Enjoy summer in a bite with these lemon bar cookies! These buttery cookies are pillowy soft and have a tart, creamy pool of lemon curd baked into the center. Dusted with powdered sugar, they taste exactly like a lemon bar in cookie form!
If you love lemon desserts, these lemon bar cookies are for you! They're a hybrid of a classic shortbread cookie and a tangy lemon bar. The cookie dough is like a lemon bar's soft and buttery shortbread crust that melts in your mouth. They're filled with a tart lemon curd filling bursting with zesty citrus flavor.
These cookies only require 20 minutes of chill time and are super easy to make with basic baking equipment. They work with store-bought or homemade lemon curd, making them perfect for lazy baking days.
One of my favorite things about these cookies is how versatile they are! You can whip them up for all sorts of occasions, from fancy bridal showers to casual backyard get-togethers. Or you can just make them for yourself to enjoy on a warm summer night. Their light and tangy flavor will alway end a meal on a high note.
Here are some notes about the ingredients used. For the full ingredient list, see the recipe card below.
- Unsalted butter: Butter binds the ingredients together, adds a rich flavor, and adds tenderness that shortbread is known for. Make sure it is unsalted for the the most flavor control. Take your butter out the refrigerator an hour before baking to reach room temperature so it's easy to cream with your mixer.
- Granulated sugar: White sugar adds sweetness and retains moisture in the dough.
- Egg yolk: One egg yolk adds a little extra fat and holds the other ingredients together.
- Vanilla extract: This enhances the other ingredients and rounds out the flavor profile.
- All purpose flour: This flour gives the cookies the best structure and hearty texture.
- Sea salt: Cookies need a pinch of salt or they're way too sweet and a little bland. You can use sea salt, Himalayan pink salt, or Kosher salt. Make sure your salt is finely ground; if not, add another ¼ teaspoon.
- Powdered sugar: Also known as icing sugar or confectioners sugar, this is used to roll the cookie dough in. Sprinkling the baked cookies with a little powdered sugar makes them really feel like classic lemon bars!
- Lemon curd: Lemon curd is a delicious combination of egg yolks, sugar, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Homemade or store-bought lemon curd both work! For a homemade lemon curd recipe, check out my eggless lemon curd.
- Butter: No worries if you only have salted butter! Just omit the additional salt in the recipe. You can also use vegan butter sticks if you're making these cookies dairy free.
- All purpose flour: To make the cookies gluten free, use Bob's Red Mill 1-to-1 Baking Flour.
- Lemon curd: Not a lemon fan? No problem! You can make turn these into thumbprint cookies with any kind of jam, like strawberry, blueberry, raspberry, or apricot.
Helpful Equipment and Tools
- For mixing your cookie dough, a 5-quart stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment is ideal. You can also use an electric hand mixer.
- Use a 1.5 tablespoon medium cookie scoop to make sure the cookie dough balls are evenly sized. The cookies will be large but not so huge that they spread into each other in the oven.
- To sprinkle powdered sugar on top of the cookies, you'll need a fine mesh sieve or strainer.
How to Make Lemon Bar Cookies
STEP 1: First, beat the butter and sugar together in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Do this on medium-high, allowing air to whip in until smooth and creamy.
STEP 2: Next, beat in the egg yolk and vanilla extract on low until well combined. The yolk acts as an emulsifier, so make sure it's beaten in fully for strong structure. The mixture should be thin and fluffy.
STEP 3: With the mixer on low, mix in the flour ½ cup at a time and then add the salt. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed with a rubber spatula. The dough will be thick and sticky.
STEP 4: Cover the bowl of cookie dough and chill it in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes. This allows the ingredients to meld together and keeps the cookies from spreading too much in the oven.
STEP 5: Use a medium cookie scoop to scoop the dough. Roll each scoop into balls and drop each one into a bowl of powdered sugar. Toss the ball in the powdered sugar until it's well coated. Place each ball on the lined baking tray about 2 inches apart so they have room to spread.
STEP 6: With the back of a rounded teaspoon, press the bottom halfway into each cookie until it forms a round indent or well like a thumbprint cookie. Spoon a heaping teaspoon of lemon curd into the center of each cookie. It should be the same height as the edges of the hole; it'll flatten and spread with the dough as it bakes.
