Lemon sugar cookies, perfect for summer, feature the bright citrus flavor of lemon in a buttery cookie. Make them chewy or crisp, your choice!
Why you’ll love it: The lemony flavor is irresistible, and the cookies are easy to make.
How long it takes: 15 minutes to make the dough, a few hours (or overnight) to chill it, and 12-14 minutes to bake each batch
Equipment you’ll need: mixing bowl, measuring utensils, electric mixer (optional), cookie sheet, oven
Servings: 3 dozen cookies, depending on size
Brightly flavored with lemon, these sugar cookies are a step above plain sugar cookies. Made with real lemon (is there any substitute for freshly squeezed lemon juice?) and fresh lemon zest, these cookies have plenty of citrus flavor.
Sometimes I get a little bored with chocolate. Did I really just say that? No, really, I would never lose my love for chocolate. Who can resist homemade chewy chocolate chip cookies or dark chocolate and pecan cookies? I know I can’t.
But there’s a whole amazing world of flavors out there and right now I’m on a lemon kick. I love lemon in sweet things, and savory recipes as well! Skeptical? Try lemon salmon with dill (the easiest recipe), one pan lemon pasta, lemon pepper shrimp, or lemon chicken orzo soup (Instant Pot & stovetop directions).
I love these lemon cookies in the summertime. They are a perfect snack or light dessert, with iced tea or lemonade. But when winter rolls around, what’s more welcome than a sunny cookie with a cup of hot tea to brighten your day?
So give chocolate a break and try lemon sugar cookies today. I know you’re gonna love them.
About These Lemon Sugar Cookies
Pretty much an old fashioned sugar cookie recipe with the addition of lemon juice and zest, this recipe is easy to make. Allow a few hours or even overnight to chill the dough. There are multiple reasons for chilling cookie dough. Basically, these cookies just turn out better if the dough is well chilled and they’re easier to roll into balls. If you’re in a hurry, put the dough in the freezer for an hour.
I’ll get you started here with a few tips and hints to help you out.
Keep reading for the printable recipe with complete directions and ingredient list.
What You Need
I’ve made plenty of cookies with good old arm power and they turn out fine.
If you have a stand mixer, they are super nice for mixing stiff cookie dough. They have that powerful motor that saves you a little energy. The only danger with stand mixers is that you can easily overmix the cookie dough which may give you tough cookies.
An electric hand mixer is fine for creaming the butter, sugar, and eggs but it will labor pretty hard when you add the flour. I usually end up doing that part by hand because I’ve found that smoke comes out of a hand mixer that’s working too hard. Yup, time to buy a new one then.
Enough about mixers, let’s gather what you need to make these cookies.
- Butter: Use unsalted butter and let it come to room temperature before you get started. If you only have salted butter, decrease the amount of salt added to 1/4 teaspoon.
- Sugar: Regular white sugar is what you need. It will give the sugar cookies just the right texture.
- Egg: Again, it’s best if the egg is at room temperature, just like the butter. If you’re taking it right out of the fridge, fill a small bowl with warm (not hot!) water and put the egg in it. Let the egg take a nice warm bath for 10 minutes.
- Lemon: You’ll need one lemon for this recipe. Zest the lemon peel first. Use a fine zester or you’ll end up with lemon strings in the cookies. Try not to get the pith (white part) because that can be bitter. Next, cut the lemon in half and squeeze out one tablespoon of juice.
- Pure Vanilla Extract: Lemon and vanilla really like each other; they go hand in hand for perfectly flavored sugar cookies.
- All-Purpose Flour: Okay, white flour. I almost always use at least part whole wheat flour in cookies but not these. Whole wheat is too grainy and dominant for these sugar cookies. I haven’t tested white whole wheat flour but I’m thinking that may be okay.
- Baking Powder, Baking Soda, Salt: Leavening and flavor, normal stuff for cookies.
- Coarse Sugar: This is optional but highly, highly recommended. We love the texture of the coarse sugar in these cookies and the way it crunches between your teeth. Turbinado sugar adds a bit of brownish color. If you don’t want that added color, use sanding sugar which is often found in the cake decorating section of your grocery store.
How To Make These Cookies
First of all, blend together the sugar and butter until it’s nice and creamy.
Add the egg and mix it in until it’s completely incorporated. Beat in the lemon juice and vanilla, then stir in the lemon zest.
Next, measure out the flour and add it to the bowl along with the baking powder, baking soda and salt. Lightly stir those three ingredients together on top of the wet ingredients. Many recipes call for doing this in a separate bowl but why make another bowl dirty?
Use a measuring cup for dry ingredients, not a liquid measuring cup. Always spoon the flour out of the canister or bag and lightly fill the measuring cup. Don’t use the measuring cup to scoop the flour because the flour will be compacted. You’ll end up with too much flour which makes dry hard cookies.
Stir the dough well. It will be pretty stiff and thick. Place the dough in a covered container or resealable bag and stick it in the fridge to chill.
