Homemade Limoncello (Not Lemon Jell-O) Thumbprint Cookies


Now hold on a minute, this recipe is not about jell-o. It’s all about a fruitful journey. Thumbprint cookies made with homemade limoncello liqueur.

Sixty lemons, six mandarins, 5 bottles of 100 proof vodka, 9 cups of sugar and 75 days later, we produced 20 375ml bottles of limoncello, 24 limoncello cookies, and 16 ounces of super tangy, extra sweet mandarin cello. Whew.

I’m going to miss seeing those pretty little mason jars, lined up proudly on the bar in my dining room. Maybe I’ll make some homemade vinegar to take their place. Or should I make some wine? I don’t know, I’m not really a very patient person.

We added simple syrup to the mason jars about 3 weeks ago. First, we strained it to remove the zest. Then, we boiled 6 cups of water and added 2 cups of sugar, stirred and let it cool to room temperature. Finally, we added the simple syrup to 4 cups of the limoncello, and repeated with the rest of the jars. Find the full recipe below.


About a week later, we tested the final product and it was a tad too sweet. Lucky for us, we never finished mixing all the jars with simple syrup. Three unsweetened jars were still left. In an attempt to de-sweetify (pretty sure that’s not a word) the limoncello, we emptied all the jars into a large pot, mixing the sugary limoncello with the unsweetened jars.

Perfecto. A few taste tests later, we bottled our liquid sunshine and threw them in the freezer. That is, all but the two we finished in celebration of our accomplishment. What? It was deserved, don’t you think?

But then we were stuck with a strainer full of zest. And we really really wanted cookies. So we baked, and drank, and made lemon curd out of our new stock of limoncello. What could possibly be better than that?


Limoncello Thumbprint Cookies

Lemon Curd

(adapted from Fine Cooking):

  • 3 oz. (6 Tbs.) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2/3 cup limoncello
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (leftover from limoncello)

In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer, about 2 min. Slowly add the eggs and yolks. Beat for 1 min. Mix in the lemon juice. The mixture will look curdled, but it will smooth out as it cooks.

In a medium, heavy-based saucepan, cook the mixture over low heat until it looks smooth. (The curdled appearance disappears as the butter in the mixture melts.) Increase the heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens, about 15 min. It should leave a path on the back of a spoon and will read 170°F on a thermometer. Don’t let the mixture boil.


Remove the curd from the heat; stir in the lemon zest. Transfer the curd to a bowl. Press plastic wrap on the surface of the lemon curd to keep a skin from forming and chill the curd in the refrigerator. The curd will thicken further as it cools. Covered tightly, it will keep in the refrigerator for a week and in the freezer for 2 months.

Thumbprint Cookies

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 2 sticks (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup organic cane sugar
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest from limoncello
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Powered sugar

Put the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer, and using the paddle attachment on medium speed, cream for about 3-5 minutes.

Add the vanilla and continue beating. Reduce the mixer to a low speed and add lemon zest. Slowly add flour until incorporated.


Take a tablespoon of dough at a time and roll it into a ball. Place on a foiled baking sheet, and using your pinkie, press down on the middle of the ball to form an indent. Place cookies at least 2 inches apart on sheet. Bake for 14 minutes on the middle rack. if the middles rose during baking, gently press them back down with your pinkie.

When cookies cool, fill each one with a small spoonful of lemon curd. Don’t worry if they don’t look perfect, I actually like them better that way, with curd spilling over the edges. Sprinkle powered sugar on top. Store in the fridge.

Limoncello Recipe:

  • 5 bottles 100 proof Absolut Vodka
  • 60 Meyer lemons
  • 9 cups of sugar

Zest all of your lemons, careful not to include any of the bitter white stuff. Mix together the vodka and the zest. Use the zest of 6 lemons for every 2 cups of vodka.


Let it rest in a cool dark place for 1-2 months.

Bring 5 quarts of water to a boil. Turn off heat, and add 9 cups of sugar. Stir until the sugar completely dissolves. Let cool to room temperature. Drain jars of vodka, removing zest (store it in the freezer for later use). Combine simple syrup and limoncello, and let it sit for at least another 2 weeks. Taste, bottle, and store in the freezer until ready to drink. Makes 20 375ml bottles.

Author: Julia Nicodemo

That’s me, Julia Nicodemo, carbs eater, coffee drinker, loud laugher, car singer, writer and creator of Fork me Noodle.

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