lemon butter cookes

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How to make butter cookies without butter

I’ve updated this lemon butter cookie recipe to make it dairy free by swapping the butter for some vegan butter. You can also use vegetable shortening. Feel free to use the same amount butter if you don’t need to make them dairy free.

Now that our oven is working again, I’m ready for some Christmas baking. Last week, I made a batch of thumbprint cookies for our little Christmas party, and this week I thought I would try my hand a new, but very similar cookie.

I took a basic thumbprint cookie recipe, tweaked it a little and added some lemon juice and zest to make a simple and buttery cookies.

lemon butter cookies recipe before being baked on a cookie sheet lined with parchment

How to make lemon butter cookies

The butter flavor really shines through in these cookies, and the lemon plays the role of sidekick – making a perfect pair. The cookies aren’t overly sweet, but the powdered sugar coating is up to you.

Sprinkle them with as much as you want to suit your taste. Personally, I love the texture of the dry powdered sugar against the buttery cookie so I do a few coatings. Don’t worry about adding extra. I won’t tell anyone…


Lemon Butter Cookies

Lemon Butter Cookies | This easy, lemon butter cookies recipe makes the best, melt in your mouth cookies. They’re a dairy free version of an old fashioned buttery, shortbread cookie. They’re perfect for the holidays or any time of year. Top with a sprinkle of powdered sugar for a simple alternative to icing. #dairyfree #christmascookies


  • Author: Melissa Belanger
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 50 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hours 10 minutes
  • Yield: 30 cookies 1x
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American


  • 1 cup vegan butter or vegetable shortening
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • Powdered sugar, for dusting


  1. Preheat oven to 350˚F (180˚C).
  2. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, cream shortening and sugar until fluffy.
  3. Beat in the egg.
  4. Add lemon zest and lemon juice.
  5. Gradually mix in the flour until incorporated.
  6. Roll dough into 1 inch balls and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  7. Using the tines of a fork, cross marks in the cookies to slightly flatten them (as pictured).
  8. Bake cookies for 15 minutes or until cookies are set on top and slightly golden on bottom.
  9. Transfer to cooling rack and immediately dust with powdered sugar (sugar will melt into cookies from the remaining heat).
  10. Once completely cool, dust cookies again with powdered sugar.


*Optional: Add 1 teaspoon lemon extract for a little extra lemon flavor.


  • Serving Size:
  • Calories: 100
  • Sugar: 8.4 g
  • Sodium: 61.4 mg
  • Fat: 3.3 g
  • Saturated Fat: 0.6 g
  • Carbohydrates: 16.6 g
  • Fiber: 0.3 g
  • Protein: 1.4 g
  • Cholesterol: 6.2 mg

Keywords: dairy free, easy, cookies, christmas, lemon, holiday, shortbread

If you’re looking for a few more Christmas cookie ideas, check out some of these recipes:

Last Updated on November 29, 2021 by Melissa Belanger

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Recipe rating


      1. That was what I assumed and did.

        Thanks for the wonderful recipe. Myself and my children found them deliciously refreshing. I doubled the lemon zest and added a bit more juice as we love a big lemon kick and they were perfect. Definitely a keeper.

  1. Hi I made the cookies last night and they were great! I made some slight modifications, I used less zest and more juice and I added white chocolate chips to the mix. I made them for my sons classes and they were a hit! I also had some for breakfast and I was able to taste the butter and lemon and it was really delicious. Tonight I am making more for my coworkers. Thanks for this recipe. x

    1. I’m sorry, but I’m not really able to provide nutritional information for my recipes. It’s not that I don’t want to, but I wouldn’t want to provide information that may not be completely accurate.

  2. I just made these. I think I should have bumped up the lemon juice, not enough of a lemon taste for me. I also wonder if I should use a touch more flour as mine didn’t hold their shape like yours. Maybe it’s because I use a baking stone to cook them on and not a metal cookie sheet. I will try them again.

  3. I have never used all purpose flour where I didn’t add at least salt and baking powder or soda. Just wanted to make sure before I do make these. They look delicious and I am a lemon recipe junkie!

  4. I tried this recipe last night. The dough (after adding the flour) was INCREDIBLY thick. My KitchenAid electric mixer (which is practically brand new) struggled to mix the flour in (even on the highest setting).
    Once I had baked the cookies, they looked delicious but all I tasted was flour. I ended up throwing them all out. 🙁 I double & triple checked to make sure I added the appropriate amounts of everything (I’m pretty meticulous…) & I did.
    Are they meant to be that “floury”? I was SO hoping for these to turn out & was bummed when they ended up in the trash.

