These glazed lemon shortbread cookies are the perfect holiday cookie 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 Lemon Shortbread

These lemony butter cookies feature lemon zest added to classic shortbread and are topped with lemon glaze and zest for a pretty finish and extra pop of tangy flavour.

Buttery shortbread cookies are a holiday favourite and these lemon shortbread cookies have just the right combination of crisp, tender, sweet and tart!

While these make a delicious Christmas cookie, the zesty and refreshing lemon flavour makes them lovely year round.

You’ll love the melt-in-your-mouth texture of these easy and delicious cookies! And if you’re a shortbread-lover, don’t miss these pecan snowball cookies and chocolate snowball cookies too!

Why You’ll Love Them

  • 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.

A complete list of ingredients with amounts and full instructions is located in the printable recipe card below. This section covers ingredient and substitution considerations.

  • 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 a fresh lemon to make the lemon zest and if you’re making the lemon glaze, the lemon juice.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1: Beat the butter and sugar.

Add the butter and sugar to a mixing bowl and beat with a hand mixer for 1-2minutes until light and fluffy.

Add the vanilla and beat again to combine.

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

Step 2: Finish the dough and chill.

Add the flour, salt and lemon zest to the bowl. Use a wooden spoon to mix or continue beating until you have a uniform dough.

Once mixed, wrap in plastic wrap or cover with a dish towel and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to chill.

Quick Note: You can prepare the dough as much as 24 hours in advance, wrap well and store in the fridge until you’re ready to bake the cookies.

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

Step 4: Roll the dough and create the cookies.

Once chilled, 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.

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

Use your choice of cookie cutters or a small drinking glass to cut out cookies and place them on the lined baking sheet.

Once you’ve cut out as many cookies as you can, gather up the excess dough, roll and cut another 1-2 cookies, repeating as needed until you use up 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.

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

Step 5: Bake the cookies.

Bake the cookies for 12-14 minutes until the edges are just golden brown. The tops of the cookies will remain pale.

Transfer them to a cooling rack to cool completely.

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

Step 6: Ice the cookies.

If you’d like to ice your cookies, add the powdered sugar and lemon juice to a bowl and mix into a thick and creamy icing.

Once the cookies are cool, spread a small amount of glaze over each cookie.

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

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

Glazed lemon shortbread cookies sprinkled with lemon zest on a cooling rack. The cookies are cut out in Christmas themed shapes like mittens and trees.

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!

Variations

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

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.

More Holiday Recipes

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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.

Lemon Shortbread Cookies

  • Author: Deryn Macey
  • Prep Time: 40 mins
  • Cook Time: 14 mins
  • Total Time: 54 minutes
  • Yield: 20 1x
  • Category: Desert
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Vegan
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Description

Buttery lemon shortbread cookies that melt in your mouth. If you’re a lemon lover, you will love these cookies for the holidays and anytime!


Ingredients

Scale

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

Instructions

  1. Beat Butter and Sugar: To a mixing bowl, add the butter and sugar. Use a hand mixing 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 baking sheets 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. 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.

Notes

Weigh your ingredients. For best results, use a digital 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.


Nutrition

  • 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

Keywords: lemon shortbread cookies