Less sweet than savory, these lemon and thyme shortbread are really quite terrific in their own right although we find them to be more so with cocktails and wine of any and all sorts.–Renee Schettler Rossi

A stack of five lemon, thyme, and sea-salt shortbreads on a wooden board with a dish of sea salt and a lemon beside them.

Savory Lemon Shortbread Cookies with Thyme

5 / 2 votes
These savory lemon shortbread cookies are delicate butter cookies infused with lemon and thyme and finished with a sprinkling of sea salt. Excellent with wine and cocktails. Or soups. Snacks. You get the idea.
David Leite
Servings28 shortbreads
Calories64 kcal
Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time50 minutes
Total Time1 hour 20 minutes


  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest, preferably organic
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped thyme leaves
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons water
  • Coarse sea salt, for sprinkling


  • In a large bowl, stir the flour, salt, sugar, lemon peel, and thyme together. With your fingertips, rub the butter into the dry ingredients until a coarse, crumbly mixture forms.
  • In a small bowl, blend the lightly beaten egg, egg yolks, and water together. Reserve 1 tablespoon of the egg mixture for brushing.
  • Make a well in the center of the flour. Add the remaining egg mixture and blend together with your hands without kneading the dough together. The dough will look a bit crumbly.
  • Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead the dough together once or twice, just until it sticks together. Press the dough into a 1-inch-thick disc, wrap in plastic film, and refrigerate until firm, about 1/2 hour.
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) and line the bottom of a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat.
  • Remove the shortbread dough from the refrigerator, unwrap, and place it on a floured work surface. Press the dough into a 6-by-5-inch rectangle. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a larger 10-by-7-inch rectangle about 1/4 inch thick.
  • Cut the shortbread dough in half, forming two 5-by-7-inch pieces. Using a pizza wheel or sharp paring knife, cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips.
  • Carefully place the shortbreads on the prepared baking sheet leaving a little room between each cookie. Brush the tops with the reserved egg mixture and sprinkle a little coarse sea salt on top. Gently press the salt into the surface of each shortbread.
  • Bake until the shortbreads are lightly browned, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack and serve warm or at room temperature. Store the shortbread in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Adapted From

Savory Baking

Buy On Amazon


Serving: 1 shortbreadCalories: 64 kcalCarbohydrates: 6 gProtein: 1 gFat: 4 gSaturated Fat: 2 gMonounsaturated Fat: 1 gTrans Fat: 1 gCholesterol: 28 mgSodium: 274 mgFiber: 1 gSugar: 1 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2009 Mary Cech. Photo © 2009 Noel Barnhurst. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

These lemon shortbread cookies are addictive and once I got past the “shortbread” designation, I really liked them. The texture is lovely, both flakey and also shortbread-y. While I have some issues with this recipe I will definitely be making it again with some tweaks and it’s definitely giving me ideas of fun things to serve it with!

Savory thyme and lemon shortbread on a blue plate with apples and cheese

I’d like to serve these with soft cheese like camembert or St André. I think they’d be delightful as an accompaniment to a poached or baked salmon with lightly sauteed spring veg or with roast chicken and asparagus. I also may play around with using the dough as a tart shell for a savory custard or quiche, I think it would be really interesting!

When I read “. . . with your fingertips,” and ” . . . with your hands,” I was sold. Anyone who cooks and bakes in a tiny kitchen would know what I mean.

You won’t need a fancy stand mixer (I don’t have one) or a food processor to make this savory thyme and lemon shortbread dough. (Did I say tiny kitchen? My mixer and processor are never out on the counter ready to go.) Just get your big bowl out and wash your hands, and in minutes the dough comes together so easily.

And it’s workable—not sticky at all—after 30 minutes in the fridge. The finished shortbread is light and tender and the sea salt is nice with the refreshing lemon and thyme flavors. These shortbreads would be great with a salad of buttery lettuces or a fruit plate.

These savory lemon shortbread cookies went fast! Served warm, the cookies were wonderfully tasty. Obviously, with such few ingredients, the lemon and thyme provided the bulk of the taste. This recipe will be made again many times over in my home.

As a shortbread addict, I love this recipe. I’m always trying to come up with shortbread variations and very much enjoyed this one. The lemon and thyme offer a subtle delectable flavor.

I was a little surprised by what a hit these lemon thyme shortbread cookies were. I loved the salt hit on the first bite, but would have liked a slightly stronger herb flavor. Next time I’ll use a bit more thyme and lemon. The shortbread were perfect for serving with soup or as an addition to a cheese plate or just as a snack by itself.

I could taste the combination of flavors just by looking at the name of these lemon thyme shortbread, and it was as good as I imagined. The thyme gave an aromatic, herbal flavor while the lemon added slightly bitter, citrusy flavors.

These savoury shortbreads were really good! They reminded me of cheese twists or a rough puff pastry. Very buttery and addictive. The sea salt added a nice crunch.

