Soft and Chewy Lemon Cookies

For lemon lovers only! Made with zest, juice, and extract.
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Photography Credit: Emma Christensen and Irvin Lin

Unlike other lemon cookies, which have just the barest hint of lemon flavor, these cookies pack quite a lemony punch, but without tasting too sour or too artificial. The secret is to use three different types of lemon flavoring in the dough: lemon zest, lemon juice and lemon extract.

Most lemon cookies also tend to be crispy and crumbly. I have anything against those cookies, but I want a cookie that I can really sink my teeth into. These soft and chewy lemon cookies are certainly that.

Soft and Chewy Lemon CookiesIt seems like my friends are evenly split between chocolate lovers and lemon lovers when it comes to dessert. On one side are those folks who crave dark, rich, earthy, dense chocolate.

On the other side are those folks who desire bright and sunny lemon treats. Their eyes light up when they see lemon bars. They start salivating at the idea of lemon meringue pie.

When I mentioned these soft and chewy lemon cookies, these friends immediately clamored for the recipe. If you love lemon, this one is for you!

Soft and Chewy Lemon CookiesThe secret ingredient for making these cookies soft and chewy is cream cheese. This also adds a subtle tang that works really well with the lemon flavor. Just makes sure to let the cream cheese warm to room temperature before making the cookies or it will never properly incorporate into the dough.

Because of the lemon juice, the dough will seem really sticky and hard to work with. Let the dough chill in the fridge for an hour to help firm up the dough and make it easier to shape. If you find the dough is still really sticky, you can also wet your palms before rolling them. Don’t worry if things get a little messy, you can always wash it all off later!

Soft and Chewy Lemon Cookies Recipe

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  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 12 minutes
  • Chilling time: 1 hour
  • Yield: about 30 cookies

Be sure to let the cream cheese and butter warm to room temperature before making the cookies.

Chilling the dough for an hour before shaping the cookies makes it easier to work with.

Ingredients

For the cookies:

  • 3/4 cup (170g or 1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (60g) cream cheese, room temperature
  • Zest of 1 medium lemon
  • 2 teaspoons lemon extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated white sugar
  • 1/4 cup (55g) packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice, from 1 medium lemon
  • 2 1/2 cups (350g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda

To finish:

  • 1/2 cup (100 g) granulated white sugar

Special equipment:

Method

1 Beat the butter and sugar together: Place the softened butter, cream cheese, lemon zest, lemon extract, vanilla extract, both sugars and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fit with a paddle attachment. Beat the ingredients together until the butter is light, fluffy, and clings to the side of the bowl.

Soft Chewy Lemon Cookies Soft Chewy Lemon Cookies

2 Beat in the egg and lemon juice: Add the egg and beat to incorporate. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Add the lemon juice and mix to incorporate, about a minute. The batter may look “broken” but don’t worry about that. Again scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Soft Chewy Lemon Cookies

3 Mix in the flour: Add the flour and baking soda. Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are mostly absorbed, then increase the speed for a few seconds until fully incorporated.

Soft Chewy Lemon Cookies

4 Cover the bowl and chill the dough in the fridge for at least 1 hour, or overnight. This makes the sticky, soft dough easier to roll out.

5 Heat the oven to 375: Line a baking sheet with a silicon baking mat or parchment.

6 Roll the cookies: Use a cookie scoop or a tablespoon measure to scoop up a heaping tablespoon dough. Lightly roll the dough in the palms of your hands to form a ball roughly 1 1/2 inches in diameter, about the size of a ping-pong ball. If the dough is too sticky to work with even after chilling, wet your hands, dry them slightly with a paper towel, and try rolling again with damp hands.

Roll the dough in the granulated white sugar and place on the baking sheet. Repeat, leaving about 2 inches between each ball.

Soft Chewy Lemon Cookies

Using the flat bottom of a glass, press down and form thick disks, about 2 inches wide. If the dough starts sticking to the bottom of the glass, dip the glass in the sugar before continuing. Sprinkle some extra sugar over each cookie.

Soft Chewy Lemon Cookies Soft Chewy Lemon Cookies

7 Bake 12 to 15 minutes, or until the edges of the cookie are starting to turn golden brown. Let cool for 10 minutes on the baking sheet, then use a very thin spatula (like a fish spatula) to transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days at room temperature.

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Irvin Lin

Irvin Lin is an IACP award-winning photographer, food writer and recipe developer, blue-ribbon baker, public speaker and occasional social media consultant. His blog is Eat the Loveand his first cookbook is Marbled, Swirled and Layered.

More from Irvin

Soft and Chewy Lemon Cookies

Showing 4 of 19 Comments

  • Linda Woodruff

    Oven at 350? …may just be me, but I can’t find the baking temp – Thanks!

  • aini

    This is the third time i made this and the dough is always so sticky. Does the flour quantity is correct? In the last batch, i managed it by putting the dough in freezer first for about 15 minutes and scoop it with ice cream maker. It works and the taste is lovely. Thank you

  • DEDE

    Have a batch of these in the oven now. I am a experienced baker. I found the dough very sticky. The wet/damp hands method did not quite work. Dropped the dough into the sugar then was able to roll them. Also, need to dip the bottom of the glass in sugar periodically. The taste was good, not great, just good. Was expecting much more of a lemon flavor. Liked the final texture and chewiness of the cookie. Next time I think I’ll refrigerate the dough before rolling. Will keep this recipe in the “in progress” file.

  • Sonia

    Riquísimas! Les agregué nueces y quedaron súper. Muchas gracias!

  • Elizabeth @ Pineapples and Polka Dots

    My sister, a lemon cookie LOVER, would go crazy for these! Most lemon cookie recipes are crunchy and thin, which some people love, but these look heavenly! :)

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