Just like chocolate crinkle cookies, these lemon crinkle cookies are soft-baked and chewy, coated in confectioners’ sugar, and practically melt in your mouth. Lemon lovers will appreciate that the zingy flavor comes from real fresh lemon, not extract. I call them “very lemon” because there is so much natural lemon flavor!
This recipe is part of my annual holiday cookie countdown called Sally’s Cookie Palooza. Every year since 2013, I work on a handful of new cookie recipes and publish the 10 best ones for readers to enjoy! You can browse dozens of recipes on the Sally’s Cookie Palooza page. 🙂
I always love a variety of flavors on my assorted holiday cookie platter, and especially like to throw in something unexpected among classics like gingerbread cookies and peanut butter blossoms. In previous years, little lemon coconut drop cookies and apricot thumbprint cookies have been favorites! Today, I’m introducing a zesty (and festive looking!) sweet-tart lemon cookie.
Here’s Why You’ll Love These Lemon Crinkle Cookies
- Mouth-watering sweet-tart flavor
- Uses more lemon than other lemon cookie recipes
- No food coloring, no artificial flavoring
- Thick and pillow-soft
- Built-in beauty from the crinkly confectioners’ sugar coating—no icing or decorating
- Warm from the oven, these melt in your mouth
- Feel free to replace the lemon with another citrus fruit, or try using Meyer lemons
Like Chocolate, But With Lemon!
Have you made chocolate crinkle cookies before? Like the chocolate version, these lemon crinkle cookies are also thick and soft-baked, with a melt-in-your-mouth texture and iconic crinkle surface… but with the fresh flavor of citrus. Unlike these lemon ginger cookies or lemon coconut shortbread cookies, there’s no competing flavor today. This is a purely lemon-flavored cookie, and it’s sure to become a new favorite, no matter the time of year.
Why is it called a crinkle? While snowball cookies get their sugar-snow dip after baking, crinkle cookies get a roll in confectioners’ sugar before baking. As the cookies bake, the powdery sugar coating cracks apart as the cookies puff up, leaving a crinkled surface. Hence the cute crinkle name.
What You Need & Why (Ingredients)
The recipe is based off of my coconut lime cookies, and you’ll be happy to find 1/4 cup (60ml) of lemon juice in the dough. Typical lemon cookies have half that amount. Get ready for flavor! Here are some key points about the ingredients you need:
- Flour: All-purpose flour provides the structure of these cookies.
- Cornstarch: The same magic ingredient for softness we use in chewy chocolate chip cookies; you only need a touch and it helps keep the cookies soft.
- Baking Soda: Makes the cookies puff up in the oven, creating that signature crinkle look.
- Salt: Brings out the flavors and balances the sweet.
- Butter: You need proper room temperature butter for this cookie dough, so it will cream nicely with the sugar.
- Sugar: Just the right amount to balance the tangy lemon.
- Egg: Binds the dough together.
- Lemon Juice: I recommend fresh lemon juice for the best flavor, but you can use bottled lemon juice in a pinch. Here is a wonderful juicer if you don’t have one and need a recommendation. And make sure you have a zester.
- Lemon Zest: Zest the lemon first, before you cut it and juice it. Much easier than the other way around!
- Vanilla Extract: For extra flavor.
- Confectioners’ Sugar: For rolling.
In Photos: How to Make Lemon Crinkle Cookies
After you make the dough, you’ll notice it’s quite soft and fluffy. That’s totally expected, and the dough needs to chill in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours. I know it’s a long time to wait, but your puffy cookies will be worth it! Go ahead and make the dough the night before if needed.
After chilling, the dough is much easier to work with. Each cookie is about 1 Tablespoon (20g, 5/8 ounce) of chilled dough:
Roll very generously into confectioners’ sugar:
And arrange on a lined baking sheet, and then bake:
#1 Success Tip: Chill the Dough
Chilling the cookie dough for at least 3 hours in the refrigerator is a non-negotiable. These lemon crinkle cookies contain extra liquid from the lemon juice, so the dough is very soft and sticky. The colder and firmer the cookie dough, the less they’ll over-spread. As you might remember from baking these chewy chocolate chip cookies, chilled cookie dough is not only easier to handle, it bakes thicker cookies.
Can I Use Other Citrus Flavors?
Yes! Try these crinkles with grapefruit, orange, or lime. You may also love these similar coconut lime cookies. Note that recipe has a shorter chill time because the dough is filled with coconut, which helps bulk it up.
Their snowy exterior makes these perfectly festive in the winter months, but the zippy citrus flavor is refreshing year-round! I hope you love these too.
- Whisk the flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
- In a large bowl using a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and granulated sugar together on medium-high speed until creamed, about 1 minute. Add the egg, lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla extract and beat on high speed until combined, about 1 minute. Mixture will appear curdled and that’s ok. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl. Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed until combined. Dough is thick, creamy, and sticky.
- Cover dough tightly and chill in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours and up to 3 days. Chilling is mandatory for this sticky cookie dough.
- Remove cookie dough from the refrigerator. If the cookie dough chilled longer than 3 hours, let it sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes. This makes the chilled cookie dough easier to scoop and roll.
- Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Set aside.
- Roll in sugar: Scoop and roll balls of dough, about 1 Tablespoon of dough each, into balls. (Each dough ball should weigh about 20g.) Some readers have had trouble with the confectioners’ sugar melting/absorbing into the cookie dough balls, so to prevent that, you can roll the balls in the granulated sugar first. And then roll each ball very generously in the confectioners’ sugar. If you want lots of confectioners’ sugar to show on the baked cookies, roll 2-3x in sugar! Place 3 inches apart on the baking sheets.
- Bake the cookies for 12–13 minutes or until the edges appear set and the centers still look soft. Tip: If they aren’t really spreading by minute 9, remove them from the oven and lightly bang the baking sheet on the counter 2–3x. This helps initiate that spread. Return to the oven to continue baking.
- Cool cookies for 5 minutes on the baking sheet, and then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. The cookies will slightly deflate as they cool.
- Cookies stay fresh covered at room temperature for up to 1 week.
- Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions: The dough can chill for up to 3 days, so this is a great make-ahead recipe. Baked cookies freeze well up to 3 months. Unbaked cookie dough balls (that are not coated in confectioners’ sugar) freeze well up to 3 months. When it’s time to bake the cookies, remove them from the freezer and thaw on the counter for at least 30 minutes. Roll into confectioners’ sugar as instructed and bake.
- Special Tools (affiliate links): Electric Mixer (Stand Mixer or Handheld) | Citrus Juicer | Citrus Zester | Baking Sheets | Silicone Baking Mats or Parchment Sheets
- Granulated Sugar: 1 cup + 2 Tablespoons is an odd amount, but the cookies really benefit from a little extra sugar because of all the tart lemon juice.
- Cornstarch: If you don’t have cornstarch, you can leave it out. It helps maintain a thicker, softer cookie but test batches without it were still intact and delicious.
- Lemons: I usually need 1–2 lemons to yield 1/4 cup (60ml) juice and 2 teaspoons zest. Feel free to replace the lemon with another citrus fruit, or try using Meyer lemons.
- Be sure to check out my top 5 cookie baking tips AND these are my 10 must-have cookie baking tools.
Keywords: lemon crinkle cookies
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