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Martha's Favorite

Old-Fashioned Lemon Sugar Cookies

These large cookies have a classic lemony flavor, a chewy texture, and glistening, crackly tops created with a double sprinkling of sanding sugar.

  • Yield: Makes about 20 (3 1/2-inch) cookies
Old-Fashioned Lemon Sugar Cookies

Source: Martha Stewart Living, August 2005


  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest, plus 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, (2 sticks), softened
  • 2 large eggs
  • Sanding sugar, for sprinkling


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift flour, baking soda, and salt into a bowl; set aside.

  2. Put sugars and lemon zest in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed 30 seconds. Add butter; mix until pale and fluffy, about 1 minute. Mix in eggs, 1 at a time, and then the lemon juice. Reduce speed; gradually add flour mixture, and mix until just combined.

  3. Scoop dough using a 2-inch ice cream scoop; space cookies 2 inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Flatten cookies slightly with a spatula. Sprinkle tops with sanding sugar, then lightly brush with a wet pastry brush; sprinkle with more sanding sugar.

  4. Bake cookies until golden, about 15 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks for 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to racks using a spatula; let cool completely. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.

Reviews (68)

  • seaprincess112 4 Oct, 2014

    nice recipe gave a great result for my first successful cookies

  • -Mary- 3 Aug, 2014


  • 1Tink 3 Aug, 2014

    Great cookies. For those of you that leave out the lemon and zest, substitute baking powder for the baking soda.

  • LindaChef 55 15 Jun, 2014

    I'm wondering if the baking soda should have been baking powder. These cookies were very thin and flat. I'm replacing the soda for baking powder next time and see what happens.

  • limeyg 9 Oct, 2013

    Dangerously yummy, decadently rich, delightfully NEED to make these! My only complaint is the size/yield; with a 2-inch scoop I only got 16 MONSTER cookies. I would make them at least half the size next time (all the more to enjoy!). I also played a bit with the white/brown sugar ratio, but only to a negligible degree (also, I omitted the sugar topping, as these were plenty sweet and textural without). This is a store-away-pass-on-to-children sort of recipe.

  • Gingersnap 31 Jul, 2013

    This is a great recipe! I replaced the lemon ingredients with a little extra vanilla extract and enjoyed a delicious treat!

  • kcgogirl 18 Jun, 2013

    I have made these cookies many times and even got a blue ribbon at the county fair with this recipe. Everyone loves the cookies and they disappear fast!

  • 4145 11 Jun, 2013

    Best lemon cookie I have found so far...chewy, crispy, lemony, easy. I did change the topping, wanting to make the cookies more lemony instead of adding the sprinkled sugar. When the cookies were cool, I brushed the entire tops with a glaze of powdered sugar and lemon juice (medium thick). Wait for the tops to harden and store single layer between wax paper. This recipe is a keeper.

  • artisticgypsy 4 Mar, 2013

    I made these cookies and substituted lemon extract 1/4 tsp since I had no lemon. Hand rolled them into balls, put them on baking stone and flattened a bit. Didnt add any extra sugar or anything else. Baked them 12 minutes and they were delicious and perfect. Made 3 1/2 dozen.

  • remindme 8 Jan, 2013

    These cookies are great! I put less sugar on mine and we can't stop eating them.

  • IgnusClarum 7 Jul, 2012

    Easy and excellent! You will never buy sugar cookies from the store again.These chewy cookies have become something we crave every once in a while and only this recipe can deliver.

  • Andrea 6 Jul, 2012

    Made these today..turned out GREAT! I also substituted the lemon with vanilla and baking them for 14 minutes did make them turn out better. I let mine sit over night in the fridge and the dough was a little stiffer just had to let it warm up a bit.

  • J3ANA 2 Jun, 2012

    Tasty. I substituted lemon juice with vanilla extract and they came out great!

  • agd 17 Dec, 2011

    These were absolutely delicious! I made three different versions of them for three batches because I made small cookies. I made a vanilla bean version, spice version and lemon version. For the vanilla version, I omitted the zest and added one whole vanilla bean and these were a favourite. For the lemon version I doubled the zest and for the spice I added half the normal zest and one teaspoon of cinnamon and a pinch of nutmeg. Simply delicious, light, chewy and perfect!

  • momtoryan 14 Dec, 2011

    I can't wait to make these - but one question - can I put in fridge and roll out and make cut out cookies???

  • Murphylou 6 Dec, 2011

    When I made these, I used granulated sugar instead of sanding sugar, and I didn't do the wash and extra sanding sugar before baking. I did, however, make buttercream icing using fresh lemon juice and whipping cream and made sandwich cookies out of them ... a little messy, but well worth it!

