Home / Recipes / Desserts / Cookies & Bars / Italian Lemon Cookies

Italian Lemon Cookies

Perfect melt in your mouth Lemon Cookies. If you love anything lemon then you are going to love these cookies. Light and easy to make, with a tasty lemon glaze, they are sure to satisfy any lemon lover!

5 stacked lemon cookies.


 

When I first started thinking about recipes for my cookbook Authentic Italian Desserts, I knew I had to include a few lemon recipes. And these cookies are one of our favourites.

Italians cannot live without lemons. It’s difficult to hear of a sweet recipe from a Cake to a Pastry Cream that doesn’t include fresh lemon zest.

And these Italian Lemon Cookies are definitely not short on Lemon. These buttery shortbread type of cookie are even better with a simple lemon glaze or if you prefer a dusting of powdered sugar.

Recipe Ingredients

  • Flour – all purpose with a strong protein percentage at least 11% protein
  • Cornstarch
  • Lemon – fresh lemon
  • Salt
  • Butter – I use salted
  • Powdered Sugar – also known as icing or confectioners sugar

Why is cornstarch added to a cookie recipe?

I have recently discovered that a lot of people add corn starch to cookie recipes, the reason is because it helps create a crumbly and tender texture. It is also considered to help cookies from spreading.

The difference between lemon juice and zest

I use both lemon juice and lemon zest in this recipe. Some insist that the zest has more lemon flavour than the juice. The zest is the oil of the lemon and is therefore filled with the pure lemon flavour.

The juice holds the acidic tart taste of the lemon. Just be sure to grate only the yellow part of the lemon and no white part. The white part will add only bitterness. And you don’t want that!

Cookies stacked and some on a wire rack.

How to make Lemon Cookies

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, cornstarch, zest and salt. In a large bowl beat the butter and sugar until fluffy about 2-3 minutes. Add half the dry ingredients and lemon juice and beat together.

how to make lemon cookies mixing the dough and all mixed

Then with a wood spoon or spatula mix in the remaining flour until combined. Move the dough to a large piece of parchment paper and form the cookie dough into a log.

Wrap in the paper and refrigerate for an hour.

how to make lemon cookies dough mixed and rolled into a log

Remove the dough from the fridge, and cut into 1/2 inch slices. Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and refrigerate again for about 20 minutes, while the oven is pre-heating.

Bake for approximately 15 minutes. Once the cookies have cooled completely, then you can top them with a little lemon glaze if desired.

how to make lemon cookies sliced and on the cookie sheet for baking

These cookies are delicious anytime, the perfect dessert or even with an afternoon tea. Or why not add the recipe to your Christmas Cookie baking list.

How to keep cookies from spreading

To keep cookies from spreading it helps to chill the dough before baking and the percentage of protein in the flour is a major culprit of flat cookies. I would advise that your flour has a percentage of at least 11% or even higher if possible.

It is also a good idea to chill the dough and also the cookies while the oven is pre-heating.

Cookies stacked with some on a wire rack and one in front.

How to store Lemon Cookies

If the cookies are unglazed then they should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature, they will last up to 5-6 days. If glazed then they should keep stored in an airtight container, in a single layer for about 3-4 days.

If your home is warm then I would advise refrigerating in an airtight container. If the cookies are refrigerated they will last up to 7 days.

How to freeze the cookies

You can always freeze them in either a freezer bag or an airtight container, they will keep for up to 4 weeks. The unbaked cookie dough will last 2-3 days in the fridge and two months in the freezer. Wrap the dough well in plastic wrap and place in an air tight bag.

I had a great time making and deciding on the perfect Italian Desserts that I thought everyone would love to try. I also shared a delicious Italian Brownie Cake / La Torta Tenerina that you also may enjoy.

But if you like anything lemon, then I think you will enjoy these Lemon Cookies, and of course I would love to know what you think. Enjoy!

2 lemon cookies stacked.

