These thumbprint-style lemon curd cookies have buttery shortbread and homemade lemon curd for a bright, citrusy dessert! They’re basically a bite-sized mash-up of a lemon tart and cookies – beyond delicious. Save this recipe for parties, holidays, get-togethers, and more!

Piles of thumbprint lemon curd cookies on a white background.

I know we’re in the midst of winter, but what better way to celebrate citrus season than with cookies? Especially bright, tart, citrusy cookies that cut through the cozy, spiced, sticky ones that, while totally beloved, take up every corner of my house during the holidays.

Of course, just like other lemon baked goods like sour cream lemon pound cake or ricotta lemon poppy seed muffins, these cookies transcend seasons. I will 1,000% be tucking this recipe in my back pocket for spring holidays and summer BBQs. They’re light, buttery, and best straight out of the fridge. A total dream.

Grab a bag of lemons and let’s bake, friends!

Why you’ll love these cookies

Lemon cookies were my specialty back when I was in pastry school. I seriously must have made 10 different versions lol. But overall, these lemon shortbread cookies were my favorite! This is the recipe I come back to time-and-time again when I want something citrusy and light.

  • These cookies are buttery, tender, and citrusy.
  • The dough is easy and comes together in minutes.
  • You can use store-bought or homemade lemon curd.
  • They’re lovely for parties, holidays, and get-togethers!

The ingredient list

White and brown bowls of flour, egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, salt, lemon curd, lemon zest, and vanilla extract on a white counter next to butter.
  • Lemon zest – the zest will add extra citrusy flavor to the dough.
  • Sugar – you’ll need sugar to sweeten the cookies and for rolling.
  • Flour – all-purpose flour will add structure and act as the base of the cookie dough.
  • Cornstarch – just a hint of cornstarch makes shortbread super tender and light.
  • Salt – I use Morton’s Kosher salt to offset the sweetness of the sugar.
  • Butter – unsalted butter will make the cookies tender, rich, and flavorful.
  • Egg yolks – a couple of egg yolks make the shortbread tender without adding too much leavening.
  • Vanilla bean paste just for a hint of sweetness and vanilla flavor!
  • Lemon curd – for those smooth, creamy, citrusy centers. I recommend homemade lemon curd for the best flavor.

Ingredient variations

  • Citrus – feel free to replace the lemon with lime or even grapefruit.
  • Vanilla – vanilla extract will also work in this dough. Just double the amount!
  • Fillings – you can also use jam. Strawberry and raspberry are my faves!
  • Gluten-free – replace the all-purpose flour with a 1:1 gluten-free replacement like Cup4Cup.

Quick tip

Try other flavors of curd to switch these cookies up depending on the season. Strawberry curd and lime curd would be so delicious, but any flavor you like will work!

How to make these cookies

Six steps to making cookie dough. In photo 1, a white bowl of flour with a whisk. In photo 2, a white bowl of sugar and lemon zest. In photo 3, hands are rubbing the sugar and lemon zest together. In photo 4, butter is in the bowl. In photo 5, the butter is creamed. In photo 6, the butter has egg yolks and vanilla.

Make the dough

  1. In a small bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, and salt. Set aside for later.
  2. Then, mix the sugar and lemon zest in a large bowl. Using clean hands, rub the sugar and lemon zest together until it’s very fragrant, about 1 minute.
  3. Add the butter and cream the butter and sugar for 3-4 minutes. Mix in the egg yolks and vanilla.
Six steps to making shortbread cookies. In photo 1, a white bowl of creamed butter and sugar. In photo 2, flour is in the bowl. In photo 3, a pink rubber spatula is mixing shortbread dough. In photo 4, a scoop is scooping the dough. In photo 5, the dough is being rolled in a brown bowl of sugar on a white counter. In photo 6, the cookie dough balls are on a pan of parchment paper.
  1. Add the flour mixture to the butter-sugar mixture. It will be crumbly so use a rubber spatula to finish mixing the dough.
  2. Then, scoop the dough into balls. Roll the balls in sugar.
  3. Line the cookie dough balls on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.
Three steps to making lemon thumbprint cookies. In photo 1, a teaspoon is pressing thumbprint cookies on parchment paper. In photo 2, the cookies are filled with lemon curd. In photo 3, rows of baked cookies are on a white counter.

