Want to take a bite of sunshine? These lemony citrus cooler cookies are the answer

These simple drop cookies bake in 10 minutes, making them perfect for the final hot days of summer

By Bibi Hutchings


Published September 14, 2022 4:50PM (EDT)

Citrus cooler cookies (Ashlie Stevens)
Citrus cooler cookies (Ashlie Stevens)

In "Bibi's Gulf Coast Kitchen," columnist Bibi Hutchings takes you on a culinary journey across the coastal south. Come for the great food writing, stay for the delicious recipes.

Anything that requires me to turn my oven on in the summertime must be worth it. As heat indexes rise into the triple digits, my patience lowers for lots of things — most things really — but particularly for being in a hot kitchen. Whatever I'm doing in there must turn out to be delicious, easy to make and fast to bake. Citrus Coolers are one of my favorites that meets these criteria: a simple drop cookie baked at just 350 degrees for only about ten minutes that can even be prepared in your toaster oven! Brimming with bright citrus flavor, I find most folks have a taste for them all year round, but I especially crave them in the summer. 

Despite being a cookie for all seasons, I make these Citrus Coolers mostly in the summer and fall. In addition to the speed of turning these babies out, the fresh citrus taste really draws me in when it's hot outside. But here along the coast, lemons and satsumas come in during the fall, so I bake these cookies using satsumas instead of navel oranges once the satsumas are ready to pick.  

If you've never had a satsuma, they are a small, sweet, seedless type of mandarin orange that grows very well here. They are absolutely delicious and we have bucketfuls of them every year. Just about everyone in this community has lemon and satsuma trees that are prolific producers each fall, so between us there is plenty of both to go around.

These cookies bake to a beautiful toasty color and are topped with an artful smear of the palest pastel icing that is lightning-fast to whip up. They are the perfect accompaniment to your midday pick-me-up with coffee or tea, and although I don't know firsthand, I have been told they pair well with a nice glass of Sancerre! Not too sweet and not too tangy, I think they are just right. 

When I tasted these for the first time many years ago, I had never heard of using the entire peel in a baked good. Sure, I had used zest, but using everything but the seeds was something new for me. I was dubious but intrigued. 

These cookies are a go-to for me during these hot months when time is best spent in the water (or anywhere but in the kitchen). Summer is a sociable season where I live, and I like having something homemade to offer when people drop by. These are always a big hit and they keep well. 

School is already starting, or soon to start, for many of our summer families, so little by little we are thinning out along the bay as folks head back home for the school year. Despite that, there is no sign of fall in the air here. That's for sure. We call these hot, humid days of late July and August "dog days," which "The Old Farmer's Almanac" says are the 40 days between July 3 and August 11.

We have a neighbor down the beach, Robert, who has a telescope and can turn a clear evening of stargazing into quite the astronomy lesson. He explained to me how "dog days" gets its name from the "daily dawn rising of Sirius" which begins just after the summer solstice. Sirius, the brightest star in the sky aside from our sun, is one of the stars that make up the constellation Canis Major. Canis Major, as opposed to Canis Minor, translates to "Greater Dog," so it follows that the star, Sirius, is known as the Dog Star. Dog Star brings about dog days.

Canis Major and Canis Minor are the constellations named for Orion's two hunting dogs. If you can find Orion's belt in the sky, you can find Sirius and Canis Major. Just look south from Orion's belt to find Sirius, the nose of Canis Major. Look farther south to see the triangle of stars that make up the dog's hindquarters. 

Whether it is due to the now "daily dawn rising of Sirius, the Dog Star," or the "heat dome" my local weather guy talks of ad nauseam, it is still hot as you- know-what where I live and still very much summer! Going out in this heat to do my regular routine, without anything extra or out of the ordinary, makes me feel I've earned a treat by the time I finish my day with washing up the supper dishes. These cookies are just that. A  well-deserved treat for making it through another dog day of summer. 

By the way you don't need a telescope to find Canis Major and the Dog Star this time of year. All you need is a clear night in a place without a lot of light pollution. As our summer folks return home, their dock lights, house lights, motion detector lights, car lights and evening fireworks are no longer lighting up the place, so our bay community returns to the quieter, darker evenings we are used to having. Stargazing is magical here on a clear night, so as nice as it was to see everyone this summer, it is time for them all to go. I extrapolate the three-day rule for houseguests to the three-month rule for our summer folks. Nice to see you. It's been fun. Now it's time to go home.

