These easy lemon coconut drop shortbread cookies are like snowball cookies but with glaze instead of a confectioners’ sugar coating. They’re buttery and light with a tender, yet crumbly shortbread-style texture. Top with smooth lemon glaze plus a garnish of coconut or sprinkles to make a beautiful two-bite cookie!
This recipe is part of my annual Christmas cookie countdown called Sally’s Cookie Palooza. Every year since 2013, I work on a handful of new Christmas cookie recipes and publish the 10 best ones for readers to enjoy! You can browse dozens of recipes on the Sally’s Cookie Palooza page.
I always love some fresh flavor on my holiday cookie trays, so let’s add lemon & coconut!
What are Lemon Coconut Drop Shortbread Cookies?
Today’s cookies are like wedge shortbread cookies without the cake pan, like snowball cookies without the powdered sugar coating, like pistachio cookies without the nuts, cranberry spice cookies but with lemon and coconut, and like butter cookies without the piping tip. They’re also like the coconut lime shortbread recipe in my cookbook but without the cookie cutters. SO MANY THINGS!
“Lemon coconut drop shortbread cookies” sounded better than “shortbread snowless nut-free lemon coconut butter drop cookies” so that’s what we’re going with!
Why You’ll Love These Lemon Coconut Shortbread Cookies
- so easy! 1 bowl, 8 ingredient dough
- short dough chilling time—just 30 minutes
- another egg-free baking recipe
- not overly sweet
- exceptionally flavorful & buttery
- can garnish the glaze with coconut, sprinkles, and/or lemon zest
- crumbly, yet tender texture
Plus, the glaze eventually sets which means your little lemon cookies are convenient to gift, stack, store, and transport!
Key Ingredients in These Easy Cookies
- Butter: The stand-out ingredient in most cookie recipes, butter supplies today’s lemon coconut cookies with exceptional flavor and a whipped shortbread-like texture. Make sure it’s properly softened to room temperature before beginning.
- Confectioners’ Sugar: Use confectioners’ sugar in both the cookie dough and lemon glaze. I love using confectioners’ sugar in shortbread-style cookie recipes because it keeps the cookies tender and light. You’ll notice I use granulated sugar in these shortbread-style raspberry almond thumbprints, this pecan shortbread, and these cherry almond shortbread cookies. Granulated sugar helps those cookies spread a little more. In today’s recipe, you want more of a drop shape like our pistachio cookies.
- Coconut Extract: We use shredded coconut in the cookie dough and if you really want the coconut flavor to stand out, use coconut extract as well. It’s the same reason we add coconut extract to this coconut cake recipe—you just want that extra punch of coconut flavor. Coconut extract is pretty common in most major grocery stores.
- Lemon Juice & Zest: I tested today’s dough with varying amounts of lemon juice. 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice wasn’t enough and 2 Tablespoons left a tart and almost unpleasing flavor. 1 and 1/2 Tablespoons lemon juice is perfect and you’ll also add 1 teaspoon of lemon zest. Use lemon juice in the glaze as well.
- Sweetened Shredded Coconut: Use sweetened shredded coconut because it’s moister than unsweetened and that makes a big difference in the cookie’s flavor, moisture, and texture. Knowing the texture and flavor will change, you can use unsweetened coconut flakes if that’s all you have. If you have a food processor, pulse the coconut a few times to break the shreds down before mixing into the cookie dough. I recommend this in my coconut macaroons recipe, too. Smaller pieces of coconut keep the cookie dough balls compact and leave a more desirable texture in the baked cookies. If you don’t have a food processor, just give the coconut a quick chop with a sharp knife.
A few more ingredients: You also need all-purpose flour, vanilla extract, salt, plus a little milk for the lemon glaze.
3 Success Tips for Lemon Coconut Shortbread Cookies
- Crumbly Dough: Like many shortbread-style cookie recipes, the dough can appear dry and crumbly at first. (This is definitely the case with pecan shortbread!) Keep beating it together with your mixer and eventually the dough will combine. Don’t give up!
- Chill for Just 30 Minutes: You could definitely roll the cookie dough into balls and bake immediately after the dough comes together, but the dough will be sticky and the cookies will spread more than intended. Make things easier by covering and chilling the dough for just 30 minutes as you preheat the oven.
- Use Milk in Glaze: The glaze needs liquid and I tested it using all lemon juice. It was certainly tasty, but paired with the mildly sweet cookies—the whole cookie tasted too tart and borderline bitter. So, use lemon juice along with 1 Tablespoon of milk in the glaze. The entire cookie will be lightly sweet with pleasant lemon flavor.