  • cmj14 15 Sep, 2011

    Watched you make this cookie on your television show. When I saw the new apps and the gorgeous cookies I couldn't wait to make a batch! They were the BEST sugar cookies I or my family have ever tasted! Tried a test taste with a packaged mix and your "Old-Fashioned Sugar Cookies" recipe and hands down yours is by far the winner! I did try one thing different, instead of the sugar, I used strawberry frosting YUM! My Grandchildren think I'm the best cookie maker! Thanks Martha:-)

  • MelvinP 21 Feb, 2011

    I just made these cookies this afternoon and everything went out great. My nephew just loved them. They?Ǭ

  • ZamoraDa 20 Dec, 2010

    I just finished cooking my first batch, and I must say: Boy, oh boy! They are extraordinarily soft with a slight crunchy top. One of my favorites ever by Martha. So excited to share them at work tomorrow!

  • minke 13 Dec, 2010

    So delicious! I will definitely be sharing these over the holidays! Thanks!

  • sistermarymartha 19 Nov, 2010

    I used a smaller scoop sized for 2 3/4 " diameter cookies. The cookies were thinner with crisp edges and chewy center. Also, produced a larger batch using smaller scoop. I will keep this and use again. I used hand mixer and it worked just fine.

  • rock63roll64 14 Nov, 2010


  • feedemwell 9 Nov, 2010

    I made these last week, they were fabulous! We gobbled them up quickly. They were chewy and subs needed. I gently flattened the tops prior to baking.Will certainly make these regularly!

  • SandyKnecht 9 Nov, 2010

    The M stands for margaine. I never use margarine. Butter - unsalted. If you used salted butter that my be why Iknowhuh' were too salty. I can't wait to try them. I wanted to read the comments first.

  • xoxotoe 5 Nov, 2010

    i want to use this sugar cookie recipe to put my favorite candy in-- Ritter Sport white chocolate w/rice crispies

  • chelseavh 23 Oct, 2010

    perfect! mine are way thicker than the photo but they are superb! Great recipe!

  • cupcake101 3 Jul, 2010

    I'm not an expert at cookies (I'm more of a cupcake person) and so I am not really good at this. The first batch I put in the oven had too much butter and the cookies got runny. For the second batch, I added more flour (a bit too much I think but they are still in the oven). Theu have been baking for over 15 minutes and they are still uncooked at the bottom. I took the out and flattened them, and I am hoping for good results. If those don't work, I'm gonna try a splash of milk.

  • harrypotterfan123 30 Jun, 2010

    this is great! i am new and luv harry potter!

    martha can u please make a harry potter cake?

  • crushcakes 28 Jun, 2010

    there not very sweet

  • lisamaria 16 May, 2010

    Oh, I wanted to NOT overbake these. They are meant to be chewy. I really like the fact they they call for brown sugar in this recipe. It makes them even more chewy. Once again, an EXCELLENT recipe and cookie!

  • lisamaria 16 May, 2010

    Wow..MS has one other sugar cookie recipe that I really like, but I think this is my FAVORITE one to date. The first time I made them, I did everything as is, and yesterday I made them again and wanted only a SUBTLE lemon flavor, so I used only the zest and substituted a teaspoon of vanilla for the lemon juice. I love my cookies big, so I use a medium scooper. I also used rainbow sprinkles instead of sugar. I have both but like the jimmies better. LOVE these cookies!!!

  • 3311942 14 May, 2010

    My cookies really spread out! Used a small scoop but they came out the size of a saucer. Wasn't impressed by them.

  • lindaglasgow 21 Apr, 2010

    love these, what is sanding sugar?

  • mykele 3 Sep, 2009

    Forget it................never print it anyway

  • echild 3 Sep, 2009

    Sanding sugar is larger crystals than regular sugar.

  • MissBHavenRN 2 Sep, 2009

    2 sticks of butter is 8 ounces

  • NadiaO 2 Sep, 2009

    What is Sanding Sugar?

  • princessinapea 9 Jun, 2009

    Just made these cookies. They are very good:) I didn't have any lemon zest so I put Madagasgar Vanilla and they came out great.

  • missymcneer 12 Jan, 2009

    Sub 2 tablespoons of vanilla for the lemon. Very good. Better 24 hours after making them.

  • williaminoakland 10 Jan, 2009

    Just made a batch, and they are delicious! I bought my sanding sugar at Sur la Table

  • cathyxpiglet 10 Jan, 2009

    i also wanted to say that i made well over 20 cookies, more than twice the amount.

  • cathyxpiglet 10 Jan, 2009

    i just made these and they turned out great.
    not as crackly as the picture, i should have baked them longer.
    they taste delicious though (:
    i think it would work fine without lemon, and if you want to substitute it, maybe just put 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract. something like that.

  • jniffer20 23 Dec, 2008

    I made these last week and used granulated suger. Turned out fine.

  • megobucks21 23 Dec, 2008

    I am trying to make these cookies but do not have sanding it ok to just use granulted?? for the top

  • meadow1ark 22 Dec, 2008

    My son is allergic to lemon. Have you tried this recipe without the lemon, or maybe substituted something else?

