Citrus Basil Butter Cookies

Confession – I am ardently in love with fresh basil.  Head over heels.  Smitten kitten.  I want to marry it.  All of those things.

Basil is wonderful in many Italian dishes and paired with its BFF’s, tomato and mozzarella, but basil is also a marvelous ingredient in buttery cookies, especially when you also add in the citrus tang of lemon and lime zests.

I found this recipe a little odd.  The dough comes together in a food processor, similar to making pie dough.  The recipe said the dough would form “moist clumps,” but mine wouldn’t hold together to form a ball, so I added in 2 teaspoons of milk to make it wet enough to shape into balls.

The extra milk is probably why the cookies stayed a little moist in the middle, so if I make these again I will poke a few holes in the center of the cookies with a toothpick before I bake them .

Overall, if you love basil like I do, you will want to experiment with these cookies so you can enjoy the burst of fresh basil, citrus and butter when you bite into them.

Citrus Basil Butter Cookies
Adapted from Bon Appetit

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar, plus more for pressing  cookies
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into cubes
2 tablespoons sliced fresh basil  leaves
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest, plus 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons milk
Sanding sugar (optional)


  • Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment.
  • Combine the flour, sugar, butter, basil, zests, lemon juice, and salt in the bowl if a food processor and pulse a few times to combine.  If you don’t have a food processor, whir in a blender.
  • Slowly drizzle in the milk until dough just comes together.
  • Roll tablespoons of dough into balls and arrange on baking sheets, leaving 2″ between each.
  • Take a flat-bottom measuring cup and lightly cover it in additional powdered sugar, then press onto each ball of dough to lightly flatten it.
  • Sprinkle tops of the dough with coarse sanding sugar, if desired.
  • Using a toothpick or piece of raw spaghetti, poke a few holes in the center of each cookie.
  • Bake until the edges are brown, around 12-15 minutes.
  • Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Yield:  16 cookies

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Categories: Cookies & Bars

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89 Comments on “Citrus Basil Butter Cookies”

  1. January 2, 2012 at 9:15 pm #

    I hope you don’t un-friend me for this, but I don’t really like basil. I know, I’m weird. I think it has to do with me not liking Italian food… I do like it in cocktails with citrus though, so I can imagine these cookies are quite tasty.

  2. January 2, 2012 at 10:22 pm #

    These look so simple and delicious! I too am in love with basil—I sense they give these cookies a great twist!

  3. January 2, 2012 at 10:47 pm #

    I’m totally with you – I absolutely adore basil. I cook with it all the time and have made cocktails and even ice cream and sorbet with it, but I don’t think I’ve ever made cookies with it. I can’t wait to try these out!

  4. January 3, 2012 at 1:10 pm #

    I, too, love fresh basil. I also love the idea of pairing it with citrus – these look awesome!

  5. January 7, 2012 at 6:58 pm #

    What a refined sounding flavor combo. That would certainly make these butter cookies extra special. I have a sweet treat linky party going on at my blog till Monday night and I’d love it if you’d come by and link your cookies up.

  6. January 25, 2012 at 1:10 pm #

    Hey now: Basil and I are already an item. Get your own herb.

    LOVE this recipe!

  7. Angie De Angelis
    January 25, 2012 at 1:12 pm #

    Yum, these cookies sound amazing! Like they’d be so zingy and bright. I for one, looooove basil. Probably because I’m an italian food whore. I mean really, pesto? I could drink it by the gallons. Although that would probably be disgusting. Anyway, the cookies, I love them. I bet they’d be good with tea too.

    • January 25, 2012 at 8:36 pm #

      Angie, I am so with you on the pesto…

  8. January 25, 2012 at 1:17 pm #

    I love basil too! I’m always looking for more foods to sneak it into. I can’t wait to give this recipe a shot!

  9. C
    January 25, 2012 at 1:25 pm #

    Cannot. Wait. To make.

  10. January 25, 2012 at 1:35 pm #

    looks delicious !!!

  11. kristinsweets
    January 25, 2012 at 1:39 pm #

    Interesting! but looks yummy

  12. January 25, 2012 at 2:24 pm #

    You had me at “smitten kitten.”

  13. January 25, 2012 at 2:48 pm #

    These look FANTASIC! Nice work.

  14. January 25, 2012 at 3:10 pm #

    These sound intriguing. I’m not a huge basil lover, but I like the idea of using something normally found in savory recipes in a cookie…and paired with lemon and lime. Definitely worth a try. Love your photos too!

