Vegan Lemon Shortbread Cookies

These vegan lemon shortbread cookies are a melt-in-your-mouth classic treat with a sweet and tangy lemon glaze. They are tasty and addictive!

lemon shortbread cookies on cooling rack

These vegan lemon shortbread cookies will become a staple recipe in your repertoire, as they are quick and easy to make but still elegant.

The shortbread dough has only a handful of ingredients, requires no special equipment, and is topped with a simple lemon glaze once baked.

This is a recipe to pull out when pressed for time and makes delicious cookies for brunch or the holidays.

Be sure to also try my Oatmeal Raisin Cookies and Peanut Butter Cookies!

stack of shortbread cookies on cooling rack

Ingredient Notes

  • Unbleached All-purpose flour
  • Granulated Sugar
  • Cornstarch - adds lightness to the cookies. It can be substituted with white rice flour or tapioca starch. 
  • Vegan Butter -  Use a stick margarine and not the soft, spreadable kind in a tub as this can affect the consistency of the dough. I used Country Crock Plant Butter sticks.
  • Fresh lemon juice - fresh juice keeps this recipe bright and tart!
  • Lemon zest - adding zest along with the juice will give them a deepened lemon flavor.
  • Confectioners’ Sugar - sift the sugar beforehand for a smooth glaze.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Make the cookies:

1. Adjust the oven racks to the middle of the oven, and preheat to 325°F / 160°C.

2. Sift the flour, granulated sugar, and cornstarch (or rice flour) in a large bowl.

sifted flour in mixing bowl

3. Add the vegan butter and rub it into the flour using a pastry blender or your fingertips until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.

hands mixing butter into flour

4. Mix in the lemon zest with a fork, then stir in the lemon juice. Using your hands, gently knead the dough to form a firm ball.

cookie dough in mixing bowl

If the dough is too crumbly and won’t stay together, add up to 2 teaspoons more lemon juice. The resulting dough ball should not be wet or sticky. Flatten into a disk with your hands.

5. Lightly flour a clean work surface, or use two sheets of parchment paper to roll out the dough to about ¼ inch (5mm) thickness. If you are using a floured work surface, be sure to dust the dough and rolling pin with flour lightly.

hands rolling out cookie dough between parchment paper

6. Dip a 2¾-inch (7cm) round cookie cutter into flour. Mark then cut out 12 circles into the shortbread dough. If needed, the dough can be gathered up into a ball and rolled out again.

rolled out cookie dough with cutter on parchment paper

7. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat, and arrange the vegan shortbread cookies onto the baking sheet. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until they are pale in color.

baked and unbaked cookies on baking tray

Make the glaze:

1. Mix the confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl. If the consistency is too thick, add a bit more lemon juice at a time until it reaches the desired consistency. Stir in the lemon zest.

2. Brush the cookies with the glaze as soon as they are removed from the oven, then allow them to cool completely on the tray. The glaze will become transparent.

glazed lemon shortbread cookies on baking tray
lemon shortbread cookies on cooling rack

Notes & Substitutions

  • Don’t use a gluten-free flour substitute (such as a cup-for-cup type flour mix) to replace the cornstarch, as those usually have xanthan gum. Combined with all-purpose flour, this would cause the dough to be too tough.
  • Try other flavors in place of lemon! Orange juice and zest can be substituted in exact amounts. Other flavors to try are almond extract, matcha, hazelnut - don’t be afraid to experiment.
  • The cookies can be cut into any desired shape! Use any cookie cutters you desire, and be sure to adjust cooking time if your cookie cutter has a more slender design.
  • Try my Vegan Lemon Frosting for a thicker icing option. Apply it to the cookies after they are fully cooled.
stack of shortbread cookies on cooling rack

Key Tips for Success

  • Shortbread dough needs to stay tender, so don’t re-roll or overwork the dough. Working the dough too much will result in a tough cookie, so it is recommended to not re-roll more than once. 
  • If you wish to use a food processor, it can help quickly cut in the vegan butter and to minimize overworking the dough.

Storage Suggestion

Shortbread cookies can be stored for several days at room temperature in an airtight container. These cookies also freeze very well. Press all the air possible out of a freezer bag, and they will keep for up to a month in the freezer. 

FAQ

Why are they called “Shortbread Cookies”?

The name of these cookies refers to the lack of gluten development due to the oil in the vegan butter coating the flour proteins.

Because there is no liquid in the recipe and no rising agents, the gluten doesn’t have a chance to develop into long strands of protein that make them rise and become chewy.