Assemble & bake

  1. Using a teaspoon, press a divot into the center of each cookie dough ball. Chill for at least 1 hour.
  2. Once the cookies are chilled, fill the centers with lemon curd.
  3. Lastly, bake the cookies until the shortbread is lightly golden and the filling is set.

Pro-tip

Don’t over-fill the thumbprints or the lemon curd will bubble and overflow in the oven. You want to use a teaspoon to indent the cookie dough balls, but fill the cookies with only about 1/2 teaspoon of lemon curd.

Can I use store-bought lemon curd?

Sure! Just make sure to use something high-quality. I’ve had some store-bought lemon curds that are super gelatinous and overly sweet. Look for a store-bought curd that is fairly thick and a nice balance of sweet and tart. I typically like to go to a specialty shop to find a good one!

Serving ideas

This is one of my go-to recipes for holidays and get-togethers with friends. Here’s some of my favorite ways to serve these lemon thumbprint cookies!

  • Dust the finished cookies with powdered sugar.
  • Serve them on a dessert bar or table.
  • Bring them to holidays like Christmas, Easter, or Mother’s Day.
  • Take them to BBQs, picnics, and bridal showers.
Stacks and rows of lemon curd cookies on a white marble counter.

Storing, freezing, & make-ahead

To store the leftover cookies, wait until they’re fully cooled and set. Then, stack the cookies in an airtight container and refrigerate them for up to 5 days.

To freeze the cookies, place them on a parchment-lined sheet pan. Freeze the cookies until they’re solid, about 1-2 hours. Then, stack them in a freezer bag or airtight container and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw the cookies at room temperature for about 1 hour before serving.

You can also make these lemon shortbread cookies in advance! Just make the dough and assemble the indented cookies without the lemon curd. Cover the cookies and refrigerate the dough for up to 2 days. Then, fill the cookies with lemon curd and bake. Enjoy!

Helpful tools

Pro tip!

I definitely recommend weighing ingredients with a scale instead of measuring cups. It’s the only way to make sure the cookies come out great every time! If you don’t have a scale, make sure to properly measure the flour. Fluff it with a whisk and spoon the fluffed flour into a measuring cup. Then, level it off without packing the flour in.

Rows of shortbread lemon curd cookies on a white marble counter.

Tips & tricks

  • To keep the cookies from cracking, roll the dough until it’s very smooth. Make sure there are no cracks before you indent the cookies.
  • If the cookies still crack, no worries. Just press the cracks together with your fingers!
  • Make sure to press the cookies evenly when you indent the centers. You want the cookies to be an even thickness so they bake consistently.
  • Don’t skip chilling the indented cookies! This is key to making sure the cookies don’t spread too much. It also helps us get those buttery, flaky layers.
  • If you want lemon tart style cookies, fill the cookies with curd after baking. Just indent the cookies and bake them until they’re set. Then, re-indent the centers if necessary, cool completely, and fill with lemon curd. Just don’t stack the cookies or they’ll be a mess!

Recipe FAQs

What can I do with leftover lemon curd?

If you have leftover curd, refrigerate it for up to 1 week. It’s amazing as a cake filling, on top of scones, with pancakes, or drizzled over cheesecake!

Do I have to rub the sugar and lemon zest together?

Nope! You can skip this step, it just makes the lemon thumbprint cookies taste extra citrusy. Feel free to leave out the zest entirely, the shortbread just won’t have as much flavor.

Is lemon curd and lemon custard the same?

Even though the ingredients are similar, they are not the same thing. Lemon curd is made with egg yolks, sugar, lemon juice, and butter and has an almost jelly-like consistency. Lemon custard, on the other hand, is thickened with cornstarch and milk which makes it creamy and pudding-like.

Why did the lemon curd bubble over?

If the curd bubbles over the cookies, it’s because they’re over-filled. Even though we’re indenting the cookies with a teaspoon, you’ll only want to fill them with about 1/2 teaspoon of lemon curd. Otherwise, they could overflow in the oven!

