Soft and chewy Lemon Cookies covered in a tangy lemon icing will add a little sunshine to your day no matter what. Plus, they are easy to make and freeze well for when you need a sudden pick-me-up treat at any time of the day.
When life gives you lemons and you don’t want to make lemonade, try this easy lemon cookie recipe instead! These cute little lemon cookies are soft, chewy and melt-in-your-mouth delicious, with the perfect lemony tang that will put a smile on your face.
How to make Lemon Cookies
Making the cookie dough
- First, mix together lemon zest and sugar to release the lemon’s essential oils.
- Then cream the softened butter with the lemon sugar until fluffy.
- Add egg and vanilla extract, and beat until smooth.
- Sift together flour, and baking powder. Stir in the salt. Then add the dry ingredient mixture into the wet ingredient mixture.
- Stir until a soft cookie dough forms.
- Now, divide the cookie dough with a medium size cookie scoop, roll them into round balls for baking.
Rolling the dough balls in granulated sugar is optional before baking but I highly recommend it for it produces a nice shiny crust, especially if you decide to omit the lemon icing. But even if you are going to dip these cookies in icing, I still think the sugar crust gives it a nice touch.
Lemon icing or lemon glaze
A tangy lemon icing rounds out this lemon cookies recipe perfectly. To make the icing, simply whisk together freshly squeezed lemon juice, powdered sugar, lemon zest and a tiny pinch of salt until smooth.
➤ Adding lemon zest to the icing will amp up the lemon flavor in these cookies.
Allow the cookie to cool completely before dipping them into the icing. Dip the cookies face down into the bowl of icing, allow the excess to run off back into the bowl. Place the dipped cookies onto a wire rack and allow the icing to solidify before plating, serving, and storing.
Lemon Crinkle Cookies
You can use this same lemon cookie dough to make lemon crinkle cookies. You’ll need additional sugar for rolling and this time it is not optional:
- 2 tbsp of granulated sugar
- ⅓ cup of powdered sugar
The secret to creating crinkles is chilling. You’ll need to refrigerate the dough at least 1 hour or preferably overnight before baking. When you are ready to bake, roll the dough balls in granulated sugar first and then powdered sugar and bake at the same oven temperature for 12 minutes.
➤ Chilling the dough is a must if you want to produce the signature cracking pattern on a crinkle cookie.
For lemon crinkle cookies, the powdered sugar coating is sweet enough that you don’t need a glaze or icing but you can always add icing or a dollop of lemon curd never hurts!
You can adapt this recipe for any citrus of your preference: orange, grapefruit, tangerine, etc.
Can I use baking soda instead of baking powder?
No, baking soda needs an acidic environment to work and is not suitable for this recipe.
➤ Learn more about baking soda vs. baking powder.
If you want to use baking soda, you will need to add a little bit of lemon juice to the dough to activate the baking soda, increase the amount of flour to compensate for the added liquid, so it will be a slightly more complicated substitution.
A note of caution, when I tested this recipe with part baking soda, part baking powder, the cookies spread more and ended up quite thin. Baking soda also lends a bit of a metallic taste to these cookies, which I didn’t quite appreciate.
So if you want thinner cookies, you could certainly try using baking soda. Or perhaps take the easier route and flatten the cookie dough balls before baking.
What to do if the cookie dough is too soft to roll?
If you’re baking on a hot day and the butter is softened too much, the cookie dough can be stickier and softer and can stick to your hand when rolling. If this happens, just chill the dough for 10 – 15 minutes or so, it should firm up and will be easier to roll.
I used a lot of lemon zest but my cookies are not lemony!
I’ve experienced this before when baking with homegrown lemons. For some unknown reason, homegrown lemon zest isn’t as potent as store bought lemons, it could be the breed.
Give your lemons a sniff and scratch at their skin to see how strong the scent is to make sure before you use them if necessary. Add extra zest to the icing to amp up the flavor even more if need be.
➤ If your lemons are not very lemony, you can always add a splash of lemon extract to improve the flavor.
Can I refrigerate or freeze the cookie dough?
Even though you don’t need to refrigerate this cookie dough before baking, if you want to make them ahead of time, refrigerating or freezing the cookie dough is a great idea.
The dough will last in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Make sure to divide the dough, roll into balls and store in an airtight container. You don’t want to refrigerate the entire batch of cookie dough because it could become difficult to scoop once the dough hardens up.
This cookie dough freezes well and can be stored in the freezer for up to 6 months. To freeze, roll the cookie dough into balls first and freeze solid on a baking tray, then transfer them to a freezer and keep frozen.
You can bake these directly from frozen, do not thaw. Just roll the frozen dough balls in sugar as directed before baking. Add 1 – 2 minutes to the baking time.
Storing baked lemon cookies
These cookies can be stored in an airtight container or wrapped in plastic individually at room temperature for 3 – 5 days. I don’t recommend keeping them in the refrigerator because the icing may “sweat”.
You can also freeze the baked cookies but freezing the dough is so easy and you can have freshly baked cookies pretty much anytime, I recommend freezing the cookie dough instead of the baked cookies
More lemon recipes
- Lemon Bars
- Lemon Dutch Baby
- Lemon Bundt Cake
- Lemon Cupcakes
- Lemon Poppy Seed Scones
- Lemon Blueberry Scones
If you make this recipe, please let me know! Leave a comment, send me a photo, rate it and don’t forget to tag me @wildwildwhisk on Instagram. I’d love to see what’s cooking up in your kitchen. Cheers!
- 4 oz unsalted butter (room temperature, 113 g)
- ¾ cup granulated sugar (137 g)
- 2 tsp lemon zest (from 2 large lemons)
- 1 large egg (room temperature)
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 ½ cup flour (200 g)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
For rolling (optional)
- 2 tablespoon granulated sugar
- ½ cup powdered sugar (50 g)
- A pinch of kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Zest of ½ a lemon
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Add sugar and lemon zest to the stand mixer bowl and whisk together releasing the lemon essential oil.
- Add softened butter and beat with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy.
- Add the egg, and vanilla extract to the sugar mixture and beat until smooth.
- Sift flour, and baking powder into a small mixing bowl. Stir in the kosher salt. Add the flour mixture to the stand mixer bowl and stir until just combined.
- Portion the dough with a medium cookie scoop and roll into balls. If the dough is too soft and sticky at this point, refrigerate it for about 10 minutes, and then roll into balls.
- Add granulated sugar into a small bowl if using. Roll the cookie dough balls in granulated sugar. Place them on a lined baking sheet about 2” apart.
- Baked for 11 minutes until the bottom edges are golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5-10 minutes before moving them to a wire rack to cool completely.
- To make lemon icing, add lemon juice, powdered sugar, salt and lemon zest into a small bowl. Mix with a whisk until smooth.
- Dip the completely cool lemon cookies into the icing, allow the excess to run off back into the bowl. Place the dipped cookies onto a wire rack and allow the icing to solidify.
- Rolling the dough balls in granulated sugar will yield a nice sparkling crust and is highly recommended, especially if you’re not planning to dip the cookies in icing afterward.
- Chilling the portioned cookie dough for 10 minutes will make it easier to roll them into rounder balls, but it is not absolutely necessary to chill the dough before baking.
- You can use this same dough to make lemon crinkle cookies. You’ll need 2 tbsp of granulated sugar + ⅓ cup of powdered sugar for rolling.
- For crinkle cookies, you’ll need to refrigerate the dough at least 1 hour or preferably overnight. Roll them in granulated sugar first and then powdered sugar and bake at the same oven temperature for 12 minutes. Chilling the dough is a must if you want to produce crinkles.