Deliciously soft and chewy, these easy lemon sugar cookies are a simple drop cookie (no rolling or cutting out), and they are amazing!

Thanks to a brilliant way to infuse natural lemon flavor in every bite, these light and lemony sugar cookies are perfection.

Three stacked lemon sugar cookies with one on top with bite taken out.

How to Make Lemon Sugar

Lemon sugar is the key to this recipe (and it occurs in two places!). Making lemon sugar is easy.

  1. Combine granulated sugar and lemon zest in a bowl.
  2. Rub the lemon zest into the sugar with your fingers until it’s super fragrant and the sugar has a lightly moist, sandy consistency.

Rubbing the lemon zest releases the essential oils in the zest leading to maximum lemon flavor! Don’t skip this step!

Sugar and lemon zest in small bowl.

The second place lemon sugar appears is in the cookie dough!

In the first step, adding lemon zest with the sugar and butter ensures that the mixing process will work on the zest to release those citrusy lemon flavors.

Fresh lemon juice is also added in a later step with the vanilla and egg.

Both the lemon juice and lemon zest in the cookie dough help to amplify the lemon flavor in the cookies.

Butter, granulated sugar, and lemon zest in glass bowl.

Scoop the cookie dough into balls – a couple tablespoons of dough each (I use a #40 cookie scoop) aff link.

Roll each cookie dough ball generously in the lemon zested sugar.

If the lemon sugar has been sitting for a while, you may need to break up any clumps with your fingers so it’s perfectly sandy before rolling the cookie dough.

Rolling sugar cookie ball in lemon sugar.

For maximum soft chewiness, bake the cookies just until crackly and set.

They shouldn’t have a lot of golden color around the edges and on the bottom. If your oven tends to bake hot (and over brown baked goods), reduce the oven temperature by 15-20 degrees.

Baked lemon sugar cookie on sheet pan with parchment paper.

Perfect Lemon Sugar Cookies

The combination of lemon + sugar cookies is beautifully light and deliciously tasty.

I tend to find soft and chewy sugar cookies irresistible anyway, but add in bright lemon flavor, and I am really in trouble.

These cookies stay fresh for 1-2 days well-sealed or covered. The baked cookies also freeze amazingly well!

P.S. Our favorite way to use any leftover lemon sugar is on rollup pancakes, crepes or Swedish pancakes. Brush with butter, sprinkle on lemon sugar, and roll up. Yum!

Close up of two broken cookie halves on top of stack of lemon sugar cookies.

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Three and a half stacked lemon sugar cookies on parchment paper.

Easy Lemon Sugar Cookies

4.92 stars (74 ratings)

Ingredients

Lemon Sugar:

  • cup (71 g) granulated sugar
  • 2-3 teaspoons fresh lemon zest (from one large lemon)

Cookies:

  • 1 cup (227 g) butter, softened to room temperature (not too soft!)
  • 1 ½ cups (318 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest (from one large lemon)
  • 1 large egg
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 ¾ cups + 2 tablespoons (409 g) all-purpose flour (see note)
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Instructions 

  • For the lemon sugar, combine the sugar and zest in a bowl and rub the lemon zest into the sugar with your fingers until super fragrant and the zest and sugar are evenly and well combined. Set aside.
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two large, rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper and lightly grease with cooking spray.
  • In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl with a handheld electric mixer, cream together the butter, granulated sugar and lemon zest until lightly and fluffy, 3-4 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  • Add the egg, lemon juice and vanilla and mix again for 1-2 minutes until the batter lightens in color. Scrape the sides of the bowl as needed. It will look a bit curdled; that's totally fine.
  • Add the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt and mix until combined. Don't over mix – just mix until no dry streaks remain.
  • Scoop the cookie dough into rounded balls (about 2 tablespoons in size; I use my #40 cookie scoop).
  • Stir or crumble the lemon sugar to break up any clumps. Roll cookie dough balls in lemon sugar and place on the prepared baking sheets a couple inches apart (about 12 cookies per baking sheet).
  • Bake for 9-11 minutes until slightly crackly on top (don't over bake).
  • Let the cookies cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet before removing to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Notes

Flour: at my elevation (2,500) and with the added lemon juice to the recipe, the extra 2 tablespoons flour is really important. Depending on where you live (high elevation), you may need a few tablespoons more beyond that (3 cups flour total). I recommend baking one “tester” cookie first – if it flattens too much, stir in a bit more flour to the dough. 
Another Cookie Spreading Tip: if the cookies spread and flatten too much while baking, try adding more flour per the note above or increase the baking temperature to 375 degrees F or use convection bake (if you have that function on your oven – see my Instagram experiment here to come to this conclusion). Conversely, if your cookies are not spreading enough in the oven, try reducing the oven temperature to 325 degrees and/or measuring the flour with a lighter hand next time (or use a scale to weigh the ingredients).
Serving: 1 cookie, Calories: 123kcal, Carbohydrates: 18g, Protein: 1g, Fat: 5g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Cholesterol: 19mg, Sodium: 96mg, Fiber: 0.3g, Sugar: 10g