Lemon Thyme Shortbread Cookies

Lemon Thyme Shortbread Cookies

The winter of 2018-19 here in the midwest has been beautiful … but long and cold. We are searching for any hints of spring to help us through this virtual hibernation. For me, that hint came in the form of a request to help a friend and colleague with her tablescaping presentation for the DIY Or Don’t Expo in Des Moines. Rebecca, owner of This New Old House, asked me if I’d be interested in making some kind of baked treat for each place setting of her table. She described her vision and these beautiful Lemon Thyme Shortbread cookies came to mind.

shortbread basics

Shortbread might just be the simplest recipe I have ever encountered. Butter, sugar, flour … that’s it. Scottish by origin, these biscuits are simply delicious! This particular recipe varies a little from the traditional 1:2:3 ratio of sugar:butter:flour and calls for slicing the cookies into little rounds, or circles. Other traditional shortbread shapes include the fingers (long and rectangular) or a pointed wedge, which brilliantly, allows the cookie to fit into a wine glass for dunking.

I know, right?!?

I suppose that would also be a good shape for enjoying with tea but I’ll bet you’re stuck on that wine idea.

Getting a little silly with the wine discussion but seriously it brings us to the next beautiful thing about shortbread: it’s versatile. What you stir into the basic dough is up to you.

Lemon Thyme Shortbread

shortbread seasons

We choose different wines or teas because of personal preferences … spice, fruit and floral notes. Each season we crave and respond to different flavors: lemon and herbs in the spring and summer, orange and warm spices in the fall and winter.

Herbs, dried fruit, spices and juices/zest are the best options for customizing shortbread cookies. Herbs may seem an unusual addition for cookies but they add a subtle flavor. Use fresh herbs, not dried. Just as you wouldn’t want to bite into dried herbs by themselves, you don’t want to bite into a cookie and be overwhelmed by the herb itself.

If you want to add dried fruit, start with a quarter cup and make sure it is finely chopped. Adding too much will keep the dough from holding together and pieces that are too big will not distribute nicely throughout the dough.

I am already thinking about combinations for the other seasons this year:

SUMMER: Lime Basil
FALL: Cranberry Walnut
WINTER: Grapefruit Rosemary

Where are your taste buds leading you?

Lemon Thyme Shortbread

lemon thyme shortbread recipe

Lemon Thyme Shortbread Cookies

Lemon Thyme Shortbread Cookies

The basic shortbread recipe becomes the perfect cookie for spring with the addition of lemon and thyme. Enjoy with a glass of tea (hot or iced) or wine.
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 10 mins
Total Time 2 hrs 30 mins
Servings 3 dozen cookies


  • 1/2 cup butter room temperature
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves chopped
  • 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon Salt omit if using salted butter
  • additional sugar for baking optional


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Cream butter and sugar in a mixer until light and fluffy.
  • Add lemon zest, lemon juice and thyme leaves and mix until combined.
    Fresh Thyme and Lemon Zest
  • Add flour and salt and continue mixing, scraping the sides of the bowl, until well combined. Dough will be crumbly.
    Shortbread Crumbs
  • Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and gently press together. Divide into two equal portions and press together again just until dough holds together.
  • Roll each portion into a long rope with a diameter of a quarter.
    Shortbread Roll
  • If the dough feels crumbly during the rolling process, simply pinch it together and gently knead the dough two or three times and try rolling again.
    Shortbread Tips
  • Wrap in plastic wrap and repeat with the other portion of dough.
  • Refrigerate dough for at least two hours.
  • Cut one roll into 1/4-inch slices. Place each slice in a shallow bowl of sugar and press gently. Only one side of each cookie needs to be dusted with sugar. Place cookies, sugar-side up and one inch apart, on a cookie sheet that has been lined with parchment paper.
  • Bake for 8 minutes. If cookies are lightly browned on the bottom edges and firm on top, they are done. If not, continue baking, checking every 2-3 minutes. See note below on the effect of different cookie sheets on baking time and oven temperature.
  • Remove from oven and allow to cool on cookie sheet for 2 minutes. Transfer to cooling rack.


The type of cookie sheet, along with the oven temperature, can greatly affect the results of the cookies. A dark, metal cookie sheet will cause the cookies to bake faster and often the bottom of the cookies will be darker. In this case, it is often helpful to decrease the oven temperature by 25 degrees. A lighter weight and/or color cookie sheet (e.g. air-bake) will bake the cookies more evenly at the higher temperature.
Keyword cookies, dessert, lemon, recipe, thyme

Lemon Thyme Shortbread Cookies

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