STEP 7: Bake the cookies for 12-14 minutes until the edges appear set and golden. The lemon curd will look bubbly and pale but darken as it cools.
STEP 8: Let the cookies cool on the hot tray for 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire cooling rack. They'll fall apart if transferred too soon! Let them cool completely on the wire rack for 20-30 minutes. Then, dust with more confectioners sugar and enjoy.
Expert Baking Tips
- Use room temperature butter. Make sure your butter is at room temperature and not melted. Melted butter will cause the dough to spread too much in the oven. Room temperature butter is cool to the touch, looks smooth and not greasy, and is easy to indent applying gentle pressure with your index finger.
- Weigh your flour. For consistency and accuracy, weigh your ingredients in grams with a kitchen scale. Metric measurements are provided in the recipe card below. If you don't have a scale, measure your flour using the spoon and level method. Spoon the flour into your measuring cup and swipe off the excess flour.
- Don't overbake. The cookies will still appear soft and the curd won't look completely set when you take them out of the oven. They'll continue to bake on the hot tray, cool, and firm up.
- Bake time may vary. Depending on the size of your lemon thumbprint cookies and how hot or cold your oven runs, bake time may vary. Start checking them for doneness around the 10 minute mark.
Additions & Variations
There's a bunch of different ingredients you can add to the cookies to shake up the flavors! Here are some ideas:
- Coconut: Sprinkle some shredded coconut on top of the lemon filling before baking to add a tropical twist.
- Almonds: Mix some finely chopped almonds into the dough for a crunchy, nutty addition.
- Lavender: Infuse the dough or lemon curd with dried lavender for a floral, fragrant twist. If you love lemon lavender, check out my lemon lavender cupcakes!
- White chocolate: Drizzle some melted white chocolate on top of the baked cookies for a sweet and creamy touch.
- Ginger: Mix some ground ginger into the dough or lemon filling for a spicy kick.
- Turmeric: Add a pinch of turmeric powder to the lemon curd while it is cooking to add a bright yellow color.
- Different citrus: You can swap the lemon curd for lime curd or orange curd!
Storage & Freezing
Store baked lemon curd cookies in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. If you have leftover lemon curd, store it in a jar in the refrigerator for 5 days.
Lemon cookies can be frozen in an airtight container or wrapped with plastic wrap for up to 1 month. Let them thaw or reheat in the oven at 350°F/180°C for 5-10 minutes and let them cool before serving.
The cookie dough balls freeze really well too! After rolling, freeze them on a baking tray for 2 hours or until they're frozen solid. After that, transfer them to a freezer bag and freeze for up to 3 months.
Leftover lemon curd can also be frozen in a jar for up to 3 months! Simply let it thaw in the refrigerator for a day or on the counter for a few hours when you're ready to enjoy.
Frequently Asked Questions
I haven't tested this recipe with it, but I think it will work! Store-bought lemon curd may not have a color as vibrant as homemade though. Try to find the highest quality lemon curd you can.
Yes, you need to chill the dough! If you don't chill the dough, the cookies will spread way too much in the oven and you'll have a big mess on your hands.
Add ½ teaspoon of lemon extract to the cookie dough to amp up the lemon flavor.
More Lemon Recipes to Try
Lemon Bar Cookies
- 1 mixer stand mixer or electric hand mixer
- In a large bowl with an electric hand mixer or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy.1 cup unsalted butter, ¾ cup granulated sugar
- Add the egg yolk and vanilla extract. Beat on medium-high until well combined.1 egg yolk, 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Gradually mix in the flour ½ cup at a time on low until fully combined. Then mix in the salt.2 ¼ cup all purpose flour, ½ teaspoon salt
- Chill the cookie dough for 20 minutes. While it chills, preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C and line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
- Use a medium cookie scoop to portion the dough. Roll each scoop into balls.
- Drop each ball into a bowl of powdered sugar, rolling it around until evenly coated. Place the balls 1-2 inches apart from each other on the lined baking trays.¾ cup powdered sugar
- Use the bottom of a teaspoon to press down on top of the dough to create a well. Fill the well with 1 heaping teaspoon of lemon curd.½ cup lemon curd
- Bake the cookies for 12-14 minutes until the edges are set and the lemon curd is bubbly.
- Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool on the hot tray for 5 minutes.
- Transfer the cookies to a wire rack and let them cool completely. Dust with more powdered sugar and enjoy!