chewy lemon sugar cookies

if you're lucky enough to know my husband, then you know he's a sucker for anything lemon. lemon tarts. lemon curd. lemon cake. even his favorite adult beverage is lemon! so it's surprising that it's taken me this long to make lemon cookies.

the thing is, my oven is finicky. it's old. and small (so much so that we call it the 'easy bake'). and the few times i have tried to make sugar cookies before they did not end so well. usually they bake unevenly, puff up or turn into flat crunchy pancakes. so i was skeptical. so much so, that i consulted not only cook's illustrated, but baking illustrated. and of course, they both have recipes claiming to be the best. they also both have the backstory describing why the method used in the other recipe is no good. for example, cook's prefers a cookie with a variety of fats (butter + cream cheese + vegetable oil) while baking illustrated wants all butter. so i did what the cook's illustrated test kitchen would do: i made both recipes in two days.

the clear winner? cook's illustrated. first: they didn't turn into flat pancakes or puffy light cookies. second: not only are they chewy, but they stayed chewy. we have a few left - five days after i made them. sure, they're past their prime, but they aren't even close to dried up hard as a rock hockey pucks. and in all fairness, the baking illustrated cookies aren't hard as a rock either, but they have lost their chew!

chewy lemon sugar cookies
adapted from cook's illustrated, nov/dec 2010
1 hour, makes 24

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar, plus a few tablespoons for rolling
2 ounces cream cheese, cut into small cubes
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and warm
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  1. preheat your oven to 350F and line two sheet pans with parchment paper.
  2. in a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together. set aside.
  3. in a larger bowl, add the sugar and cream cheese. pour the melted butter over the cream cheese to soften slightly. whisk until there are only small lumps of cream cheese left (they will mix in later on and you'll never know they were there). whisk in the oil until smooth. then add the egg, milk, lemon zest, and lemon juice and mix until smooth.
  4. pour all of the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and use a rubber spatula or large spoon to mix together.
  5. put a couple tablespoons of sugar into the bottom of the dry ingredient bowl (which is now relatively clean). portion the dough into about a tablespoon and a half size portions. roll into balls and roll the balls into the sugar to coat. place the balls on the lined baking sheets, no closer than two inches apart.
  6. once all the dough has been portioned, use a glass with a flat bottom (or the bottom of a measuring cup) to slightly press on the balls just to flatten them. they should be about a half inch tall and two inches in diameter.
  7. bake for about 10 minutes or until just starting to brown. let cool on the sheet pan for five minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. store in an airtight container. 
2013.03.04 this is phemomenon's pick for the secret recipe club!


  1. Ahhh, citrus-y cookies that *keep* their chewiness. So sold. I've made so many "chewy" cookies that are just kinda dry the next day, so thanks for this!

  2. These look very tasty. I love lemon flavors!


  3. What a great idea to do the lemon with the recipe! This happens to be my favorite sugar cookie recipe ever. And the lime-coconut ones are really awesome, too, although I like to double the amount of lime zest to really taste it. Also LOVE the chai-spiced version - the spices are SO good. I love cook's illustrated recipes :) BTW, I love to taste test recipes, too, side by side, particularly from cook's illustrated or just among my own cookbooks, and it is so much fun! I do like the america's test kitchen older sugar cookie recipe as well, and even their light sugar cookie (both from the family cookbook) is good too. We liked the light one with lemon zest (it's a variation they put for both of those ATK recipes, but for some reason not in the CI article).


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