Lemon Thumbprint Cookies

Filled with lemon curd and topped with lemon glaze, these triple lemon thumbprint cookies are surprisingly quick and easy – but seriously delicious! The perfectly sweet tart citrus treat for all the lemon lovers in your life.

lemon thumbprint cookies covered in lemon glaze on a white marble counter with lemon curd and a blue dessert plateThis post may include affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn a fee from qualifying purchases.

Every year, my friend Erin at The Speckled Palate hosts The Sweetest Season Cookie Exchange – a week full of all sorts of amazing cookie recipes.  I’m excited to participate once again this year with a super lemon-y take on a classic cookie: a triple lemon thumbprint cookie!

For previous years, I’ve shared chewy chocolate mint cookies, toffee crunch cookies, black and white cookies, and chocolate pinwheel cookies for the Sweetest Season.  And all those cookies are delicious.  But some of them are also a little (or a lot) time consuming.  (I’m looking at you, black and white cookies and pinwheel cookies.)

This year, with everyone sick over Thanksgiving, and hosting Thanksgiving, and starting a new job (don’t worry, still a scientist – Bunsen Burner Bakery is still an appropriate blog name!), I just didn’t have the time for a long, involved cookie recipe.

Thumbprint cookies are the perfect short-on-time recipe!  Chilling dough?  Nope!  Complicated recipe?  No way!  Lots of cooling and glazing steps?  Not a chance.

Usually thumbprint cookies use jam, but if you’re a regular Bunsen Burner Bakery reader, you know lemon is my absolute all time favorite dessert flavor.  So we’re filling these with lemon curd.  And because a little lemon is good, but lots of lemon is better, we’re making these triple lemon!

Lemon zest in the cookie dough.  Lemon curd for filling.  And lemon glaze on top.

And the whole recipe is fast enough that I made them, start to finish, including photographing them, on a weeknight after work after putting my kids to bed.

If that’s not a winning cookie recipe for all your holiday parties, gatherings, and cookie exchanges, I just don’t know what is.

lemon thumbprint cookies filled with lemon curd in rows alternating between plain and covered with squiggles of lemon glaze

What are Thumbprint Cookies?

Thumbprint cookies combine a classic shortbread cookie dough with a jam filling (although in this case, we’re using lemon curd).  Shortbread has a higher butter and flour ratio and lower sugar compared to many cookies (usually 1:2:3 ratio of sugar to butter to flour), meaning the cookies themselves aren’t super sweet — making them a welcome addition to cookie trays and dessert tables loaded with lots of sweet options!

Unlike traditional shortbread, however, thumbprint cookies include egg yolk.  Why?  It’s time for my favorite subject… kitchen chemistry.

Kitchen Chemistry

In baking, egg yolk adds both richness and acts as a binding agent, adding additional moisture to the dough which aids in holding the ingredients together.  Traditional shortbread is very crumbly and the addition of a single egg yolk adds enough protein and moisture to allow us to roll our dough into smooth balls.

balls of dough on a cookie sheet with a thumb gently pushing into the center of the ball to make a well to fill with lemon curd

Ingredients for Thumbprint Cookies

To make our lemon thumbprint cookies, we’ll need all the standard ingredients for shortbread, egg yolk, plus everything for our lemon filling.  I use homemade lemon curd, which only takes 5 ingredients and 15 minutes to make…. but you can use store-bought if you want to make these cookies even easier!

  • butter
  • granulated sugar
  • brown sugar (either light or dark – adding half brown sugar keeps the cookies nice and soft!)
  • egg yolk
  • vanilla extract
  • lemon zest
  • flour
  • cornstarch
  • salt
  • lemon curd
  • confectioners sugar
  • lemon juice (fresh squeezed or bottled)

just baked lemon thumbprint cookies filled with lemon curd on a cookie sheet just golden brown with the lemon curd melted and smooth

How to Make Lemon Thumbprint Cookies

Making these cookies is so easy!  The dough comes together easily using a mixer (stand mixer or a hand mixer) – but because there is no liquid other than the egg yolk and vanilla extract, it’s very crumbly.  Make sure to keep scraping down the side of the bowl to incorporate all the ingredients.

Use a cookie scoop or a tablespoon to scoop up dough a roll it into a ball.  There is no need to chill the dough.  The dough is stiff enough to roll into balls easily, and will not be sticky.  Continue to roll into a ball until it’s perfectly smooth and soft.

