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Lemon Poppy-Seed Cookies

Lemon lovers, rejoice -- these crisp, delicate cookies are made with lots of juice and zest for a delightful tang; poppy seeds add crunch.

  • Yield: Makes about 30
Lemon Poppy-Seed Cookies

Source: Martha Stewart Living, August Summer 2004


  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest (2 to 3 lemons)
  • 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds, plus more for sprinkling


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bring lemon juice to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat; cook until reduced by half. Add 1 stick butter; stir until melted.

  2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Cream remaining stick butter and 1 cup sugar on medium speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix in egg and lemon butter. Mix until pale, about 3 minutes. Mix in vanilla and 2 teaspoons zest. Mix in flour mixture and poppy seeds.

  3. Stir together remaining 1/2 cup sugar and 1 1/2 teaspoons zest. Roll spoonfuls of dough into 1 1/2-inch balls; roll them in sugar mixture. Place 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Press each with the flat end of a glass dipped in sugar mixture until 1/4 inch thick. Sprinkle with seeds.

  4. Bake until just browned around bottom edges, 10 to 11 minutes. Transfer to wire racks; let cool completely. Store in an airtight container up to 1 week.

Reviews (49)

  • Mary P 20 Apr, 2014

    Disaster! Did anyone at Martha Stewart actually make these cookies BEFORE publishing the recipe? I am a skilled baker and these cookies fell apart, couldn't get them off the cookie sheet in one piece. My instincts told me they were going to stick, but I like to follow recipes exactly the first time. I will never make these again and I will never use a Martha Stewart recipe again. Clearly there is no test kitchen.

  • ylo1 27 Mar, 2014

    I failed making these cookies. I should have read the reviews before i made them. First of all, I put 1 1/2 cups of sugar in the mix instead of 1 cup. Apparently, I can't read. Secondly, I should have cooled the dough in the fridge to firm up as told in previous reviews . Next time i would leave out rolling balls in sugar mix. What a mess! Parchment paper was a grand idea. I will try again.

  • kvnsgrl 5 Nov, 2013

    These have a great consistency. They're crisp outside, but still a little chewy and moist on the inside. The lemon flavor doesn't smack you across the face, but it does keep you coming back for more.

  • D J H 19 Aug, 2013

    Oy, never making these cookies again. Huge disappointment!
    Taste/flavor is mediocre, and I used Meyer lemons and real butter. In addition to the recipe instructions, I had to: (1) let the butter/reduced lemon juice mixture cool to room temperature before using, (2) chill the dough overnight-it looks like thick batter until chilled, (3) bake on parchment paper-nothing else lets you get the cookie off the pan without breaking it, (4) let the cookie cool on the pan/paper to avoid it breaking.

  • SnackFace82 25 Jun, 2013

    Love lemon??? Love cookies? These are amazing!!!! Best cookies ever, hands down. Lemony zing, poppy seed crunch, crispy cookies with a soft center. They have a delicate taste yet are so simple to make! Thank you for the beautiful cookie recipe...they really are beautiful.

  • Jennanne14 1 Jun, 2013

    I made these cookies tonight and was a bit worried after reading some of the reviews. I followed the recipe exactly and test baked a cookie ( without chilling the dough). They came out perfect.....very good flavor will certainly make these again

  • Karen Blackstock Benisch 20 Dec, 2012

    I made these cookies today and before I started I read the reviews, what I learned was to put the cookie dough in the fridge for and hour or 2 before rolling in to balls. It worked perfectly and the cookies are FABULOUS.

  • JuanitaZ 20 Oct, 2012

    This recipe rocked! The cookies were great with a nice lemon flavor, and I can hardly stop eating them. Beaglemother, I agree with you that a step or two was missing, and thank you for the tip on using parchment, that helped.

  • BethHorney 13 Dec, 2011

    If it wasn't for the fantastic flavor of this cookie, I would have given up on this recipe ages ago. I've probably made it 30 times (I run an American cookie stall at a farmers market in England) each time trying to tweak it to get the consistancy right, and I have finally figured out what goes wrong with this recipe - the butter amount given is wrong. Reduce the recipe to half a stick melted with the lemon juice and half a stick beaten with the sugar and it will turn out perfectly!

