Lemon Curd Cookies are soft, gooey lemon cookies filled with a homemade sweet and tart lemon curd. The cookies do not require any chilling. They are super lemony and great for a spring or summer treat.
I make the cookies with 2 teaspoons of lemon extract, which can be found at a regular grocery store, and half a package of cream cheese. The cream cheese helps to make the cookies gooey and rich. The lemon curd is made with the zest and juice of two lemons, for layers of lemon flavor in every cookie.
Gooey Lemon Curd Cookies
With half a package of cream cheese and a stick of butter, along with a single egg yolk, these cookies are very rich. Instead of adding lemon zest or lemon juice to the cookie dough, I opted to simply add 2 teaspoons of lemon extract.
Lemon Extract vs. Lemon Juice or Zest
I have made a ton of different lemon cookies over the years to try to get the right balance of lemon while still maintaining soft and gooey cookies. Once you start adding lemon juice to the cookie dough it’s hard to keep the right consistency in the dough. The dough becomes too soft and “watered down”. This requires you to compensate with extra flour which throws off the balance of wet to dry ingredients.
I have tried a many variations using lemon juice and lemon zest to avoid or limit using lemon extract. In the end, I determined that the best way to get the right cookie is to add lemon extract.
You could absolutely add fresh lemon zest to the dough which would add to the lemon flavor, but you’d have to add a lot to get that really lemony taste. And because you are already making lemon curd from scratch, skipping the zest in the cookies is a nice corner to cut to simplify the steps involved in this dessert.
This recipe calls for only 1 egg yolk in the cookies, rather than a whole egg. Skipping the egg white prevents the cookies from being too poofy and lends extra richness from the yolk to the cookies.
In the Lemon curd, I use three egg yolks. Adding more than three egg yolks results in a lemon curd that tastes more like egg and less like lemon. Egg yolks are very rich, and can quickly overpower other flavors.
Based on an episode of From the Source on Discovery+, I’ve learned that when buying eggs, choose eggs that are pasture raised. The chickens that lay these eggs have open access to pasture (grass) rather than being raised in small cages or in small indoor spaces or with limited outdoor space. Pasture raised eggs are definitely more expensive, but the difference is quite noticeable. Something I try to keep in mind for baking but especially for non-baking recipes.
Lemon curd is made up of egg yolks, lemon juice, lemon zest, sugar, and salt. The egg yolks are kept in a separate bowl while the lemon juice, lemon zest, sugar, and salt are whisked together in a small sauce pan until simmering.
Then add half of the lemon juice mixture to the egg yolks while stirring constantly. This tempers the egg yolks preventing them from curdling and turning into scrambled eggs. The now egg yolk-lemon juice mixture is added back to the saucepan and whisked until it is thickened, about 3-6 minutes, but it may be less depending on your stove and pan. Lastly, press the curd through a fine mesh strainer for a smoother looking curd.
Shaping the Lemon Curd Cookies
To bake the Lemon Curd Cookies, shape them into a ball with approximately 2 tablespoons worth of dough. Roll the cookie dough into a circle in between the palms of your hands. Then place on the baking sheet.
Wait to create an indentation in the cookies until after they have baked. If you make the indentation beforehand the cookies will change shape as they bake in the oven and you will not get a nice round indentation in the center. Wait until after they come out of the oven, but are still very warm. Use the rounded bottom of a 1 tsp measuring spoon, or the handle end of a whisk or other baking tool to press a round indentation into the center of the cookie.
I do not recommend using your fingers. You’ll need to make the indentation when the cookies are hot out of the oven, and you don’t want to burn your hands.
Then wait until the cookies are fully cooled before moving them to a plate or cooling rack. They are very soft cookies and moving them too quickly will cause them to become misshapen.
These cookies are baked at 325℉, which is slightly lower than the more typical 350℉. This helps to create an extra gooey soft cookie and prevents browning.
