These lemon cookies combine the creamy tartness of lemon bars with the sweet richness of gooey butter cookies. They’re basically heaven in a cookie! Delicious butter cookies are coated in powdered sugar and baked with a puddle of homemade lemon curd right in the center. They taste just like a lemon bar, but in cookie form!
How to make homemade lemon curd
This recipe starts with a simple homemade lemon curd. Because it needs time to chill and thicken, this is the very first step before making the cookie dough. Luckily it’s really quick and easy to make, but packs so much delicious fresh lemon flavor. Here are a few things to keep in mind when making your curd:
- Organic Lemons – Try to use organic lemons if you can. Regular lemons are covered in a wax coating to seal in freshness. This wax then mixes in with the lemon zest, diluting its flavor. Organic lemons are void of this coating, so the lemon zest flavor is much stronger. It’s OK to use regular if you can’t find organic, but I highly recommend organic if you can.
- Utensils – Before placing the curd over heat, use a whisk to fully whisk all of the ingredients together. This prevents any lumps while cooking. Then, switch to a rubber spatula once it’s placed the heat. Using a spatula allows you to scrape down the bottom and corners of the pan, which is typically where a whisk can’t reach. This will further prevent any lumps while the curd cooks.
- Cooling – Pour the hot curd into a wide and shallow heat safe container. This will help speed of the chilling process.
Once the curd has completely cooled, it should be the consistency of a thick pudding (see picture below). If it’s too runny, try chilling for a bit longer. If it’s STILL too runny, try returning the mixture to your saucepan and heat it even further. If the curd is too thin and runny, it will run and melt in the oven rather than bake into a beautiful lemon pool in the center of each cookie.
Tips for make gooey butter lemon cookies
Next is the cookie dough. The curd is baked on top of rich and gooey butter cookies. This closely mimics the soft and sweet shortbread that’s typically the base of any delicious lemon bar recipe.
The dough is made using both cream cheese and butter. The cream cheese provides richness, giving these cookies their signature gooey and tender texture. To ensure yours bake perfectly, here’s what you need to know:
- Room Temperature – Make sure your cream cheese and butter are softened to room temperature before using. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a lumpy dough that won’t spread properly when baked.
- Cream Cheese – Use full fat cream cheese, especially Philadelphia block cream cheese if you can get your hands on it. This provides the best flavor and texture.
- Creaming/Mixing – When mixing the cream cheese, butter, and sugar, make sure you allow the mixer to run on medium-high speed for at least a minute. This will whip air into the cream cheese and butter, allowing each cookie to bake evenly. When mixing in the eggs, repeat this same process. Yolks act as an emulsifier, so fully beating the eggs into the dough will give you a much stronger cookie. Do the opposite when mixing in the dry ingredients. Mix low and slow JUST until the flour is incorporated. Over mixing flour will strengthen the gluten, giving you a tough cookie texture.
- Properly measure the flour – I say this in every post, and for good reason. It’s the number one reason why most recipes fail, especially for cookies. If there’s too much flour, the cookies will not spread properly. If you can, measure the flour with a food scale. Otherwise, to ensure you use the exact amount needed, gently spoon the flour into your measuring cup and level if off with a flat edge. If you scoop directly into the flour container, it packs it down into the cup which could leave you with 1/4 cup or more of added flour.
How to bake lemon bar cookies
This is the very unique part of this recipe, as each cookie is assembled just like a thumbprint cookie but is then baked just like any other drop cookie. As the cookies spread in the oven, the curd will spread along with it. In the end you’re left with a flat but puffed gooey butter cookie with an even layer of curd baked right on top.
As this can be a tricky step, make sure you follow the instructions exactly as they are. Most importantly, use the right sized cookie scoop.
Since the dough is very sticky, using a cookie scoop is key for a mess-free butter cookie. That way, you can simply scoop the dough right into a bowl of powdered sugar and toss to coat. This prevents the sticky dough from sticking to your hands.
Make sure to use a large cookie scoop that holds about 3 tablespoons of dough. This is the perfect size as it gives you the best cookie to curd ratio.
After you’ve placed 5 sugar-coated cookie dough balls on to your baking sheet, it’s now time to create a small indent for the curd to sit. Using the back of a rounded tablespoon, press into the center of each cookie. Only press about halfway down, as shown in the picture above. This provides the perfect nesting spot of the curd to sit, allow it to stay within the cookie as they bake and spread.
Then fill each indent with a full 1 teaspoon of curd. It should almost look like a yolk! Now your cookies are ready to bake.
Can I use store bought lemon curd?
I haven’t tested it with store bought, but it’s worth a try if you don’t have time to make your own. Just know that your lemon cookies may not turn out as vibrant as the ones shown here as store-bought curd has a more mellow color. If you do try it, I recommend using the highest quality curd you can find.
