These easy lemon coconut drop shortbread cookies are like snowballs 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 shortbread wedge cookies without the cake pan, like snowball cookies without the powdered sugar coating, like pistachio drop 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.
Sally's Cookie Palooza
This recipe is part of my annual Christmas cookie countdown called Sally’s Cookie Palooza. Every year since 2013, I publish 10 new cookie recipes in a row. It’s the biggest, most delicious event of the year! Browse dozens of Christmas cookie recipes over on the Sally’s Cookie Palooza page including:
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 (spoon & 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