Best Lemon Basil Shortbread Cookies

by Alli

Lemon Basil Shortbread Cookies – the perfect balance of sweet and savory and a delicious twist on the classic recipe. These cookies are perfect for tea time or as a unique addition to your party cookie platter any time of year.

Shortbread Cookies are always a big hit with the family. Plus, I usually have all the ingredients on hand.

Ingredients You’ll Need To Make Lemon Basil Shortbread Cookies (complete recipe card down below) 

  • Powdered sugar: You can use granulated sugar instead, but your cookies may be sweeter and not quite as flaky.
  • Lemon zest: If you don’t have a fresh lemon to zest, you can omit this ingredient and substitute up to 1 ½ Tablespoons of water with lemon juice to get that lemon flavor.
  • Basil: I recommend fresh, minced basil for this recipe, but if you are in a pinch, you can substitute 1 ½ teaspoons of dried basil.
  • All-purpose flour
  • Salted butter: I usually prefer unsalted butter when baking. Be sure to add a pinch or two of salt if you use unsalted butter. You need it for flavor. Also, be sure to use frozen butter, or it will soften as you grate it and melt when baked. If you must use thawed butter, I recommend chilling the dough for at least 30 minutes before baking.
  • Water: You can substitute milk or cream for a slightly different texture. You can also substitute lemon juice but be sure to omit the lemon zest because the flavor will be too strong with both.

ingredients needed to make lemon basil shortbread cookies

You will Need The Following Supplies

You probably have most of these supplies on hand. 

  • Cookie sheets
  • Parchment paper
  • Rolling pin
  • Cheese grater
  • 2-3 inch round or square cookie cutters
  • Mixing bowl
  • Hand or stand mixer
  • Dough hook (you can use the mixer beaters if you don’t have a dough hook) 
  • Measuring tools
  • Mixing tools
  • Zester

How do I store Lemon Basil Shortbread Cookies?

Lemon basil Shortbread Cookies should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature. Storing them in a sealed container will keep them fresh and prevent the cookies from becoming dry or stale.

You can also refrigerate these cookies to keep the butter fresh. Before serving, let them sit out a bit before eating so the texture will be more pleasant.

These cookies are best eaten within 2-3 days when stored at room temperature in an airtight container. 

You can also freeze Lemon Basil Shortbread Cookies for up to 3 months by wrapping them with plastic wrap and then putting them in an airtight container or a ziplock bag. When you’re ready to eat them, let them come to room temperature before serving.

lemon basil shortbread cookies on cookie sheet, ready to eat

Tips and Tricks For Making Lemon Basil Shortbread Cookies

This recipe has only a few ingredients and is very easy to make, but a few tips and tricks will ensure your success.

Use Frozen Butter

Be sure to use frozen butter and a good grater to incorporate the butter into the dough. The chilled butter is essential to get a crumbly, delicious shortbread cookie.

If the butter is too warm, you will need to chill the dough until the butter has solidified again. Warm butter will cause the cookies to spread and get soft and chewy.

Add Enough Water

Be sure to add enough water to cause the dough to form. You do not want a sticky dough.

You want a crumbly dough (also known as a short dough) that holds together. Don’t add more than 1 Tablespoon of liquid at a time, and switch to teaspoons after the first 2 Tablespoons. Be sure to mix the dough well after adding any liquid, preferably with a dough hook.

Should I Chill the Dough?

While this recipe was created to avoid having to chill the dough, you may need to chill it to decrease the required time. For example, If you are making it on a hot day, handle the dough too much, or for any other reason, end up with a warmed dough, chilling the dough before baking will produce the best results.

Chill the dough again if you decide to roll it out for a second batch of cookies. I found that the second process of gathering, rolling, and cutting the dough tended to warm it enough for it to start sticking to the parchment paper and cookie cutter. 15-30 minutes in the refrigerator should help it firm up nicely.

