These vegan shortbread cookies with lemon curd will melt in your mouth! They're delicate, buttery, and easy to make with a few wholesome, simple ingredients. The contrast between the crisp texture of the cookie and the luscious, tart lemon curd is drool-worthy.
I'm a huge lemon lover- I definitely get it from my mom. I was developing a vegan shortbread cookie recipe with lemon curd for a client and decided to share it with my mom. She LOVED how it turned out, so I decided to create a version for the blog!
These easy vegan shortbread cookies with homemade vegan lemon curd are sweet, buttery, and delicious! You'll want to make them for Christmas, Easter, and just because. I've included my best expert baking tips too so you can make perfect shortbread every time.
If you love all things lemon, check out my lemon mug cake, lemon pancakes, and skinny strawberry lemonade mojito.
Why You'll Love This Recipe
A traditional shortbread biscuit is a Scottish butter cookie. They've been around for centuries and are made with one part white sugar, two parts butter, and three parts flour with no leaveners like baking soda or baking powder. This recipe is unique because it's vegan, gluten free, and has a lemon filling similar to thumbprint cookies. Here are some reasons why you'll like this recipe:
- Coconut sugar- Instead of white table sugar or powdered sugar, this recipe uses coconut sugar as a natural sweetener.
- Rich and buttery- Even with vegan butter, these shortbread cookies still melt in your mouth. They're similar to these apricot thumbprint cookies.
- "Short" texture- Traditional shortbread cookies aren't gluten free. The high butter content and absence of moisture in the dough limits gluten development and gives the cookies their "short" (crisp and crumbly) texture. Because of this, making gluten free shortbread is easy and fool-proof!
- Bright, fresh lemon curd- The eggless lemon curd filling is super tart and delicious, but its vegan and dairy free!
You'll only need a handful of ingredients to make this recipe, like lemons, coconut sugar, gluten free flour, and vegan butter.
Why Coconut Sugar?
Powdered/icing sugar is generally regarded as the secret to making amazing shortbread cookies. It keeps the texture super soft and makes the cookies melt in your mouth. However, when I was testing this recipe, I wanted to use as many "better-for-you" ingredients as possible. So, I decided to use coconut sugar.
Coconut sugar comes from the sap of the coconut palm tree. It has a lower glycemic index than table sugar and gives the cookies a deeper flavor like brown sugar without adding extra moisture to the dough. I considered using powdered monk fruit, a powdered sugar alternative, but the taste wasn't right. Coconut sugar preserved the tender texture and gave a caramelly flavor I love, especially contrasted with the tangy lemon filling.
Which Vegan Butter to Use
Use a block of vegan butter and not vegetable shortening or vegan spread. These will stay soft in the refrigerator and make your cookie dough too soft and spread in the oven.
For this recipe, I recommend that you use "unsalted" vegan butter. I highly recommend Miyoko's European-Style Cultured Vegan Butter and Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks. Miyoko's relies on cultured cashew milk for its slightly tangy flavor. Earth Balance is made of vegetable oil and is suitable for people with nut allergies.
Earth Balance is better if you're baking on a budget, costing much less than Miyoko's. At my local supermarket, Earth Balance is $5.99/lb whereas Miyoko's is $6.99/8oz- more than double the price!
For a detailed comparison between Miyoko's and Earth Balance, check out this helpful article about butter vs vegan butter baking trials.
TIP - Don't use coconut oil in this recipe! It'll make your cookies hard and tough.
Here are some notes on some of the other ingredients in this recipe. For the full ingredient list, see the recipe card below.
- Coconut milk- This is the base of the lemon curd. I'm usually particular with what type of coconut milk to use in my recipes, but it doesn't matter in this one. Any coconut milk will work, but I chose this lite coconut milk.
- Fresh lemon juice- Fresh lemon juice has a brighter flavor and less time to oxidize than the bottled stuff. Bottled lemon juice may also contain other ingredients and flavors, like lemon oil. You can use pure bottled lemon juice, but it's not as cost effective.
- Gluten free all purpose flour- Make sure your gluten free all purpose flour blend has xanthan or a gum/thickener on the ingredient list. This helps the dough form and not fall apart in the oven. I recommend Simple Mills All Purpose Baking Mix, Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free 1:1 Baking Flour, and King Arthur Gluten Free Measure-for-Measure Flour.
