Shortbread Cookies are made with only 5 simple ingredients to create a tender, flaky, buttery cookie that is melt-in-your-mouth delicious.
When you are craving a cookie that is buttery and not overly sweet, shortbread cookies are the perfect solution to satisfy that craving.
This classic Scottish recipe is known for being a flaky, buttery cookie that is not overly sweet. They are made with only a handful of simple ingredients to create a cookie with a crisp, yet delicate texture that will melt in your mouth, much like my recipe for Snowball Cookies.
In my book, shortbread cookies are the perfect treat, especially when dipped into a hot beverage like a homemade latte or a mug of Christmas Tea or hot chocolate. They are a little bit salty, a little bit sweet, and oh, so buttery. Just delicious.
- Butter: Unsalted butter is best for baking, and this is true for shortbread as well. If you only happen to have salted butter on hand, feel free to use it, just omit the added salt from the recipe. I would not substitute vegan butter in this Shortbread Cookie recipe, as the fat content is not the same and the cookies will not hold their shape or texture well.
- Flour: All-purpose flour is best for this recipe. I have not had success using whole wheat pastry flour or gluten-free flour when making shortbread cookies.
- Powdered Sugar: I recommend using powdered sugar in place of granulated sugar in the dough, as it is less dense than granulated sugar and produces a lighter cookie.
- Granulated Sugar: I use granulated sugar on top of the cookie for texture and a bit of additional sweetness, but it is not necessary.
- Vanilla Extract: Vanilla extract is optional, and not always added to traditional shortbread recipes. However, I love the hint of vanilla that it lends to the cookie.
How to Make Scottish Shortbread Cookies
Before you begin making these shortbread cookies, it is important to note that it is CRUCIAL for you to measure the ingredients correctly. The powdered sugar and flour should be fluffed and spooned into the measuring cup, then leveled off. If the dry ingredients are packed down when you measure them, or if your measuring cup is overflowing, the shortbread dough will turn out crumbly.
- In a large mixing bowl or bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter, sugar, and vanilla extract together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy.
- Add the flour and salt to the butter mixture and mix until combined. If the dough is still crumbly, press together with your hands into a cohesive dough.
- On a lightly floured surface, pat or roll the dough into an 8x8 square that is about ½ inch thick. I have found for many people, it works better to shape your dough BEFORE you chill it, making it super easy to slice and bake after chilling.
- Wrap the dough well in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. This will allow the butter to get cold and form air pockets in the cookie as it melts, keeping it light and tender--much like biscuits.
- When you are ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven.
- Once the oven is fully preheated, remove the dough from the refrigerator and cut the dough into 2-inch squares, for a total of 16 cookies.
- Piece cookies with a fork, toothpick, or skewer, several times. This will allow steam to escape and the shortbread to not puff up too much as it bakes.
- Place the shortbread cookies onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper about 1 inch apart from each other.
- Sprinkle lightly with the granulated sugar. This will give the shortbread a nice crunch and sweet finish.
- Bake the shortbread cookies until lightly golden and set for about 18 to 20 minutes. Be careful to not let cookies brown, they should be fairly pale in color.
- Let the shortbread cool to room temperature on the baking sheet and then remove the cookies to a cooling rack or platter for serving.
How to Store Shortbread
Once the shortbread cookies have fully cooled, transfer them to an airtight container and store them for up to 7 days at room temperature. Alternatively, you can freeze shortbread in a freezer-safe container for up to 3 months. I do prefer placing shortbread in a container versus a freezer bag to keep them from being damaged as things are tossed about in the freezer. Defrost at room temperature and enjoy.
Shortbread Cookie Dough can be made up to 5 days in advance. Prepare the dough as directed and store the dough, tightly wrapped in plastic wrap, in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer in a freezer-safe storage container for up to one month. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight if needed, and then roll, cut, and bake the cookies as directed.
- Make it Festive: Instead of topping your shortbread with granulated sugar, use colored sparkling sugar to the cookies before baking.
- Add Sprinkles: Quickly mix ½ cup of sprinkles into your cookie dough after mixing in the flour. Shape, chill, slice, and bake as directed.
