These easy lemon shortbread cookies with lemon icing are the perfect sweet treats for lemon lovers!

A stack of small, round lemon shortbread cookies with icing on a cooling rack. The cookie on top has a bite out of it.

About the Recipe

These lemon cookies feature lemon zest added to a classic shortbread cookie recipe and are topped with a simple lemon glaze for a pop of vibrant lemon flavour.

Buttery cookies always make a great addition to the holiday season and these lemon shortbread cookies have just the right combination of crisp, tender, sweet and tart.

You can use your favorite cookie cutters to make Easter or Christmas cookies or just use a glass to create a classic circular cookie.

You’ll love the melt-in-your-mouth texture of these delicious cookies and the simple glaze sprinkled with lemon zest make them so pretty!

If you love shortbread cookies, don’t miss these pecan snowball cookies and chocolate snowball cookies too!

For more lemon desserts, this Vegan Olive Oil Cake with Lemon Glaze, Vegan Lemon Bars and Vegan Lemon Loaf all have a bright lemon flavor that are perfect for warm weather, holidays or any special occasion.

Why You’ll Love this Recipe

  • Perfect for lemon lovers.
  • Great for Christmas, Easter and Mother’s Day.
  • Just 5 simple ingredients.
  • Vegan (dairy-free and no eggs).
  • Easy to make.
  • Dough can be made in advance.
  • Freezer-friendly.
  • Great for an edible gift.

Ingredient Notes

The ingredients needed for making a lemon shortbread cookie recipe. Each ingredient is labelled with text overlay.
  • Plant-Based Butter: I would recommend using plant-based butter sticks such as Earth Balance, Melt Organic or Country Crock.
  • Powdered Sugar: This is also called confectioners sugar or icing sugar. This will be used for the shortbread and the optional lemon glaze.
  • Vanilla: A nice pure vanilla extract has the best flavour but artificial is ok if that’s what you have.
  • Flour: This recipe is for all-purpose flour.
  • Lemon: You’ll need fresh lemons to make the fresh lemon juice and zest. You could substitute lemon extract but I think lemon zest gives the best flavor.

This list is not complete. Please see the recipe card at the end of the post for the complete ingredient list with measurements and detailed instructions.


  • Almond Shortbread: Omit the lemon zest and add 1 tsp almond extract.
  • Add Nuts: Add chopped almonds, pecans or pistachios.
  • Orange Shortbread: Use orange zest instead of lemon zest for orange shortbread cookies.
  • Dip in Chocolate: Omit the lemon zest and dip the cookies in dark chocolate.
  • Rosemary Lemon Shortbread: Lemon and rosemary make a unique cookie flavour! Try adding 2 tbsp of minced fresh rosemary leaves to the dough.
  • Lemon Lime Shortbread: Add 1 tbsp lime zest along with the lemon zest.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Butter and sugar whipped into a light and fluffy mixture in a glass mixing bowl.

Step 1: Beat butter and sugar in a large bowl with a hand mixer for 1-2 minutes until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla extract to the butter mixture and beat again to combine.

A ball of shortbread cookie dough in a glass mixing bowl.

Step 2: Add the flour, salt and lemon zest and use a wooden spoon or continue beating until you have a uniform dough. Wrap the bowl in plastic wrap or cover with a dish cloth and chill for 30 minutes.

When you’re ready to start rolling the cookies, preheat the oven and prepare a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Shortbread cookie dough rolled 1/4-inch thick on a piece of parchment paper.

Step 3: Remove half of the dough from the fridge. Place the dough between two sheets of parchment paper or on a lightly floured surface and roll until it’s 1/4-inch thick.

Raw Christmas-theme shaped shortbread cookies on a baking tray lined with parchment paper.

Step 4: Use cookie cutters or a small drinking glass to cut cookies and place them on the prepared baking sheet. Once you’ve cut as many cookies as you can, roll the dough again and cut another 1-2 cookies, repeating as needed until you use all the dough.

When the first half of the cookies go into the oven, roll and cut out the second half of the dough, placing the cookies on a second baking sheet. Place the cut-out cookies back in the fridge until ready to bake.

Baked lemon shortbread cookies in the shapes of men, trees, starts and bells.

Step 5: Bake cookies for 12-14 minutes until the edges are golden brown. The tops of the cookies will remain pale. Transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.

A hand using a knife to spread icing on a lemon shortbread cookie on a cooling rack.

Step 6: Mix the powdered sugar and lemon juice in a bowl into a thick icing. Once the cookies are cool, spread the glaze over the top of each cookie.

Once iced, sprinkle more lemon zest over the cookies for a pretty effect and additional burst of lemon flavour!

A tree-shaped and two round lemon shortbread cookies iced with lemon glaze and sprinkled with lemon zest on a cooling rack.

Expert Tips

  • Weigh your ingredients. For best results, use a digital scale to measure ingredients. It’s important to have the right ration of flour, butter and sugar and a scale will ensure accuracy and success!

