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These simple small batch Lemon Sugar Cookies are soft and chewy and with the perfect amount of citrus to bring some sunshine to your day. 10 minutes to prep and no chilling necessary–this easy recipe will be a new favorite for the whole family!

Stack of lemon sugar cookies with glass of milk and lemon wedges surrounding.

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I have no doubt that a touch of lemon in your sugar cookies will have you feeling all the sunshine–all of it. And some days, we really just have to make our own sunshine, am I right?!

I am very much a boredom baker, and that’s how these simple citrus cookies came to be. When I am stuck in the house–I bake. These Birthday Cake Sugar Cookies were also a bit of a stuck inside kind of boredom recipe–but no one has complained just yet!

I am also a sucker for small batch cookie recipes. I very rarely have enough time to make a few dozen cookies at one time. However, I can squeeze a dozen in for sure! I can make that happen.

So, if you want some sunshine in your day, and you don’t often have a lot of time to bake, these small batch lemon sugar cookies are 100% the way to go. Refreshing, soft and chewy–the very best!

Why You Will Love These Lemon Sugar Cookies:

  • so soft and chewy
  • refreshing and vibrant lemon flavor
  • very easy to make
  • freezer friendly
  • so delicious!

Try these Key Lime Iced Cookies if you love citrus flavors as much as I do!

Recipe Ingredients:

  • butter: I use unsalted, softened butter in my cookies. If you aren’t sure if your butter is softened, gently press your finger into it and see if it leaves a small indentation but is also still cool to touch. To speed up this process, cut the butter into smaller pieces. I don’t recommend using a microwave at all to move things along.
  • sugar: divided, 3/4 cup for the dough and 1/4 cup for rolling.
  • brown sugar: I prefer light brown sugar, adds a touch of chewiness to your cookies
  • vanilla: you could use 1/2 vanilla and 1/2 lemon extract for an even stronger lemon flavor if preferred.
  • egg yolk: a large egg yolk at room temperature for best results. The egg yolk makes these lemon cookies extra chewy and gives them that crinkle versus using a whole egg which makes them a touch more cakey in the center.
  • lemon zest: measure this with your heart–all the lemon zest and more for me!
  • flour: all purpose flour, stirred to aerate, spooned and leveled
  • salt: I prefer sea salt
  • baking soda and powder: PLEASE make sure your baking soda and powder are fresh. Not sure if they are? You can test to make sure!
Lemon sugar cookie ingredients labeled on counter.

I typically have every single one of these ingredients in the house. And if I am missing something, it is almost always the lemon zest. I have most certainly made these without the lemon zest as just regular sugar cookies and they have been delicious as well.

One reader said she used lime zest instead of lemon and loved those. What about orange? Lots of options if you are out!

How to make this recipe:

Creamed butter and sugar in bowl with lemon. zest and egg.
  • Cream the butter and sugars. When you cream the butter and sugars, the mixture should be light and almost fluffy. The sugars will be fully incorporated into each other. Don’t skimp on this part–it can take about 2-4 minutes. You are aerating the butter and creating tiny pockets of air that will be the difference of a nice, light and chewy cookie versus a flat, dense cookie. Take the time! (steps 1 and 2)
  • Add in the lemon zest, vanilla and egg. Using a hand or standing mixer, beat to fully incorporate the egg. (steps 3 and 4)
Dry ingredients in bowl and then added into wet ingredients.
  • Whisk the dry ingredients together in a small bowl. (steps 5 and 6)
  • Slowly add the dry ingredients into the wet mixture and beat to incorporate. Toward the end, it may seem a bit crumbly or dry, but don’t worry, this is ok. Press the dough together to form a ball. Chill at this time if desired. It can help the cookies spread less. (steps 7, 8 and 9)
Sugar cookie dough in bowl, scooped on baking sheet and cooked.
  • Scoop the dough with a cookie scoop or roll into balls and then roll into the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar. Place on a cookie sheet ( I typically line mine with parchment.) and bake for about 9-11 minutes. Take them out when they are just barely starting to get a light brown around the edges. Don’t over bake these. Allow to cool before enjoying. Or if you are like me, you will scald yourself eating one the second you pull them out. Oh, such is life, right? (steps 10, 11 and 12)

I find sugar cookie dough is best when chilled to help keep any extra spreading, however these lemon sugar cookies are still okay even if I don’t chill. If your cookies are spreading a lot, it typically means your butter was softened too much and is making the dough too warm, or the flour was measured incorrectly and is less than needed. Expired baking soda and powder can also cause the same issue.

If I do chill this cookie dough, I only do about 15-30 minutes, but that doesn’t always happen. As long as you don’t over soften the butter and measure your flour well, you should be fine without chilling.

Lemon sugar cookies lined up on counter with crumbs.

Lemon Sugar Cookies Notes and Pro-Tips:

  • Always, always always make sure to cream your butter and sugar well enough. Do not skimp on the time. This seems to be where I get myself in trouble when trying to cut corners. Creaming helps give the cookies the right dense texture.
  • Check to make sure your baking powder and baking soda are both fresh. Expired leavening agents can cause issues when trying to bake. Keep them fresh!
  • Make sure not to over bake these lemon sugar cookies. When you pull them out, you may think they are not quite ready yet, but they should be perfect that way.
  • Depending on the size you make these, you will get about 12-15 cookies. If you make them much smaller you may even get closer to 18. I use a cookie scoop and press the dough into the scoop nicely to get a dense cookie.