How to store lemon curd cookies
When the cookies have baked and cooled completely, store in an air tight container in the refrigerator where they will keep for up to 5 days. These cookies are best served cold or at room temperature.
For more lemon dessert recipes, check out my:
- Lemon Poppy Seed Bread (GF, DF)
- Lemon Blueberry Muffins
- Lemon Cream Cheese Coffee Cake
- Lemon Zucchini Bread (GF, DF)
Make sure to tag me @butternutbakery on Instagram and leave a review below if you make these Lemon Bar Butter Cookies. To pin this recipe and save it for later, you can use the button on the recipe card, the buttons above or below this post, or on any of the photos above. Happy baking!Print
Lemon Bar Butter Cookies
- Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes + 30 minutes cooling
- Yield: 18 cookies
This lemon cookie recipe combines two delicious desserts – lemon bars and gooey butter cookies. A puddle of homemade lemon curd is baked into the center of each cookie.
Homemade Lemon Curd
- 1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
- 3 large egg yolks
- 1 tsp cornstarch
- 2 tbsp lemon zest (2 large lemons)
- 1/4 cup (60ml) fresh lemon juice (2–3 large lemons)
- 1/4 cup (55g) unsalted butter, sliced into tablespoons
Gooey Butter Cookies
- 2 1/4 cup (286g) all purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 8 oz full fat cream cheese, room temp
- 1/2 cup (110g) unsalted butter, room temp
- 1 1/2 cups (300g) granulated sugar
- 1 large egg + 1 egg yolk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp almond extract (optional but highly recommended)
- 1 cup powdered sugar for coating
Homemade Lemon Curd
- Whisk together the sugar, eggs, and cornstarch in a medium saucepan.
- Once smooth and well combined, whisk in the lemon zest and juice.
- Cook over medium heat until thickened, occasionally stirring (with a rubber spatula) at the beginning but constantly mixing near the end. It should take about 8-10 minutes on a gas stovetop and about 20 minutes on an electric.
- Remove from heat and toss in the butter. Stir until melted and combined.
- Pour the curd into a wide and shallow heat proof container. Cover the container and let it chill while we make the cookie dough.
Gooey Butter Cookies
- Preheat the oven to 350F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl using a hand or stand mixer with the paddle attachment, add the cream cheese and butter. Beat on medium-high heat until smooth and lump-free. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and give it another good mix.
- With the mixer running on medium speed, slowly pour in the sugar. Then increase the speed to medium-high and let it run for about a minute.
- Once well combined, mix in the eggs and extracts. Scrape down the bowl and give it another good mix. It should be fairly thin at this point.
- Pour in the dry ingredients and mix to combine, careful not to over mix.
- Remove the bowl from the stand and use a rubber spatula to mix in any dry bits that may have sunk to the bottom of the bowl. The dough should now be thick but sticky.
- Fill a small bowl with the powdered sugar.
- Using a large cookie scoop (roughly 3 tablespoons) scoop a cookie dough ball directly into the powdered sugar and toss to coat. The powdered sugar will prevent the dough from sticking to your hands.
- Place 5 coated cookie dough balls on your large baking sheet, evenly spaced apart. Using the back of a rounded tablespoon, or using your thumb, press into the center of each ball to create a round indent (see picture in post for reference).
- Fill each cookie with a full teaspoon of the lemon curd.
- Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the cookies have flattened and the curd is pale and bubbly.
- The curd will look very pale when it’s right out of the oven, but will turn more vibrant as the cookies cool. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for about 2 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack. Continue baking the rest of the cookies.
- Allow the cookies to cool completely, then transfer to the refrigerator for about 15 minutes to chill. This helps the curd to fully set.
- Dust the edges of each cookie with any powdered sugar that’s leftover in the dish, allowing the curd in the center to peak through. Now enjoy!
LEMON CURD – I haven’t tested it with store-bought lemon curd, but I imagine it could also work!
- Prep Time: 1 hour
- Cook Time: 10 minutes
- Category: Dessert
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: American
Keywords: lemon cookies, lemon bars, gooey butter cookies, lemon curd
Anita Hicks says
Hi! These look amazing! I love any dessert with lemon. Just wondering, can you freeze these cookies?
I found that when I froze the dough, they didn’t crinkle when baked. But you can chill the dough in the refrigerator for a couple days!
These deserve a 10 star rating imo. I have made these close to seven times. My family have fallen in love with these and I am now dubbed the lemon cookie lady. I have family members begging for these for their birthdays and other celebrations. Thank you so much!!
Aw yay! So glad to hear!!
I would like to make these for an upcoming wedding. I’m wondering if I can make these – bake them completely – and then, once cooled, freeze them. I need to make 400, so it will help if I can bake them in advance and keep them in the freezer for a bit.
Yes I think that could work!
