Shortbread Cookies

November 28, 2020

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An easy Shortbread Cookies recipe! It’s a deliciously buttery, lightly sweet, nicely crisp, yet perfectly tender cookie. They’re made with only FIVE ingredients and optional (but highly recommended) chocolate! 

Looking to make those pretty swirly shaped cookies? Also try my butter cookies recipe.

Overhead image of shortbread cookies dipped in chocolate on a blue plate lined with parchment paper.

Shortbread – The Perfect Christmas Cookie

These are such a simple, humble cookie with rich and tempting flavor. They are delicious classic on their own but they are also very easy to customize (see variations ideas below).

Here it’s just all that butter that does the trick in this Scottish style shortbread. A lot of the best foods start out with a generous dose of butter.

Not only does it bring an abundance of rich flavor but it gives them their distinctive crumbly and slightly flaky texture.

Sure you have lots of options to buy store-bought shortbread this time of year but homemade is a game changer. They are fresher, cheaper, have a better butter flavor and more tender texture, and they just have that satisfying homemade goodness to them.

Plus these travel and ship well so they are great for gifting. Tis the season for cookies so let’s get baking!

Shortbread cookies with a icing tree decoration.

Shortbread Cookie Recipe Ingredients

  • Unsalted butter: Salted butter can be used too (cookies will just be lightly saltier), just omit the salt in the recipe.
  • Granulated sugar: If you want cookies a little sweeter you can increase sugar to 2/3 cup.
  • Salt: Just use standard fine table salt.
  • Vanilla extract: Use real vanilla for the best shortbread.
  • All-purpose flour: I like to use unbleached all purpose flour. I’ve really converted to baking mostly with that this year. It has a better flavor than bleached and I wonder about the chemical bleaching process of bleached flour. If bleached is all you have, it will work.

Image of ingredients needed to make shortbread. Includes flour, butter, sugar, vanilla, salt and optional chocolate for dipping.

How to Make Shortbread Cookie Dough

Stand Mixer

  • Mix cold diced butter, sugar and salt in an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until combined.
  • Blend in vanilla and mix well.
  • Add flour and mix until fully combined. It will seem dry at first but it will come together as you keep mixing.
  • Compress dough together.

Food Processor

  • In a large food processor pulse flour, sugar and salt.
  • Add butter and blitz a few times then dot over with vanilla.
  • Pulse until it comes together.

By Hand

  • Whisk together flour, sugar and salt in a bowl.
  • Add butter, dot vanilla over and rub mixture with fingertips until there are small crumbles.
  • Knead mixture until evenly blended and dough comes together well.
  • Chill dough to make it easier to work with before slicing if needed.

Collage of six images showing how to make shortbread cookies. Shows cutting cold butter into cubes, then mixing with sugar in a stand mixer. Then flour is added and mixed until it comes together.

Shaping and Baking Shortbread Cookies

Roll dough and slice with knife: This method is what I’ve used here. You’ll roll the dough out into a 1/3-inch thick rectangle on a floured surface. Trim away uneven edges, then cut dough into rectangles (or squares). Transfer to baking sheets and chill until firm, then bake in 350 degree oven 13 – 16 minutes.

Roll dough and cut with cookie cutters: Roll dough as directed then instead of cutting into squares or rectangles cut into desired shapes (re-roll scraps), chill and bake as directed.

Shape dough into logs and slice: This option simplifies things a little because you don’t have to roll dough out. Rather you can roll dough into 2 log shapes (press firm so there aren’t holes inside). Slice 1/3-inch thick then refrigerate and bake as directed.

Pressing dough into a pan: This is the simplest method. Rather than shaping beforehand just press dough into a 9 by 9-inch baking pan. Bake 325 about 35 minutes then cut into squares while warm.

Collage of six images showing how to roll, shape and cut shortbread cookies. Then also shows shortbread cookies on baking sheet before and after baking.

How to Store Shortbread Cookies

  • Let cookies cool completely on wire rack.
  • Then store in an airtight container.
  • Cookies can be stacked.

Shelf Life

  • Shortbread should keep up to 3 weeks at room temperature.
  • Or freeze up to 3 months.

Close up image of shortbread cookies with chocolate.

Variations

  • Try with other extracts such as almond, coconut, maple, coffee, rum extract etc.
  • Add citrus zest. Lemon or orange is delicious.
  • Mix in finely chopped nuts.
  • Add mini chocolate chips.
  • Season with spices such as cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice.
  • Blend in sprinkles, like I did here.
  • Sprinkle with coarse sugar before baking.
  • Decorate with royal icing (like the Christmas tree design above).
  • Prick the cookies with a fork for a classic shortbread appearance.
  • Dip in white chocolate or milk chocolate instead of semi-sweet. Finish with festive sprinkles.

Helpful Tips

  • Using cold butter in the recipe skips the need to chill dough 1 – 2 hours beforehand. I highly recommend this to save time, also using butter makes dough easier to work with and cookies spread less.
  • Mix long enough to fully incorporate ingredients.
  • Work to roll dough an even thickness for even baking.
  • Bake on ungreased cookie sheets so cookies spread less (don’t worry with all the butter in them they don’t stick).
  • Bake one sheet at a time for even cooking, keep other sheet chilled (again so cookies spread less).

Rectangular shortbread cookies shown on a plate at a side angle.

