Lemon Cookies

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Big, thick Lemon Cookies have a vibrant, intense lemon flavor with the perfect chewy texture. These bakery-style cookies are coated in a sweet two-ingredient lemon glaze that melds beautifully into the cookie.

A stack of Lemon Cookies on a plate

The Best Lemon Cookies Ever

These big, thick, soft, and chewy lemon cookies are the best! Thanks to a couple of secret ingredients, these cookies pack the perfect punch of lemon flavor.

My biggest complaint with lemon cookies I’ve tried over the years is that they lack actual lemon flavor. Typically the cookies taste more like a sugar cookie than a lemon cookie. But not with this recipe!

Achieving the perfect amount of lemon flavor without messing up the texture of the cookies can be tricky. Adding extra liquid (from lemon juice) into cookie dough will yield thin, crisp cookies– which isn’t what we are after with this recipe. But with a hefty amount of lemon zest and a good dose of lemon extract, plus a lemon-juice-filled glaze, we get the perfect lemon flavor. And with the perfect lemon flavor, you’ve got yourself the ultimate summer Lemon Cookies!

Process shots: combine butter, sugar and lemon zest until creamy and smooth.

The Secret Ingredients In Lemon Cookies

There are two secrets to a strong lemon flavor while keeping the cookies thick, soft, and chewy:

  • Lemon zest. Unlike a lot of recipes that use both the zest and juice of lemons, we only use the zest here. The zest packs a huge punch of flavor without adding liquid. There is a lot of zest — and it’s all needed here! See “quick tip” below. (We’ll also use the juice of a lemon for the glaze.)
  • Lemon extract. Not to be confused with lemon juice, lemon extract is a flavor enhancer (just like vanilla extract) that gives these cookies an intense citrusy lemon flavor. We use lemon extract to pack in as much lemon flavor as possible without messing up the consistency of these cookies (like lemon juice would). Lemon extract can usually be found near other baking extracts and spices in the grocery store; I recommend using a pure lemon extract.

QUICK TIP

When zesting the lemon, avoid the white pith of the lemon — this is very bitter. Using a microplane (like this one) zest only the very outside yellow part of the lemon for this recipe. 

Process shots: add eggs, lemon extract and vanilla; mix and then add the dry ingredients.

How To Make Lemon Cookies

Below are our top tips for success in making this recipe:

  • Use room-temperature ingredients. It’s really important that the butter and eggs are at room temperature to cream properly. Leave cold ingredients out for 45 minutes to an hour. Why room temperature eggs? At this temperature, eggs trap air and disperse more evenly into the batter. That gives these easy Lemon Cookies a lighter texture.
  • Slightly under-bake the cookies. By keeping these cookies slightly under-baked, they remain soft and chewy with a vibrant lemon flavor (cookies lose flavor when over-baked). Visual cues for doneness: cookies should be set and the top no longer glossy or gooey looking.
  • Allow the cookies to cool completely. Most cookies are the best right out of the oven, but these ones aren’t. We actually like these cookies best at room temperature or chilled!

Process shots: mix well and chill dough; roll chilled dough into balls, roll in powdered sugar and chill again.

Lemon Cookies Recipe Tips, Continued

  • Use a food scale if you have one! Measuring flour can vary from person to person and is usually the culprit for cookies not working out. If you have a food scale, use that instead of measuring cups. 400 grams is perfect for this Lemon Cookie recipe. A food scale is also helpful when measuring cookie dough balls to ensure they’re all the exact size (which helps them bake evenly and look more professional).
  • Keep these cookies soft after baking. After baking the cookies, let them cool completely on a wire rack (this will keep the bottoms from getting soggy from the steam).

Process shots: place dough balls on a baking tray; bake and cool; dip in a glaze of powdered sugar and lemon sugar.

Why Chill The Dough?

Chilling cookie dough can definitely be a pain. I mean, when you want cookies, you want ’em now, right?! That said, chilling this dough is especially important. It’s like marinating meat; the wait is worth it! Here are a few reasons why we chill the dough:

  • The dough becomes more flavorful as it sits. The baking extracts intensify the flavor of the dough.
  • We want the fat (butter) to re-solidify. The longer the fat stays solid, the less the cookies will spread.
  • The sugar in the dough also gradually absorbs liquid so when you chill the dough, the sugar has a chance to absorb more liquid and further prevent spreading. 

Closeup view of Lemon Cookies

STORAGE

Storing Soft Lemon Cookies 

Instead of freezing baked cookies, freeze the dough! Drop the cookie dough balls on a large sheet pan and freeze until solid. Once solid, transfer the frozen cookie dough balls to an airtight container or bag and freeze for up to 3 months.

To bake: You can bake these lemon cookies straight from the freezer. There is no need to thaw, but you may need to add a few extra minutes to the baking time. Bake until the edges are lightly browned, and the center is still soft.

The glaze doesn’t freeze and thaw well, so I recommend making that fresh.

A stack of Lemon Cookies

More Lemony Treats

QUICK TIP

This recipe has been recently updated. The previous version used LemonHead candies which are increasingly difficult to find. If you are able to find the candies and want to make the previous version; here it is!

