookie cutter of your choice, cut out the cookies and place them on the baking sheets.
- Place the sheets in the freezer for 10 minutes to chill the dough again (this prevents spreading). Bake until the edges of the cookies are golden brown – about 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool and then store in a plastic container at room temperature for up to 3 days.