Recipe FAQs

Can the dough be made in advance?

Yes. You can prepare the dough as much as 24 hours in advance, wrap well and store in the fridge until baking.

How do you know when the cookies are baked?

The cookies are baked when they’re light in colour and bottoms are light golden in colour, although if you prefer shortbread more golden brown, you can bake the cookies are few minutes longer.

I would avoid over-baking though or they’ll be too hard and crispy.

Does salted or unsalted butter matter?

No. It doesn’t matter but do adjust the salt accordingly if you use unsalted butter.

Should I chill the shortbread dough before baking?

Yes. For best results, chill the dough 30-60 minutes before baking. When you’re ready to bake, prepare remove half of the dough from the fridge and prepare the cookies.

Once the first half is in the oven, prepare the second batch of dough then place the baking sheet back in the fridge until you’re ready to bake.

A stack of 4 small iced lemon shortbread cookies on a cooling rack.

Storing Instructions

  • Let cookies cool completely before storing.
  • Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.
  • I like to store them in the fridge or freezer for a chilled treat.
  • To freeze, layer in a container with a piece of parchment or wax paper between layers, or freeze first on a baking tray before transferring to freezer bag or container. Freeze for up to 4 months.

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A stack of small, round lemon shortbread cookies with icing on a cooling rack. The cookie on top has a bite out of it.

Easy Lemon Shortbread Cookies

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 1 review
  • Author: Deryn Macey
  • Prep Time: 40 mins
  • Cook Time: 14 mins
  • Total Time: 54 minutes
  • Yield: 20
  • Category: Desert
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Vegan
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Melt in your mouth shortbread cookies with tangy lemon glaze that are perfect for the holiday season and gifting.


For the Shortbread Cookies

  • ¾ cup plant-based butter, softened (175 g)
  • ¾ cup powdered sugar (120 g)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • pinch of salt 
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (280 g)
  • 1 lemon, zested, about 1 tbsp

For the Glaze (Optional)

  • 12 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 cup sifted icing sugar


  1. Beat Butter and Sugar: To a large mixing bowl, add the butter and sugar. Use a hand-held electric mixer or stand mixer with a paddle attached, beat for 1-2 minutes until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and beat to combine.
  2. Add Dry Ingredients: Add the flour, salt and lemon zest and start beating on low then increase speed to medium-high until you have a uniform dough. You may need to stop to scrape down the sides to ensure everything gets mixed in.
  3. Chill Dough: Form dough into a ball then either wrap in plastic wrap or transfer to a zip-top bag. Chill the dough for at least 30 minutes. The dough can also be made 1 day in advance and kept sealed in the fridge until ready to roll out and bake.
  4. Prepare to Bake: Preheat oven to 325 F and prepare two sheet pans lined with parchment paper.
  5. Roll and Cut Dough: Transfer half of the dough between two pieces of parchment paper or a lightly flower surface, keeping the remaining half of dough in the fridge. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough out into an even 1/4-inch thickness. Cut the dough into desired shapes using a cookie cutter or small drinking glass, or cutting into squares or rectangles. Once you’ve cut out as many cookies as you can, gather up the remaining dough, roll, cut and repeat until you’ve used up all the dough. You should get 17-20 cookies depending on the thickness.
  6. Bake Cookies: Bake the cookies for 12-14 minutes until the edges and bottoms are just golden. The tops of the cookies will remain pale. While the first batch of cookies is baking, roll out the second batch. Roll, cut and transfer to a second baking sheet and keep them in the fridge until the first batch is out of the oven.
  7. Cool Cookies: Transfer them to a cooling rack to cool completely.
  8. Prepare Glaze: Mix together the powdered sugar and 1-2 tbsp of lemon juice until smooth. Start with 1 tbsp of lemon juice, then add more to achieve desired consistency. It should be creamy and spreadable but still thick.
  9. Glaze Cookies: Dip, drizzle or spread the glaze over top of the cooled cookies. For an additional topping, sprinkle more lemon zest over the cookies before the glaze sets. If you’re dipping the cookies, place a cooling rack inside of a baking sheet to catch excess glaze.


Weigh your ingredients. For best results, use a kitchen scale to measure ingredients to ensure accuracy and success!

Powdered sugar is the same as confectioners sugar or icing sugar.

Once the cookies have cooled completely, store in a sealed container at room temperature for up to 5 days or in the fridge for up to 10 days. To freeze, layer in an airtight container with a piece of parchment or wax paper between layers. Freeze for up to 4 months.

Nutrition facts are for 20 cookies and include the lemon glaze. Without the glaze, each cookie is 124 calories if you make a batch of 20.


  • Serving Size: 1 cookie
  • Calories: 147
  • Sugar: 10 g
  • Sodium: 117 mg
  • Fat: 7 g
  • Carbohydrates: 20 g
  • Fiber: 0.5 g
  • Protein: 1.5 g