When you’re ready to bake cookies, preheat your oven and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or Silpat. Remove the dough from the fridge and get rolling.
For each cookie, roll about one tablespoon of chilled dough into a ball. I love how all the cookies turn out perfectly round that way. Roll them in sugar and place them on the cookie sheet. They’ll spread quite a bit so allow a little room between each one.
Just thinking about one of my favorite recipes, ginger sparkles (aka gingersnaps). Same process: roll the dough into balls, then roll in sugar. Maybe I should call these cookies lemon sparkles. I kind of like the sound of that.
Bake until the cookies are lightly browned. Here’s where you make a decision: chewy or crispy? I like chewy cookies so I bake them about 12 minutes. If you like crispy cookies, bake them another couple of minutes (14 minutes). Let them cool briefly on the cookie sheet, then use a large spatula to transfer the cookies to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
You could substitute lemon extract for lemon juice although I much prefer the taste of fresh lemon juice. Lemon extract is oil extracted from lemon peel, alcohol, and water. It’s more potent than lemon juice so use a lot less. To substitute lemon extract in this recipe, use 1/2 tablespoon of extract and 1/2 tablespoon water.
Yes, most cookies (and cookie dough) freeze really well. Keep reading for more about freezing these lemon sugar cookies.
First of all, make sure the cookies are completely cool before covering and storing them. Warm cookies will cause condensation to form on the inside of the container making the cookies softer and stale (or even moldy).
Next, choose the right container. An airtight container or resealable bag is ideal. Cookie jars are pretty but they often don’t have a sealing ring in the lid.
Place a square of wax paper or parchment paper between each layer if the cookies are soft.
Finally, look for a cool dry spot to store the cookies. The refrigerator is okay in hot summer months but tends to make the cookies harder.
Make Them Your Own
- Any type of citrus can be used in place of lemon. Try lime, orange, or grapefruit. Zest and juice as directed. Or combine two flavors, like these Lemon Clementine Crinkle Cookies.
- Prefer a slice and bake cookie? Try these Lemon Poppy Seed Cookies with Cream Cheese or Honey Lemon Shortbread Cookies.
- If you enjoy a cookie with frosting, omit the coarse sugar and make a simple glaze. Mix together 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest, and enough lemon juice to make a glaze consistency. Drizzle fully cooled cookies with glaze and allow to harden, at least 1 hour.
Storage and Freezing Tips
Store lemon sugar cookies in an airtight container for up to a week. For longer storage, baked cookies can be frozen for up to a month.
Freeze cookie dough, tightly wrapped, for up to three months. Thaw overnight in the fridge for best results.
If you prefer, roll the cookie dough balls, freeze on a tray until firm, then freeze those in a bag or container (this is our preferred method). When you’re ready to bake, simply remove the balls from the freezer, put them on a cookie sheet, and bake them. You’ll need to add a couple minutes to the baking time.
More Lemony Recipes
Loving lemons? So tart and refreshing, perfect in any season and always available, lemons are a delicious ingredient in both sweet and savory dishes:
- Creamy Lemon Lime Tart with Strawberries
- Pink Lemonade No-Bake Mini Cheesecakes
- Vodka Lemonade
- Watermelon Lemonade with Mint (with Cocktail option!)
- Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting
- Lemon Pudding Recipe — only 3 ingredients
- Dill Roasted Potatoes with Lemon (so easy!)
- Green Beans with Lemon and Feta | with video!
- Lemon Basil Vinaigrette Dressing Recipe
- 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
- ½ cup unsalted butter, softened (1 stick)
- 1 egg (at room temperature)
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (from 1 lemon)
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Coarse sugar to roll cookies in
- In large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar with mixer until light and fluffy. Add egg, beat well. Beat in vanilla and lemon juice. Scrape sides of bowl as needed. Stir in lemon zest.
- Add dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Refrigerate for at least a few hours, preferably overnight.
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat.
- Make round balls out of about 1 tablespoon of the dough. Roll in turbinado sugar or sanding sugar and place on baking sheet. Leave a couple of inches between the balls of dough. Cookies will spread.
- Bake for 12 minutes for chewier cookies or 14 minutes for crisper cookies.
- Cool slightly. Remove cookies to wire rack to cool completely. Makes 3 dozen, depending on size of cookies.
- For more lemony flavor, use the zest from two lemons.
- Store lemon sugar cookies in an airtight container for up to a week. For longer storage, baked cookies can be frozen for up to a month.
- Make Ahead: Freeze cookie dough, tightly wrapped, for up to three months. Thaw overnight in the fridge for best results. If you prefer, roll the cookie dough balls, freeze on a tray until firm, then freeze in a bag or container. When you’re ready to bake, simply remove the balls from the freezer, put them on a cookie sheet, and bake them. You’ll need to add a couple minutes to the baking time.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition data is gathered primarily from the USDA Food Composition Database, whenever available, or otherwise other online calculators.