    1. Mine came out great with 2 and 1/4 cups of flour. I added 1.75 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice and still thought they could have used more lemon flavor. Next time I’ll add 3 tablespoons.

  5. Mine turned out like two others. They tasted like flour and were hard. I tried adding more lemon to enhance the flavor to no avail. I tried cutting baking time as well. Nothing helped. I will try again and try less flour.

  6. I think I should have bumped up the lemon juice, not enough of a lemon taste for me. I also wonder if I should use a touch more flour as mine didn’t hold their shape like yours. Maybe it’s because I use a baking stone to cook them on and not a metal cookie sheet. I will try them again.

    1. It might work, but I would not count on it. You may have to adjust the amount of flour to account for the change in liquids. I wouldn’t try it if the cookies were for others to eat, but if you’re just making them at home for yourself, I would give it a try!

  7. I love to cook, but baking is a big challenge for me(especially in Colorado). My cookies turned out tasting great, but melted in to large, flat, silver dollar shaped crispy cookies. I’m thinking it is a high Altitude thing. Can anyone help with the alterations I need to make for next time? Thanks for the recipe! We decorated ours with a simple lemon cream cheese frosting, and everyone LOVED them!

  8. These cookie sound wonderful!
    Alison, I would try adding an extra tablespoon of flour to help the cookies keep their shape. This has worked for cookies I have made in the past. I hope this helps!

  9. These were delicious! I made them last-minute when I learned my in-laws were coming over for tea. I didn’t have any lemons so I used the zest and juice of an orange instead. A big hit!

  10. I am in the process of making these now. Your recipe at the top, says baking time is 30 minutes, but in the steps it says 15. As mine are in the oven now, I am starting at 15 and will see form there. Just thought I would mention if it was a typo. They look great and so far are not spreading with the recipe as is. 🙂

    1. You are right with 15. The 30 minutes is for 2 batches. I was assuming all the cookies can’t bake at once. If you can get them all in your oven that’s great! I just couldn’t fit them in mine.

  11. Hi Melissa,
    Thanks, yes that makes sense and yes did take two batches. 🙂 I think they are great! Mine turned out just fine. I think for those who like them really lemony, a bit of lemon extract might be the trick. I will try that next time and see how they are, but I like them like this as well. It’s a keeper!

  12. These cookies are wonderful. I made some tonight to take to my sister for a treat. Instead of using a fork to form the pattern on top, I found a rosette iron that I haven’t used in years and used that to add the pattern on top. It looks nice, like a flower or a sun with rays. Good recipe! Thank you!

  13. Hello!

    I’ve never had a lemon butter cookie, but when I saw one of these pics at Pinterest I had to come here and read the recipe, and trust me, this a recipe to keep.

  14. I just got done baking these cookies and enjoy them!! The only substitute I made was using 4 tsp of lemon juice in place of the lemon zest–I didn’t have any lemons or oranges on hand. As a side note: If you are expecting these cookies to come out with the texture of a basic sugar cookie, you’re going to disappoint yourself. For me, these cookies almost have a tea-cookie-like consistency; melt-in-your-mouth and creamy/thick.

  15. True butter cookies have no baking soda and baking pwrd. If you had Italian butter cookies that crumbled in your mouth, that is the real butter cookies supposed taste like. Few ingredients big on flavor .

  16. The dough is thick, even when I added 6TBSP lemon juice and 6 drops of lemon essential oil to it, but the taste was great!! Ramp up the lemon flavor. I think you’ll like them better.

  17. i just finished making these tonight for a baby shower this weekend. i started out following the recipe exactly BUT made some changes as i went along. i used almost all the juce of one lemon…maybe 4 tsps total. i also ended up adding 2 pinches of salt to it as well. when it was time to make the marks with the fork I wet the tines in lemon juice water. figured it would add a little something. I’ve got them in a tupperware and I’m going to freeze them till saturday and then thaw them out for the shower.

    i do like the flavor of the cookie and if i make them again l’ll find another way to really punch up the lemon flavor. but i do like them 🙂

  18. I made the lemon cookie today for my Grandchildren, they loved them. I found the recipe easy to follow, I did add extra lemon juice, and they turned out great. I will make them again in the future. Thank you for a great recipe.

  19. I made these for my Grandchildren and the only thing I did different was add more lemon juice than called for. Really easy and good. Thank you for three recipe,

  20. Here in Colorado it’s especially important not to let your butter get too warm. I barely let mine sit for a few minutes before I start creaming it and once I have one cookie sheet in the dough goes in the fridge until I am ready to do another sheet.

    I’ve also seen a recommendation to increase the temp by 20° F and reduce cooking time.