Can I Skip The Glaze? Absolutely. Feel free to leave plain or coat in confectioners’ sugar like snowball cookies. See recipe note below.
Here are the rainbow sprinkles I used on the pictured cookies. Aren’t they pretty? They don’t have a strange flavor/aroma like some naturally colored sprinkles do. I’m a fan!
By the way, if you’re looking for a flatter non-shortbread cookie with these flavors, try these coconut lime cookies and replace the lime juice + zest with lemon. Or if you are looking for a pure lemon cookie with no coconut or competing flavors, try my lemon crinkle cookies.Print
Lemon Coconut Drop Shortbread Cookies
- Prep Time: 45 minutes
- Cook Time: 15 minutes
- Total Time: 1 hour
- Yield: 3 dozen
- Category: Dessert
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: American
These easy shortbread-style lemon coconut drop cookies are like buttery snowball cookies but with glaze instead of a confectioners’ sugar coating. There’s only 30 minutes of cookie dough chilling needed which makes this a quick cookie recipe.
- 1 cup (80g) sweetened shredded coconut*
- 1 cup (2 sticks; 230g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 3/4 cup (90g) confectioners’ sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon coconut extract
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 and 1/2 Tablespoons lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 and 1/4 cups (281g) all-purpose flour (spooned & leveled)
- 1 cup (120g) confectioners’ sugar (or more, as needed)
- 1 and 1/2 Tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 Tablespoon (15ml) milk
- optional for garnish: shredded coconut, sprinkles, and/or lemon zest
- Optional but recommended: Pulse the coconut shreds in a food processor or chop them up with a sharp knife so they are finer. Smaller pieces make a more desirable texture in the baked cookies. Set aside for next step.
- Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter for 1 minute on medium speed until completely smooth and creamy. Add the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla extract, coconut extract, and lemon zest and then beat on medium-high speed until combined. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl and beat again as needed to combine. Add the lemon juice, salt, coconut, and flour and beat on medium speed until combined. The dough may not come together at first, but keep mixing until it does. The cookie dough will be thick.
- Cover the cookie dough tightly and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes and up to 3 days. (If chilling for 2+ hours, let the cookie dough sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before rolling into balls. The cookie dough will be very stiff after being in the refrigerator that long.)
- Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Line large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Set aside.
- Roll the cookie dough into balls, about 1 Tablespoon of dough each, and place dough balls 2 inches apart on the baking sheets. If the cookie dough is too crumbly, keep rolling and working it with your hands. The warmth of your hands will help bring it together.
- Bake the cookies until lightly browned around the bottom edges, about 14-15 minutes.
- Allow the cookies to cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet and then transfer to a wire rack. Make sure cookies are cool to the touch before dipping in icing.
- Make the glaze: Whisk all of the glaze ingredients together in a medium bowl. If desired, add more confectioners’ sugar to thicken or more milk to thin out. Dip cookies in icing or drizzle on top. If desired, garnish with coconut, sprinkles, and/or lemon zest. If coated lightly, the icing will set after 2 hours.
- Cover leftover iced cookies tightly and store at room temperature for 1 day or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Cookies without icing can sit covered at room temperature for up to 1 week.
- Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions: You can prepare and chill the cookie dough for up to 3 days. See step 3. Freeze baked cookies with or without icing for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator or at room temperature. You can also freeze the cookie dough or cookie dough balls for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before baking.
- Sweetened Shredded Coconut: Use sweetened shredded coconut because it’s moister than unsweetened and that makes a big difference in the cookie’s flavor, moisture, and texture. Knowing the texture and flavor will change, you can use unsweetened coconut flakes if that’s all you have. Give them a rough chop or pulse in the food processor as instructed in step 1.
- Can I Leave Out the Coconut? Yes. Skip the shredded coconut and leave out the coconut extract. No other changes to the recipe needed.
- Can I Coat in Confectioners’ Sugar Instead? Yes. Feel free to skip the glaze. Pour 1 and 1/4 cups (about 150g) confectioners’ sugar into a medium bowl. Allow the baked cookies to cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet, and then very gently roll them in the confectioners’ sugar to coat completely. Place the cookies on wire racks to cool completely. Once completely cooled, roll in confectioners’ sugar again.
- Can I Use Another Citrus? Yes. Replace lemon juice and zest with lime or orange.