  • BeagleMother 15 Apr, 2011

    I give up on cookie recipes from here. Steps are left out, important info missing, & ingredients are missed. Recently I needed cookies for that day's event. I made these & realized there was no way they would form into balls w/out overnight in fridge so had to scurry & bake a tested cookie recipe. Despite having 2 sticks of butter in this recipe I thought the pan wouldn't need silpat/parchment-ha! The few that made it off the sheet in 1 piece shattered in people's hands. No more for me.

  • Bogi1 18 Mar, 2011

    but cookies are not supposed to be chewy as opposed to fluffy?

  • Asokoloski 9 Mar, 2011

    I should have read some some your comments before making these cookies. They look unappetizing however taste fantastic. I will try again and see if I can get the fluffiness a cookie should have.

  • Anahata56 11 Dec, 2010

    Third, you MUST chill the dough. It will indeed be dough, if you follow those two previous rules (no need to add more flour--you'll come up with a tough cookie if you do), but it's a soft dough and needs chilling, preferably overnight. And while that's going on, add the lemon zest to the sugar, put it in a jar, shake it, and let IT sit overnight as well. Very intense lemon sugar for a lemony cookie. I made mine with Meyer lemon juice--that's nice, too.

  • Anahata56 11 Dec, 2010

    I think I found out what is causing some of the problems with this recipe. First, you MUST add the lemon butter when it is COOL--if it is warm, it will melt the rest of the butter you creamed with the sugar. Use the buttercream trick and add the cooled lemon butter slowly down the side of the mixing bowl as the paddle is running. Second, it says to whip it for a full 3 minutes. Do it. It should be thick and fluffy, like buttercream frosting, when you're done.

  • sweetpadee 9 Dec, 2010

    I made these about a year ago from the New Classics cookbook and made them again this year, I realized both times that there just isn't enough flour in these cookies. I would recommend using 3 cups of flour instead of just two, or else you'll get a globby mess of dough that won't bake correctly. I don't think the editors and/or recipe testers caught this mistake.

  • mykele 12 Nov, 2010

    Synopen, Since you put your comment in in June, I doubt you will see this
    but I have to jump in and ask what is so bad about using 1 cup of the sugar
    in the cookie and roll the cookies in the other half cup of sugar. If you
    cut one cup out that would leave you with only a half cup of sugar
    and that has to be used for the rolling....didn't you put any sugar in
    the cookie dough at all???? Just wondering. Mykele

  • sarahk_211 30 Jul, 2010

    Very good. I found though they baked quickly so easily burned, and the lemon flavor comes out better if they are a bit chilled.

  • LouyseFromQuebec 25 Jul, 2010

    Delicious lemony fresh taste, perfectly crispy. Pure delight!

  • Synopen 16 Jun, 2010

    lovely! i reduced sugar by a whole cup (since u roll them in sugar afterwards it seemed way too much) and butter by half. refrigirated for 30 mins. it was pretty simple and the result is fantastic!crunchy and light!

  • Anarie 6 Jun, 2010

    These are phenomenal! It's unusual to get that tartness in a cookie. Reducing the lemon juice is a brilliant idea that would work in many other citrus recipes. The dough absolutely MUST be chilled, though. With the melted butter, it's more like batter than dough. I did spread part of the unchilled dough in small pan to make bars as an experiment. They were tasty, but too tender and crumbly.

  • rock63roll64 17 May, 2010


  • k8freitas 16 May, 2010

    I don't know what I possibly did wrong...I bake all of the time and these were a disaster. They tasted great, but the dough was so liquidy that it wouldn't roll. I wish I had read these comments beforehand and tried putting it in the fridge for awhile. I will attempt them again because I want them to come out right!

  • foodie72 16 May, 2010

    If you like lemon and enjoy crispy-light cookies, then this is a recipe you will enjoy.

  • Joit 15 May, 2010

    This taste just like sugar cookies. Great lemon taste and I like the slightly crunchy texture.

  • ljwaldron 15 May, 2010

    These are delicious. I altered a little bit, 1/2 butter 1/2 butter flavored shortening. I mixed the poppy seeds with 1 cup sugar and used only a couple of tablespoons sugar for the topping with a sprinkle of poppy seeds. They are nice and lemony, and are crisp. Perfect for serving with ice cream or sorbet.

  • lorhall 15 May, 2010

    by far the best lemon cookies

  • LoveBakingCookies 9 Mar, 2010

    These are my favorite cookies ever. Because of the lemon juice, this cookie dough is wetter than a typical cookie dough. Chilling the dough in refrigerator for a couple hours makes it a lot easier to work with.