Use your thumb (or a small round object) to press and indentation into each ball of dough and fill with approximately 3/4 teaspoon of lemon curd.  Some recipes suggest filling with jam after baking, but I always like to fill first.  This allows the curd (or jam) to fill to spread the indentation fully, and helps it set a bit so the cookies can be stacked on top of each other once cooled.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the cookies are set and the bottoms just start to turn golden.  Cool completely on the cookie sheet, then drizzle with a lemon glaze. 

lemon thumbprint cookies on a cookie sheet alternating rows between plain and covered with lemon glaze

How to Store Lemon Thumbprint Cookies

Lemon thumbprint cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

They can also be made ahead of time and frozen for up to 3 months.  Remove from the freezer and allow to sit at room temperature for 2 hours before serving.

a lemon thumbprint cookie with a large bite taken out of it leaning against a blue dessert plate with a pile of cookies on the plate

Tips and Tricks for The Best Lemon Thumbprint Cookies

  1. Scrape down the side of the bowl frequently while mixing the dough.  Because there’s very little liquid in the dough, the dough is very dry and crumbly; scraping down is necessary to ensure all ingredients are well mixed.
  2. The dough can be made ahead of time if desired.  Dough can be made, wrapped in plastic wrap, and refrigerated for up to 48 hours before baking cookies.  Bring to room temperature and knead a few times to soften before continuing with rolling into balls and filling with lemon curd.
  3. There is enough flour in this recipe that these cookies will not spread significantly while baking, so there is no need to refrigerate the dough before baking.
  4. To keep cookies similar sized, use a 1 tablespoon cookie scoop.  This will keep cookies looking visually similar and ensure all cookies will take the same amount of time to bake.
  5. Roll the balls well until the dough is smooth and soft — the softer and smoother the dough, the less likely the thumbprint cookies are to crack while baking!

More Cookie Recipes:

Lemon Thumbprint Cookies

Lemon Thumbprint Cookies

Yield: 30 Cookies
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Bake Time: 10 minutes
Cooling Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 25 minutes

Filled with lemon curd and topped with lemon glaze, these triple lemon thumbprint cookies are surprisingly quick and easy – but seriously delicious!

Ingredients

For the Cookies:

  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg yolk, large
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup lemon curd

For the Glaze:

  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 °F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or baking mats.
  2. Make the dough. Using a mixer, beat butter until smooth and cream. Add granulated and brown sugar and beat on medium high speed for 1 minute, until sugar and butter are well combined. Add the egg yolk, vanilla extract, and lemon zest and beat for an additional 30 seconds.
  3. Add the flour, cornstarch, and salt, scraping down the sides of the bowl frequently and continuing to mix until the dough comes together. The dough will be crumbly; this is normal.
  4. Roll the dough. Scoop the dough into 1 tablespoon sized balls and roll until the dough is soft and smooth and there are no cracks in the dough. Place the ball on the prepared cookie sheet and gently press your thumb into the center of the ball, creating a well for the lemon curd. Repeat with the remaining dough.
  5. Fill the dough. Spoon the lemon curd into each thumbprint cookie, filling just to the top. The curd will smooth out as it heats and bakes.
  6. Bake the cookies. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the edges just begin to turn golden brown. Cool the cookies on the sheet, 10 to 20 minutes.
  7. Make the glaze. While the cookies cool, make the glaze. Combine all the glaze ingredients in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Add additional confectioners sugar for a thicker glaze or additional lemon juice for a thinner glaze. Scoop the glaze into a small sandwich bag, cut off the corner of the bag, and drizzle the glaze over the cookies. Allow the glaze to set for 40 minutes to 1 hour before eating the cookies.

Notes

  1. Dough can be made, wrapped in plastic wrap, and refrigerated for up to 48 hours before baking cookies.  Bring to room temperature and knead a few times to soften before continuing with rolling into balls and filling with lemon curd.
  2. There is enough flour in this recipe that these cookies will not spread significantly while baking, so there is no need to refrigerate the dough before baking.
  3. Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 30 Serving Size: 1 cookie
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 136 Total Fat: 6.6g Carbohydrates: 18.2g Protein: 1.3g
Lemon Thumbprint Cookies: Filled with lemon curd, topped with lemon glaze, and baked with lemon zest, these triple lemon thumbprint cookies are surprisingly quick and easy - but seriously delicious! #bunsenburnerbakery #thumbprintcookies #cookies #lemon #lemoncurd