Not Just for Cornbread: The Best Lemon Cornmeal Cookies

It’s the little things in life that make getting up in the early morning hours on a long work day worth it.

To me, there’s just one thing that really motivates me throughout the day, and brings true joy when break time arrives, or when I finally return home:


Lemon cornmeal cookies in a short stack and scattered on a wire cooling rack, on a brown wood surface with an aqua background, printed with white and orange text.

I have the biggest sweet tooth of anyone I know. While just about everyone enjoys sweets, I obsess over them. I swoon over them. I dream about them and I crave them multiple times a day.

It doesn’t matter what it is, I will eat it and lick the plate clean.

The truth is, if I could live off of sugar, I would melt into that bliss readily.

Round beige cookies on a black slate background with scattered lemon zest.

As the seasons change, I start getting excited about the new desserts and old favorites that reappear each year with seasonal flavors. And right now, it’s all about the citrus.

Even though citrus season is technically in the winter, summertime brings lemonade and spritzers and fresh dressed salads to mind. And don’t forget the cocktails, popsicles, and sorbet!

A stack of beige butter cookies is in the foreground, with more scattered and stacked in the background, on a black slate surface with scattered citrus zest, and two whole lemons on a folded piece of burlap in the background.

Lemons bring delicious flavor to a variety of desserts and other dishes, but I think these cookies really feature that flavor in the best way possible. And there is a stunning lightness to the cookie itself, which makes it ideal for pairing with tea or coffee.

Every time I think about pairing dessert with a hot, caffeinated beverage, I remember the time that I got to spend in Switzerland, visiting friends who had lived there for years.

Every afternoon around 2 or 3 o’clock, it was their tradition to sit down with a steaming cup and a slice of cake, a cookie, or another confection.

Top-down shot of informally arranged butter cookies with scattered lemon slices and zest on a black slate background.

I, of course, took part in this lovely tradition every single day I was there. Can you blame me? It’s sweets and caffeine! Enough said.

Then I brought it back home with me. I mean, it’s all about educating people about other cultures, isn’t it?

This particular sweet would be absolutely perfect for that afternoon coffee or tea break.

A woman's hand with a pale purple manicured thumb nail holds a cookie with a bite taken out of it up to the camera, with more of the baked goods piled and scattered in shallow focus in the background, on a black piece of slate with lemon slices and zest.

The lemon flavor is present in each bite, but it is subtle enough not to overpower whatever you are drinking to go along with it. The texture and overall flavor really reminds me of shortbread.

These butter cookies are flavored with lemon zest and juice, and even more crunch is added with the addition of our secret ingredient: cornmeal.

I know you might be thinking that it’s weird to add cornmeal to a cookie. Shouldn’t it be just for casseroles and breads?

Honestly, I thought it might be a little weird too, but it’s actually a delightful combination. The heartiness of the cornmeal brings an added richness to the flavor party that you wouldn’t expect just looking at these.

Yet, it’s still not a heavy or super rich sweet to eat. That makes it the ideal recipe to break out specifically during the warmer months of the year.

Lemon cookies are arranged on a white ceramic pedestal serving platter, with sliced yellow citrus on a wood surface, with an aqua background.

Not only are lemons available in abundance at most grocery stores, the brightness of the dessert makes it a tart and sweet ending to any meal, or even a great snack to put out for all those bridal showers, baby showers, and other fun, festive gatherings you have coming up.

It’s also a fantastic recipe to bring to picnics in the park, or backyard barbecues to wow a crowd.

With a recipe that’s so sweet and simple to make, there’s no reason to put off baking these.

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Lemon cornmeal cookies are arranged haphazardly in short stacks on a wire rack, on a brown background.

Lemon Cornmeal Cookies

  • Author: Shanna Mallon
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 24 cookies 1x


You need to try our lemon cornmeal cookies ASAP. These crisp citrus-infused biscuits taste like shortbread, with a burst of tart flavor.


  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
  • Pinch of salt
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (1 1/2 sticks)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon


  1. Prepare two baking sheets by lining them with parchment paper or silicone mats.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, lemon zest and salt.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the butter, sugar, and egg. Stir with the paddle attachment on medium speed until fully mixed. Stir in the lemon juice.
  4. Gradually add the dry ingredients until just combined, mixing fully between additions.
  5. Roll dough into about two dozen balls, using approximately 1 ½ tablespoons of dough for each. Place on the prepared baking sheets, spacing them 2 inches apart. Press down on the top of each ball of dough to flatten it into a 3/4-inch-thick disc.
  6. Freeze the dough on the prepared sheet pans for 15 minutes. While the dough is chilling, preheat oven to 350°F.
  7. Bake until very lightly browned around the edges, about 20-25 minutes. Transfer to racks to cool completely. Cookies may be stored for 3-5 days in an airtight container.
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Category: Cookies
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: Dessert

Keywords: lemon, cornmeal, cookies, butter cookies, dessert

Cooking By the Numbers…

Step 1 – Soften Butter, Zest and Juice Citrus, and Measure Ingredients

To soften the butter quickly, especially if you store yours in the freezer, the easiest thing to do is microwave it.

