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Lemon Sugar Cookies

Lemon Sugar Cookies

Sometimes the simplest cookies are the most satisfying – and these sugar cookies certainly fit that description. The cookies are pretty much a classic, easy-to-make sugar cookie that I flavored with a ton of fresh lemon zest. This gives them a bright, clean lemon flavor that reminds me of really good lemonade or lemon meringue pie.

Fresh lemon zest is the key to getting a good flavor in these cookies. Lemon extract will make them lemon-y, of course, but the flavor isn’t quite as bright as fresh lemon zest. Lemon oil will also produce a lemon cookie, and even though it is more intense than lemon extract, it still doesn’t quite compare to fresh zest. I used two large lemons to produce about 2 tablespoons of zest (with my microplane). Since you don’t need any lemon juice for this recipe, wrap up the zested lemons in some plastic wrap or put them in a ziploc bag if you don’t have another use for them within a day or two. This will keep the lemons from drying out, as zested fruit will tend to lose its juiciness more quickly than whole citrus does.

The cookies have a great light texture, a bit chewy in the middle and slightly crispy on the edge. Rolling the cookies in sugar right before baking really finishes the cookies and gives them a great texture and sweetness. Without that extra bit of sugar, the cookies are a little on the plain side. Even though there is a fair amount of sugar in the cookies, they’re not too sweet. As I mentioned before, they really do taste quite a bit like lemonade – refreshing, flavorful and perfect for spring.

Lemon Sugar Cookies
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tbsp lemon zest
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2-3 tbsp sugar, for rolling

Preheat oven to 375F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.
In a large bowl, cream together butter, sugar and lemon zest until mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, followed by vanilla extract. Gradually mix in the flour at low speed, making sure to incorporate all of the flour and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Place remaining 2-3 tbsp sugar in a small bowl
Shape 1-inch balls of dough, roll in the sugar and place on prepared baking sheet.
Bake for 9-11 minutes, until set but not browned (or only very lightly on the bottom). Edges should be slightly firm.
Cool cookies on the pan for a minute, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Store in an airtight container.

Makes about 4 dozen

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  • Linda
    March 20, 2009

    Is there a reason why the lemon zest isn’t mentioned in the recipe? Am I missing the obvious?

  • Nicole
    March 20, 2009

    Linda – Yup, the reason is known as a “typo”! I fixed the recipe now, thanks!

  • Elyse
    March 20, 2009

    Mmm, these cookies look great! I love the combination of comforting sugar cookie and zesty, tangy lemon! What a perfect way to celebrate Spring!

  • Kerstin
    March 20, 2009

    Looks delicious! I think all the lemon cookie recipes I’ve tried have both juice and zest in them, so I’m looking forward to comparing them to this recipe.

  • Trish
    March 20, 2009

    Oh these look delightful and something that I would like for sure. You are right…sometimes the simplest IS the best!

  • islandgirl
    March 20, 2009

    you don’t have to refrigerate these cookies?

  • Linda
    March 20, 2009

    Thanks for fixing it, Nicole. At least you mentioned in the narrative what you used and how much. I love your recipes and talk up your site all the time! Definitely one of the top 2 I visit many times a day!

  • Linda
    March 20, 2009

    Oh gosh I love lemon and these cookies are just a nice little bite of heaven!

  • Frank
    March 20, 2009

    I made a batch of these today and used the juice from the zested lemons to make lemon curd to go with them… I’m in lemon heaven.

  • snooky doodle
    March 20, 2009

    what a nice and simple recipe. I love lemon flavour. These must be good 🙂

  • Sarah
    March 21, 2009

    Thank you so much for posting such a simple recipe. I really mess up when it comes to baking– but these look manageable 🙂 I can’t wait to try it!! Thanks again!!!!

  • Mary Corbet
    March 21, 2009

    Yum. I love lemon. I was just getting ready to make lime coolers, when I came across this recipe. Now I’m in a quandry…

  • Dimah
    March 21, 2009

    Those cookies look and sound great!

  • unconfidentialcook.com
    March 21, 2009

    Perfect–I still have a shopping-bag-full of Meyer lemons! Thank you.

  • Becca
    March 21, 2009

    these look soo good!

  • CookiePie
    March 22, 2009

    Those look so delicate and pretty!!

  • Kristi
    March 23, 2009

    I made a batch of these yesterday and they are so good! Thanks for the keeper of a recipe!

  • Trish
    March 23, 2009

    I had a hankering for some “Lemonades” (aka Girl Scouts) but did not have any at my disposal (having eaten them all!) Luckily, I recalled saving this recipe, so I made these cookies at once.

    I didn’t have quite enough zest to get 2 TBSN, (more like 1-1/4) so I squeezed in just a touch of juice to make up for the slight lack of zest.

