Lemon Shortbread

lemon shortbread with berries

Lemon shortbread is crisp on the outside, buttery soft inside, with a lovely aromatic lemon flavor. This easy elegant dessert literally melts in your mouth!

lemon shortbread topped with fresh berries

lemon shortbread is so versatile

Lemon shortbread is a versatile dessert that can go from simple and rustic to all decked depending on the way you want to serve it. (I actually like to eat it for breakfast with a cup of coffee.) It’s a thick shortbread that has a nice crunch on the outside and a buttery melt-in-your-mouth texture. The surprise is the burst of lemon flavor, which really sets this recipe apart from others. This same dough can be baked up in a square pan, or even as cookies if you prefer. I love the tart presentation because it’s instant elegance that can easily be dressed up for company.

lemon shortbread sliced into wedges

you’ll need 4 ingredients (plus 2 optionals)

  • one lemon ~ peel the zest (the yellow part) off with a vegetable peeler.
  • granulated sugar
  • unsalted butter, softened.
  • all purpose flour
  • lemon paste or extract, optional, but boosts the lemon flavor.
  • sparkling sugar for the top, also optional. I add a drop of yellow food coloring to my sparkling sugar.

the difference between lemon paste and lemon extract

Lemon paste is thick like honey and is made with the oils from real lemons. I prefer the flavor to most lemon extracts, which tend to be harsher. But you do need to use more lemon paste. 1 tablespoon of lemon paste = 1 teaspoon of extract.

Lemon extract is also made by extracting the lemon oils from the peel, but is a little more concentrated than paste. 1 teaspoon lemon extract = 1 teaspoon lemon zest or 2 tablespoons lemon juice.

lemon shortbread dough pricked and ready to bake

shortbread FAQs

Why do you prick shortbread?

We prick the surface of shortbread with the tines of a fork because this helps steam escape during baking so the shortbread doesn’t puff up. With shortbread what you put in the oven should be what you take out of the oven ~ no rising.

Why is there no lemon juice in lemon shortbread?

Shortbread dough is a simple combination of sugar, butter, and flour. Any excess moisture will change the texture of this classic dough. We achieve the lemon flavor in this recipe with zest (it’s where the lemon flavor is anyway!) and a little lemon extract or lemon paste. This shortbread is not tart and tangy like a lemon bar, rather it has a soft aromatic lemon flavor.

Can I make this with orange zest?

Yes, it would be delicious.

How can I slice shortbread without crumbling?

The best way to slice shortbread is while it’s still warm. I let it cool for about 10 minutes in the tart pan, then lift it out of the pan on the removable bottom. From there I usually gently remove the tart from the metal bottom plate. This can be tricky, and I find a very thin metal cake lifter or spatula works great. (You can slice the tart right on the metal plate if you like.)
I slice the shortbread using a large sharp knife. Sometimes it helps to make shallow score marks where you’re going to cut, but generally it is soft enough to slice easily when it’s warm.

Can I freeze this? Before or after baking?

Baked shortbread freezes well, just let it cool completely, then wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and then again in foil. Use within 3 months.

a lemon shortbread tart sliced into wedges

lemon shortbread serving suggestions

I cooked my shortbread in a tart pan, but you can also use a square baking pan, or roll and cut the dough into cookies. My slices, above, are super generous, you could easily get double the servings from this recipe.

  • Serve alone, alongside coffee, tea, or after dinner drinks.
  • Top with fresh berries and whipped cream.
  • Add a scoop of ice cream ~ rhubarb or lemon would be nice!
  • Omit the sugar topping and glaze the shortbread with a tart lemon icing: mix confectioner’s sugar with lemon juice to make a glaze consistency. Drizzle or spread it over the cooled shortbread.
  • If you want to glam this tart up for a spring celebration, think about garnishing with edible flowers, pansies would be perfect.
taking a bite of a slice of lemon shortbread

we can’t get enough shortbread

sliced lemon shortbread tart
5 from 7 votes

Lemon Shortbread

Lemon shortbread is crisp on the outside, buttery soft inside, with a lovely aromatic lemon flavor. This easy elegant dessert literally melts in your mouth!
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Yield 16 servings
Calories 365kcal
Author Sue Moran


  • 10 inch tart pan with removeable bottom


lemon sugar

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • zest of 1 large lemon, peeled with a vegetable peeler. Note: you want just the yellow part, not the bitter white pith.