I did try the recipe twice, making the second batch into tiny tart shells to hold a savoury filling, the pastry held up very well, not too crumbly. These would be lovely as a hostess gift for the upcoming holiday season.

Simple, straightforward, and tasty. I even made the shortbread from ingredients I had on hand and didn’t have to go to the grocery store—a rarity for my tiny apartment kitchen. Loved this and can see it being just as tasty with coarse sugar instead of salt. I even liked how the recipe instructed the shortbread to be cut into sticks, so they came out sort of like breadsticks.

If I had to change anything, I might add just a touch of rice flour or cornstarch to get that nice delicate shortbread crumb.

These savory thyme and lemon shortbread recipe were very easy to make and tasted wonderful, light, and lemony-thyme-y. I may add a bit more thyme next time, as I really like it. We loved these with a glass of wine…a perfect little nibble.

The recipe produced a tasty savory shortbread; however, the flavor of the fresh thyme was overpowered by the lemon zest. Perhaps rosemary might stand up better to the lemon zest in this recipe or the amount of thyme should be further increased and the lemon zest reduced.

I thought that a sprinkling of Za’atar might work well. The taste profile was not sweet but it was also not as savory as I was expecting. I served this as part of the appetizers for evening cocktails. My husband loved it.

These sounded so good and they didn’t disappoint. They are lovely with drinks, will be a terrific hostess gift, are easily prepared and the best part is the truly lovely lingering lemony aftertaste!

They aren’t as crisp as I expected them to be. We enjoyed them with a glass of red wine. And then with a tossed salad. I think the addition of the extra thyme and lemon zest made a difference. The thyme is subtle, but the lemon pops and lingers as a very pleasant aftertaste.

Next time, instead of water, I’ll use lemon juice. I will definitely make these again, and I will try different flavor combinations such as; toasted cumin seed and orange or lime zest; rosemary and lemon zest; “everything blend” and lemon zest; tarragon, red pepper and lemon zest.

I really like this recipe, and I will use it as a base for making other savory shortbreads, using flavors that work with what they will accompany. I served these thyme and lemon shortbread sticks with a dinner of roasted chicken, and also as a starter with a glass of champagne/wine. These would be a great complement to beef stew or any beef dish, and would be perfect with any kind of soup.

The thyme/lemon/flaky salt combo is a subtle flavor, but you can change the recipe quite a bit by adding different herbs and spices or cheese and ground nuts.

My only tweak for next time is to use a little less salt on top, it was too strong for the subtle thyme/lemon flavor combo.

Mine were about 4 inches in length–easy to handle and good size for eating. I like how this comes together very quickly from start to end, and you can pull the dough together, refrigerate, and bake later if needed. These also aged well and maintained their texture and flavor the second day.

These shortbreads are a nice addition as an appetizer–I made these to serve on New Year’s Eve, and we also had some as a side with a roast chicken/polenta/raab dinner. The shortbread is versatile and would work well with a lot of foods.

The preparation is easy, and I like that you can make the dough and refrigerate for later baking. I would add less flaky salt to the top next time; the amount in the recipe resulted in the salt overtaking some of the herb/lemon flavors.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

Hungry For More?

Garlic Butter Steak Bites

These juicy bites of sirloin, smothered in garlic and herb butter, will satisfy any steakhouse craving for a fraction of the price.

25 mins

Chocolate Muffins

Those of us who prefer a restrained sweetness and a more pronounced cocoa taste will adore these muffins. Nothing overtly sweet here. And we’re okay with that.

1 hr

Seared Skirt Steak with Salsa

Hungry for something flavorful and good-for-you? This seared skirt steak is jam-packed with everything you need.

50 mins

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating


  1. A belated response to be sure, but if you are still wondering and haven’t already just given it a try, shortbread dough, like most cookies and pie crust dough, freezes beautifully. Wrap it tightly so it doesn’t pick up either moisture or other odors. It should maintain its best quality for 2 months. I usually defrost it, still wrapped, overnight in the refrigerator, but it can also be done at room temperature if you are in a hurry and will be baking it right after defrosting.


  2. The combination of lemon, thyme and sea salt in a melt-in-mouth shortbread sounds divine. Wonder whether you can freeze the pastry? Would be very convenient if so for advance prep. Or to bake and freeze? Can anyone advise me?

    1. Absolutely. I would freeze the dough, but not the cookie as there is usually a change in texture when baked and then frozen which doesn’t happen with the unbaked dough. Another plus if you freeze the dough, you’ll always have fresh cookies minutes away! You may need to bake them a bit longer from the frozen state, though.

  3. Nothing will make that shortbread come alive like a good salt! The Bretons in France are masters of the salted shortbread, and the beautiful, mineral flavors of a Brittany fleur de sel would really make this recipe sing.