The key is to make sure it does not melt completely, so set your microwave to 30% power (defrost), remove the paper and place in a microwave-safe bowl, and thaw for 15 seconds.

Check the softness and repeat as necessary. Keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t melt.

A large stainless steel bowl is in the background of this top-down image, with a small square glass dish of lemon zest, a measuring cup of sugar, one full and one sliced stick of butter, and a brown egg, on a striped brown wood background.

Wash your citrus well and use a microplane or fine zester to remove 1 tablespoon of peel. This took two small lemons for me. Juice one half of a lemon (to get about 1 tablespoon of juice) and remove any seeds.

Measure out the remaining ingredients and set aside, so they will be ready to go when you need them.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.

Step 2 – Make Dough

First, combine the dry ingredients.

Top-down shot of a stainless steel bowl of yellow cornmeal, flour, and citrus zest, on a brown wood countertop.

Whisk together the flour, cornmeal, lemon zest, and salt in a small bowl.

A silver wire whisk is stirring a dry flour mixture in a stainless steel mixing bowl, on a wood countertop.

Place the softened butter, sugar, and egg in the bowl of a stand mixer.

Whole and partial sticks of butter are in the bottom of a stainless steel mixing bowl with a raw egg without the shell, and white sugar.

Beat until fully combined, using the paddle attachment on medium speed.

A thick yellow mixture that has just been beaten with an electric mixer is in the bottom of a stainless steel bowl.

Slowly add the dry ingredients to the stand mixer, mixing almost fully between each addition, until just combined.

Thick yellow dough in a stainless steel bowl.

At this point, you’ll have a firm, pale yellow dough.

Step 3 – Shape and Chill Dough

Now, it’s time to shape the dough. Using your hands, roll it into balls of equal size, using approximately 1 ½ tablespoons of dough for each ball.

Balls of cornmeal butter cookie dough are arranged in rows on a brown and orange Silpat liner on top of a metal sheet pan.

Place on the baking sheets, spacing them 2 inches apart. Press the dough balls down, flattening them into 3/4-inch thick discs. You can use your clean hands or the bottom of a glass for this.

Flattened balls of beige cookie dough, arranged in rows on a Silpat pan liner on top of a sheet pan.

Try applying a little cooking spray or getting your pressing implement just a little wet if the dough sticks.

Place your baking sheets in the freezer and chill the shaped dough for 15 minutes.

Step 4 – Bake

While the dough chills, you can preheat your oven to 350°F.

Round, pale off-white cookies with cracked edges on a silicone Silpat liner, arranged in rows.

Place in the oven and bake until the edges are lightly browned, approximately 20-25 minutes. If you don’t have room for both sheet pans to fit side by side on the middle rack, you can rotate them halfway through baking, or bake in batches.

Four rows of just-baked cookies cooling on a wire rack.

Don’t overbake, and remove from the oven immediately. You don’t want burnt bottoms!

Using a spatula, transfer to wire cooling racks to cool completely.

Why You Should Always Use Fresh Lemons

It may be tempting to use the lemon juice that you can get in a bottle at the store instead of taking the extra couple of seconds required to squeeze the juice yourself out of the fruit.

However, while that juice might be handy for quick cocktails or making a big batch of lemonade, these cookies are best when they’re made with the fresh ingredient. Not only does the bottled kind contain additives and preservatives, it lacks the fresh punch of flavor that you’ll experience if you use the real thing.

Lemon cornmeal cookies are arranged haphazardly in short stacks on a wire rack, on a brown background.

Since lemon juice and zest contain different compounds (lemon oil is only found in the zest) both flavor additives have a big role to play that affects the flavor of the final product, which stands out in contrast to the sweet, buttery taste of the dough.

The fresher the juice, the more the flavor the recipe will have. It’s as simple as that.

You may be left with half a lemon’s worth of juice, and maybe an extra naked lemon, but there are lots of other ways to use those up, and you can keep them in the fridge for a little while until you’re ready.

Do you love cookies? Then check out more of our very best recipes with these tasty selections:

What is your favorite way to feature fresh lemon in your cooking? Tell us in the comments below and be sure to rate this dessert when you try it.

Photos by Meghan Yager, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published by Shanna Mallon on November 4, 2008. Last updated: October 25, 2020 at 1:41 am. With additional writing and editing by Allison Sidhu.

Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.

About Meghan Yager

Meghan Yager is a food addict turned food and travel writer with a love for creating uncomplicated, gourmet recipes and devouring anything the world serves up. As the author of the food and travel blog Cake 'n Knife, Meghan focuses on unique foodie experiences from around the world to right at home in your own kitchen.

8 thoughts on “Not Just for Cornbread: The Best Lemon Cornmeal Cookies”

  1. Yay! I finally tried the cornmeal cookies tonight with one of my friends. They’re good. If only we’d waited to drink coffee with them. Yum.

  2. Mmmm, so delicious. The lemon flavor was perfect and the texture was dense yet soft. I love this recipe. I will be making these again and again. Thank you!!

  3. It would have been nice if the recipe was at the top of the page. There was a lot of mumbo jumbo to read through to get to a simple recipe.


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