- Gluten-free all purpose flour: Swap for regular all purpose flour.
- Coconut sugar: Swap for regular cane sugar. Be aware that this will change the flavor of the cookies.
Helpful Equipment and Tools
- Mesh sieve- Sifting the flour helps to prevent clumps and create a uniform texture. It's also great for dusting powdered sugar on top of the cookies.
- Rolling pin- Use this to roll out the dough before cutting the cookies out. Using your hands to spread the cookie dough is not ideal because it warms the dough. Use a rolling pin instead.
- Cookie cutters- I used flower shaped cookie cutters, but you can choose whichever shape you like. You can use a small round cookie cutter or a piping tip to cut out the center.
TIP - If you don't have a rolling pin, use a wine bottle instead! Just make sure it's clean.
Step by Step Instructions
BEFORE YOU START - Juice and zest you lemons. Place a small saucepan on the stove and set the vegan butter on the counter to soften. Then, rub the cane sugar and lemon zest together in a bowl until fragrant. This is optional but helps the lemon peel release its oils!
STEP 1: Make the vegan lemon curd. Add the coconut milk, cane sugar, vegan butter, lemon juice, lemon zest, and flour to a small saucepan on medium high heat. Whisk the mixture constantly until it begins to thickens and coats the back of a spoon. This will take about 5-10 minutes. If the curd starts to bubble, turn the heat down. Then, remove the saucepan from the heat and carefully pour the curd into a heat-proof jar. Place the lemon curd in the refrigerator where it will continue to thicken while you make the cookies.
STEP 2: Beat the butter, sugar, and vanilla. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the vegan butter on high speed until it is creamy. Then, scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the sugar and vanilla. Beat the mixture on high until it is fluffy and pale in color. This will take about 2 minutes.
TIP - If you don't have a stand mixer, you can use an electric hand mixer and a large mixing bowl. Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally.
STEP 3: Mix in the flour. Shake the flour into the bowl of the mixer and mix on low. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Then, start the mixer again and mix until a dough forms. The dough may look too dry at first, but it'll come together as you continue beating. It should crumbly but will stick together when pressed in your hand.
STEP 4: Shape and chill the dough. Stop the mixer and remove the dough from the bowl. Shape the dough into a sphere with your hands and place it back into the bowl. Place the bowl in the refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes.
TIP - You can also remove the dough from the bowl, place it on some plastic wrap, and shape it into a disc or rectangle. This makes rolling out the dough easier. You can store the shaped dough in the freezer to bake later.
STEP 5: Roll and cut out the cookies. Preheat the oven to 350F and line two ½ baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator, dust flour on a surface, and place the dough ball on it. Dust a little bit of flour on top of the dough and then press it down with your hands. Then, roll it out with a rolling pin to about ⅛ inch thick. Then, use a 2 inch cookie cutter to cut out 24 cookies. Gather the scraps of dough and roll them out as many times as needed, continuing to flour your surface. Use a small round cookie cutter or ½ inch piping tip to cut out the center of half of the cookies (optional).
STEP 6: Bake. Arrange the cookies on the lined baking sheets. Bake at 350F one sheet at a time for 13-16 minutes. The cookies are done when the edges appear set and golden brown. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and let the cookies cool on it for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire cooling rack.
TIP - The cookies will fall apart if transferred off of the baking sheet immediately out of the oven.
STEP 7: Fill the cookies. After the cookies have cooled completely, prepare a piping bag with a round tip and fill it with the lemon curd. Pipe about 1 tablespoon of curd into the middle of each cookie that still has its center by gently squeezing the center of the bag. Place the remaining cookies on top, dust with powdered sugar, and serve.
TIP - If you don't have a pastry bag, use a Ziplock bag. Simply fill the bag with lemon curd, close it, snip off one corner with scissors, and tilt the bag toward the center of the cookie, applying light pressure to pipe. If this isn't an option, spoon the curd onto the cookies.
Expert Baking Tips
- Make sure your butter is at room temperature and not melted. Melted butter will cause the dough to spread too much in the oven.