Want more great food writing and recipes? Subscribe to Salon Food's newsletter.

You know, maybe I was wrong. Maybe there are signs of fall here. Maybe Robert out looking at the sky through his telescope the other night, our one night this week without rain, was a sign. And now that I think about it, the wasp-like buzz of jet skis is no longer drowning out Robert's music in the evenings. Robert is also a saxophonist who often plays on his dock just as the sun is going down — dreamy, almost melancholic music that emanates from his dock along the shoreline on a quiet evening. And if I trust "The Farmer's Almanac," these dog days should be over in the next few days. I need to check our weather station in the kitchen and see what the heat index is. If it's below 100, I'll have faith that cooler, crisper days will be here soon. 

As nice as summer was, I am ready for fall. I think these cookies are just the thing for the transition. I hope you like them as much as we do.

Citrus cooler cookies
36 small cookies
Prep Time
30 minutes
Cook Time
10-12 minutes


2 sticks of butter, softened (1/2 cup)

1 cup sugar

1 navel orange, cut into pieces, seeds removed

1 small lemon or 1/2 large lemon, cut into pieces, seeds removed

2 cups AP flour

1/2 teaspoon soda

1/2 teaspoon salt



3 Tablespoons butter, softened

2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

2 Tablespoons ground orange and lemon peel/pulp

2 Tablespoons juice from orange and lemon 




  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Squeeze juice from lemon and orange and combine. Press or squeeze all the juice you can from the citrus.
  3. Place the peels and pulp in a food processor and pulse until you have a fine grind. You may also chop it very, very small if you don't have a food processor.

    ***You will not use all the juice or ground pulp/peel.

  4. Beat butter and sugar until smooth and creamy.

  5. Add a firmly packed 1/2 cup of ground (or finely chopped) orange/lemon to the beaten butter-sugar.

  6. Add the flour, soda, and salt and beat/blend well.

  7. Drop dough by tablespoons onto an ungreased cookie sheet and gently flatten with your fingers or the back of a wet spoon.

  8. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until golden. Remove from cookie sheet to a rack to cool.

  9. Whip up the icing while the cookies are baking by creaming together the powdered sugar and butter. Add the ground peels and the juice and beat or stir until smooth. Spread the icing onto warm cookies.


Cook's Notes

To gluten or not to gluten             
It is common for me to offer alternative ingredients to reduce or eliminate gluten and sugar, and this recipe can handle these substitutions. If you choose to eliminate gluten, make sure to use a gluten-free baking mix, not simply gluten-free flour, as it must have rising and binding agents added to it in order for it to be a true replacement. 

Regarding sweetener, using Swerve (erythritol), or other measure-for-measure sweetener, also works fine for these cookies, but I would recommend using real powdered sugar in the icing. I repeat: use real powdered sugar for the icing. When I have tried using an alternative powdered sugar, no one has liked the result. 

Lemons & Oranges
Feel free to change the ratio of lemon to orange to your liking as well, using more or less of one or the other to equal the amount of juice, peel, and pulp called for in the recipe. The orange sweetens and mellows the sour from the lemon, but because fresh lemons and oranges vary in taste from fruit to fruit, each batch will be a bit different. I have made these with regular lemons, Meyer lemons, and every sort of orange. They are all good!  Sometimes I keep the lemon and orange juice separated and only use orange juice in the icing. You will try all sorts of variations over time.  

Salon Food writes about stuff we think you'll like. While our editorial team independently selected these products, Salon has affiliate partnerships, so making a purchase through our links may earn us a commission. 

By Bibi Hutchings

Bibi Hutchings, a lifelong Southerner, lives along a quiet coastal Alabama bay with her cat, Zulu, and husband, Tom. She writes about the magical way food evokes memories, instantly bringing you back to the people, places and experiences of your life. Her stories take you all around the South and are accompanied with tried-and-true recipes that are destined to become a part of your memory-making as you share them with your friends and family.         

MORE FROM Bibi Hutchings

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Citrus Cookies Lemon Recipe Southern