These gluten free lemon crinkle cookies are like chewy lemon sugar cookies with the beautiful crackly sugar top of crinkle cookies, and plenty of bright lemon flavor.

Closeup image of 2 lemon crinkle cookies on small metal plate

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These lemon crinkle cookies remind me of the chewiest, almost fudgy sugar cookie, but with the lovely cracks and craters of the classic crinkle. And, of course, tons of bright lemon flavor and tanginess.

How to ensure a crinkly white top on these cookies

I’m a very big fan of this basic cookie form, both as gf chocolate crinkle cookies (the original) and its cousin, gf red velvet crinkle cookies. But if you’ve ever made any kind of crinkle cookies, you may have found getting that crater-like top to be rather hit-or-miss.

There are two elements to the texture of these cookies: the separation on the top, creating craters, and the white sugar shell that (hopefully) survives the heat of the oven. I’ve got tons of tips for how to ensure beautiful, delicious results that go beyond the right ingredients (although of course those are super important, to start).

Bitten lemon crinkle cookie on small white plate

For the craters

There are two things that are essential to achieving the craters on top: dough that hasn’t been handled and smoothed too much, and the right amount of heat in the oven. With clean fingers, press in any very rough edges around the sides of the cookies, but leave the top prickly.

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Particularly with this lemon recipe, preparing the dough in precisely the right form requires a rough dough, so the dough separates readily in the oven. The chocolate and red velvet varieties seem to crackle a bit more readily.

To encourage that dough separation, I also like to start with a 375°F oven that I immediately reduce to 350°F after the baking sheet is placed inside. The temperature slowly falls to a temperature that allows the cookies to bake fully but still stay soft, and the initial heat encourages the separation.

For the sugar on top

The key to getting the sugar on top to remain opaque is to double-dip the pieces of raw cookie dough. After scooping the dough, you’ll coat it twice in sugar, handling each piece as gently as possible.

You can use confectioners’ sugar for both coatings. Just pause for a few moments in between coating since the dough will absorb a bit of the sugar.

You can also coat the pieces first in granulated sugar, and then follow with confectioners’ sugar. I prefer the way the cookies taste a bit that way, since confectioners’ sugar alone can be a bit tooth-aching.

Raw mounds of lemon crinkle cookie dough with confectioners

For extra credit

This is for the overachievers (I feel you)! When the cookie dough bakes in the oven, the craters clearly won’t have a white sugar crust on them. But the confectioners’ sugar on the outside of the dough can also melt into the dough in the oven.

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To ensure a whiter crust, try moistening the tops of the fully prepared mounds of dough with a clean, wet finger. Then dust the tops lightly with more confectioners’ sugar, and brush off the excess with a pastry brush.

Baked lemon crinkle cookies on white paper on tray

Ingredients and substitutions

Dairy

To replace the butter in these cookies with a dairy-free alternative, I would go with my old standby, vegan butter. My favorite brands are Miyoko’s Kitchen and Melt. I would not use Earth Balance buttery sticks here.

Eggs

There are two eggs in this recipe, and you might be able to replace them with 2 “chia eggs.” For each chia egg, place 1 tablespoon ground white chia seeds and 1 tablespoon lukewarm water in a small bowl, then mix and allow it to gel.

Since these cookies are all about the texture, I’m not sure an egg replacement will produce the same results, though.

Cornstarch

If you can’t have corn, you can replace the cornstarch with potato starch or arrowroot. Be sure the confectioners’ sugar you’re using is corn-free. There are some that use tapioca starch instead of cornstarch, so look for those.

Four lemon crinkle cookies on two small white plates and a cut lemon on a small metal plate

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