This lemon thyme shortbread is not only ridiculously easy to make, but it’s also crisp, buttery melt-in-your-mouth delicious!
If you’re in a pinch and you need a dessert that comes together in less than 10 minutes (hand-on time) this lemon thyme shortbread is a perfect choice. It’s also a little bit sophisticated, tastes like it comes from a fancy gourmet bakery and is one of those sweet treats that will bring rave reviews from young and old alike!
I mean what’s not to like about crisp, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth shortbread with lots of bright lemon flavor, a crunchy sugar topping and hints of fragrant, floral thyme in every bite?
While fresh thyme is frequently used in savory dishes like soups, stews, sauces and grilled meat, poultry and seafood, it also pairs beautifully with sweet ingredients. And to me, thyme combined with lemon and sugar is truly a match made in heaven!
This lemon thyme shortbread is a take-off on our Ridiculously Easy Rosemary Shortbread which is a (much easier) take-off on a New York Times Rosemary Shortbread recipe. I guess that makes this new rendition a stepsister of the New York Times recipe. But it’s definitely not a Cinderella-in-rags stepsister. In fact, I would have a difficult time picking a favorite of the two!
Why do I call this recipe Ridiculously Easy? Well, first of all, because it truly is that easy. All you do is combine nice soft butter with sugar, lemon zest, juice and flour. Stir it all together and transfer the shaggy dough to a cake pan. Then just press the dough evenly into the pan, sprinkle with coarse sugar and bake. Cut the dough into wedges when it comes out of the oven and you’re done! Well, except for enjoying every little crisp, sweet, buttery bite!
The other reason I call this lemon thyme shortbread “ridiculously easy” is because that’s actually a category of recipes here at The Café. You can see more of our recipes in the stream that runs across the top of this page or you can check them out here. There are strict guidelines that our Ridiculously Easy recipes have to include and you can read more about them in this post. My nutshell summary of our Ridiculously Easy recipes is that they are “recipes that make you look like a culinary rockstar with minimal effort on your part”. Definitely a win-win!
An easy and elegant dessert
While these lemon thyme shortbread cookies make a delicious sweet-treat snack, they’re also perfect for dessert. Serve them on a weeknight with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or dress them up for a dinner party served with that same ice cream and a drizzle of our fancy (but also ridiculously easy) Raspberry Coulis!
And if you think Raspberry Coulis sounds difficult, think again! We made a video to show just how very easy it is:
A delightful gift!
You might want to make a double batch of these lemon thyme shortbread cookies because there’s probably someone you know who would love to receive a deliciously sweet gift.
We’ve created a little gift label to make your gifts fun and attractive. You can wrap them in plastic wrap, give them in a cellophane gift bag or fancy things up a bit with the pretty (but super reasonable) white gift boxes shown below. (I love to have a stash of these gift boxes on hand as they’re perfect for almost any sweet treat from the kitchen.)
If you’d like a free printable PDF of these gift labels, just let us know in the comment section below. We’ll email them to you. All you have to do is click on the attached PDF. The PDF Reader on your computer will then open and you’ll be given the option to print them.
Go ahead and pin this recipe. I promise it will be an easy lifesaver when you need a sweet treat to satisfy a sweet tooth, serve something special for dessert or to brighten someone else’s day!
Cafe Tips for this Easy Lemon Thyme Shortbread
- Because this recipe is now a one-bowl, no-mixer recipe, it’s important that your butter is very soft. You can let it sit at room temperature for a few hours or employ one of these tricks:
- You can soften the butter in the microwave on power level 10%. It works like magic. You’ll need to experiment a bit with your microwave though, as they’re all different. Start with 1 minute. Add 20 to 30-second increments until you learn how long your microwave will take to get the butter nice and soft, but not melted.
- Another technique I often use to soften butter is to put it in the microwave for a few hours with the light on. To keep the light on in the microwave I put a folded paper towel in the door.
