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Sourdough Lemon Shortbread Cookies

Few flavors say spring and summer are coming than bright, citrusy lemon. These sourdough lemon shortbread cookies are the perfect cookie for the warmer months. The cookie itself is crisp and buttery but the flavors are brightened and balanced by the bold lemon flavor in both the cookie dough in a sweet lemon glaze. 

Why You Will Love these Sourdough Lemon Cookies

My sourdough lemon cookies are a variation of my super easy sourdough shortbread recipe. I seriously love how easy this recipe is to make and have several variations of it including my sourdough thumbprint cookies, my maple pecan shortbread cookies, and my sourdough chocolate orange shortbread cookies. I also used this recipe as a base for sourdough lemon bars (these are seriously perfect for lemon lovers). These cookies are made with a few staple pantry ingredients and can be made start to finish in only a few hours. 

5 sourdough lemon shortbread cookies stacked on top of each other.

How to Use Sourdough Starter in Shortbread Cookies

The key to a good sourdough shortbread cookie is preventing them from spreading too much. To achieve this, we keep the amount of liquids minimal, avoiding the use of any extra liquids including eggs or even an egg yolk. We also avoid any leavening agents such as baking soda or baking baking powder which also result in spreading. 

Ingredients and Substitutions

  • Butter: Use unsalted butter for this recipe. If you only have salted butter, you can substitute it without any changes or reduce the salt by half in the recipe. Also make sure you use softened butter to make the creaming process easier. 
  • Sugar
  • Lemon zest
  • Sourdough starter: you can use active sourdough starter or sourdough discard straight from the fridge. 
  • Vanilla extract: I always recommend pure vanilla extract rather than imitation vanilla but you can substitute if that is all you have. 
  • Salt
  • Flour: This recipe works with either all purpose flour or bread flour. I do not recommend using whole wheat flour for this recipe. 

For the Simple Lemon Glaze

  • Lemon Juice: I highly recommend fresh lemon juice here. Most bottled lemon juices are made from concentrate and have added ingredients that can make the flavor taste off. Juice the lemons you are using to zest. 
  • Powdered Sugar: AKA confectioner’s sugar. 
  • Butter
  • Lemon Zest
Sourdough lemon shortbread cookie ingredients shown with optional white chocolate chips.
Ingredients shown with optional white chocolate chips if using to dip cookies instead of lemon glaze.

Note: In lieu of the glaze, you can also dip these in melted white chocolate chips. I tried this with my first test of this recipe and although it was delicious, I wanted a stronger lemon flavor. 

How to Make Sourdough Lemon Cookies

Step 1: Cream butter, sugar and lemon zest. 

Step 2: Add starter, salt and vanilla. 

Step 3: Add flour to wet ingredients.

Step 4: Shape dough into a 14 inch cylinder.

Image shows 4 separate images showing the progression of creaming the butter and sugar, adding the wet ingredients, then the dry ingredients in a stand mixer with paddle attachment. The last image depicts a long cylinder about 14 inches of cookie dough with sugar sprinkled next to it.

Step 5: Roll dough in sugar.

Step 6: Cut dough into 1/3” slices. 

unbaked sourdough lemon shortbread cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Step 7: Bake.

baked sourdough lemon shortbread cookies before being glazed on baking sheet.

Step 8: Make the glaze.

Step 9: Dip half the cookie in the glaze. Cool on wire rack. 

sourdough lemon cookies that have been glazed on a wire rack and sprinkled with lemon zest.

How to Make Ahead

You can freeze or refrigerate the unsliced cylinder of dough. I recommend cutting the cylinder in half, then wrapping each piece in plastic wrap. Store in airtight ziplock bag. You can store the dough in the freezer for several months (I recommend no more than 3) or in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours. 

When ready to bake, defrost in the fridge the day before baking. Proceed with baking instructions in the recipe. 

finished sourdough lemon cookies on a serving plate.

How to Store 

Store these cookies for up to one week in an airtight container, ziplock bag, or plate wrapped in plastic wrap. These can be stored at room temperature or in the fridge. 

I hope you loved this sourdough lemon cookie recipe. I certainly fell in love with lemon desserts making this recipe and have plans to make more lemon desserts. If you have any ideas ore suggestions, I’d love to hear about it in the comments. I’m thinking chewy lemon cookies, lemon crinkle cookies and sourdough lemon cake are all in the future of Foragers of Happiness!

 If you love sourdough bread and sourdough discard recipes, check out these other delicious sourdough recipes:

finished sourdough lemon cookies on a serving plate.

Sourdough Lemon Shortbread Cookies

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 36 cookies
Calories 125 kcal

Equipment

  • 1 Stand mixer or large bowl with hand mixer
  • 2 cookie sheets
  • kitchen knife
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • 1 Whisk
  • mixing bowls

Ingredients
 
 

  • 1 cup unsalted butter softened to room temperature
  • cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • cup sourdough starter active starter or unfed sourdough starter discard from the fridge
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • cup all purpose flour

For Coating the Shortbread Dough

  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

For the Lemon Glaze

  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter salted or unsalted + a pinch of salt
  • ½ teaspoon lemon zest about half a lemon

Instructions
 

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter, sugar, and lemon zest. (You can also use a large bowl and hand mixer if you don't have a stand mixer).
  • Add the sourdough starter, salt and vanilla and continue mix until fully combined.
  • Slowly add the flour until just fully combined.
  • Transfer the dough to clean work surface (no flour is necessary). Roll the dough into an approximate 14 inch cylinder.
  • Pour the remaining 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar on the work surface along the long side of the shortbread dough. Roll the dough to completely coat it in the sugar.
  • At this point, you can either proceed to bake the dough or chill it.
    To Chill: Cut the dough in half and wrap the pieces in plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours for a long fermentation.

When Ready to Bake

  • Preheat oven to 375℉.
  • Use a sharp knife to cut the dough into approximate 1/3 inch slices.
  • Place the lemon cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, spacing 1 inch apart.
  • Bake the cookies in the preheated oven for 12-15 minutes. The edges should just start to turn golden brown when done.
  • Cool cookies in pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

To Make the Lemon Glaze

  • Whisk together the butter, powdered sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest in a small bowl.
  • Place a sheet of parchment paper under your wire rack to catch any excess glaze that may drip off of the cookies.
  • Dip half of each cookie in the glaze, allowing the excess to drip off. Return to wire rack. Sprinkle with extra lemon zest if desired.
  • Allow the glaze to fully set before serving or storing.

Nutrition

Calories: 125kcalCarbohydrates: 18gProtein: 1gFat: 6gSaturated Fat: 3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.2gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0.2gCholesterol: 14mgSodium: 68mgPotassium: 12mgFiber: 0.3gSugar: 12gVitamin A: 167IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 3mgIron: 0.4mg
Keyword Cookies, Egg-free, Sourdough, Sourdough Discard
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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5 Comments

    1. You can try substituting vegan butter. I usually like earth balance as I feel that it makes a good 1:1 substitution for butter.

    1. Yes they last quite a while but I have even frozen them and they stored very well!

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