    These turned out SO good. My kids thought they were delicious, and instantly transformed into the greatest mom, (and wife), ever. Thanks!

    I love the lightness, both in texture and taste, of these cookies. I wonder – would a light, thin lemon-sugary frosting drizzle be appropriate for this light of a cookie? Happen to have a recipe along these lines?

    This recipe will be prepared over and over in years to come. Thanks again!

  • km
    March 25, 2009

    these turned out well! though i got a bigger batch than expected (60 rather than 48?!) but all’s good. the more for me to munch on anyway! thanks!

  • kari
    March 25, 2009

    These cookies sound sooooo good! I’m not much of a cook or baker at all. So I have one question, is lemon zest the peel of a lemon or do I get it in my local grocery store in the baking aisle?

  • Mary
    March 26, 2009

    I made these yesterday & they were a big hit with me and my husband. This will definitely be a mainstay in my recipe collection! I especially love that it’s so adaptable. I think I’ll try making these with orange zest sometime, too, or maybe incorporate some dried fruit like blueberries or cherries. In my case the dough was really sticky, so after I baked one sheet of cookies, I put the dough in the fridge for a while so it could firm up a little bit. This made it much easier to form the dough into balls & didn’t alter the final texture of the cookies.

  • dancing kitchen
    March 27, 2009

    I made these for my book club and they were a hit. Thank you so much!!

  • Jennifer Stack
    March 28, 2009

    WOW! These lemon cookies were insanely good! YUM! Thank you so much for this recipe! I especially liked the ones that were underdone. I used my lemons to make lemonade, and used 6 lemons worth of zest to make a double batch.

  • Katie
    April 6, 2009

    I made these over the weekend. They are wonderful. The texture is divine, chewy and warm but with a slight crisp edge. Sugary and sweet, but not too dense or heavy. They are a super spring treat. You’ll want to eat the whole batch!

  • jules
    April 11, 2009

    mmmm… these are yummy. I just finished baking them and have already eaten 3. I bet they will be better once cooled. Thank you for the recipe.

  • Jennie
    April 21, 2009

    I made these and the chai snickerdoodle cookies last week. They were both delicious and easy to make. I noticed when I made the chai snickerdoodles that they were puffed up more than yours in the picture and though it might just be a coincidence, but then when I made these lemon cookies the same thing happened. Do you know why my cookies are puffy? I thought maybe Im not beating the butter long enough in the mixer… or maybe I’m making the balls to big? I got 40 cookies both times. I really love your blog, and I have baked many of your recipes for friends/co-workers and they have loved every one of them. Thanks for putting all of these great recipes up!

  • J. Lin
    June 16, 2009

    I whipped up a half batch of these in no time for afternoon tea with my mom. Delicious! I did reduce both the sugar and butter by some and they turned out fine. My measuring spoons mysteriously disappeared, so I may have overdone things with the baking powder – they puffed up a great deal and there was a slight aftertaste. I’ll be sure not to repeat that mistake again! 🙂 Thanks for the great, yummy and simple recipe, Nicole!

  • Danielle
    July 13, 2009

    Wow! I just discovered your site today and made these immediately…They are SO good! Not too sweet, nice light flavor, and easy to make–all ingredients I always have on hand. Thanks so much for this recipe, I will make these again and again!

  • Leslie
    August 8, 2009

    Made these tonight! Couldn’t help it just as I came across this recipe and had a lonely lemon sitting on my kitchen bench. Lovely recipe and so easy. My cookies puffed out too, so they don’t look flattish like those in your photo. I overcooked a batch and they baked for 17 minutes rather than 11, but I prefer this as they are even crispier. So I might do that next time. Thanks for such an excellent recipe!

  • Wei
    February 18, 2010

    Thanks for the recipe! I just made them this morning, and they turned out great!
    I actually ended up sandwich lemon curd in between 2 cookies, and they are indeed tasty 🙂

  • Jesse
    December 7, 2010

    I’m looking to make cookies to send to my family for the holidays and I’m wondering if these are more of a crumbly texture or a chewy texture? They would have to withstand 3 days in the mail. They look so delicious.

  • Aleria
    January 29, 2011

    Just made these today! They were delicious, but like a few other commenters, mine came out more poofy than yours.

  • Steph
    February 25, 2011

    I made these today, and they came out great! I made one change though – I rolled them in powdered lemonade mix instead of plain sugar. I really love lemon, and this gave it an even bigger kick!

  • Steph
    February 25, 2011

    Also – I pressed mine down lightly with the bottom of a wine glass, and they came out looking just like the picture. To those above who said theirs were poofy, maybe that would help?

  • dep
    June 19, 2011

    oh, i didn’t read all the comments before i made these! came out really good, brilliant soft lemon flavor but def. more ‘cakey’ than expected. next time i’ll press down more – otherwise this was a super recipe. thank you for posting/making it.

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