  15. January 25, 2012 at 3:14 pm #


  16. January 25, 2012 at 3:27 pm #

    They look so yummy! :)

  17. bex sibila
    January 25, 2012 at 3:49 pm #

    Have to cook this… NOW.
    My problem is that I haven’t been able to find dairy-free stuff in my town at reasonable prices.
    Tight budgets aren’t friends with food intolerances…

  18. January 25, 2012 at 3:51 pm #

    Sounds and looks scrumptious! Looking forward to giving this a try, and soon. I adore basil as well – but, in a cookie? We shall see…….we shall see!

  19. fromthericefields
    January 25, 2012 at 4:02 pm #

    Yum! would this work with wholewheat flour?

    • January 25, 2012 at 8:35 pm #

      Hello there! I suspect the delicate citrus and herb flavor of the cookies does best with AP flour, but if you don’t mind losing a bit of that for the whole wheat (of which I am a big fan), go for it and let me know how it turns out.

  20. January 25, 2012 at 4:25 pm #

    looks really good!

  21. nanononymous
    January 25, 2012 at 4:30 pm #

    delicious stuff there……

  22. January 25, 2012 at 4:49 pm #

    They look fabulous and so easy. Thank you for the recipe :)


  23. January 25, 2012 at 5:07 pm #

    ooh… these will probably be fabulous and refrshing with tea!

  24. January 25, 2012 at 5:25 pm #

    I was beyond excited to see your recipe when it popped up on Freshly Pressed. I am now off to the store for basil and citrus and this cookies are being made today. Thanks!

  25. Christina
    January 25, 2012 at 5:25 pm #

    These sound so yummy beautiful photos too! I love anything citrus and basil sounds like an excellent addition :)
    Stop by and say hi!

  26. January 25, 2012 at 5:44 pm #

    I’ve made cookies with Rosemary but never with Basil … plan to try this recipe in the next week or so and will let you know how they turn out.

  27. January 25, 2012 at 5:59 pm #

    Thank you! I’m always looking for more recipes for fresh basil. I am apparently great at growing the stuff and have three healthy plants this far into January… these cookies sound perfect for my end-of-the-month limited kitchen ingredient situation :D

    • January 25, 2012 at 8:37 pm #

      I can only dream of keeping THREE healthy basil plants alive at once! Jealous!

  28. January 25, 2012 at 6:02 pm #

    I too love basil. I love the way you characterize your love affair with basil.

  29. January 25, 2012 at 6:16 pm #

    Cookies n’ basil; what an interesting combo!

  30. January 25, 2012 at 6:33 pm #

    They look absolutely delicious :) Thanks!

  31. January 25, 2012 at 7:02 pm #

    What an inspirational read. Looks like any chance of a diet is out of the window now I have found your blog!

    I love your work and having just received the Versatile Blogger award, I’d like to pass it on to you.

    Visit to find out more.

    Congrats of the Freshly Pressed and the Versatile Blogger Award.

  32. Closs Pimentinha
    January 25, 2012 at 7:09 pm #

    They looks delicious!!!!!! I’m sorry I’m a bad cooker :(

  33. shwankie
    January 25, 2012 at 7:29 pm #

    Three things: First, dear all-that-is-good-in-Foodieland, I must make these as soon as my basil comes up. I do an herb shortbread every year that is good, but just reading the recipe for these made me swoon.

    Second: I can’t follow you on Twitter, because your twitter button takes me to a dead page, and this is very sad. If you’re still on Twitter, can you update it so I can follow and drool over fabulous baked goods?

    Third:Congrats on being fresh-pressed!

    • January 25, 2012 at 8:38 pm #

      Shwankie, they are dreamy for basil lovers…they truly are.

      I am not sure what is happening with Twitter! I changed my username a few months ago but it looks updates…anyway, it is @aimeeseavey if you’d like to follow!


  34. January 25, 2012 at 7:55 pm #

    Basil! Looks delicious! :)

  35. January 25, 2012 at 7:59 pm #

    Yum!! Congrats on being Freshly-Pressed. Cookies to celebrate!

  36. January 25, 2012 at 8:06 pm #

    these look awesome. must tryout the recipe. soon

  37. thevintagestylequeen
    January 25, 2012 at 8:15 pm #

    Reblogged this on Bettys Cupcake Factory.