Keywords: lemon coconut drop shortbread cookies
Reader Comments & Reviews
I have a bunch of bread flour I’d like to use up, can I use that instead of all purpose flour in this recipe? Or rather, can I sub bread flour for any cookie recipe?
Hi Steph, here are all of our recipes that use bread flour–we’d recommend browsing there for something to try!
I’ve made hundreds of these cookies, as they get requested for picnics and gatherings. A triple recipe makes 100+ cookies and fits in my Kitchenaid mixer. Multiplies well when I measure by weight. I’ve tried variations, but the original recipe is perfect. I highly recommend using a 1 Tablespoon cookie scoop, especially for large quantities.
if i need to make only 12 cookies what measurements do i need to use
Hi Hina, you can reduce the recipe to 1/3. Or, since recipes don’t always reduce perfectly, you could make the full batch and freeze the extras for later (see recipe notes for details). Enjoy!
These cookies are fantastic and a huge hit wherever they go!!
I’m excited about trying this recipe and noticed that some reviewers recommend the addition of cornstarch.
How much would you suggest?
Hi Susan! We don’t recommend adding cornstarch, but let us know if you try it.
Recipe is even better with some cornstarch….. melt in your mouth
Every recipe of yours is positively delightful. If one was to replace the all-purpose flour with almond flour, would you make any recommended concomitant changes? Use the same volume?
Hi Gabby, I’m not sure how the cookies will turn out making that change. I fear the centers won’t cook properly, and the cookies may be over crumbly, or over-spread. Instead, here are all of my recipes using almond flour if you want to try one of those instead.
I make these cookies & I add cornstarch
Looking forward to trying these cookies. Just wondering, do you think toasted coconut would work in place of coconut out of the bag? Thanks!
Hi Susie! We want the moisture that coconut straight out of the bag has, toasting it would require more testing. Let us know if you give it a try!
I’m planning on making these for my daughters wedding in a month. Do you think it would be better if I froze them baked without the icing and then defrost them and ice them the day before the wedding? If I freeze them iced I’m afraid the icing will get sticky. I love this recipe and can’t wait for it to be part of the cookie table!
Hi Donna! Yes, is is best to freeze the cookies without icing. Hope they’re a hit – so glad you love this recipe.
Looking for a recipe for mint brownies (I had read about them in a novel and really needed to know what they were, as I love the combination of chocolate and mint…!), I stumbled onto your website and ended up making these cookies (whose name is so long I struggle to remember it, hahaha!). I love lemon, wanted as little sugar as possible (otherwise I would have made the lemon crinkle cookies) and had all the ingredients at home. I used unsweetened shredded coconut though, as I have a lot of it that needs using up, and didn’t have the sweetened variety.
I ran into trouble when it came to deciding, if the cookies were done. I had put them at 180 C on the middle shelf of my electric oven using conventional heat and a very thin Teflony baking sheet on a large black enamel baking tray. At 14-15 minutes the cookies were still completely white on top, but I could see the bottom was browning. They looked so “naked” on the surface I wasn’t even sure, if they weren’t still raw inside. So I left them in the oven for a few minutes longer.
I left them to cool slightly on the tray for 5 minutes and then transferred them to a cooling rack. They were very crumbly when hot, but once fully cooled (and now a day later from the cake tin) they are quite dense and a bit dry, but full of wonderful flavour. I really like the recipe and have so much coconut to use up, so really want to make it again, but need some tips on how to improve my performance.
My first question is: are they supposed to stay fairly white on top? Would they have been less dry and dense if I had taken them out at 15 minutes, risking them to be under-done rather than dry? Should I put them on a higher shelf next time?
And secondly: is there any way to moisten unsweetened coconut to make it more like the sweetened stuff?
Thank you very much for making your recipes available online and in advance for answering my questions.
Kind regards and happy baking
Hi Antje, thank you for your review. We use sweetened shredded coconut because it’s moister than unsweetened and that makes a big difference in the cookie’s flavor, moisture, and texture. Knowing the texture and flavor will change, you can use unsweetened coconut flakes if that’s all you have. If you have a food processor, pulse the coconut a few times to break the shreds down before mixing into the cookie dough. Smaller pieces of coconut keep the cookie dough balls compact and leave a more desirable texture in the baked cookies. If you don’t have a food processor, just give the coconut a quick chop with a sharp knife. Next time try taking the cookies out at the 15 minute mark, when you saw the bottom browning. We hope you love them if you try them again!
I have a thought about adding some moisture to the unsweetened coconut. What about adding a little sweetened condensed milk to the coconut? It would have to be just enough to moisten.
We haven’t tested that, but let us know if you do!
