These Soft Lemon Sugar Cookies are pillowy, soft, and chewy with beautiful bright lemon flavor from the lemon zest, lemon juice, and lemon sugar coating!
These large lemon sugar cookies are perfect for all lemon lovers. Serve them for a special occasion or a midday sweet snack with tea or coffee.
My few comments on the ingredients + don't forget to read the Tips section!
The full recipe and ingredients can be found in the recipe card below this post.
What’s in lemon cookies?
- White sugar - I don’t recommend using brown sugar as this will change the color of these cookies.
- Unsalted butter - At room temperature but not overly soft. We will chill the dough later and the softer the better the longer you’ll have to chill the dough.
- Flour - these cookies can be made with all-purpose flour or GF flour blend. A gluten-free flour blend such as my flour recipe, store-bought Bob’s Red Mill, or King Arthur’s brand can also be used for gluten-free lemon cookies. When using all-purpose flour, remember to fluff it up, then spoon it into your measuring cup, and level it off. Avoid packing the flour, as it can result in dry cookies.
- Vanilla extract - is optional and I love the combination of vanilla cookie dough with lemony flavor. Lemon extract is great if you want a more elevated lemon flavor instead.
- Baking powder - Check the expiry date to ensure a good rise in these cookies.
- Salt - kosher salt or sea salt for the most natural flavor. Salt enhances the flavor of soft lemon cookies. Omit if using salted butter.
- Milk - This adds moisture to the cookie batter.
- Egg - At room temperature.
- Lemon juice - Squeezed from fresh lemons.
- Fresh lemon zest - grate 1 larger lemon (only the yellow part and not the white part which will only add bitterness).
- Lemon sugar coating - Combine granulated sugar with lemon zest and allow it to dry slightly. Add cream cheese
📋 These cookies are tasty anytime, perfect for dessert or with afternoon tea. Add the recipe to your Christmas baking list too!
In a large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer, combine butter and sugar.
Beat on low speed with an electric mixer (with or without paddle attachment), stand mixer, or electric hand mixer to cream butter until smooth and creamy.
Gradually add egg, egg yolk, lemon zest, lemon juice and vanilla. Mix on low until combined. Set aside.
In a separate large bowl, combine dry ingredients. Whisk to combine and in batches add to wet ingredients. Beat on low until just combined.
Lemon Sugar Coating
Prepare a saucer with ingredients for coating the cookies: 1 tablespoon lemon zest mixed with ¼ cup granulated sugar.
Scoop dough and roll dough into 2 ½ tablespoon-sized balls and roll into lemon sugar.
If the dough is very sticky, freeze it for 15 minutes or longer until it is easy to work with it. The texture needs to resemble easy-to-work-with playdough.
Refrigerate the cookie balls in an airtight container for at least 1 hour or in the freezer for 15-30 minutes (will depend on your freezer temperatures).
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit (162 C).
Transfer the cookie dough balls to a cookie sheet lined with a baking mat or parchment paper. Don’t press down.
Bake for 11 minutes (the time may vary due to different ovens).
The cookies will have a soft center inside with a crunchy sugary exterior. Once they cool down they will set well and the texture inside remains soft, and buttery.
Let the cookies stand in the pan for 5-10 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.
Makes 12 larger and thicker cookies.
What Do Lemon Cookies Taste Like?
Buttery, packed with lemon flavor, with a perfect balance of sweetness and acidity from lemon.
The texture is soft and chewy with a slightly crisp exterior thanks to sugar sprinkled on top, these cookies have a similar texture to my chocolate chip cookies.
Which Is Better: Lemon Extract or Lemon Juice?
Lemon extract provides a deeper lemon flavor but lacks the acidity of fresh lemon juice, while lemon juice tends to produce a light lemon flavor in these soft lemon cookies but helps the cookies rise due to the boost of acidity.
When using fresh lemon juice, always measure accurately as too much acidity in the cookie dough can cause it to rise too quickly and collapse, which will change the texture of the cookies.
For these cookies, I didn’t use lemon extract and you can still feel plenty of lemony flavor and scent here.
Can I Substitute the Lemon Extract?
You sure can. These cookies taste great with lemon zest and fresh lemon juice which are excellent substitutes for lemon extract. Other extracts can be used as well, such as orange or lime.
However, I don’t recommend replacing lemon extract with lemon oil as it is heavier and notably stronger and more robust taste compared to lemon extract.
- Always use fresh ingredients, especially lemon juice. Don’t use bottled juices, they’re flavor is not that great and they usually contain preservatives.
- Add softened cream cheese to the lemon sugar coating if you prefer this lemon cookie recipe with frosting.
- Use a medium cookie scoop or ice cream scoop to help create uniform-sized cookies that bake evenly.
- Add yellow food coloring to these soft lemon cookies if you want a deeper color! Gel food coloring works best for baking.
- Don’t skip chilling the dough for the best results. This helps to prevent the cookies from spreading too much while baking.
- Consider baking these sugar lemon cookies on a silicone mat for easy removal and less spreading from any grease added to the baking sheet.