Hence the term “short.” The result is an incredibly tender, melt-in-your-mouth, buttery cookie.

lemon shortbread cookies on cooling rack

Vegan Lemon Shortbread Cookies

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Prep: 35 mins
Cook: 25 mins
Total: 1 hr
Servings: 12 cookies
Calories: 176kcal
Print Pin Rate
These dairy-free lemon shortbread cookies are a melt-in-your-mouth classic treat with a sweet and tangy lemon glaze. They are tasty and addictive!

Equipment

Baking Recipes: For more accuracy, select the Metric option below and use measuring spoons.

Ingredients

Shortbread Cookies:

  • 1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting (spooned and levelled)
  • 4 tablespoon granulated sugar, or caster sugar
  • ½ cup cornstarch, or white rice flour
  • ½ cup vegan butter or margarine (not unsalted), I used Country Crock Plant Butter Stick
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest, packed teaspoon, finely grated

Lemon Glaze:

  • ½ cup confectioners’ sugar, spooned and levelled then sifted
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon lemon zest, finely grated

Instructions

Make the cookies:

  • Set the oven racks in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325°F / 160°C.
  • Sift the flour, sugar and cornstarch in a large bowl.
    1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour ,½ cup cornstarch ,4 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • Rub in the butter using a pastry blender or your fingertips until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.
    ½ cup vegan butter or margarine (not unsalted)
  • Mix in the zest with a fork, then stir in the lemon juice.
    1 teaspoon lemon zest ,1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Gently knead the dough with your hands and form a firm ball. If it’s too crumbly to hold together, add up to 2 teaspoons more lemon juice. The dough should not be wet or sticky. Flatten into a disk.
  • Lightly flour a clean work surface or two sheets of parchment paper to roll out the dough.
  • Roll out the dough to about ¼ inch (5mm) thick. If you’re using a work surface, be sure to lightly dust the rolling pin and the dough with flour before rolling.
  • Lightly flour a 7cm ( 2 ¾-inch) round cookie cutter. Mark then cut out 12 circles in the dough. You can re-roll the dough once more to get enough.
  • Arrange the circles on a tray lined with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes or until they are pale in colour.

Make the glaze:

  • Mix the confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl. Add a few teaspoons more liquid if needed for a thinner consistency. Stir in the zest.
    ½ cup confectioners’ sugar ,1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice ,¼ teaspoon lemon zest
  • Brush the cookies with the glaze as soon as they are removed from the oven.
  • Allow them to cool completely on the tray. The glaze will become transparent.

Notes

  • Lemon can be substituted with orange juice and zest.
  • Re-rolling the dough too many times may result in tough cookies. Try not to re-roll it more than once.
  • The cookies can be cut into any desired shape! Use any cookie cutters you wish, and be sure to adjust cooking time if your cookie cutter has a more slender design.
  • You can also roll the dough into a log then cut off round slices. Chill the dough for easier slicing if needed.
  • Try my Vegan Lemon Frosting for a thicker icing option. Apply it to the cookies after they are fully cooled.
Tried this recipe? Upload a photo in the comments below!If you enjoyed it, please consider leaving a rating. It really helps the blog.

Nutrition

Calories: 176kcal | Carbohydrates: 26g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Trans Fat: 1g | Sodium: 59mg | Potassium: 22mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 1IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 3mg | Iron: 1mg
Nutrition Disclaimer
Course: Brunch, Dessert
Cuisine: American, British
Diet: Vegan, Vegetarian

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7 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    The cookies turned out fantastic! It was hard not to eat the whole tray. I couldn't get the glaze to be in a good consistency: not enough liquids and it didn't spread well, too much and it remains sticky. I'll be more carefull next time, since I'm definately gonna make those again. Thank you for this great recipe!

    1. Hi Noemi, I haven't tried making this recipe gluten-free as yet so I'm not completely sure of the result. However, I have made gluten-free pie crust that uses a similar method and ingredients as the cookie. I would recommend a 1-to-1 gluten-free flour blend and an extra tablespoon of sugar for more flavour. You can also add more lemon juice if more moisture is needed. Since the dough will be more delicate and not rise as much while baking, I'd recommend rolling it thicker (about 1/2 inch). I hope this helps. Please let me know if you give it a try.

  2. 5 stars
    Lovely recipe. My three year old and I bake this often. It's a perfect mummy and me project. P.s. Caribbean greetings from The Bahamas via Canada.

    1. Thank you for trying the recipe and sharing it with your little one, Jai :). Caribbean greetings to you too!