- For consistency, weigh your ingredients with a kitchen scale. If you don't weigh the ingredients, make sure to measure your flour correctly using the spoon and level method. Spoon the flour into your measuring cup and swipe the excess flour back into the flour bag with a butter knife.
- When rolling out the cookies, make sure your surface and rolling pin are well floured to prevent the dough from sticking.
- Bake the cookies on parchment paper or a silicone mat. This prevents them from sticking to the pan. If you have issues with your cookies spreading too much, a silicone mat will help.
- Don't remove the cookies from the baking sheet too soon. They will easily fall apart.
Additions and Variations
- Add a pinch of turmeric powder to the lemon curd while it is cooking to add a bright yellow color.
- Use lime juice and zest to make lime curd instead of lemon.
How to Store
- Make ahead- Prepare the dough and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. Store it in the freezer for up to a month or in the refrigerator for up to a week. When you're ready to bake, simply thaw the dough for an hour in the fridge, make the lemon curd, and follow the remaining instructions.
- Counter- Store the filled vegan shortbread cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for 3-4 days. Unfilled cookies will keep longer, up to 1 week.
- Refrigerator- Only store the unused lemon curd in the refrigerator, not the cookies. The lemon curd can be stored covered in the fridge for up to 3 days.
- Freezer- Store the cookies (filled or unfilled) in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 1 month. Let them thaw for about an hour on the counter before serving.
Frequently Asked Questions
You may have added too much butter or the butter may have gotten too warm before you baked the cookies.
You may have added too much flour. If you notice that the dough is too crumbly, add a teaspoon or two of water to loosen it.
When they're ready, your shortbread will be a light golden brown and the edges will appear set. Like all cookies, they will be soft until they are completely cooled. Because this recipe uses coconut sugar, the cookies may be slightly darker in color or have brown speckles.
More Vegan Recipes to Try
Vegan Shortbread Cookies with Lemon Curd
- ½ cup coconut milk
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- 2 tablespoon lemon zest
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 ½ tablespoon gluten free flour
- 1 ½ tablespoon vegan butter
- 1 cup vegan butter softened
- ½ cup coconut sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 ⅔ cup gluten free all purpose flour reserve 1.5 tablespoon for the lemon curd
- ½ cup powdered sugar optional for dusting
- Read the ingredient notes. Prepare and measure all ingredients before beginning.
- Add all of the ingredients to a small pot on the stove top on medium high heat. Whisk the mixture constantly until it begins to thicken. This will take 5-10 minutes and should coat the back of a spoon.½ cup coconut milk, ¼ cup lemon juice, 2 tablespoon lemon zest, ½ cup granulated sugar, 1 ½ tablespoon gluten free flour, 1 ½ tablespoon vegan butter
- Carefully pour the lemon curd into a heat-proof jar. Put the curd into the refrigerator to thicken while you make the cookies.
- Add the softened vegan butter to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on high speed until the butter is smooth and creamy. Scrape the sides of the bowl.1 cup vegan butter
- Add the coconut sugar to the butter. Beat for about 2 minutes until pale and fluffy. Then, beat in the vanilla on low.½ cup coconut sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Mix in the gluten free flour on low gradually until a dough forms. The dough should be crumbly but stick together when handled.3 ⅔ cup gluten free all purpose flour
- Stop the mixer and form the dough into a sphere with your hands. Place the dough ball back in the bowl and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 350F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Dust a clean surface with flour and place the dough ball on it. Lightly dust it with flour and use a rolling pin to roll out the dough to ⅛ inch thick.
- Use a cookie cutter to cut out about 24 cookies. Use a small round cookie cutter or piping tip to cut the center out of half of them. Gather the scraps and roll them out as needed, continuing to flour your surface.
- Carefully transfer the cookies to the lined baking sheets, placing them about 2 inches apart from each other. Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 13-16 minutes until the edges are set and light golden brown.
- Remove the cookie sheet from the oven and let the cookies cool on it for 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire cooling rack. Allow the cookies to cool completely.
- Fill a piping bag with the lemon curd and pipe about 1 tablespoon into the middle of the cookies with the center intact. Place the remaining cookies on top, dust with powdered sugar, and serve.½ cup powdered sugar
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