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Simple Grapefruit Shortbread Cookie Recipe

Shortbread cookies are a super versatile and easy to make cookie using just a few pantry staples. These grapefruit shortbread cookies are a fun twist on the classic buttery cookie.

image of a plate of grapefruit shortbread cookies.

I’ve been making the same shortbread recipe for most of my adult life (a long time) and I love it. It’s buttery and not very sweet so when you add icing or glaze it’s not too rich.

I also love that shorbread dough isn’t fuzzy and doesn’t have to be refrigerated before being rolled out and that the cookies don’t spread. Both of these are important when you decide at the last minute you need cookies.

What I’ve recently realized is that I can change up my shortbread cookies by adding spices and flavorings to the dough and icing. I first tried adding lemon juice and zest and made some really wonderful Meyer lemon shortbread cookies. They are wonderful.

Then one night when we were making grapefruit cake we decided to go ahead and try making some grapefruit shortbread cookies. Oh my, who knew grapefruit cookies would be so good?

This recipe isn’t exactly like the lemon shortbread cookies because grapefruit is a bit more bitter than Meyer lemons so we had to make a few adjustments. While you can substitute any citrus in these shortbread cookies, you might not be able to substitute equal amounts. If you want a tried and true orange cookie you should try this one – it’s not shortbread but it’s tasty.

Grapefruit Juice and Zest

We use grapefruit that we pick from a friend’s tree each year. It’s a red variety that they started from seed almost 30 years ago. I think red varieties are sweeter and have more flavor than yellow varieties. That being said, use what you have access to.

When you zest the grapefruit be sure to only get the zest, don’t scrape so deep that you get the white pith also. The pith is what is bitter. I like to use this zester but a box grater with a fine side would be good too.

image of child's hand cutting out grapefruit shortbread cookies from rolled dough

Tips For Working With Shortbread Dough

This shortbread dough is crumbly, don’t let that scare you. Continue mixing the dough until a ball begins to form. If you’re mixing by hand it’s going to take a bit of work, you’ll need to use your hands and not just a fork.

The more you work with this grapefruit shortbread dough, the more pliable it becomes. You don’t need to refrigerate it before rolling it out.

When you roll it out, roll it between two sheets of wax paper or parchment paper. Roll the dough to about a 1/4″ thickness.

image of grapefruit shortbread cookies on a white plate with gold dots.

Freezing Shortbread Cookies

There are several ways you can freeze these grapefruit shortbread cookies. One way is to roll the dough into a log, wrap it parchment paper and twist the ends shut. It should be used within 3 months.

Another way to freeze shortbread cookies freeze them cooked. I prefer this way. Once the cookies are baked, let them cool, and then put them in a freezer safe container. They will stay fresh for up to 6 months.

You could also frost them before freezing but I usually don’t. If I don’t have time to make icing when I serve them, I’ll just pull out a jar of citrus curd and serve them with that.

Yield: 12 -14 (3" cookies)

Grapefruit Shortbread Cookies

A plate of grapefruit shortbread cookies

These shortbread cookies have a little more than a hint of grapefruit and are the perfect melt-in-your-mouth shortbread cookie.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes


Grapefruit Shortbread Cookies

  • 1/2 Cup Salted Butter, softened
  • 3 Tablespoons Sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1 1/4 Cups Unbleached, All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon Grapefruit Juice
  • 3 teaspoons Grated Grapefruit Zest

Grapefruit Glaze

  • 1 Cup Powdered Sugar
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons Milk
  • 1 teaspoon Lemon Juice
  • 1 Tablespoons Lemon Zest


Grapefruit Shortbread Cookies

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
  3. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  4. Mix in the vanilla extract and lemon juice until combined.
  5. Add the flour and lemon zest mix until a dough forms. The dough will be crumbly.
  6. Form three balls from the dough. You will need to work the dough a bit to form the balls.
  7. Roll the dough between two sheets of wax paper or parchment paper
  8. Use cookie cutters to cut out round cookies
  9. Put the cut cookies onto the prepared cookie sheet
  10. Bake for 9-11 minutes, just until the edges are slightly browned

Grapefruit Glaze

  1. Mix all the ingredients together until smooth. The glaze should be pourable but not watery, add more powdered sugar if it's too thin and a drop or two of milk or grapefruit juice if too thick.
  2. Gently spoon the glaze over the cooled cookies.
  3. Let harden at room temperature.

Did you make this recipe?

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What are your favorite shortbread cookie flavors?

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Monday 25th of April 2022

These looks so amazing! Wasn't it you that make that grapefruit cake many years ago? I know we chatted a bit on Instagram recently, but I left social media. I would love to be able to send you an email link for my blog. Let me know if you are interested. Send me an email.

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