Hi. Can we replace the cream cheese or not use them?
No you need the cream cheese for these cookies to bake properly.
Leanne M says
In the recipe it calls for baking powder, but the directions say to mix the flour, baking soda and salt. I’m wondering which is correct. Thanks!
It’s baking powder! That’s a typo
Just baked these this afternoon. Delicious! Just curious. Any idea how many calories in one cookie?
Yay! No clue..it’s better not to know 😉
Hi. Can I sub GF 1:1 flour for these lemon cookies?
I haven’t tested it but it might work!
I made these using a 1:1 gluten free flour blend and they turned out great! I used Authentic Foods multi flour blend in the same weight called for in the recipe. I’m going to try making them again with raspberry curd 😋
Hi! I’d like to bake these today, and want to know if the cookies need to be refrigerated after baking and how many days well the cookies last?😊
Hi Tina – Yes, you can store them at room temp for a couple days. Otherwise, store them in the refrigerator. They will keep for about a week!
Thank you! My lemon curd came out light in color and a little too thick, it was my first time making it! 😊. Either way, the cookies & curd still came out delicious and my family loved them! Thank you.
These were delicious! I did not have a large cookie scoop so I tried to eyeball it. I did not have enough lemon curd for the cookies- I left the curd on the stove for 10 minutes on medium heat but it thickened too much. I only have a thermometer for meats. Is that the same type of thermometer you used for your curd? Also, if the curd thickens/dries too much like mine did what do you suggest I do? Should I add more lemon juice or water while cooking?
Hmmm it’s likely the curd didn’t have enough liquid to begin with or it was heated up too quickly. That thermometer should be OK, but if you had to cook the curd for longer than 30 minutes then it’s likely the thermometer may be off. Next time, try cooking the curd just until it starts to lightly thicken. I think it might have just been taken too far this time!
Definitely a keeper. I think I overcooked my lemon curd but the cookies didn’t seem to suffer in the end. Thanks
Yay! So happy it worked out!
I baked these cookies this morning. The lemon curd turned out great. However the texture of my cookies was a bit more spongey/cakey than I’d expected…is that normal? Did I take them out of the oven too early? (They were in for about 12 minutes at 350…)
It could be that too much flour was used if they look cakey. Always make sure to spoon the flour into your measuring cup and never scoop directly into the bag as this compacts the flour.
Might be my new favorite cookies!!!! I used two sheet trays and was able to get them done in two batches.
I bought organic lemons for this recipe but just noticed the bag says “coated with food grade natural resins and/or vegetable wax”. They’re probably not any good because of this wax, right? I bought them from Trader Joe’s.
That recipe was really good! I was looking for a recipe to use up extra egg yolks, lemons and cream cheese so this was PERFECT. They came out so good my whole family loved them. The texture was great (I thought they would be on the drier side but not at all) and the lemon curd came out great (I used a thermometer). The only change I made was to use vegan cream cheese (I don’t eat dairy) and it was amazing. I’ll definitely make those again!
Yay! Thanks for sharing!
I made these today and they came out great. The lemon curd was excellent even though I heated it quite quickly. My cookies were a bit cakey but still taste great. My only complaint is about how they looked – not nearly as nice as in your pictures! They grew a lot so I thought maybe 2 tsp of baking powder was too much… they really just looked like volcanoes oozing lemon curd. I also tend to find that baked goods are usually too sweet so I only used a cup of sugar for the dough and it worked out great. Anyway, definitely a keeper!
I just tried this and while it looks amazing, the shortbread isn’t as great as I thought. I wanted it to be more crunchy, cookie like texture but it was a bit mushy in the center. Other than that, pretty good.
These cookies are Absolutely Delicious 🤤! I made a batch and to help me not eat every single one, I dropped some off to friends. To say they were a hit is an understatement! Everyone raved about these cookies and asked for the recipe which I gladly shared. You Nailed this cookie!
Question on the cookie.. do you use that cookie dough for sugar cookies as well? I’m actually not a huge cookie fan but that cookie dough makes the cookie I’ve ever tasted! 🤤🤤
Your a Magician in the kitchen, my friend. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe.
Yay so glad to hear this! Yes, you can make the cookie dough as plain sugar cookies 🙂
Very delicious cookies! I had leftover curd from another recipe and wanted to use it up. The cookies are fluffy and scrumptious. A hit with the fam.
These turned out amazing. They’re delicious and so perfect for spring 🙂 I didn’t see the part about refrigeration… will these still be okay to eat if they were left at room temperature overnight?
Yes they should be OK at room temp for just one night!
So damn good!
Can the almond extract be substituted with another extract? My husband has an allergy to almonds.
Feel free to leave it out! Or sub in lemon extract
By letting the curd chill, does that mean to refrigerate it to cool, or just leave it on the counter?
Chill is in the refrigerator 🙂