- These chewy sugar cookies are perfect for afternoon tea or a special occasion such as a baby shower, bridal shower, or the holiday season.
- Allow these lemon sugar cookies to sit on the baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack. This will help prevent any crumbling.
- Keep your baking sheets cool if you are baking these lemon sugar cookies in batches, or the heat from the pans will cause the cookies to spread.
- Rub the lemon zest to release the essential oils in the zest for greater lemon flavor in these cookies.
How To Keep Cookies From Spreading
These are the best tips I’ve learned to prevent cookies from spreading:
- Accurately measure your ingredients, especially the flour, using the level method.
- Chill the cookie dough until it reaches a "playdough" consistency before baking.
- Ensure cookies are placed at least 1-2 inches apart on the baking sheet.
- Verify the correct oven temperature for your specific oven.
- Store baking powder and baking soda in a dry, cool place, and check for expiration dates before using.
Freezing And Storing Instructions
- To Store. Store these lemon cookies at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 1 week or refrigerate for 2 weeks.
- To Freeze. You can totally freeze these for 4-6 months. To enjoy, allow them to thaw at the kitchen counter and enjoy.
Why Refrigerate Cookie Dough?
Chilling the lemon sugar cookie dough in the fridge or freezer causes the fat in the cookies to solidify. The fat will take longer to melt when baking, preventing the cookies from spreading too much.
You’re left with fluffy and pillowy cookies instead of thin, dense ones! If pressed for time, reduce the chilling by half in the freezer.
For refrigerating, you can chill the dough in a bowl or roll it into cookie balls, both work well.
However, I find that if the dough is too sticky (it will depend on how fast or slow you are working with the dough as well as the room temperature in your kitchen) it is difficult to roll it into balls and I always chill and sometimes freeze the dough as soon as I have mixed all ingredients together in a bowl.
- Frosted Lemon Cookies - Top these chewy lemon sugar cookies with a lemon cream cheese frosting, or a white chocolate glaze for added decadence.
- Lemon Cookies With Lemon Icing - skip the sugar coating and add some lemon glaze. A simple ¾ cup powdered sugar with a couple of teaspoons of fresh lemon juice mixed together and drizzled over cooled cookies.
- Add white chocolate chips, poppy seeds, or chopped nuts into the cookie dough.
- Use another citrus - Make other citrus cookies using orange juice and orange zest or lime juice and lime zest.
Depending on the brand of gluten-free flour blend used, many gluten-free flours require the addition of a binding agent, such as eggs or xanthan gum to bind the ingredients together and create a similar texture to all-purpose flour.
I recommend gluten-free brands such as Bob’s Red Mill or King Arthur when making gluten free lemon cookies.
Yes, simply double all the ingredients.
You can halve all the ingredients easily but you also need to halve 1 egg and egg yolk. To halve the egg: Crack the egg and yolk into a small bowl, beat it well, and let it settle. Then, measure out the mixture in half with tablespoons.
You can use both, and a silicon baking mat would be more sustainable and the results are not that different at all.
You can easily prepare and portion these cookies in advance. Simply store the cookie dough balls in a zip-top bag or airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days before baking.
It is not recommended for dogs due to the acidity and sugar in these cookies, and dogs can have an upset stomach because of that.
Gluten Free Cookie Recipes
For all baking recipes, hop on to our Desserts collection.
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Soft Lemon Sugar Cookies With Lemon Sugar Coating
- 1 cup white sugar
- ½ cup (113g) unsalted butter (room temperature)
- 2 cup flour (either all purpose or GF blend, see notes)
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (is optional)
- 2 teaspoon milk
- 1 large egg (room temperature)
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice (freshly squeezed)
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
For Lemon Sugar Coating
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest (allow it to dry sightly)
- In a large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer, combine butter and sugar. Beat on low speed with an electric mixer (with or without paddle attachment), stand mixer, or electric hand mixer to cream butter until smooth and creamy. Gradually add egg, egg yolk, lemon zest, lemon juice and vanilla. Mix on low until combined. Set aside.
- In a separate large bowl, combine dry ingredients. Whisk to combine and in batches add to wet ingredients. Beat on low until just combined.
- Prepare a saucer with ingredients for coating the cookies: 1 tablespoon lemon zest mixed with ¼ cup granulated sugar.
- Scoop dough and roll dough into 2 ½ tablespoon-sized balls and roll into lemon sugar. If the dough is very sticky, freeze it for 15 minutes or longer until it is easy to work with it. The texture needs to resemble an easy to work with playdough.
- Refrigerate the cookie balls in an airtight container for at least 1 hour or in the freezer for 15-30 minutes (will depend on your freezer temperatures).
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit (162 C).
- Transfer the cookie dough balls to a cookie sheet lined with a baking mat or parchment paper. Don’t press down.
- Bake for 11 minutes (the time may vary due to different ovens).
- The cookies will have a soft center inside with a crunchy sugary exterior. Once they cool down they will set well and the texture inside remains soft, and buttery.
- Let the cookies stand in the pan for 5-10 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Makes 12 larger and thicker cookies
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)