Lemon Curd vs. Lemon Filling
Lemon curd is sharper and more tart than lemon filling. It is only made with eggs, lemon zest, lemon juice, and sugar (and I added a pinch of salt). Lemon filing, however, can include cornstarch and water. Lemon filling is also creamier and can be eaten on its own, whereas curd is typically added to another dessert, such as cookies, or the filling of a layer cake.
Below is a photo of lemon curd vs. lemon filling. The brighter yellow curd is on the top, and the softer creamier lemon filling is on the bottom. You can make these cookies with either lemon curd or lemon filling. Both will taste great. I have included the recipe for curd below. However, if you're looking for the recipe for lemon filling you can find it in this lemon pie recipe here.
Lemon Curd Cookie FAQs:
Yes, Lemon Curd cookies need to be refrigerated. Store any leftover cookies or curd in the fridge.
Lemon curd won’t thicken if it hasn’t cooked down long enough on the stove to remove excess water content from the lemon juice. Cook the curd until it coats the back of the spoon and drips off the spoon slowly. It will continue to thicken as it cools to room temperature.
Cook the lemon curd on medium heat. Somewhere in the range of 4-5 on a scale of 10 on the stovetop. If you’re nervous about curdling the eggs, you can reduce the temperature and stir for longer until the excess water cooks off resulting in a thicker curd.
Store lemon curd cookies in the fridge in a single layer so as to not smash the lemon curd filling in the cookie.
The lemon curd is done when it coats the back of a spoon and the drips off the spoon start to slow down (i.e. doesn’t just run off the spoon like water).
If you're interested in more lemon desserts you may love these:
Lemon Pie without Meringue: Buttery shortbread crust filled with a tangy, fresh lemon filling, skipping the lemon meringue altogether.
Blueberry Lemon Cookies: A sweet simple cookie filled with blueberries and tangy lemon flavor.
Raspberry Lemon Loaf: the BEST loaf cake, super sweet, lemony throughout and studded with fresh raspberries.
If you make these lemon curd cookies, I'd love to hear from you and learn how it went. Leave a comment down below and let me know how it turns out! Your feedback means a lot!
Lemon Curd Cookies
- 4 oz cream cheese, softened
- ½ cup butter, softened
- 1½ cups granulated sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tsp lemon extract
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
- 3 large egg yolks
- zest of 3 lemons
- ½ cup lemon juice, approximately 3 lemons
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ tsp salt
- Preheat the oven to 325℉.
- In a large bowl beat together the cream cheese, butter and granulated sugar. Add the salt, baking powder, vanilla extract, lemon extract and egg yolk and combine. Add the flour and beat to combine.
- Using approximately 2 tbsp worth of dough, shape the dough into round balls. Place on a baking sheet.
- Bake for 10 minutes.
- Upon removing from the oven create an indentation in the middle of each of the round cookies. If you have a round 1 tsp measuring spoon, use the back of this to make the indention. Otherwise, the rounded end of a cooking tool, like a whisk will do the trick. Allow to cool fully before moving to a drying rack to prevent misshapen cookies.
- In a medium bowl whisk the egg yolks.
- In a separate medium saucepan, whisk together the lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar, and salt. Place on medium heat and bring to a simmer.
- While whisking the egg yolks constantly, add the simmering lemon juice mixture to the egg yolks. Then add the egg yolk mixture back into the sauce pan and return to medium heat, whisking constantly for 3-5 minutes until thickened.Keep in mind that stovetop temperatures can be vary for any given temperature setting. The actual temperature and resulting impact on the food depends on the stove that you are using (gas vs electric), stovetop brand, size of the burner, size and thickness of the saucepan, etc. You may need to adjust the cooking time based on your kitchen setup.
- To create a smooth curd, strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer.
Assembling the Cookies
- Place the cooled lemon curd in a piping bag (or a gallon bag with the tip cut off) and fill the indentations of each cookie with lemon curd. You can also do this with two small spoons.
- Keep the cookies in a single layer (don’t stack on them top of each other) to prevent the lemon curd in the cookies from getting smashed.
- Store any leftover cookies in the refrigerator.