  38. January 25, 2012 at 8:16 pm #

    I loveeee fresh basil too and these look delish! Now to find a way to make them gluten-free!!!

  39. January 25, 2012 at 8:34 pm #

    Oh my goodness, everyone! What a thrill to be featured on Freshly Pressed and get so many wonderful comments from all of you! I am so glad to know I am in such tremendous basil-loving company (though we still love you, Beantown Baker).

    I was so glad I kept a stash of these in my freezer so I could eat a few tonight after reading all of your comments. :)

    This time of year, citrus and fresh herbs do a great job of reminding us (especially in New England) that warmer days are coming. Thank you all so much for visiting!

  40. January 25, 2012 at 8:49 pm #

    looks so delish! oh by the way, is it okay to put some nuts in there? any suggestions cause i need ot make use of the almonds and the walnuts that my sister gifted me. thanks and congrats on being FP.

  41. January 25, 2012 at 9:10 pm #

    They look yummy!

  42. January 25, 2012 at 9:24 pm #

    Your cookies look heavenly. However, I’m not as crazy about basil as you are. I’m going to try them with lavender sugar instead of the basil. That should go well with the citrus, too. Great photos!

  43. January 25, 2012 at 10:37 pm #

    basil and lemon in a cookie??? omnomnomnom will definitely have to try this one!!!

  44. January 26, 2012 at 12:09 am #

    I love all herbs and I love butter cookies. This combo sounds like I might eat half in one sitting.

    The use of a food processor (something always goes wrong!) means I’ll be talking my sister into making them!
    Thanks for recipe.


  45. January 26, 2012 at 1:10 am #

    I’m Italo-American and of course I love Italian food! I have to bake these cookies for my friends, Needysweety, Zoe and Bella.

    It’s basil cookie time! :-)

  46. January 26, 2012 at 1:39 am #

    Looks good. I’ll try baking those tomorrow.

  47. January 26, 2012 at 2:13 am #

    Hi Aimee

    I’d really love to try this recipe, but can’t find butter in stick in my country, so how many grams approximately for the butter? For powdered sugar, do you mean icing sugar?

    Thanks :-)

    • January 26, 2012 at 9:32 am #

      Hello Wita! Yes, powdered sugar is icing sugar. Also, it looks like 1/2 cup of butter comes out to around 113 grams. Hope that helps!

  48. Anonymous
    January 26, 2012 at 2:55 am #

    I had a romance once with some Rosemary Shortbread (which looks similar to your creation in a different herbal vein). Inspired. Must try.

  49. January 26, 2012 at 2:58 am #

    I had a romance once with some Rosemary Shortbread. It leaned heavily towards your Basil creation, in a similar vein. Inspired. Must try.

  50. January 26, 2012 at 3:10 am #

    Oooh, these sound so deliciously different! I’ll share on too!

  51. January 26, 2012 at 3:16 am #

    oohh lady maria.

  52. January 26, 2012 at 4:02 am #

    interesting and looking delicious too.


  53. January 26, 2012 at 6:44 am #

    Basil?!? Wouldn’t have thunk that! But wouldn’t hurt giving that a try! :)

  54. January 26, 2012 at 7:21 am #

    cookies look absolutely gorgeous. you have a very nice blog

  55. January 26, 2012 at 7:22 am #

    I can understand your infatuation! Pasta without pesto, to me, is like bread without butter. But I never thought of putting into something sweet like cookies, so I may have a go at it. Thanks for the idea! Keep ‘em coming!

  56. January 26, 2012 at 8:21 am #

    Love this recipe, can’t wait to try it at home!

  57. January 26, 2012 at 8:53 am #

    Reblogged this on transformwithme and commented:
    delicious!!! :-)

  58. January 26, 2012 at 8:54 am #

    looking very delicious!

  59. January 26, 2012 at 9:17 am #

    The photos are so good that I opened the appetite!

  60. January 26, 2012 at 10:08 am #

    Lovely! I adore fresh herbs in sweets. Delicious, and beautiful photographs.

  61. January 26, 2012 at 10:15 am #

    Living in the mid-Atlantic area means buying fresh basil at the grocery store in the Winter. However, it still gives the jaded palate a nice kick. I’ve recently added it to my juicer along with fruit and carrots. My granddaughter loves it too. For the juice recipe check my blog,

  62. January 26, 2012 at 11:01 am #

    I love basil, I will try them for sure!

