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May 26, 2022

Meyer Lemon Vanilla Shortbread Cookies

These soft and tender Meyer lemon vanilla shortbread cookies have a mild lemon and vanilla flavor. They are perfect for an after school treat or with afternoon tea.

Meyer Lemon Vanilla Shortbread Cookies on a blue plate.

These lemon vanilla cookies are a little softer and more airy and cake-like than your typical shortbread cookie. They contain some cream and baking soda, which is unusual for a shortbread. 

Maybe I shouldn't call them a shortbread, yet, they're not really a sugar cookie either. They're like little soft pillows!

Meyer Lemon Vanilla Shortbread Cookies on a cooling rack.

Even with a full two tablespoons of lemon zest in these cookies, the lemon is not overpowering and the cookies are not overly sweet. Even so, my grandsons loved them and declared them "delicious." They don't usually do that with any dessert that does not contain chocolate, ice cream, or whipped cream.

How to Make These Meyer Lemon Vanilla Shortbread Cookies:

First, mash together granulated sugar and lemon zest with the back of a spoon or your fingers until the sugar is yellow and fully flavored from the zest. 

Next, beat flour, butter, salt, and baking soda together on low in a mixer with the paddle attachment until you have a mixture that looks like cornmeal. 

After that, add the sugar and zest mixture, the vanilla, and the cream and mix on low until the dough just begins to clump together. Gather the dough together, pat it into a disk, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate it for about 30 minutes. 

Roll the dough into a log that is one inch in circumference (either a square or a round) and wrap it with plastic wrap. Freeze the log for at least an hour. When ready to bake, slice the dough into 1/2 inch rounds or squares. 

Finally, sprinkle the dough rounds with sparkling sugar and bake for about 10 minutes. 

Meyer Lemon Vanilla Shortbread Cookies on a small sheet pan.

Tips for Making These Meyer Lemon Vanilla Shortbread Cookies:

You will need a lot of lemon zest. I've made several batches of these cookies, some with Meyer lemon zest, and some with "regular" lemon zest. The cookies with Meyer lemon zest turn out more yellow in color, but either way, the cookies are delicious. 

I will tell you that this recipe creates a lot of naked lemons..... 

Meyer lemons zested.

You can freeze the juice from these lemons for later to use for lemonade, a cocktail, ice cream, or even lemony roasted chicken

Use cold butter and cut it into small cubes before combining it with the flour to creat a crumbly mix. The mixture should look like cornmeal. The butter doesn't have to be ice cold, but it shouldn't be too soft. If you decide to use salted butter, you can skip the salt in the recipe. 

I sprinkled the tops of these cookies before baking with white sparkling sugar. You don't have to brush the tops of the dough with an egg wash or press the sugar into the dough because the sugar will melt a bit into the cookies while the cookies are baking. 

Meyer Lemon Vanilla Shortbread Cookies stacked.

Shortbread or not (you be the judge), there is so much to love about these cookies! From their cake-like texture to their lemony vanilla flavor, they were a huge hit with everyone who tried them. 

Store these cookies at room temperature for up to seven days. You can also freeze them, tightly wrapped, for up to a month. 

Meyer Lemon Vanilla Shortbread Cookies on plates.

More Tips for Baking These Cookies:

You will need to bake these cookies in three batches. I like to bake them one sheet at a time rather than switching the pans in the oven halfway through. 

To do this, I prepared a half sheet pan with parchment paper and cut the dough into all of the squares before beginning the baking process and kept the cut dough waiting in the refrigerator while baking each batch. 

Instead of using multiple baking sheets and sheets of parchment paper, I transferred the baked cookies to a cooling rack and then, after about five to ten minutes, to cool the baking sheet right away in order to reuse it, I set it on my granite countertop. It always makes me nervous, but it works like a charm. The baking sheet cools so much faster. 

Meyer Lemon Vanilla Shortbread Cookies in a bowl.