  • julialovesmartha 25 Nov, 2008

    I have made these cookies many times over with fantastic results. My one challenge is that no matter how small I seem to scoop them they always come out HUGE! But I've had nothing but compliments on this recipe-it's wonderful and fun to make!

  • Lovecarrotcake 19 Oct, 2008

    I think the lemon zest and lemon juice give this cookie that extra touch. I brought these to work for a halloween celebration and they ate those bad boys up like they have not eaten in days. This a definite favorite of mine. I love sugar cookies and the sanding sugar which you can find a michaels is what makes the cookie special as well.

  • Sonadora 17 Oct, 2008

    M for margarine??

  • melpomeni 2 Oct, 2008

    I want to make these cookies for my son, but I too would like to omit the lemon juice and zest. Can anyone tell me what M stands for.

  • Catholicmom 8 Aug, 2008

    I didn't add the lemon juice or zest and instead added 2 teaspoons of vanilla. Then I added two cups of M

  • Catholicmom 8 Aug, 2008

    I switched the lemon juice and zest for two teaspoons of vanilla, then added two cups of m

  • lilysnana55 23 Jun, 2008

    These were just right for hot summer day-the lemon is so refreshing and they contrast of the inner chewiness with the outer crunch was great. My husband really loved them. I took them out of the oven at between 13-14 minutes. 15 minutes was just a little too long and the chewiness disappeared. They stored nicely but I can't vouch for 3 days; the half batch I made didn't last that long!

  • lilysnana55 23 Jun, 2008

    These were just right for hot summer day-the lemon is so refreshing and they contrast of the inner chewiness with the outer crunch was great. My husband really loved them. I took them out of the oven at between 13-14 minutes. 15 minutes was just a little too long and the chewiness disappeared. They stored nicely but I can't vouch for 3 days; the half batch I made didn't last that long!

  • monicajohnson 3 Apr, 2008

    even if you skip the lemon, these are easily the best sugar cookies I've ever had.

  • amystaks 2 Apr, 2008

    These were easy and delicious.

  • mollieduke 1 Apr, 2008

    After a wind storm blew all the lemons down from our tree, we've been baking many lemon recipes. This recipe is one of the best. They are great for after school snacks! They will become a mainstay in our home.

  • Brendaindallas 28 Mar, 2008

    My 12 year old granddaughter and I made these delicious cookies during her spring break. They disappeared so quickly. We added the sprinkling of raw sugar at the end. It really adds a great crunch. We will make them again.

  • grampati 28 Mar, 2008

    When my dad was in the army during WWII, I used to bake lemon sugar cookies to send to him. They were his favorite cookies. I was so proud to bake and pack and take the packages to the post office. I was twelve, and it was a really big deal. I lost track of the recipe and am so happy to find it again. Thank you!!

  • michellelee 23 Mar, 2008

    I baked these cookies for Easter and they are simply divine. They have crispy edges and wonderful chewy centres. Will continue baking these cookies every year as an Easter tradition!

  • nildarcook 16 Mar, 2008

    I made these with four young girls and we had so much fun! They were the prefiect beginner cookie lesson. The girls were surprised by the lemon addition and they turned out delish!! I love the second sugar sprinkle and the combination of crisp and chewy. Even though my all-time favorite sugar cookie is more cakelike. BTW the new COOKIE book by MS is fabulous!!!

  • shadyjess 26 Feb, 2008

    I thought these were good, but not the best I have ever had. I think they are best if not cooked the entire 15 minutes...they are much better taken out of the oven a little early. The get crispy on the outside as they cool, so if you don't want a super crispy cookie TAKE THEM OUT A LITTLE EARLY. I don't like my cookies that crispy.

  • ealasaid9 13 Feb, 2008

    I substituted orange zest for lack of lemons, they turned out fantastic!

  • iknowhuh 31 Jan, 2008

    I did not care for these at first but this morning they tasted better with my coffee. They almost had a too salty or too buttery taste. My grandma thinks it could be because we used Meyer lemons off her tree. They are delicious with coffee though. The texture of the cookie seems great for snickedoodles so next time I think I will modify the recipe for that.

  • mamabera 28 Jan, 2008

    My family LOVES these cookies! I found this recipe when it was a cookie of the month in a MS magazine a few years ago, and have made it ever since. I always use is as the "crust" to my fruit pizzas now too. so gooood!

  • snowwhite51 27 Jan, 2008

    These cookies are fabulous. I made them with whole wheat pastry flour and reduced the white sugar a bit -- very good with coffee in the morning!

  • karolynca 19 Jan, 2008

    I did the same recipe but changing the lemon for orange zest and juice and the result was excellent as well.

  • tinkerbell11 6 Jan, 2008

    This recipe is just so yummy! The small hint of lemon is so addictive and the sugary, sparkly tops are so very gorgeous. Definitely a must-try for those of you that haven't made them already.

  • rosierui 29 Dec, 2007

    this recipe makes great cookies, love the mild lemon flavor.

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