Rows of lemon curd cookies on a white background.

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5 from 1 vote

The Best Lemon Curd Cookies

Yield: 36 cookies
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Chilling Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
These thumbprint-style lemon curd cookies have buttery shortbread and homemade lemon curd for a bright, citrusy dessert! They're basically a bite-sized mash-up of a lemon tart and cookies – beyond delicious. Save this recipe for parties, holidays, get-togethers, and more!

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (270 grams)
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest (about 1 lemon)
  • 2/3 cup sugar + more for rolling (133 grams)
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened (226 grams)
  • 2 egg yolks, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract)
  • 1/3 cup lemon curd (120 grams), homemade or store-bought

Equipment

Instructions 

  • In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, and Kosher salt. Pour a few Tablespoons of granulated sugar into a shallow bowl. Set aside. Then, line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper.
  • Pour the sugar and lemon zest into a large mixing bowl. Using clean hands, "rub" the sugar and lemon zest together until it's very fragrant and the lemon zest has released its oils, about 1-2 minutes.
  • Add the butter to the lemon sugar. Using a hand mixer or stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until it's pale and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Mix in the egg yolks and vanilla bean paste.
  • Add the flour mixture and gently beat the dough. It will be crumbly. Once you have large chunks of dough, use a rubber spatula to mix the dough just until it's smooth and combined.
  • Using a #60 cookie scoop (1 Tablespoon), scoop the dough into balls. Roll the cookie dough balls until they're very smooth and then roll the cookie dough balls in the bowl of granulated sugar.
  • Place the cookie dough balls about 2 inches apart on the prepared sheet pans. (You should be able to fit 12 cookies to a pan.) Using the bottom of a teaspoon, evenly press an indent into the center of each cookie. Repeat with the remaining cookie dough.
  • Transfer the prepared cookies to the freezer or refrigerator. Freeze the cookie dough for 30 minutes or refrigerate for 1 hour. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C).
  • Once the dough is chilled, remove it from the fridge or freezer. Fill a piping bag with lemon curd. Then, fill the center of each cookie with about 1/2 teaspoon of lemon curd. (You can also use a teaspoon to spoon the lemon curd into the centers of the cookies.)
  • Bake the cookies for 11-12 minutes, until the bottoms of the cookies are a light golden-brown and the filling is set. (It may bubble up in the oven, but it should not overflow.) Let the cookies cool on the sheet pan for about 5 minutes. Then, transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Transfer the cookies to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 5 days. Enjoy!

Notes

I definitely recommend weighing ingredients with a scale instead of measuring cups. It’s the only way to make sure the cookies come out great every time! If you don’t have a scale, make sure to properly measure the flour. Fluff it with a whisk and spoon the fluffed flour into a measuring cup. Then, level it off without packing the flour in.
Don’t over-fill the thumbprints or the lemon curd will bubble and overflow in the oven. You want to use a teaspoon to indent the dough but fill the cookies with about 1/2 teaspoon of lemon curd.
To keep the dough from cracking, roll the dough until it’s very smooth. Make sure there are no cracks before you indent the cookies.
If the cookies still crack, no worries. Just press the cracks together with your fingers!
Make sure to press the cookies evenly when you indent the centers. You want the cookies to be an even thickness so they bake consistently.
Don’t skip chilling the indented cookies! This is key to making sure the cookies don’t spread too much. It also helps us get those buttery, flaky layers.
If you want lemon tart style cookies, fill the cookies with curd after baking. Just indent the cookies and bake them until they’re set. Then, re-indent the centers if necessary, cool completely, and fill with lemon curd. Just don’t stack the cookies or they’ll be a mess!
Cuisine: American
Course: Dessert
Serving: 1cookie, Calories: 101kcal, Carbohydrates: 10.8g, Protein: 1.2g, Fat: 6.2g, Saturated Fat: 3.7g, Cholesterol: 33mg, Sodium: 220mg, Potassium: 14mg, Fiber: 0.3g, Sugar: 4.5g, Calcium: 3mg
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xo Sara Lynn

Song of the day – lalala by JAWNY