Lemon shortbread is an Irish favorite and a glorious mixture of butter, sugar, and flour. Add a little zing with lemon zest and these shortbread bars are taken to the next level of citrus deliciousness.
When made with creamy Irish butter, this recipe creates luscious, rich cookie bars. You can add a lemon glaze if you wish but I like to keep these lemon shortbread biscuits glaze free. Just simple shortbread bars with a hint of lemon.
If, like me, you’re a lemon lover, then this melt in your mouth lemon shortbread slice is perfect. The slightly acidic lemon flavor adds a distinctive bite, to cut through all the buttery goodness of rich Irish shortbread.
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Easter and Holiday Treats
Lemon shortbread cookies are an Easter baking favorite in Ireland, together with hot cross buns and chocolate Easter nests. Of course, chocolate Easter eggs take center stage when it comes to Easter treats in Ireland.
But remember, this recipe is good any time of year. Lemon shortbread squares are also perfect for cookie swaps at holiday time - that’s when shortbread really shines.
I previously shared my recipe for traditional petticoat tails or simple Irish butter shortbread. I use corn starch and regular sugar for texture in that recipe and to help bind the shortbread together.
When adding lemon zest I only use powdered sugar to create crumbly, delicious shortbread bars. The lemon oils from the zest help bind this dough together.
This is a plain and simple recipe, no lemon curd, glazes, or fancy fixin’s. Many recipes call for vanilla extract, but I like to keep the flavors in these treats extra simple - it’s lemon all the way for me.
A Taste of Ireland
These are light and buttery cookies, or biscuits as we say in Ireland, They’re delicate, with subtle lemon flavor. Every bite is a simple mouthful of delicious goodness.
For me, these are special cookies. They remind me of my childhood, the taste of Easter, and lazy summer days.
Irish people like to cook with lemons and our favorite pancake fixings are lemon juice and sugar.
These treats boast a very refreshing taste, with Irish butter adding to the melt in your mouth goodness.
But heed my warning. They’re so good, I could eat a whole batch in one sitting. Luckily I have four teenagers who love to indulge in these lemony squares. I’ll be lucky to put my name on one piece not to mind two, if the lovely aroma of lemon shortbread from the kitchen calls out to my crew. There usually is a stampede to the kitchen, for a slice of shortbread with a glass of cold milk.
Ingredients for Lemon Shortbread
Here's what you'll need for these shortbread lemon slices. I use pastry flour this shortbread when baking in America. Regular all-purpose flour in Ireland, the UK or Australia will work just fine.
- Unsalted Butter
- Icing/Powdered Sugar
- Pastry Flour
- Lemon Zest
I use confectioners sugar or powdered sugar to sweeten this shortbread dough. I prefer not to use granulated sugar to keep the cooked biscuits less grainy in texture.
Equipment for Lemon Shortbread
You can choose between two sizes of baking sheets or trays.
Directions for Lemon Shortbread
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F or 160 degrees C.
You’ll notice the lower temperature I recommend for this recipe. Other lemon bar recipes made with shortbread call for a preheated oven of 350 degrees F. I find this temperature to be a little too warm and the cookies bake way too quickly.
I prefer a lower temperature so that the final shortbread is golden and crumbly. Low and slow is my motto for this treat.
Line a 20 x 25cm baking pan with parchment paper.
Beat the butter, icing sugar and lemon zest in a large bowl with a handheld mixer or a stand mixer.
Use the grated rind or zest of fresh lemons, preferably the unwaxed variety.
Beat the butter mixture until the ingredients are completely combined, and are light and fluffy.
Add the flour and salt and mix until the dough starts to clump.
I recommend adding the flour gradually to the creamed butter and sugar mixture. The amount you need can vary slightly depending on many factors. The size of your lemon and the amount of lemon oils can affect this. Humidity can change the texture of your dough. Sometimes you need less flour and sometimes more. It’s a case of trial, error and experience.