  63. January 26, 2012 at 11:02 am #

    This looks amazingly delicious. I love to bake, but had no idea basil was the secret to beautiful cookie. I will definitely try it, possibly today. :D

  64. tauri33
    January 26, 2012 at 11:04 am #

    Now, I do love me some good butter cookies!!

  65. January 26, 2012 at 11:43 am #

    Gorgeous little cookies, beautifully shot. I am not fussed about cookies generally (or I tell myself that anyway!) but with the flicker of lemon and the hefty whack of fragrant basil, these look like a must-bake. Will try with Thai basil for its hint of aniseed, if that’s allowed. Btw, I think if you used cream cheese instead of milk the soft-center issue may be resolved. Don’t quote me though.

  66. Sarah D.
    January 26, 2012 at 11:59 am #

    What an interesting combination! I’d never have thought of basil in a sweet. I love anything lemon, though, and this sounds so good that I think I’ll even make some, and I am not a baker at all. Thanks!

  67. January 26, 2012 at 12:13 pm #

    Wow! They look and sound amazing. I love basil as well, though it doesn’t sound like quite as much as you do! =) I was looking for a project to do this weekend, so I am going to give these a try. Thanks for the recipe. Congrats on the post.

  68. January 26, 2012 at 12:14 pm #

    I really liked your first sentence of the post…it made me chuckle.

    The recipe sounds wonderful! The cookies sound very much like a shortbread cookies, so if I may suggest…try blending the sugar, butter, and herb/citrus ingredients together with a mixer until well blended. Then add the flour in increments blending by hand until well incorporated. That might make a better dough.

    I’m going to try this recipe…thank you for posting it.

    Have a joyful day,

  69. January 26, 2012 at 7:47 pm #

    Can’t wait to bake these….

  70. January 27, 2012 at 12:56 pm #

    wow, what a lovely combination-basil and lemon. gotta try these cookies!

  71. January 27, 2012 at 3:55 pm #

    interesting combo of ingredients. i love smell of fresh basil!

  72. January 27, 2012 at 8:03 pm #

    This looks like a fabulous cookie recipe. Can’t wait to try it. Thanks for sharing.

  73. January 28, 2012 at 1:19 am #

    That looks mighty tasty!

  74. Alexandra
    January 28, 2012 at 11:33 am #

    those look pretty good. I’m kind of weary of adding spices that are typically used in savory dishes to sweet foods (once i tried rosemary cake — ick!) but these do look good.

    maybe i’ll try them!

  75. January 29, 2012 at 3:18 am #

    Love this recipe, looks absolutely delicious!

  76. January 29, 2012 at 11:16 pm #

    Thanks for the recipe, I made them yesterday with just slight variations.

    I also discovered how easy it was to turn plain old flour into basil flour… so easy!

    So, thanks to you I have been busy picking basil, turning boring flour into a herbal delight and cooking up scrummy stuff with it…

  77. January 29, 2012 at 11:23 pm #

    Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed! I’ve just found you through The Emerald Garden Blog and am so happy to follow. I love vintage flatware and dishes as well:) I love the look and feel of your blog!

  78. January 30, 2012 at 5:30 pm #

    I love fresh basil. I generally love cookies. Ditto lemon and lime. These three combined? These are a must try! Thanks for posting this recipe.

  79. February 6, 2012 at 5:33 pm #

    Love the blog and these cookies look delicious!

  80. February 7, 2012 at 10:12 am #

    Wow, they look soooo good.

  81. February 9, 2012 at 4:25 am #

    Nice combination of flavors ^.^~

  82. Kelly
    February 11, 2012 at 10:22 pm #

    Mind-blowing revelation: poking overly-moist cookies with toothpicks! You’ve just rocked my world sista!

  83. February 29, 2012 at 11:59 am #

    Oh, wow, these look so scrumptious! I’m so glad that I’m not the only person who thinks herbs belong in desserts. If you love basil, you should try adding it to rice pudding. I made a vanilla-basil version to go with some Thai food, and it was fabulous. I’d be happy to share the recipe if you have any interest. Happy cooking!


  1. Basil, a very versatile herb | The Emerald Garden Blog - January 29, 2012

    […] Today I thought I’d have a go at using it in ways that I had, until now, not considered. My inspiration came from the wonderful blog “The Apron Archives” and her recent post for Basil and Citrus Cookies. […]

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