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Brown Sugar Citrus Cookies

Want to switch up the classic sugar cookie? Add in some brown sugar. Want to make them even better? Add some citrus to the mix. The result? These brown sugar citrus cookies. I guarantee they will quickly become your new obsession.

Brown Sugar Citrus Cookies

Brown Sugar Citrus Cookie Recipe

So, what makes these cookies different from your average sugar cookies? It’s pretty much all in the sugar. Instead of adding regular granulated sugar to the cookies, the sweetness all comes from the addition of brown sugar. The brown sugar gives the cookies a deep flavor, with subtle hints of molasses coming through. And it doesn’t stop there.

For some reason, I couldn’t get the idea of brown sugar and citrus out of my head. It was a flavor combination that I don’t see too often, but something about it just sounded good to me. I researched some recipes, but nothing stuck out. What did was a recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks, 100 Cookies by Sarah Keifer. Any cookie of hers is basically perfect, so when I saw her recipe for brown sugar cookies I decided that would be a good place to start. The recipe is a riff on classic sugar cookies with brown sugar and molasses. I adapted the recipe to take out the molasses and add in a little more brown sugar. Then came the citrus flavoring.

Tasty Brown Sugar Citrus Cookies

Brown Sugar Citrus Cookies

To add the citrus to these cookies, I used Cara Cara oranges. They were in peak season when I was giving this recipe a try and were so flavorful. I thought the zest and some juice would help flavor the cookie so I inserted some right into the batter. However, the real star of the cookies is the citrus-sugar zest coating before they hit the oven. With classic sugar cookies, most of them get rolled in a coat of sugar before hitting the oven. I used the same technique but added a whole lot of orange zest into the sugar. I mixed the two together to help release all of the good oils and then rolled the dough into the mixture before placing them in the oven.

The flavor combo was a hit. The cookies came out with a deep sweetness with citrus notes running all the way through. The rolled sugar zest highlights the flavor of the batter and really makes for a delicious bite. I used Cara Cara oranges because they were in peak form, but any variety of orange can be substituted if needed. I have to give this a try with lemons and see if the flavors are just as bright.

Ingredients Needed For Brown Sugar Citrus Cookies

  • Flour
  • Baking soda
  • Salt
  • Unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • Dark brown sugar
  • Eggs
  • Vanilla extract
  • Oranges – juice, and zest
  • Sugar – for rolling dough

How To Make Brown Sugar Citrus Cookies

  1. Prepare: Preheat the oven and two cookie sheets with parchment. Set to the side.
  2. Make The Cookie Dough: In a large bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients and set to the side. Using a hand mixer or a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and the sugar. Beat in the brown sugar, followed by the eggs. Mix to combine. Add in the vanilla, orange juice, and zest and mix to fully combine.
  3. Make The Orange Sugar: Combine the remaining sugar with the orange zest to make the rolling sugar.
  4. Roll The Dough: Roll or scoop the cookie dough into small balls and roll the dough into the sugar mixture. Make sure that the dough is evenly covered on all sides with the sugar.
  5. Bake The Cookies: Place the sugar-covered dough on the cookie sheet and bake the cookies. The cookies should be about 2 inches from each other while baking. Bake the cookies in the oven for about 8 -11 minutes.
  6. Cool: Let the cookies cool on the pan slightly before moving them to a cooling rack to finish cooling.
Brown Sugar Citrus Cookies

Tips For Making Brown Sugar Citrus Cookies

  • These cookies are fast and easy to put together. The hardest and longest part will probably be zesting the oranges. You don’t have to chill these cookies either; they can go right from the bowl to the oven without any chill time.
  • The cookies could be frozen in dough form without the sugar and kept in the freezer for about two months if you don’t want to bake them all.
  • Don’t skimp when it comes to the sugar and the zest. The more you cover the cookie dough ball, the more flavorful it will be.
  • Don’t overload these cookies onto a large cookie sheet. Try and space them out and if your oven doesn’t cook evenly, bake one tray at a time. I know it’s a pain, but the cookies won’t cook evenly otherwise.

How To Store Brown Sugar Citrus Cookies

If you want to save your brown sugar citrus cookies for another day, place them in an airtight container. The cookies will stay for about a week. The cookies can also be frozen and last about 2-3 months in the freezer. Place the cookies in an airtight container or plastic bag to store.

Make these cookies to enjoy the very end of peak citrus season! Find the recipe below!

Brown Sugar Citrus Cookies

Recipe by Margo Gothelf Course: DessertCuisine: DessertDifficulty: Easy


Prep time


Cooking time



These brown sugar cookies are full of deep flavors and bright notes of citrus. Try and use cara cara oranges for peak sweetness.


  • 2 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 3/4 tsp baking soda

  • 3/4 tsp salt

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

  • 2 cups dark brown sugar

  • 1 large egg, plus 1 egg yolk

  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

  • 3 tbsp juice of an orange

  • 3 tbsp of zest from 2-3 oranges

  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup sugar for rolling

  • 2-4 tbsp of zest from 2-3 oranges


  • Preheat the oven to 350 and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Set to the side.
  • In a medium-sized bowl combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set to the side.
  • In a large bowl with a hand mixer or in the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the butter until smooth, about 1-2 minutes. Add in the brown sugar and beat together until nice and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Add in the egg and egg yolk and beat until fully combined. Then, add in the vanilla, orange juice, and zest and mix until fully combined.
  • Gradually add in flour mixture and beat on medium-low. Continue to beat the mixture until everything is fully combined and has a smooth texture.
  • Place the rolling sugar and zest in a small bowl and massage the zest into the sugar. This will break out the oils in the zest and fully release the flavor. Set aside.
  • Form the dough into 2-3 tbsp sized balls using your hands or a cookie scoop. Roll the fully formed balls into the sugar mixture and fully cover the cookie dough balls. Place on a tray about 2 inches apart from each other.
  • Bake one pan at a time for an even cook. Place the pan in the oven for about 8-11 minutes, rotating the pan about halfway through. The cookies will be hardened around the rim when ready, so don’t worry if they look a little underdone in the middle when taking them out.
  • Let cookies cool for a few minutes on the pan before transferring them to a wired rack. Let them cool completely on the wire rack. They might fall a little in the middle when cooling, but that’s fine.
  • Store cookies in an airtight container for about a week. The cookies will last in the freezer for about 3 months.

Did you make this recipe?! Let me know and share it on Instagram. Tag @crispcrumble and use the hashtag #crispandcrumble. 


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