More Lemon Cookie Recipes you may enjoy!

lemon cookies 3 cookies stacked on each other

Italian Lemon Cookies

Rosemary Molloy
Perfect melt in your mouth Lemon Cookies. If you love anything lemon then you are going to love these easy buttery Italian Cookies. 
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Chilling Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 50 minutes
Course cookies, Dessert
Cuisine Italian
Servings 22 cookies
Calories 131 kcal

Ingredients
 
 

LEMON COOKIES

  • cups all purpose flour
  • ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons cornstarch (50 grams total)
  • zest & juice of one lemon (approximately 2 tablespoons lemon juice and 1/2-1 tablespoon zest)
  • 1 pinch salt
  • ¾ cup +2 tablespoons butter (softened)* (185 grams total)
  • ½ cup powdered sugar

*I use salted butter, if you use unsalted then increase the salt to 1/4 teaspoon. Be sure to use a good quality butter, apparently this year 2022, store brand butter quality is not what it used to be. Less fat could mean a dry not so tasty cookie.

    LEMON GLAZE

    • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (strained)
    • cups powdered sugar
    • 1 zest lemon

    Instructions
     

    LEMON COOKIES

    • In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, cornstarch, zest and salt.
    • In a large bowl, beat on medium speed the butter and sugar until fluffy, 3-5 minutes. Then add half the flour and the lemon juice beat to combine. Then add the remaining flour and with a wooden spoon or spatula combine to form a dough (the dough will be a little sticky, if the dough is too sticky then add 1-2 tablespoons of flour).
    • Transfer the dough to a large piece of parchment paper and roll the dough into a log approximately 1 1/2 inches (4cm) wide. Wrap the dough in the parchment paper and refrigerate for one hour.
    • Remove the dough from the fridge and cut into 1/2 inch (1.3 cm) slices. Place the slices on a large cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
    • Pre-heat oven to 320F (160C).
    • Bake the cookies for 5 minutes, then raise the oven temperature to 350F (180C) and continue to bake for 9-10 minutes. The should be light gold in colour. Remove from the oven and let the cookies sit on the cookie sheet for about 5 minutes, then move to a wire rack to cool completely. The cookies can be either dusted with powdered sugar or spread with a lemon glaze. Enjoy!

    LEMON GLAZE

    • In a small bowl whisk together the lemon juice, powdered sugar and zest until smooth.

    Notes

    To keep cookies from spreading it helps to chill the dough before baking and the percentage of protein in the flour is a major culprit of flat cookies. I would advise that your flour has a percentage of at least 11% or even higher if possible.
    If the cookies are unglazed then they should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature, they will last up to 5-6 days. If glazed then they should keep stored in an airtight container, in a single layer for about 3-4 days.
    If your home is warm then I would advise refrigerating in an airtight container. If the cookies are refrigerated they will last up to 7 days.
    You can always freeze them in either a freezer bag or an airtight container, they will keep for up to 4 weeks.
    The unbaked cookie dough will last 2-3 days in the fridge and two months in the freezer. Wrap the dough well in plastic wrap and place in an air tight bag.

    Nutrition

    Calories: 131kcal | Carbohydrates: 18g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 17mg | Sodium: 58mg | Potassium: 18mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 11g | Vitamin A: 193IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 4mg | Iron: 1mg
    Did You Make This Recipe?Please leave a comment below or pin it to your Pinterest account!

    Updated from August 9, 2019.

    265 Comments

    1. Is baking at two separate temperatures absolutely crucial for this recipe? My oven takes 10 minutes to heat from 320 to 350. By the time the oven reaches 350, it would be time to remove the cookies. Basically, they’re probably baking at 330 most of that time. Can we just bake the cookies at 325 for 12 minutes with the same results? Thanks in advance for any input.

      1. Hi Susan, yes that should work, it might need a couple of more minutes so just keep your eye on them. Let me know how it goes. Take care and Happy New Year!

    2. 5 stars
      These are fabulous. I’ve been making them for several years as Christmas gifts for friends, family and neighbors. They have started messaging me in November to encourage me to make them again. Haha. Thank you for a great, easy recipe.

      1. 5 stars
        I’ve made these cookies for the last two years for all the kids who don’t get baked cookies. It’s a variety but these are a favorite! Thank you for sharing!

    3. 5 stars
      I loved these cookies. I am a novice so I did not size the cookies properly but I would slice them thinner than what I did, next time. I cut them too fat and I had made the dough rolls too thin as well.
      These were my mistakes but the recipe is fantastic and the cookies are delicious.