FAQs and Troubleshooting:

If your cookies aren’t chewy:

This could be a matter of over baking. They will come out more on the crispy end if you leave them in the oven too long. When you think these lemon sugar cookies are almost there, then they are actually probably ready to be taken out.

You will notice the cookies will still be puffed up a bit and just starting to crinkle. I take them out at that point and love the texture. If you like crispy cookies, then feel free to keep them in a bit longer as well!

If your cookies spread out a lot:

Two possible things for this issue. One, your dough is too warm. If your cookie dough dips below room temperature, the cookie dough is not cool enough.

Cooler dough has more solidified fat (from the butter) that takes longer to spread as it is baked. Once the cookie dough becomes too warm, the fat is not longer fully solid and will spread out and bake quickly. Pop the dough in the fridge for 15-30 minutes and then get back to it!

The other possibility here is that your baking powder or baking soda are not fresh. If your leavening agents are bad, you will have some flat and even thin cookies for sure.

If your cookies are dry or cake like:

This is often the result of too much flour. Flour can be tricky to measure and should not be packed into measuring cups like brown sugar or other ingredients. I like to stir my flour a bit with a spoon before measuring to aerate it a bit. This tends to help.

Lemon sugar cookies stacked on top of each other with glass of milk behind and other cookies and lemons surrounding.

Other Cookies and Treats:

I can’t wait to hear how these turn out for you! Keep me posted!

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4.94 from 95 votes

Lemon Sugar Cookies

These Lemon Sugar Cookies are soft and chewy and with the perfect amount of citrus to bring some sunshine to your day. One bowl and no chill–this easy recipe will be a new favorite for the whole family!
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 11 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 15 cookies

Ingredients 

  • 1 stick butter, softened (1/2 cup), unsalted
  • 1⅓ c flour *see note below, (167g)
  • 3/4 c sugar , (160 g)
  • 1 T brown sugar, (18 g)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg yolk, room temperature
  • zest of 2 lemons, 2-3 T
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1/4 c sugar, for coating, optional
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Instructions 

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Whisk together to combine.
  • In a medium bowl, using a hand or standing mixer, cream the butter, brown sugar and 3/4c sugar until light and fluffy. (about 2-3 minutes or so). Add in egg, lemon zest and vanilla and beat until combined.
  • Slowly pour in the dry ingredients and beat just until combined–do not over mix. (Chill for about 30 minutes if desired.) Roll cookie dough into about 1 1/2 inch balls or scoop with a 1½ T cookie scoop and roll into the remaining 1/4 cup sugar (add sugar into a small bowl first.) and place about 2 inches apart on a parchment lined baking pan. 
  • Bake 9-11 minutes. Allow to cool before eating.(ha–right, I burn my tongue every time) 
  • Store in an air tight container or freeze.

Video

Notes

*If you don’t measure your flour by weight, make sure to stir and aerate the flour first and then spoon and level it with a knife versus scooping your measuring cup in the flour. Incorrectly measuring your flour can be the cause of failed cookies in any recipe. When blindly measuring with several family members, 1 1/3 cups came out anywhere from 148 grams to 200 grams–that can greatly impact your cookies, so if possible measure by weight!
  • Check to make sure your baking powder and baking soda are both fresh. Expired leavening agents can cause issues when trying to bake. Keep them fresh!
  • I read that adding a touch of brown sugar is what helps sugar cookies form well and spread nicely. I found that the result of adding just a Tablespoon of brown sugar did the trick for these.
  • Make sure not to over bake these lemon sugar cookies. When you pull them out, you may think they are not quite ready yet, but they should be perfect that way.

Nutrition

Calories: 154kcal, Carbohydrates: 23g, Protein: 1g, Fat: 7g, Saturated Fat: 4g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.3g, Monounsaturated Fat: 2g, Trans Fat: 0.2g, Cholesterol: 29mg, Sodium: 107mg, Potassium: 30mg, Fiber: 0.3g, Sugar: 14g, Vitamin A: 206IU, Calcium: 12mg, Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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Recipe Rating




134 Comments

  1. Yolanda Herrera says:

    Can I use bottled lemon juice instead of fresh?

    1. Lorie says:

      Hi, you can! The flavor may not be as strong but it will still work!

  2. Bella says:

    Can I freeze the dough the day before baking them? And would I have to adjust the temperature/cooking time if so?

    1. Lorie says:

      Hi! Sorry for the delay! You can freeze them. If baking from frozen, you should just need a few extra minutes but same temperature. If baking from frozen, they tend not to spread quite as much, just an FYI! Enjoy!

  3. Alex says:

    4 stars
    Thank you! This cookie recipe worked out fantastic. Will definitely add this as a go-to when in the mood for a sweet treat.

    1. Lorie says:

      So happy to hear it!

  4. Taryn says:

    5 stars
    Best recipe I’ve found for lemon cookies!
    Perfect texture. Chewy on the inside.
    Thank you 💛

    1. Lorie says:

      Yes!!! So excited to hear this!