April 21, 2023

Soft Lemon Cookies

My coworker gave me the idea to roll snickerdoodle cookies in lemon instead of cinnamon. It was a great idea and I was up for the challenge.

This recipe for lemon cookies turned out excellent! If you love lemon desserts then these cookies are for you. We like to call them Lemon Snickerdoodles, Lemon Doodles, or Lemony Snickets (clever, I know! My husband gets credit for that cookie name).

The homemade lemon cookies are good without the icing, but the icing gives that extra punch of citrus flavor. I have drizzled the icing as well as dipped the cookie tops in icing. I think dipping the cookies is my preference...that way there is more icing! Perfect for summer or any occasion. I hope you enjoy making these.

Recipe Source: Original recipe based on a snickerdoodle cookie base

Soft Lemon Cookies

Cookies that are tart and refreshing. Perfect for summer.


Anne Voss


Cookie Dough

  • 4.5 cups all purpose flour (650g)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda (6g)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar (3g)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (3g)
  • 1 cup margarine, room temperature (226g)
  • 2 cups granulated sugar (400g)
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons milk (1oz)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (1oz)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • a small amount of yellow food coloring (optional)

Lemon Sugar Coating

  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons lemon zest (~ zest of 4 lemons)

Lemon Icing

  • 1 cup powdered sugar (120g)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (30g)
  1. Prepare a cookie sheet topped with parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl mix together flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat margarine for 1 minute.
  4. Add sugar and beat until combined.
  5. Add eggs, milk, and extract. Beat well.
  6. Add in dry ingredients, one-half at a time, and beat until just combined. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl to ensure all flour is incorporated.
  7. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  8. In a separate bowl or food processor, mix coating ingredients to make lemon sugar.
  9. Scoop dough from the mixing bowl using a spoon or cookie scoop and form the dough into 2-inch balls.
  10. Roll dough balls in lemon sugar mixture until the ball is coated on all sides.
  11. Place the cookie dough balls on the prepared cookie sheet, two inches apart.
  12. Using a drinking glass, gently press on the dough balls to flatten them slightly.
  13. Bake cookies for 13-14 minutes. Remove the cookie sheet from the oven and leave baked cookies on the tray for one minute.
  14. Transfer cookies to a cooling rack.
  15. In a separate bowl combine icing ingredients and mix to combine. Drizzle or dip cooled cookies in the icing.
  16. Store cookies in an airtight container.

Makes approximately 31 cookies

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Recipe Notes

Below you will find tips and tricks to help achieve the best results possible! These might be the best lemon cookies ever.

stack of baked soft lemon cookies

How to Make Soft Lemon Cookies?

This soft lemon cookie recipe starts with a snickerdoodle cookie base. The dough balls are rolled in lemon sugar, baked, and finally topped off with lemon icing.


Cream of tartar – a dry powder that can be found in the spice aisle. Cream of tartar reacts with the baking soda in the recipe and helps the cookies to rise. It also gives the cookies a slightly acidic tangy flavor. 

Margarine – I don't bake with margarine often, but it is required in this recipe. Butter will cause the cookies to spread too much, but margarine reduces the spread and results in a thicker cookie. You want to use sticks of margarine, such as Imperial or Blue Bonnet. Do not use margarine from a tub. 

Lemon zest - zest the outside of the lemon but avoid the white part of the lemon peel. This white pith is bitter. The zest holds all the lemon flavor. 

Food coloring - food coloring is optional, but I like to add a pinch of yellow food coloring to give the cookies themselves a hint of yellow color. I prefer to use powdered food coloring if I have it on hand. Make sure you use the smallest amount. You can always add more, if needed, to get to the desired color.

lemon zest used to make lemon sugar. The cookie dough balls are rolled in lemon sugar before baking

Supplies Needed

Mixer (stand mixer or a hand-held mixer)

Baking sheet

Cookie scoop, optional


Food processor, optional

dipping cookie tops in lemon icing

Tips and Tricks

Once the flour is added, mix until just combined. Overmixing will result in a tougher cookie.

To make lemon sugar, I find it easiest to quickly pulse the sugar and lemon zest together in a small food processor. The lemon sugar smells so nice and fragrant when you open the lid! If you don't want to use a food processor, you can also make lemon sugar with a spoon. However, the food processor will give you the best result.

Use a cookie scoop for more uniform cookie sizes. I used two scoops from a #50 cookie scoop. I rolled the scoops together to form one 2-inch dough ball. The dough balls weighed between 35-40 grams each. 

Flatten the dough balls slightly. If you press down too hard, the sides of the dough balls will crack. 

While one tray of cookies is baking, continue to roll the dough balls and coat them in lemon sugar. This will save time.  

Don't overbake the cookies. If they are overbaked, the lemon cookies won't be as soft as intended. It can be hard to tell if the cookies are done because you do not want them to brown much. I often bake two or three cookies first to test the baking time and make sure the cookies are cooked all the way through.

lemon cookies on cooling rack drizzled with icing


You could also use other citrus zest and juice for these cookies, such as orange or lime.

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