Welcome to Lemon Week! We are sharing recipes, sweet and savory, starring lemon. 

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Meyer Lemon Vanilla Shortbread Cookies in a bowl.

Recipe originally published August, 2013 and updated May, 2022. 

Meyer Lemon Vanilla Shortbread Cookies

Meyer Lemon Vanilla Shortbread Cookies
Yield: 49 cookies
Author: Karen's Kitchen Stories
Prep time: 30 MinCook time: 10 MinTotal time: 40 Min
These soft and tender Meyer lemon vanilla shortbread cookies have a mild lemon and vanilla flavor. They are perfect for an after school treat or with afternoon tea.


  • 141 grams (5 ounces/3/4 cup) sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lightly packed lemon zest
  • 283 grams (10 ounces/2 cups) all purpose flour
  • 1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 6 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Sparkling sugar for sprinkling


  1. Stir the lemon zest and sugar together in a small bowl, using the back of the spoon to rub the two ingredients together. Make sure they are fully combined.
  2. Combine the flour, butter, salt, and baking soda in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix with the paddle attachment on low until you have a mixture that resembles corn meal.
  3. Add the cream, lemon sugar, and vanilla until just combined. Don't over mix.
  4. Roll the dough into a log that is one inch in circumference and wrap it with plastic wrap. Place in the freezer for at least one hour, and up to 24 hours.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  6. Slice the log into 1/2 inch rounds and place them 2 inches apart on the baking sheet. Place any dough that doesn't fit back into the freezer to bake after the first sheet is done.
  7. Sprinkle the cookies with sparkling sugar (if you don't have it, regular sugar will do just fine) and bake, one sheet at a time, 10 to 12 minutes, until golden. Remove the cookies to a cooling rack.
  8. Bake and cool the second group of cookies as you did the first.

Nutrition Facts



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cookies, lemon, shortbread
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  1. Weeeeellllll, the baking soda needs acid to work, so the citrus helps with that. Aaaaaaaand cream makes EVERYTHING better. So, you're right.

    Consider yourself an expert.

  2. Such a shame that meyer lemons are not available here, and if they are I´ve yet to find them. It does look more airy Karen, and very yummy!

    1. Paula, I think in this case, any lemon would be fine. If you want to create the flavor, mix lemon and orange (mostly lemon) rind. Meyer lemons are sweeter than regular lemons.

  3. Karen, I made these today to go into my Christmas cookie box and they were a disaster. Even after several hours in the freezer they melted into each other in the oven and were just crumbs. Help! What went wrong?

    1. I'm so sorry to hear that! Did you use parchment paper? That's the only thing I can think of. I also used King Arthur all purpose flour. I'm really sorry!

    2. Just figured it out. :blush: I put in a pound of butter instead of a cup. I will try to salvage the rest of the dough by adding more flour. Thankfully it is still in the freezer.

    3. Oh phew! Yay. That's double the butter!

  4. Approx how many cookies does this make, Karen?

  5. I love shortbread, these look so yummy!

  6. Shortbread are my favorite, mixed with oodles of Meyer lemon zest -- top of the pack! These look perfect crunch and delish!

  7. You know I"m a sucker for shortbread. These have my name all over them.

  8. These lemon cookies look light as air and very poppable!

  9. I'm loving all of your shortbread cookies! These look incredible and I love ho they have a refreshing lemon flavor. Perfect with morning coffee :)

  10. I love shortbread cookies! They're a totally underrated cookie.

  11. These cookies look great! Shortbread cookies are so easy to make! I love that you added lemon!

  12. These lemon vanilla cookies sound delicious!

  13. Lemon in shortbread cookies is perfect

  14. I love shortbread. You're enabling me to make these, you know.

  15. Shortbread bites are so much fun!

  16. Lemon Shortbread sounds refreshingly delicious!

  17. Short bread cookies are my favorite ones and your lemon version hits the right spot for me! YUM!


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