I’m a firm believer that the best cookies are anything but firm. A soft, big, buttery, chewy cookie is the key to my heart, and these Soft and Chewy Lemon Sugar Cookies absolutely fit the bill. They’re made from scratch and bursting with tart lemony flavor from both lemon zest and real lemon juice!
As tends to be the case with all of my cookie recipes, this one has been a while in the works. That is to say that I’ve made about 20 batches of cookies in the testing process, eaten them all, cried to myself about how a girl cannot survive on cookies alone, and then continued to eat some more in the name of “recipe-testing”. I made flat lemon cookies. Puffy ones. Cakey ones. Lackluster ones. Crunchy ones. Just nearly perfect ones. Really perfect ones. And I just kept going for weeks on end until they were the greatest lemon cookies I could possibly imagine ever coming out of my kitchen— or any kitchen– and yes, I ate cookies from every batch. These are the sacrifices I make for you. (Truly, I’m such a martyr.)
Of course I shared some with friends throughout the process, both for feedback and to get some of the cookies out of my house, where my self-control is seemingly non-existent. And while I have a bit of a reputation ’round here for making awesome cookies (not to pat myself on the back too much), several of my friends proclaimed these to be the best cookies I’ve ever made. Or their favorite cookies they’ve ever had. Who would have thought that lemon sugar cookies could trump gooey, chewy chocolate chip, or dreamy, giant peanut butter cookies? I definitely didn’t.
The thing is, these Soft and Chewy Lemon Sugar Cookies may not be loaded up and oozing with crazy fillings, but they are intensely flavorful thanks to a combination of lemon zest and lemon juice, and their dense, chewy texture makes them a joy to sink your teeth into.
They’re the sort of cookie that you crave year-round. Their brightness makes them perfect for spring and summer holidays– you can bet I’m making another batch for Easter– but they’d be just as welcome at a Christmas cookie exchange, where their zippy tart flavor would be a great departure from the usual richness of chocolate-spiked desserts. Honestly, any excuse to make these is a good one. Any time, a good time.
If you’re the sort of person who likes to add extra ingredients to everything, I get that. I’m also that person. The original version is great, but if I can sneak some pantry ingredients into half of a batch of cookies, I’m sure gonna try. These Soft and Chewy Lemon Cookies are no exception. So here’s some add-in inspiration for you!
- Nuts. Macadamia nuts and almonds would both be great additions to these cookies! Just watch out if serving to a big group of people who might have allergies.
- White chocolate chips. I’m not big on regular milk or dark chocolate with lemon, but white chocolate pairs fantastically with tart lemon!
- Poppy seeds. Poppy seeds add a distinctive nutty flavor and slight crunch that is perfect for adding to lemon desserts.
- Berries. Berries such as blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries would make great add-ins, either in fresh or dried form. Coconut is also technically a berry, and a little shaved coconut would do well here!
- Fresh herbs. It might sound weird to add herbs to a cookie, but fresh basil, thyme, or mint would be delicious.
Have more ideas or suggestions? Let me know in the comments!
- 2 tablespoons lemon zest, from 2-3 lemons
- 1 cup granulated sugar, plus 1/2 cup more to roll
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
- 1.5 sticks (12 tablespoons) butter, softened
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 large egg
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- Yellow food coloring (optional, as desired)
- 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- In a large bowl, whisk together the lemon zest, 1 cup of the granulated sugar, and light brown sugar until well-combined. Cream in the butter until fluffy. Whip in the vanilla extract, egg, lemon juice, and yellow food coloring, as desired. (I typically use about 10 to 12 drops.)
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and cornstarch. Add the dry mix to the wet ingredients and stir until fully combined, being careful not to over-mix. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Pour 1/2 cup granulated sugar on a small plate.
- Roll 2 tablespoons of dough into a ball and roll in granulated sugar. Place on baking sheet and repeat with remaining dough. Be sure to leave space surrounding the cookies for them to spread!
- Bake for about 10-14 minutes, rotating half-way through, or until the cookies have spread out and the edges are golden, but the centers of the cookies still look soft, puffy, and undercooked. Every oven is different, so I recommend starting with just one or two cookies on the tray to see what baking time works best for you!
- Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets until the cookies are firm enough to remove, about 15 minutes. Repeat with remaining batches, until all cookies are baked. Be sure not to let the trays cool completely before putting any more batches of cookie dough on them, as warm trays will cause the cookies to spread out too much.