These soft and chewy lemon poppy seed cookies have the same bright and buttery flavor as their muffin counterparts! My recipe skips the extracts and artificial flavors and gets its flavor from 100% real lemons instead. Recipe includes a how-to video!
What’s to Love about these Lemon Poppy Seed Cookies
- Authentic flavor. My recipe uses 100% REAL lemons to get a fresh, tart, and real lemon flavor. That’s right, no extract, no pudding mixes, no emulsions, just the real-deal that you can actually taste.
- Quick & easy. The recipe is simple and straightforward with only 30 minutes of chilling required.
- Make ahead options. The dough can be made up to 3 days in advance.
- Impressive on any dessert table. With their bright lemon-yellow color (which, ahem, I’ll mention again is totally authentic and from the lemons — no food coloring!) and delicate poppyseed freckles, they’re so pretty and perfect for spring or summer!
There’s something delightfully unique about the combo of bright lemon flavor and crisp poppy seeds. If you’ve enjoyed my lemon poppy seed muffins or scones, you’re in for a treat! Lemon poppy seed cookies have the same bright and sunny flavor, but in soft (really, really soft!) and chewy cookie form.
It was very important to me that these cookies have a beautiful lemon flavor without the need for extract or artificial flavors. Also important that they NOT be cakey. If you’ve followed my pumpkin cookie or banana cookie saga, you know that adding moisture (there in the form of pumpkin or banana, here in the form of lemon juice) can quickly turn a soft cookie into a cakey one.
I took some very deliberate steps with today’s recipe to ensure it had all the characteristics of a good, chewy cookie, starting with the ingredients.
What You Need
Since we aren’t using any fancy flavors or extracts here, you will likely have all of these ingredients on hand already. Don’t you love when that happens?!
- Softened butter. I use unsalted butter and add salt myself, but you can just use salted butter and skip the additional salt. I have an entire post on why I use unsalted butter vs. salted butter, in case you’d like to understand the reasoning behind that choice.
- Lemons. We will use fresh lemon zest and juice (fresh lemon juice is essential here!) for maximum lemon flavor. Always zest your lemons before juicing, and make sure you don’t zest so far that you reach the bitter white pith–we only want the thin yellow skin! I find I typically need about two lemons for this recipe. Make sure they’re fresh, not ones where the skin is thin and drying from sitting on your counter too long.
- Egg yolks. To reduce excess moisture in the dough, especially since we are adding lemon juice, I decided to skip the egg whites and use only egg yolks (which also felt like an appropriate nod toward lemon curd, which only uses egg yolks, too). This gives our cookies a gorgeous yellow color as well. You can save your egg whites for meringue cookies, pavlova, or macarons.
- Poppy seeds. An essential ingredient! Not only do poppy seeds add a nice crunch to these cookies, they add fun a visual element too. Some people like to soak their poppyseeds before baking, but I don’t find it necessary. I talk more about this below.
Now what you don’t need: vanilla extract! The omission of vanilla extract from this recipe was absolutely intentional. Unfortunately, it strongly subdued the fresh lemon flavor, ironically making the cookies more bland! While I’m personally a vanilla fan, we’ll skip it here.
SAM’S TIP: There are so many ways to zest a lemon, but my favorite method for this recipe is to use a microplane. Here’s a guide on how to zest a lemon with several different tools, in case you need a refresher!
Remember, this is just an overview of the ingredients I used and why. For the full recipe please scroll down to the bottom of the post!
How to Make Lemon Poppy Seed Cookies
We’ll start by beating a healthy amount of lemon zest into butter and sugar. This step brings out the oils of the lemon zest and emulsifies every bit of lemon flavor into the dough, just like in my lemon cookies. We’ll add a bit of fresh lemon juice too, just for good measure. And yes, it has to be freshly squeezed!
- Beat the butter, sugar, and lemon zest together until light and fluffy.
- Stir in the egg yolks and lemon juice until well combined.
- Whisk together the dry ingredients in a separate bowl.
- Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients until combined. Cover the dough with plastic and let it chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
- Scoop and roll the chilled dough into 1.5 Tablespoon balls. Place 2″ apart on parchment lined baking sheets and bake for 11-12 minutes at 350F.
- Let the cookies cool for at least 10 minutes before adding the glaze.
The cherry on top, this glaze is bursting with flavor. Don’t skip it!
- Whisk together the powdered sugar and lemon juice, starting with just 1 ½ tablespoons of juice. Add more if needed until you reach the right consistency; the ribbon of glaze that falls off your whisk should hold its shape for a few seconds before dissolving back into the rest of the glaze.
- Drizzle glaze over the cookies and let firm up before enjoying. If you’d like to sprinkle some additional poppy seeds over the glaze while it’s still wet, feel free!
SAM’S TIP: Stop baking your cookies when the edges are just starting to turn a light golden brown for soft and chewy results. The centers may still look a little underdone, but they will continue cooking on the baking sheet outside the oven.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes! This dough can be covered and chilled up to 3 days before baking, which means these cookies are great for making in advance! If you’d like to freeze the cookie dough instead, check out my post on how to freeze cookie dough.
Some people do this to bring out the flavor of the poppy seeds or to soften them since they can be difficult to digest, but I’ve never found it necessary. In fact, I like the crunch they provide!
I carefully designed this recipe to have a bright lemon flavor without the need for an extract or additional flavoring. You really shouldn’t need to add any lemon extract here, but if you are determined to, you can add up to one teaspoon.
These cookies would be so fun at a tea party or spring baby shower!
Let’s bake together! I’ll be walking you through all the steps in my written recipe and video below! If you try this recipe, be sure to tag me on Instagram, and you can also find me on YouTube and Facebook
Lemon Poppy Seed Cookies
- 1 cup (226 g) unsalted butter softened
- 1 ½ cups (300 g) granulated sugar
- 2 Tablespoons lemon zest
- 2 large egg yolks room temperature preferred
- 3 Tablespoons lemon juice fresh squeezed preferred
- 3 cups (375 g) all purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 ½ teaspoons poppy seeds
- 1 ¼ cups (160 g) powdered sugar
- 1 ½ – 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
- Combine butter, sugar, and lemon zest in a large mixing bowl and use an electric mixer to beat together until light and fluffy.1 cup (226 g) unsalted butter, 1 ½ cups (300 g) granulated sugar, 2 Tablespoons lemon zest
- Add egg yolks and lemon juice and stir until well-combined.2 large egg yolks, 3 Tablespoons lemon juice
- In a separate medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and poppy seeds.3 cups (375 g) all purpose flour, ½ teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon baking powder, ½ teaspoon salt, 2 ½ teaspoons poppy seeds
- Gradually add dry ingredients to wet and stir until completely combined.
- Cover cookie dough bowl with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes and up to 3 days.
- About 15 minutes before the dough has finished chilling, preheat oven to 350F (175C) and line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
- Once dough has finished chilling, scoop by level 1.5 Tablespoon-sized portions. Roll the dough between your palms so that you have a round ball, then place cookie dough at least 2” apart on prepared cookie sheet.
- Bake on 350F (175C) for 11-12 minutes or until edges are just beginning to turn light golden brown. Allow to cool for at least ten minutes before decorating with glaze.
- Whisk together powdered sugar with 1 ½ Tablespoons of lemon juice. Add more lemon juice as needed until you have a smooth glaze that ribbons off of your whisk and holds its shape for several seconds before dissolving into the bowl.1 ¼ cups (160 g) powdered sugar, 1 ½ – 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
- Drizzle glaze over cookies. Allow glaze to harden before serving.
LemonsWhen zesting lemons, be sure not to zest too deep! Once you reach the papery white layer (the “pith”) stop zesting. The pith is bitter and doesn’t have the fresh citrus flavor we want. Always zest your lemons before squeezing them.
StoringOnce glaze has hardened, store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered an estimate only. Actual nutritional content will vary based upon brands used, measuring methods, cooking method, portion sizes, and more.