How To Ensure A Clean Cut With Cookie Cutter

If you want to ensure a clean cut with the cookie cutter, you can dip it in flour or (my preference) powdered sugar so that the dough doesn’t stick.

You can also use flour or powdered sugar on the parchment paper or rolling pin if needed. If you need to use anything to prevent sticking, I also recommend chilling the dough before baking it.

lemon basil shortbread cookies stacked on a serving tray

Step-By-Step Photo Guide to Making Lemon Basil Shortbread Cookies

(Reminder: You can find the full, printable recipe card down below!)

Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Set aside. 

While the oven is preheating, beat together the basil, powdered sugar, and lemon zest for 1-2 minutes.

lemon zest, powdered sugar and minced basil in a clear glass bowl.

Whisk in all-purpose flour until well combined.

Clear Bowl of all-purpose flour whisked into lemon zest, minced basil and powdered sugar

With a cheese grater, grate the frozen butter and add to the flour mixture. 

grated frozen butter added to flour mixture to make shortbread cookies

Gradually beat in the water until a soft dough forms.

soft cookie dough

Turn the dough out onto one of the parchment-lined cookie sheets. 

soft cookie dough on a parchment lined cookie sheet

Cover the dough with another sheet of parchment paper and roll it out to 1/4-1/2 inches thick. 

Rolling out cookie dough on a baking sheet

Remove the top sheet of parchment paper.

rolled out cookie dough on a cookie sheet

Cut out cookies with a 2-3 inch cookie cutter.

cut out cookies on a cookie sheetPlace the cookie dough rounds on the other parchment-lined cookie sheet. Sprinkle with raw cane sugar, if desired. 

Bake for 14-18 minutes or until the edges are golden brown. 

Baked Cookies ready to eat!


Check Out More Of My Recipes Below! Just click the link to get the recipe. 

Yield: 20-24 cookies

Lemon Basil Shortbread Cookies

close up photo of lemon basil shortbread cookies surrounded by sliced lemons and fresh basil

Experience the perfect balance of sweet and savory with these Lemon Basil Shortbread Cookies, a delicious twist on the classic recipe.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 18 minutes
Additional Time 15 minutes
Total Time 48 minutes


  • ¾ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon zest
  • 2 teaspoons fresh basil, minced
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, frozen
  • 2-3 Tablespoons water
  • Raw cane sugar, optional garnish


  1. Preheat oven to 325º Fahrenheit and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. 
  2. In a large mixing bowl, with a hand or stand mixer, beat together the powdered sugar, lemon zest, and minced basil for 1-2 minutes until the sugar is fragrant. 
  3. Whisk in the all-purpose flour until well combined. 
  4. Grate the frozen butter into the bowl using a cheese grater and then beat together well. 
  5. Gradually beat in the water, 1 Tablespoon at a time, with a dough hook until a soft dough forms. If you don't have a dough hook, you can use a beater instead.
  6. Turn the dough out onto one of the prepared cookie sheets and cover it with another piece of parchment paper.
  7. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough out to ¼-½ inch thick. 
  8. Cut out cookie shapes with a 2-3 inch cookie cutter from the rolled dough and place them on the second prepared cookie sheet about 1 ½ inches apart. 
  9. Sprinkle each cookie lightly with raw cane sugar, optional, and then bake for 14-18 minutes or until the edges are golden brown. 
  10. Cool for 5-7 minutes before moving to a cooling rack. Cool completely before serving. 


  • If the dough begins to stick to the parchment paper or cookie cutter, you can either chill it for 15-30 minutes or use powdered sugar or flour on the cutter between uses. 
  • Avoid handling the dough too much, or the butter will begin to warm, and your cookies may spread when baking. 
  • If your dough has warmed up while you were making it, chill it for 15-30 minutes before baking for the best results.

Nutrition Information



Serving Size


Amount Per Serving Calories 56Total Fat 1gSaturated Fat 0gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 0gCholesterol 1mgSodium 4mgCarbohydrates 12gFiber 0gSugar 4gProtein 1g

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