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Lemon Cookies

5 from 2 votes
Big, thick Lemon Cookies have a vibrant, intense lemon flavor with the perfect chewy texture. These bakery-style cookies are coated in a sweet two-ingredient lemon glaze that melds beautifully into the cookie.
Print Recipe

Lemon Cookies

5 from 2 votes
Big, thick Lemon Cookies have a vibrant, intense lemon flavor with the perfect chewy texture. These bakery-style cookies are coated in a sweet two-ingredient lemon glaze that melds beautifully into the cookie.
Course Dessert, treat
Cuisine American, Vegetarian
Keyword lemon cookie recipe, Lemon Cookies
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Chilling Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Servings 16 -18 cookies
Author Chelsea Lords

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (16 tbsp.) unsalted butter, room temperature (do not melt!)
  • 1-1/2 cup granulated white sugar
  • 3 tablespoons lemon zest (~3 large lemons) (Note 1)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (Note 2)
  • 2 teaspoons lemon extract (Note 3)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3 cups all-purpose, white flour (Note 4)
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar

Glaze

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Instructions

  • WET INGREDIENTS: Add 1 cup (2 sticks or 16 tbsp) softened butter to the base of a stand mixer. Add in 1-1/2 cups white sugar and 3 tbsp lemon zest. Mix until creamy, about 2-3 minutes. Scrape sides and add in 2 eggs, 1 tsp vanilla, and 2 tsp. lemon extract. Beat until mixed.
  • DRY INGREDIENTS: Scrape sides and add 2 tsp baking powder and 1 tsp salt. Mix to combine. Finally, add in the 3 cups flour and beat just until combined and no streaks of flour remain.
  • CHILL: Cover dough tightly and chill in the fridge for 20 minutes. Line a large plate with parchment paper.
  • FORM COOKIE DOUGH BALLS: Portion out the dough, measuring each ball to be exactly 1/4 cup (60 grams) of dough. (I don't recommend bigger or smaller cookies -- they work best at this size -- Note 5.) Repeat with remaining dough to get about 16-18 total cookie dough balls. Once dough balls are formed, roll each dough ball in the 1/2 cup powdered sugar and then set on a plate lined with parchment paper.
  • CHILL AGAIN: Return dough balls to the fridge for 20 minutes or freezer for 10. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (162 degrees C). Line a large sheet pan with parchment or a Silpat liner.
  • BAKE AND COOL: Add cookies to the prepared pan, only 6 at a time (they spread and need a lot of space!) Bake for 10-15 minutes or until cookies have puffed up and aren't gooey or wet looking on top. Bottoms/edges should be ever so slightly browning. Be careful to not overbake as you'll lose out on flavor and texture! Remove from oven and let stand on the sheet pan for 5 mins before removing to a wire cooling rack to fully cool. Do not glaze until completely cooled. Repeat to bake all the cookies or save some for later (See Instruction #8).
  • GLAZE: Combine 2 tbsp lemon juice with 1 cup powdered sugar in a medium-sized bowl. Whisk until smooth. Transfer to a small zip-top bag and seal without air. Cut the tip off the bag and drizzle glaze evenly over all of the cookies. If desired, add a touch of lemon zest to the top. Enjoy at room temperature or chilled.
  • STORAGE: Instead of freezing baked cookies, freeze the dough! Drop the cookie dough balls on a large sheet pan and freeze until solid. Once solid, transfer the frozen cookie dough balls to an airtight container or bag and freeze for up to 3 months. To bake: You can bake these lemon cookies straight from the freezer. There is no need to thaw, but you may need to add a few extra minutes to the baking time. Bake until the edges are lightly browned, and the center is still soft.
    The glaze doesn't freeze and thaw well, so I recommend making that fresh.

Video

Recipe Notes

Note 1: Lemon zest: The zest packs a huge punch of flavor without adding liquid. There is a lot of zest --and it's all needed here! When zesting the lemon, avoid the white pith of the lemon — this is very bitter. Using a microplane (like this one) zest only the very outside yellow part of the lemon for this recipe.
Note 2: Vanilla: I'll often use vanilla bean paste (3/4 teaspoon) instead of extract for even more flavor. Use vanilla extract or paste--whichever you prefer.
Note 3: Lemon extract: Not to be confused with lemon juice, lemon extract is a flavor enhancer (just like vanilla extract) that gives these cookies an intense citrusy lemon flavor. This extract can usually be found near other baking extracts and spices in the grocery store; I recommend using a pure lemon extract. Do NOT substitute with lemon juice -- the two aren't the same. 
Note 4: Flour: Use a food scale if you have one! Measuring flour can vary from person to person and is usually the culprit for cookies not working out. 400 grams is perfect for this recipe! (Having a food scale is also helpful when measuring cookie dough balls to ensure they're all the exact size (which makes them look more professional and bake evenly).)
Note 5: Cookie size: Cookies work best at this size. While you may want smaller cookies, know that the texture is not the same. The "sweet spot" for this recipe is exactly 1/4 cup (60 grams) of dough. Big, I know, but totally perfect!

We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed.

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3 Comments

  1. Hi I’m from the UK and don’t think we have lemon head candy but we do have sherbet lemons would they work ?

  2. Did you change your recipe?! This no longer mentions lemon candy and emulsion…. I can probably work through it but why the change?

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