Soft lemon sugar cookies with a delicious sugar crust! This recipe can be made in one bowl with a hand whisk/fork and rubber spatula, making it an easy project for beginner bakers.
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About this lemon sugar cookie recipe
Who remembers my chick lemon cookies?! These cookies were inspired by them, but the recipes are pretty different texture wise.
These ducks are soft sugar cookies with a crisp outer surface, while the chick ones are on the cakier side. However, both are super delicious & full of lemon flavor!
Both lemon cookie recipes use a one bowl method, making it easy for beginner bakers. If you don’t have a stand or hand mixer, you can just use a fork or whisk. And as far as the decorations go, you can use candy melts or dye white chocolate yourself!
This recipe is a really fun project to make with friends, family, or even yourself! But if you’re looking for other easy cookie ideas, check out my cookie page.
Can I make vegan lemon sugar cookies?
Yes, you can!
Instead of regular butter, you can swap in high quality vegan butter made for baking. Make sure to use a good brand—some brands are very high in water content and melt at lower temperatures, yielding very flat cookies. I recommend brands like Miyokos and Country Crock.
You can also omit the egg. First, follow the recipe up until you add the flour and salt. Slowly mix the dry ingredients in. If the dough seems too crumbly, add a tablespoon of alternative milk at a time (2-4 tbsp total), until the dough comes together. The finished dough should be thick, but scoopable.
Lastly, for decorating the duck faces, you can replace the decorating chocolate for a vegan brand, like Pascha chocolate. OR, you can try out my easy icing recipe, which is found in my teddy bear cookie recipe.
Can I make them gluten-free?
Yes! To make these duck cookies gluten-free, I recommend using a high quality 1:1 gluten-free flour, like King Arthur or Bob’s Red Mill.
Tips for baking and decorating
Properly measure the flour
I always like to measure my ingredients with a kitchen scale for consistent, accurate results. But if you’re measuring with cups, make sure you follow this tip: gently spoon in the flour into the cup until it’s full, then scrape the excess off using the back of a knife or offset spatula.
If you scoop the cup directly into the flour bag or container, the flour may get compacted, and you will be adding in more flour than necessary. On the other hand, if your flour is clumpy, you could be adding in chunks of flour into the cup with gaps in between them, possibly adding less flour than required. These instances can cause tougher or even really flat cookies, since the proper ratio of dry:wet ingredients isn’t met.
So, for best results, use a scale. If you don’t have one, gently spoon and level the flour into your measuring cup!
Shaping the duck cookies
After mixing and chilling the dough, scoop into 1 ½ tbsp balls. Roll them in to lemon sugar, then place on a lined cookie sheet about 3-4 inches apart.
For the tufts of hair, take about ¼ tsp of dough, shape into ball, roll into lemon sugar, and place on top of the head. Repeat with a slightly bigger or smaller piece of dough, and place it next to the other ball.
Bake for 9-12 minutes. Cookies should look slightly puffy + soft, and the edges should be set + firm.
Storing the lemon duck cookies
Store these duckie cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week!
Duckie Lemon Sugar Cookies
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour (180g)
- ½ tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ cup unsalted butter, softened (1 stick butter/8 tbsp)
- ½ cup granulated sugar (100g)
- 1 tbsp lemon zest (1 medium lemon)
- 3 tbsp lemon juice (1 medium lemon)
- 1 egg
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
Lemon sugar for rolling:
- ¼ cup granulated sugar (50g)
- ½ tbsp lemon zest (½ medium lemon)
Decoration for face:
- 1 tbsp milk/dark chocolate, melted
- 4 tbsp white chocolate, melted
- oil-based food coloring (yellow or orange, pink or red), see steps
Making the cookie dough:
- In a medium bowl, whisk together all of the dry ingredients: all-purpose flour, baking soda, and salt.
- In a large bowl, add granulated sugar and lemon zest. Using your fingers, rub the lemon zest and sugar together until combined and fragrant. This step infuses the citrus oils with the sugar, enhancing the lemon flavor of your cookies.
- Using a hand mixer, stand mixer with a paddle attachment, or a fork, mix in softened butter until smooth. Scrape bottom of bowl.
- Add in egg, lemon juice, and vanilla extract until combined. If batter splits it's ok—it will come together after adding flour.
- Mix in all of the dry ingredients until no dry spots remain.
- Cover dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. This step will hydrate the dough and solidify the butter, making the dough easier to work with. This will also help the dough from spreading in the oven.
Shaping the duckies:
- In a small bowl or plate, rub together the lemon sugar ingredients.
- Preheat oven to 350°F/177°C and line two baking trays with parchment paper or silicone mats.
- Use medium cookie dough scoop to gather dough (about 1 ½-2 tablespoons each). Shape into ball, roll into lemon sugar, then place onto lined baking tray. This will be the duckie's head.For the tufts of hair, take about ¼ tsp of dough, shape into ball, roll into lemon sugar, and place on top of the head. Repeat with a slightly bigger or smaller piece of dough, and place it next to the other ball. Place ducks about 3-4 inches apart.
- Bake for 9-12 minutes. Cookies should look slightly puffy + soft, and the edges should be set + firm.
- Let cool on pan for about 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack. Let cool completely.
Decorating the duckies:
- You can use a toothpick, cookie scribe, or piping bag. I used piping bags + toothpicks.
- Add oil-based yellow or orange food coloring to the melted white chocolate. If you don't have oil-based food coloring, then the chocolate will seize/become lumpy.To counter this, stir in a tsp of neutral oil (canola, vegetable) at a time, until it becomes smooth again. Use this for the beak.
- Dye any leftover yellow/orange white chocolate with pink/red food coloring. Use this for the blush.
- Use the melted chocolate to draw on the eyes.
- Make sure you use oil-based food coloring for the white chocolate, or the colors will not blend well.
- Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.