If you find that you’ve added too much flour and your dough just will not come together, then here’s a quick solution. Melt a little butter and gradually add it to the mixture, a tablespoon at a time.
Once you dough starts to come together, forget about mixers and spoons. Get your hands in there and bring the dough together.
It’s the texture and feel of the dough that lets you know if you’ve added too much flour and need more butter.
This shortbread is what I call a one bowl wonder. Everything is mixed together in just one bowl - no whisking wet ingredients to add to dry. Just everything coming together in your favorite mixing bowl.
I make shortbread just like my granny did, and use my hands to gently bring the dough together. For me, manipulating dough is truly what the joy of baking is all about.
Tip the dough into your prepared pan and pat it down lightly. Make sure it fills the corners of the tray.
This shortbread is baked in one large piece, and then cut into rectangular bars, rather than using cookie cutters to make individual servings.
Bake for 22-25 minutes, until just turning light golden at the edges
As soon as the shortbread is out of the oven, mark into 16 rectangular finger shapes using a sharp knife, and prick each finger with a fork.
This helps to let the air escape.
I let the shortbread cool in the pan rather than transferring it to a wire rack.
It can fall apart if you try to take it out of the pan too soon, so I play it safe and let it cool completely before cutting it into rectangles.
Storage and Freezing Tips for Lemon Shortbread
Make sure your butter is at room temperature.
This is a short and tender shortbread.
Use a knife to cut and mark the shortbread as soon as it comes out of the oven. Do not break it apart at this stage. If left to cool slightly before scoring, it will crumble when cut or pricked with a fork.
Cool completely before removing from the pan and breaking into separate slices.
Store in an airtight container for up to 4 – 5 days. There's no need to store these cookies in the fridge.
To freeze this shortbread, make sure it is cooled completely first. Wrap well in plastic wrap and freeze in a rigid freezer proof container, since these cookies are very delicate.
You may wish to add a dusting of confectioner's sugar to the top of your shortbread bars, but I like to keep mine plain.
Another idea is to add a drizzle of melted chocolate on top of these lemon bars as frosting. You can use white, dark or milk chocolate.
Printable Recipe Card for Lemon Shortbread
Here's a short video outlining the steps for making these lemon shortbread bars.
Here's a printable recipe if you would like to add this lemon shortbread recipe to your kitchen files.
- 1 cup unsalted butter 2 sticks
- ¾ cup powdered sugar
- 2½ cups pastry flour use regular flour in Ireland and UK
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 lemon zest
- Preheat the oven to 325° F or 160oC. Line a 8 x 10 inch (20 x 25 cm) baking pan with parchment paper. (You can also use a 9 x 9 inch square pan.)
- Beat the butter, icing sugar and lemon zest with an electric mixer until combined.
- Add flour and salt and mix until the dough starts to clump. Use your hands to gently bring it together.
- Tip into the lined baking tray and pat down lightly.
- Bake for 22-25 minutes, until just turning light golden at the edges.
- As soon as the shortbread is out of the oven, mark into 16 rectangular fingers with a sharp knife, and prick each finger with a fork.
- Cool completely in the pan before cutting and serving in slices.
- Make sure your butter is at room temperature.
- This is a short and tender shortbread.
- Cut the shortbread as soon as it comes out of the oven. If left to cool slightly, it will crumble when cut or pricked with a fork.
- Store in airtight container for up to 4 – 5 days.
- To Freeze: Cool completely. Wrap well and freeze in a rigid freezer proof container (these bars are very delicate).
Nutrition Information is estimated based on the ingredients and cooking instructions as described in each recipe and is intended to be used for informational purposes only. Please note that nutrition details may vary based on methods of preparation, origin and freshness of ingredients used.
Slán agus beannacht,
(Goodbye and blessings)
Mairéad -Irish American Mom
Pronunciation - slawn ah-gus ban-ock-th
Mairéad - rhymes with parade