Great recipe! The cookies got rave reviews.
I exclusively use your recipes for all my baking as everything always turns out great. These cookies are no exception. Great taste, not overpowering of lemon.
Hi, can I skip the lemon things and just make coconut shortbread cookies?
I like the idea of this recipe and am wondering if I can roll the dough into logs like the pecan shortbread?
Hi Tonia, while I’ve never tried that before, this dough should work nicely as an icebox-style or slice and bake cookie.
Going to make it asap, can you recommend a good zester, I have 2 and they are very dull.
Hi Jill, here is one of our favorites: https://amzn.to/3yD1B2U
I have made many of your recipes, and all have turned out fabulous. I made this recipe after Christmas this 2022 year. I actually made the lemon coconut and orange coconut. Both turned out fantastic. I did add a little more orange and lemon zest for a stronger taste. But these turned out super soft and yummy. Everyone I have given these to have loved them. And also very easy to make. Thanks for sharing your recipes with us.
And the orange variation go great with your Slow cooker Hot Chocolate recipe.
Can I roll these in coconut before baking stead of a glaze after?
Hi Nancy! We don’t recommend rolling in coconut before baking. Dipping in the glaze, then sprinkling coconut on top would be the best way to add coconut to the outside of the cookies.
These are so lovely. The lemon and coconut work beautifully together, and the shortbread is delicious.
I made the recipe to the letter but they all break. Are you sure the recipe doesn’t have eggs?
Hi Laura! Yes, no eggs in this recipe. Are you cookies dry? How did you measure the flour? Make sure to spoon and level (instead of scooping) to avoid packing in too much flour into your measuring cups – or use a kitchen scale. You can read more about properly measuring baking ingredients in this post.
I made these last year as part of my Christmas cookies that I give to family. Each year I always make a new cookie along with my traditional ones and these were it. They were amazing! They came together really quick and turned out perfectly. Highly recommend them!
I made these along with a few other cookies for my very casual wedding celebration this past weekend, and these were the most raved about by far! I’ll definitely make these again as they were easy and relatively quick to make and don’t require a ton of different ingredients. A delicious cookie for any time of year.
Thank you so much for including our recipe in your wedding celebrations, Emily — congratulations!
Can I substitute water for milk in the glaze?
Hi Danielle, the glaze will be thinner, but water could work in a pinch.
These were so easy and beautiful to make. I made a double batch for a small wedding this week and I’m very happy with outcome. I only had unsweetened desiccated coconut, so I tossed it with a little bit (1/4 cup?) of sugar/water syrup that I made. It worked great. Dough seemed maybe a little more wet than described but I adjusted the flour by a couple tablespoons and they turned out fantastic. Thanks so much. Cannot wait to make a batch I don’t have to share.
I don’t bake cookies often, do you always bake one sheet at a time or can you do more than one? Thanks!
Hi Tovah, see this post for our Cookie Baking Tips. We recommend one sheet at a time.
can I use brown butter as a replacement for the regular unsalted butter and it still taste yummy?
Hi Sabrina, we haven’t tested it with brown butter, but because this recipe uses room-temperature butter and creams it, you’d need to brown the butter first, then refrigerate it to make it solidify again, then let it come back to room temperature before creaming it. When you brown butter, there’s a loss of moisture, so the cookies may end up being a bit more crumbly. If you try it, please let us know how they turn out!
This recipe was great. Thanks for sharing. Im curious to try them with toasted coconut. I would grind it before adding it. But since it is dry should i add a 1/2 tsp more of lemon juice, keep it the same? Idk.i figured since its like a snowball, which usually has toasted nuts why not try toasted coconut.
Does the glaze on the cookies set up well? Basically I’m asking if the cookies could be stacked in a tin neatly, without the glaze sticking to everything.
Hi Ava, yes! If coated lightly, the icing will set after 2 hours.
Hi ,can you explain why they need to be refrigerated if iced after 1 day? Doesn’t seem will be perishable ? Will they get soggy? I’d like to make these for cookie trays iced but people sometimes have those out for several days and just wondering why it wouldn’t work
These are so good. The icing is so smooth. The texture overall is perfect. Also, the flavors are amazing it’s so fresh and sweet. I definitely recommend this.
Baked these for Mother’s Day, amazing combo of the coconut and lemon and my family and I are quite literally OBSESSED. The texture of these cookies are 10/10, I made mine a tad bigger and got 28 out of the recipe. I left them a bit underdone and I’m so happy I did- doughy chewy goodness for days!