Unlike other lemon sugar 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 nothing 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.
Lemon Lovers Only!
It 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!
Secret Ingredient for Soft, Chewy Cookies
The 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.
Tips for Working With This 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!
How to Store and Freeze
Store these cookies in an airtight container on the counter for up to three days. They also freeze really well!
- To freeze unbaked cookies: Roll the cookies into balls, but do not roll them in the sugar. Freeze them on a sheet pan in a single layer without touching, then transfer to a freezer container once hard and freeze for up to three months. To bake, let the balls thaw slightly so they are a little tacky on the outside, roll in sugar, and the bake as directed, adding an extra minute or two onto the cooking time.
- To freeze baked cookies: Stack the cookies three or four high, wrap them in foil, and then transfer to a freezer bag. Freeze for up to a month.
Love Lemon? You'll Love These Recipes!
Soft and Chewy Lemon 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.
- 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Heat the oven to 375°F:
Line a baking sheet with a silicon baking mat or parchment.
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.
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.
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.