- Boil a cup of water in the microwave for 3-4 minutes and get things nice and steamy. Leave the water cup in the microwave, add the butter and close the door. The warmth from the steamy water will help to quickly soften the butter. Sometimes I will even put a kitchen towel or several thicknesses of paper towels in the door so it won’t completely close and the light will remain on. The warmth from the light will also help soften the butter.
- Cutting the butter into small pieces helps it soften quicker.
- Place the hard butter on a small plate. Fill a bowl with hot water. Wait 5 minutes then discard the water. Put the warm bowl over the butter.
- Put the butter in the oven with the light turned on. This will take a few hours.
- The fastest way to soften butter is to put cold butter in the microwave for 10 seconds. Turn it to the opposite side and microwave for another 10 seconds. It might be ready at this point, but if it’s not completely soft, add one or two more 5-second stints.
- There are several different varieties of fresh thyme that can be used for culinary purposes. The size and color of the leaves are different with the different species of thyme. If your thyme leaves are small, just leave them as is but if your fresh thyme has large leaves, place them on a cutting surface and roughly chop them.
- This shortbread on its own is not super sweet but the sugar topping adds the perfect touch of extra sweetness and a lovely crunch. You want to use a coarse sugar for the topping. It can be Demerara or Turbinado which is available at most grocery stores in the same section as the regular sugar. I really like this Extra Coarse Baking Sugar (also called sanding sugar) which is white instead of tan as the other coarse sugars.
- There are several pan options for making this shortbread and your choice will determine how thick the final shortbread is. I usually use a 9-inch cake pan but for a thicker cookie, an 8-inch pan is perfect. We love it both ways.
- I love the pre-cut parchment paper rounds for baking cakes and pan shortbread. They come in 8-inch and 9-inch sizes, save lots of time when baking and a package lasts forever (unless you’re a crazy cook like me, then they only last half of forever).
- I like to bake this lemon thyme shortbread on a sheet pan that is covered with a piece of foil. That way, if the sides of the shortbread seem to be getting brown before the top is nice and golden, I can easily pull up the foil around the sides of the pan.
Thought for the day:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
What we’re listening to for inspiration:
If you enjoyed this recipe, please come back and leave a star rating and review! It’s so helpful to other readers to hear your results, adaptations and ideas for variations.
This lemon thyme shortbread is not only ridiculously easy to make, it's also crisp, buttery melt-in-your-mouth delicious!
- 1 cup very soft butter I use salted
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- zest from one medium size lemon
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons sanding sugar Demerara, Turbinado or regular granulated sugar
- fresh thyme leaves for garnish, if desired.
Preheat oven to 325. Lightly grease (I use baking spray) and then line an 8 or 9-inch cake pan (round or square) with parchment paper. (See Café Tips above in post regarding size of the pan.) Line a sheet pan with foil. Set both pans aside.
Combine soft butter, sugar, lemon zest and juice and vanilla in a medium-large bowl. Stir for about 30 seconds until nice and creamy.
Add the flour, thyme leaves and salt. Stir just until all of the flour is incorporated. The dough will be crumbly. Press the dough firmly into the prepared pan to create an even surface. Be sure there are no loose crumbs around the edges of the pan. Sprinkle with the sugar.
Place the cake pan on top of the foil lined sheet pan. Bake for 35-45 minutes until the top is a nice golden brown. (The smaller your pan is, the thicker your shortbread will be and the longer it will take to bake.)
Invert the shortbread onto a flat plate. Place another plate on top and invert again so the sugared side is up.
Slide the shortbread onto a cutting board and sprinkle with a bit more sugar, if desired. With a long, sharp knife, cut it into wedges (or rectangles or squares if using a square pan). Transfer pieces to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.
If you prefer your shortbread crisper, place the cooling rack with the cut pieces on a sheet pan and return return to the oven for 5 minutes then cool completely on the rack.
Garnish when serving with a few more fresh thyme leaves, if desired.
See Café Tips above in the post for more detailed instructions and tips.
Serves 10-12, depending on the size of pieces.