  • Preheat your oven to 350F Set the rack in the middle of the oven.

for the lemon sugar

  • Put the sugar and lemon zest in the bowl of a full sized food processor fitted with the metal blade. Process until the zest is completely incorporated into the sugr and it is pale yellow. I like to pulse first and then process briefly. This should only take a minute.
    Making citrus sugar in a food processor with sugar and lemon zest

for the lemon shortbread

  • Put the lemon sugar into a stand mixer or a large mixing bowl and add the butter, salt, and lemon paste or extract. Cream together until well combined.
  • Add the flour and blend just until completely incorporated.
  • Transfer the dough to your tart pan. I like to drop pieces of dough all over the bottom of the pan to distribute it more or less evenly.
    adding lemon shortbread dough to tart pan
  • Then press/pat the dough into a flat even surface across the pan surface. I like to use an offset spatula to help with this process.
    spreading lemon shortbread dough flat
  • Use the tines of a fork to prick the surface of the dough all over. This will help prevent the dough from puffing up as it bakes. Sprinkle with sparkling sugar.
    pricking lemon shortbread dough before baking
  • Bake the tart for about 40 minutes, until just starting to turn golden around the edges.
    baked lemon shortbread
  • Let the tart cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then gently lift the bottom of the pan out from the sides. I like to lightly score my dough with my knife as a guide for slicing.
    lightly scoring shortbread dough
  • While the tart is still warm (and soft) slice it into wedges. You can slice in 8 or 16 slices, depending on how large you want your servings to be.
    sliced lemon shortbread tart
  • Serve as is, or with fresh berries and whipped cream.
    lemon shortbread tart with berries


Calories: 365kcal | Carbohydrates: 36g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 23g | Saturated Fat: 15g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 61mg | Sodium: 77mg | Potassium: 41mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 13g | Vitamin A: 709IU | Calcium: 12mg | Iron: 1mg
The nutritional information for recipes on this site is provided as a courtesy and although theviewfromgreatisland.com tries to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.
e book

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    Leave a Reply

    Please rate this recipe!

  • Reply
    April 15, 2022 at 4:50 pm

    Ok I will. My friend just gave me 18 lemons from her Meyer lemon tree as mine is done! One of the pleasures of living in so cal. I made the cranberry ginger snap pie ( my family adores it) and now I will use more lemons for this luscious dessert! Then I will make lemon curd to serve with it! ? Happy Easter!

  • Reply
    April 13, 2022 at 9:46 am

    Shortbread is my favorite and I love lemon. Can you use Meyer lemons for this recipe or is the skin too thin to peel? Also where can one purchase edible flowers? Thanks Sue.

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      April 13, 2022 at 9:47 am

      It’s interesting Darlene, I do find Meyer lemons to be difficult to zest. I would recommend regular lemons for this. For edible flowers you can buy them online from places like Melissa’s Produce, or other online specialty produce companies. Some large supermarkets carry them this time of year, too.

      • Reply
        Carol J Southard
        April 13, 2022 at 11:13 am

        I usually do zest Meyer lemons: For this recipe, I would use maybe 2-3 Meyer lemons, depending on the size and quantity of zest. 🙂 Of course, if the lemons are too difficult to zest, then go with regular lemons.

        • Reply
          Carol J Southard
          April 13, 2022 at 11:14 am

          5 stars
          I forgot to rate the recipe! 🙂

          • Sue Moran
            April 13, 2022 at 3:49 pm


        • Reply
          Sue Moran
          April 13, 2022 at 3:49 pm

          Let me know how it goes. I think the flavor would be amazing.

  • Reply
    April 13, 2022 at 8:03 am

    5 stars
    MORE, MORE!!! Lemon, lemon…sigh, I love lemons. As a kid on an island in the South Pacific, we’d peel lemons, dash Tabasco on our salt and dip the lemon segments in the salt…heaven. Okay, enough with the memories, more lemon recipes, please? I adore lemons and yet everyone has just recipes for lemonade, wedding cookies, and lemon ice-box pie. Please, please.

    • Reply
      Carol J Southard
      April 13, 2022 at 11:18 am

      5 stars
      As a kid in New Mexico, both lemons and limes got this treatment. Later, as an older kid (18), in Saipan, I rediscovered this treatment. Good times and good memories. 🙂

      • Reply
        April 15, 2022 at 3:28 pm

        Saipan was one of the places, Guam, Japan, the Philippines, Dad was in the Air Force and I spent my first years scooting all over the globe. Learned to eat “strange” food and like it. As you said, good times and good memories!

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