    4. 5 stars
      These are delicious!! I made them with a gluten free all purpose flour and they turned out perfectly. If you are making this gluten free I highly recommend using the metric measurements instead of the US measurements.

        1. 5 stars
          I liked them but mine were crumbly around the edges and spread out more than they should have. A few of them kind of fell apart as well. I chilled the dough and followed the recipe exactly! Any suggestions?

        2. Hi Caitlyn, if they spread too much, it’s probably because your protein count in the flour isn’t high enough, at least 11% protein will keep the cookies from spreading. Hope that helps. Let me know.

    5. 5 stars
      I just made these yesterday! The lemon glaze is amazing and I would highly recommend. I added rainbow sprinkles to make them even more festive. My two cents: the cookies were extremely delicate, so handle carefully when moving to cooling rack/ when icing, etc. Also, in my oven I followed the instructions but they started to burn. For batch 2, I cooked instead at 320 the whole time and just increased the cooking time until the edges were light brown.

    6. 5 stars
      Love this! I made it for the first time yesterday and will definitely be making it again. I did add a little lemon extract into the icing to give it a bit stronger lemon taste, but that’s just my personal preference. I’m considering trying this recipe and exchanging the lemon for orange zest and juice (and perhaps even adding some diced cranberries) next!

    7. I’m sure the recipe is perfect but I totally messed up. I tried to triple it. I should’ve practiced with one batch before I made so many. I will say that I think I messed up “fluffing” the butter and sugar. Also I think I rolled my dough logs too narrow and then chopped off too large slices. The flavour is 100% there, I just need to try again. I will bc I know this recipe is good. Also the icing is so delicious it almost made up for my bricks of shortbread 😂

      1. Hi Kate, yes unfortunately creaming the butter and sugar is very important. I think it is wise to start with the recipe as is and then double if you want. Let me know how it goes. Take care and have a great weekend!

      1. Hi Tiffany, the cornstarch is whisked with the flour and salt, it’s all written in the recipe card. Apparently you can substitute with arrowroot but you have to use twice as much arrowroot so you might need to add more butter, I have never used arrowroot so I can’t really say. If you try it let me know how it goes. Take care!

    8. 5 stars
      Hi again
      I made these again but for some reason they don’t taste as lemony. they are still great but I have leftover dough. Can I put more lemon juice in it and mix it in?
      I’m not using the glaze this time .
      Thanks!

    9. 5 stars
      Hi Rosemary. Do you have a recommended flour you use that meets your recommended 11% protein content to control spreading? I normally use Bob’s Red Mill Organic All-Purpose Flour which only has 4% protein. I’m looking forward to making these delicious looking cookies!

      1. Hi Kerry, I think you are looking at 30 grams of flour which has 4% protein. So it really is ok to use because it does end up being high enough. By the way no flour only has 4% protein, the lowest protein amount would be pastry or cake flour with 7-9%, all purpose 10-12%, bread flour 12-16% and whole wheat. Hope that helps. Take care!

        1. It’s been a few months so this probably won’t matter anymore, but this comment confused me so I looked it up. On Bob’s AP nutrition facts it is 34g flour which has 4 *grams* protein, not 4%. 4g protein per 34g flour is almost 12% protein. So it is good!

          Rosemary, you mention storing these in a single layer – I’m planning on putting these in a holiday cookie box, the recipe looks delicious. If I let these cure for a little while at room temp, will the icing get hard enough to stack or should I decrease the liquid in the icing? Thanks!

        2. Hi Catie, I would probably decrease the liquid a bit and make it thicker, I might be a good idea to chill them before stacking and also place parchment paper between the layers. I hope you enjoy them. Take care!

    10. 5 stars
      Love love love these cookies!! I am making them again for a cookie table at a wedding. I would like to make them a little smaller so there are more to go around. Have you ever made smaller ones, or do you have any suggestions on cooking time? Thanks!

      1. Hi Meghan, thanks so much, and yes you could make them smaller, I would bake starting at 5 minutes and go from there. If they need more time which I think they might, but just keep your eye on them. Take care!

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    Recipe Rating




    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.