  • stephmonster87 9 Mar, 2010

    I just tried these using key limes as well as lemons, great idea! It was great to try these as cookies besides from a boring loaf. Im also going to try it as a cake for Easter

  • sieenns 7 Oct, 2009

    I just made these a second time, but used key limes instead of lemons. Chilling the dough before rolling them worked out well. I also mixed poppy seeds in with the sugar and zest before rolling, rather than sprinkling them on.

  • RitaAnnn 5 Mar, 2009

    I just made these about 5 hours ago. They were delicious! I followed the recipe exactly, and it was perfect. Will be making again.. Soon!

  • RitaAnnn 5 Mar, 2009

    I just made these about 5 hours ago, and they were absolutely delicious! I did everything exact to the recipe and it was perfect. Will be making again.. Soon!

  • sieenns 20 Feb, 2009

    I made these using Seville oranges instead of lemons, and they turned out beautifully!

    The dough was a little on the soft wide for rolling, but I managed. Next time I think I'll refrigerate the dough before rolling. I might try using less of the butter to mix with the orange juice, and creaming more of it with the sugar. I think that would help with the rolling issue.

  • sieenns 20 Feb, 2009

    I made these using Seville oranges instead of lemons, and they turned out beautifully!

    The dough was a little on the soft wide for rolling, but I managed. Next time I think I'll refrigerate the dough before rolling. I might try using less of the butter to mix with the orange juice, and creaming more of it with the sugar. I think that would help with the rolling issue.

  • rebexas 26 Nov, 2008

    i gad the same issue with the consistency not being stiff enough to actually roll into balls. and then i made them too thin and they just crumbled. the last 8 i made- i made smaller and thicker and they came off the sheet without boys enjoyed the crumbles! these taste divine!

  • lindastratford 22 Nov, 2008

    These were delicious and I got many great comments. I read the reviews and so I put my in the fridge before I worked with the dough.

  • sususa 20 Nov, 2008

    I made the exact recipe, the cookies came out good.
    I only got 20 cookies though, I must have made them too big.

  • Angelspacc 18 Nov, 2008

    (my comment wasn't all visible). and baking powder to make it workable. When the dough was in the soft consistency, you could have probably used a cookie press. The flavor was right on. Great cookie.

  • Angelspacc 18 Nov, 2008

    I had a problem with the dough consistency. It was way too soft, I had to add more flour

  • sbklak 18 Nov, 2008

    Is the dough a consistency that they can be put in a cookie press to make as a pretty Christmas cookie?

  • ocrents 17 Nov, 2008

    I made them exactly as stated in the recipe, and they look exactly like the cookies pictured. No food coloring needed. The dough was nice and thick so no chilling and it was easy to handle. Rave reviews. Light, with a nice balance of lemon and sweetness. I love to bake and did not find these difficult or too involved.

  • leashad 16 Nov, 2008

    The flavor was excellent, but they feel apart too easily, And I would refrigerate the dough before I tried working with it. I don't think I'll use this one again.

  • drausue 16 Nov, 2008

    The flavor is wonderful but my cookies did not look like these. I think someone forgot to mention yellow food coloring. I also had to chill dough. Will make again because the flavor is great.

  • NoraMartha 14 Nov, 2008

    These were very good. My tea group asked for the recipe. I had to refridgerate the batter first. It was too soft to shape and roll in the sugar. Maybe I didn't reduce the lemon juice enough? Loved the layers of lemon flavor.

  • angelli 13 Nov, 2008

    i love this with my fave ice cream to top it!!

  • humbie 12 Nov, 2008

    A very light fresh cookie. Definately one of my favorite lemon flavored cookies. Thanks Martha.

  • glacierlilylynn 11 Nov, 2008

    can these be frozen after baking?

  • lynga 11 Nov, 2008

    A favorite recipe in our family!

  • Kvinne 11 Nov, 2008

    Wonderful recipe! I was searching for a tasty easy to wrap cookie to hand out to a university film crew and I think this is it! I think I might drizzle a chocolate squiggle onto them.

  • mlmredhead 26 Oct, 2008

    Though these are a bit time consuming, the results are outstanding! If you like a strong lemon flavor, these are for you. Delicious!

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