    1. Hi Sarah! Thanks so much for the tips. I know baking can be so fickle, especially depending on where you live, so it’s always good to hear tips like that. 🙂

  21. I’d love to try this recipe , but I only have salted butter in the house. Any idea what will happen if I make them using the salted butter?

  22. These are delicious. I made a double batch, gave some to a neighbor and used the rest to make raspberry lemon ice cream sandwiches. Lovely!

  23. Just made these today for the first time. Followed the recipe, except as suggested by others, I added 3 tablespoons of lemon juice to increase the lemon flavor. Kept the same amount of zest. I also found the dough to be a bit sticky and difficult to work with so I put the dough in the fridge for a few hours first. I absolutely love these cookies! A keeper for me! Nice and citrusy and delicious! Would be even better with a citrus glaze on top!

  24. I have been looking for a good hand-shaped butter cookie recipe, and I think this is it. I was trying to create Naan Berenji, so I replaced the lemon and zest with rose water and cardamom, and I used rice flour instead of wheat flour. I was very pleased with the results.

  25. These look delicious! Can’t wait to try them. I was wondering if you think white chocolate chips would be good in these cookies?

    1. I don’t know. I’ve never tried them, but I think it sounds like it would be good!

  26. Even after following the directions exactly, these did not turn out well. I read all the comments and there was no consistency with the issues or responses for help to solve them. Do you have an answer for when the dough is not able to be formed in a ball because it is too wet/sticky? I never had an issue with it being too thick. Thx as I’d like these to be good.

    1. I haven’t had that problem before, but I would suggest two things. The first would be chilling the dough for about 1 hour. If that doesn’t work, try adding a tiny bit of flour, maybe 1 tablespoon at a time, until it seems better. I hope that works out for you.

  27. Very, very disappointed with this recipe. The cookies came out so dry and bland. I had to make some homemade frosting to put on top of the cookies so they would actually have flavour and be less dry.

    I followed the recipe exactly and was so disappointed with how they came out. Definitely not making these ever again.

  28. I was craving tea cake cookies but realized that I didn’t have vanilla. I did, however, have fresh lemons. I found your recipe and thought these would fare and that they did! My cookies came out very similar to teacakes with a hint of lemon. I love them.

    1. I’m really not sure. I’ve only ever used one type of dough in the cookie press. This might be too thick. If you do try it, I’d love to know how it turns out 🙂

  29. Can the sugar be substituted for Stevia or another type sugar substitute? And the egg be substituted with fake eggs? I am diabetic and these changes would help me be able to enjoy them also.

    Thank you.

    1. Since there aren’t too many ingredients, I would imagine it could have a huge impact. I’ve never used fake eggs before, so I don’t know how they work. If you try it, I would love to know how it goes!

  30. My daughter and I made these for her girl scout meeting and they were wonderful. We added more lemon juice and a pinch more zest for a more intense lemon flavor and topped it off with a lemon glaze. It was magnificent! Thanks. This is a keeper.

  31. This recipe is a keeper! Love the light, airy cookie– not too sweet! The kids now ask for me to bake “the beach cookies”, as they have come to be referred to! They hold up & don’t melt in the heat, the way many other cookies do! Thank you?

  32. Hi Melissa,
    Tried the lemon cookies n it’s just simply delishus taking some for my friends this evening ?. I’m sure they will love it much as I did. ??.

    This will be much go to recipe for always. Thanks a ton.

  33. I made these today and they are delicious! I am going to make them again tomorrow and use lime zest and juice and another batch with orange zest and juice. I just love the citrus flavor in them. Very refreshing compared to a lot of cookies that I make during the holidays that are either chocolate or mint or a little more heavy. These will be a wonderful addition to my gift baskets for coworkers this year! Thanks for sharing the recipe. Happy baking!!

  34. I would recommend adding lemon extract. I did this and it really made them taste great although it’s uo to you. Also I’m guessing you meant dairy free butter because it wasn’t specified lol. Overall amazing recipe 🙂

    1. This recipe is actually super old, from before we went dairy free. I have made it with dairy free butter, but I never updated the recipe! I should probably update it to reflect that though.

  35. Just made them. They are awesome. Used 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and zest of two whole lemons. My daughter and husband can’t stop eating them! Thank you

  36. I loved this recipe…
    I wanted to try a different variation of butter cookies, and since I love lemon I looked up lemon butter cookies. After going over the large variety of recipes, I chose this one and my family loved it. Definitely will be making this more often.
    Thank you

  37. I just made these. They’re very similar to a kind my grandmother used to make, but she rolled hers in sugar and smooshed them with a glass before baking. I did that instead of the criss cross because I’m making peanut butter cookies today, too. These came out great!