Delicate and buttery, these lemon thyme shortbread cookies melt in your mouth and are simple to make. Filled with a bright citrusy flavor, they get an herbal twist with the addition of lemon thyme. These shortbread cookies are the perfect crumbly texture.
I’ll give you variations and substitutions where I can, plus helpful tips and tricks for success. Read on for this info as well as the recipe. If you’d like to skip straight to the recipe, use the jump to recipe button at the top of the post.
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Why you should make this recipe
- Quick & Easy – You’ll need about 10 minutes of hands-on time before sliding these into the oven.
- Versatile – Use this recipe as is, or swap out the lemon for other citrus flavors.
- Crowd-pleaser – I have never met a single person who did not like these cookies. They are great for gatherings or holidays.
Lemon thyme shortbread cookies
Shortbread cookies are one of the easiest cookie recipes out there. This makes them perfect for occasions when a sweet treat is needed without much time or effort.
The lemon flavor in this recipe is amplified by lemon thyme. Most recipes with this combination use regular thyme (and that is perfectly fine!), but because I grow lemon thyme in the garden, I wanted to use it here.
The result is bright and lemony with a slightly herbal flavor that gets even better the next day.
You only need a few pantry ingredients to make these shortbread cookies, plus some fresh herbs.
- Butter – Choose unsalted butter, so you can control the amount of salt in the recipe.
- Sugar – Adds sweetness to the lemon thyme shortbread cookies.
- Flour – Regular all-purpose flour is the backbone of this recipe.
- Salt – Say it with me – “all baked goods need salt”. I use Diamond Crystal.
- Lemon thyme – If lemon thyme is not available, use regular thyme.
- Lemon zest – Lemon zest fills the cookies with a bright, citrusy flavor.
How to make lemon thyme shortbread
This recipe comes together very quickly in the bowl of a food processor. This inspiration comes from the NYT rosemary shortbread recipe. (You can also make this recipe without a food processor, I’ll show you how at the end of the post).
- First, add everything except the butter to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse 20 – 30 times to break up the herbs and distribute everything evenly.
- Next, add the cold butter and pulse until you have a crumb-like texture to the mixture. You do not want it to be smooth. It should look like crumbles.
- Press the mixture into an 8×8 pan. I like to use my flexible rubber scraper to get into the edges of the pan. I use it to scrape down the edges of the pan to make them level and it also helps to flatten the top out nice and even.
- Finally, use a fork or a skewer to poke holes, or dock, the shortbread before baking. Do not skip this step. The holes allow steam to escape, preventing the cookies from puffing up, which gives the lemon thyme shortbread the perfect crumbly texture.
After baking, cool slightly, then gently cut shortbread while still warm. Then, place on a cooling rack to cool completely before storing.
I like to sprinkle a combination of coarse sanding sugar and flaky salt on top for extra sweet salty crunchy texture.
Lemon thyme shortbread cookies FAQ’s
Buy the best quality butter you can. Do not substitute with margarine. Butter is a main ingredient in shortbread, so make sure it’s the real thing.
Yes! You can make the shortbread dough up to 3 days ahead of time. Store tightly wrapped in the refrigerator until you are ready to bake.
Absolutely. Store in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 months.
This is the scale that I own and use daily. It is easy to use, plus it measures in pounds, ounces and grams.
Measuring ingredients by weight, ESPECIALLY in baking, is much more accurate than cup measurement.
How to make shortbread cookies without a food processor
No food processor? No problem. You can still make this recipe with a couple of slight changes.
Start with very soft butter. Place the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl and beat together with a handheld electric mixer or by hand. Then, add remaining ingredients and mix until a crumbly mixture forms.
Proceed with the rest of the recipe as written.
Variations and substitutions
- No lemon thyme? Substitute it for regular thyme and add a tablespoon of lemon juice.
- For even more herbaceous flavor, add 2 teaspoons of rosemary or lavender to the mixture.
Helpful tools and equipment
- Food processor – This is a newer version of the one I own. It’s a great size and works well for home kitchens.
- Food scale – Weighing ingredients is a much more accurate way to measure than cups, and I highly recommend investing in a scale. This is the same one I own and it is a great price.
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- 2 cups all purpose flour // 240g
- 2/3 c. sugar // 133g
- 1 1/2 - 2 tbsp. lemon thyme leaves (*see note for substitution) + extra for garnish
- 1 tsp. Diamond Crystal kosher salt (*see note)
- 1 tbsp. lemon zest
- 1 cup cold, unsalted butter, cut into cubes // 2 sticks // 226g
- 1 tsp. flaky sea salt
- 1 tsp. coarse sanding sugar or demerara sugar
- Preheat oven to 325°F // 160°C // Gas mark 3.
- In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade, pulse together flour, sugar, lemon thyme, kosher salt and lemon zest.
- Add cubes of cold butter and pulse until crumbs form. The mixture should look sandy, it should not be smooth.
- Add mixture to an ungreased 8x8 pan, and press dough down to flatten. (I like to use a flexible plastic bench scraper to clean up the edges and press the top of the dough flat).
- Using a fork, skewer or toothpick, dock the dough (make holes in it) to let the steam escape.
- Sprinkle the top with 1 teaspoon each of coarse sugar and flaky sea salt, if desired.
- Bake for 45 - 50 minutes, rotating pan halfway through, to ensure even baking.
- Remove from oven and let cool for 5 - 10 minutes. Remove from pan and gently cut shortbread while it is still warm.
- Place cookies on wire rack to cool completely. Garnish with thyme leaves, if desired.
- To substitute fresh lemon thyme, use regular thyme + 1 tbsp. lemon juice.
- I use Diamond Crystal kosher salt. If you use Morton's, reduce the amount by almost half. If you use fine sea salt, reduce the amount to 1/2 tsp.
- Store shortbread cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week. You can refrigerate them for up to another week, but freezing them will keep them even longer. Cookies can dry out in the fridge, so eating them sooner rather than later is best.
Serving Size:1 cookie
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 113Total Fat: 7gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 18mgSodium: 134mgCarbohydrates: 12gFiber: 0gSugar: 5gProtein: 1g
Nutrition information calculated by a third-party company as a courtesy. It is intended as a guideline only.
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