More Classic Cookie Favorites to Try

Rectangular shortbread cookies shown on a plate at a side angle.
4.88 from 16 votes

Shortbread Cookies Recipe

A classic cookie recipe! They're deliciously buttery and rich, lightly sweet, nicely crisp and perfectly tender. They're made with only FIVE ingredients and optional (but highly recommended) chocolate! 
Servings: 30
Prep30 minutes
Cook15 minutes
Ready in: 45 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (226g) unsalted butter, cold, diced into tiny cubes
  • 1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar*
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups (248g) unbleached all-purpose flour** (scoop and level to measure)
  • 8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, chopped (optional)

Instructions

  • Add butter and sugar to bowl of stand mixer. Sprinkle salt around into bowl. Set mixer on medium-low speed and blend until combined.
  • Add vanilla and blend mixture until well combined (butter should be evenly blended in), scrape down bowl as needed.
  • Pour in flour and mix until combined.
  • On a floured surface, roll dough out 1/3-inch thick. Cut into squares or rectangles (using a cookie cutter or knife. I did about 3 by 1-inch rectangles here).
  • Transfer to ungreased baking sheets spacing 1-inch apart. You can dust of excess flour from scrapes, compress together and re-roll.
  • Transfer baking sheets to refrigerator and chill 30 minutes. Halfway through preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Bake one sheet at a time in center of oven until cookies are just set about 13 - 16 minutes. Tip: around 9 minutes if your cookies are spreading uneven on edges you can remove from oven and use a butter knife to scoot spread portion back in and even out their edges.
  • Let cool on baking sheet 15 minutes. Then transfer to a wire rack to cool. Repeat with second baking sheet.
  • If opting to use optional chocolate finish: Place chocolate in microwave safe dish. Melt in 20 second increments on 50% power, stirring between intervals until melted and smooth (or melt in a double boiler on the stovetop).
  • Dip cooled cookies about halfway into chocolate, lift cookie then run bottom side of cookie along inside bowl edge to remove excess chocolate. Transfer to parchment paper lined baking sheets then refrigerate to set.

Notes

  • *If you want them a little sweeter you can use 2/3 cup sugar.
  • **If you are at high altitude or if your cookies are normally prone to spreading then add and extra 2 - 3 Tbsp flour.
VARIATIONS
  • Try with other extracts such as almond (you'll only need about 1/2 tsp), coconut, maple, coffee, rum extract etc.
  • Add citrus zest. Lemon or orange is delicious.
  • Mix in finely chopped nuts.
  • Add mini chocolate chips.
  • Season with spices such as cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice.
  • Blend in sprinkles, like I did here.
  • Sprinkle with coarse sugar before baking.
  • Decorate with royal icing (like the Christmas tree design above).
  • Prick the cookies with a fork for a classic shortbread appearance.
  • Dip in white chocolate or milk chocolate instead of semi-sweet. Finish with festive sprinkles.
Nutrition Facts
Shortbread Cookies Recipe
Amount Per Serving
Calories 141 Calories from Fat 81
% Daily Value*
Fat 9g14%
Saturated Fat 6g38%
Cholesterol 17mg6%
Sodium 21mg1%
Potassium 54mg2%
Carbohydrates 14g5%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 6g7%
Protein 1g2%
Vitamin A 192IU4%
Calcium 8mg1%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutrition values are estimates only. See full disclaimer here.

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78 Comments

  • Michael Mangiafico

    Here is another idea. Add 2 cups of pureed pumpkin to the dough. Also use brandy or rum in the place of the vanilla. Also you can use berry puree but be sure strain out the liquid and use the solid part.

  • Aline Medawar

    Shortbread cookies need powder sugar snd never granulated!!! That make a huge difference in texture!
    Try it and see

  • Shaherose Lalji

    How do you get the chocolate covering on the cookies in an angle? can you please describe the method. Thank you.

    • Jaclyn

      Jaclyn Bell

      Yes just hold the cookies at an angle (maybe around 45 degrees) then dip to cover the cookie about halfway up, lift and let chocolate run off. Enjoy :)!

  • Donna Young

    Can I give this recipe 6 stars? I received rave reviews for these cookies! For my crowd, who prefer baked goods that are not super-sweet, these had the perfect amount of sugar. They also had the perfect texture—a nice bite but tender and so buttery tasting. This recipe is a keeper!

    • Jaclyn

      Jaclyn Bell

      I’m happy to know you and others enjoyed these, and thought they had a great texture and taste Donna!

  • Lauren

    Ah-mazing! I made these for my mom and they exceeded my expectations. Really really nice flavor and super easy to make (I used cute heart & star shaped cookie cutters and chilled the dough for a half hour).
    Thank you!! Happy holidays everyone ❤️

  • Magdalena B.

    My 5 year old son and I made these for Christmas this year. We had used Christmas cookie cutters instead of cutting into rectangles, we also used Christmas color frosting instead of the chocolate…..to make it fun :)
    Our family and friends we gifted them with were pleasantly impressed with the great flavor… we all enjoyed them very much.
    Thank you so so much for sharing this great recipe! Making more today ;)

    • Jaclyn

      Jaclyn Bell

      So fun to bake with family! I’m happy to know they worked well for you as shapes and that your family and neighbors enjoyed! Thanks for your comment Magdalena!

  • Olivia

    I choose these cookies for the shape, something other than round, drop or cut out. Ours spread awfully too, but I did push them back to shape with two knives at end of baking, thanks for recommendation. I have a Joseph Joseph roller and used 3/8” thickness, they fit on one cookie sheet. I used a mini spoon to help chocolate up onto cookies, half dipping them, but I didn’t melt enough and my bowl wasn’t deep enough to fully dip them. Chocolate had to be re-melted when it got hard. We used Ghiraldelli 60% and it was delish! Overall, cookies were not good fresh out of oven (me greedy!) but amazing next day. Thanks for sharing!