Chocolate Dipped Shortbread: Once your cookies have been baked and cooled, melt 1 cup of dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips into a heat-safe bowl and microwave in 30-second intervals until melted. Dip half the cookie into the melted chocolate and then place it on a cookie sheet that has been lined with parchment paper. Allow the chocolate to harden and then serve or store as directed.
- Add Almond Extract: To enhance the nutty flavor of the butter, add ¼ teaspoon of almond extract to the shortbread cookies along with the vanilla extract.
More Homemade Cookie Recipes
- Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
- Neiman Marcus Cookies
- Flourless Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Sugar Cookies
- Snickerdoodle Cookies
I hope you love these shortbread cookies as much as I do! If you give them a try, I would love for you to leave a comment and rating below.
- 1 cup softened, unsalted butter (2 sticks)
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¾ cup confectioner’s sugar (powdered sugar)
- 2-¼ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Granulated sugar for sprinkling
- In a large mixing bowl or bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter, vanilla, and powdered sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides as needed. Add the flour and salt to the creamed ingredients and mix on low until the dough is just combined. It will look a bit crumbly.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and bring the dough together to form a cohesive dough. Pat or roll the dough into an 8x8 square that is about ½ inch thick. Wrap the dough well in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
- Once ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 325° and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator and cut the dough into 2” squares. Place the cookies onto the prepared pan about 1 inch apart from each other.
- Piece cookies with a fork or skewer, several times. Sprinkle with granulated sugar.
- Bake until lightly golden and set, 18 to 20 minutes. Do not let cookies brown as they should be fairly pale in color.
- Let cool to room temperature on the baking sheet and then remove to a baking rack or container.
- Store the cooled shortbread cookies in an airtight container for up to 7 days at room temperature or in a freezer-safe container for up to 1 month.
This post was originally shared in 2020 but updated in 2022 with new tips.
Hello, I’m looking for a Scottish cookie recipe that has baking powder or Soda for a crispier snap, rather then a crumbling type. Trust me I love your recipe, can you help me?
Hey there! I can't find a recipe that adds baking soda to recommend to you. I apologize for that.
I drizzled mine with melted chocolate. Delish! I could eat way too many of these!
I love doing that myself (and I struggle to not eat too many myself!)
These are such an easy & delicious cookie! We make them every year. They just melt in your mouth!
I absolutely love hearing these shortbread cookies have become a holiday tradition. Happy Holidays to your family!
I followed the recipe (Shortbread Cookies) to the letter, the dough tasted great....couldn't get the dough to hang together, but after some maneuvering, I got it into a ball...thought maybe the secret was in refrigeration...but I couldnt even roll out dough w/o it breaking up! Was there a liquid that was left out of the recipe? I'm SO disappointed! Now what do I do with this dough or how to fix it?
Hi Julie! I am so sorry you are disappointed with this recipe. There is not an ingredient left out and I am not sure why you are having this issue. Did you use a full 2 sticks of butter or just 1? Was your butter fully soft? How did you measure your flour? Was it spooned into your measuring cup or scooped out? These answers will help me to troubleshoot fully for you. In the meantime, you can refrigerate the dough again until fully chilled. Instead of rolling it out, press the dough into an 8x8 baking dish lined with parchment paper. Prick the holes as directed and then then bake as directed, increasing the time by 2-3 minutes, or until lightly golden. Let cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes and then remove the parchment paper and gently cut into squares and then let cool fully.
I did use 2 sticks (fully softened) of unsalted butter. I did scoop out flour but did not pack it. As I stated (because I cheated & tasted to test flavor) the flavor of dough was great. I will try your suggestion pressing dough into baking dish. I just hated the thought of tossing out the dough, so thank you for your suggestion...hoping for the best!🙏
My family loved these so much and I loved making them! So pretty and so delicious!
I love a good shortbread cookie! Lorna Doone & GS Trefoils are some of my absolute favorites! But, sadly, I'm alone in this house in regards to my love of a shortbread! Love that this is a small batch recipe. Even though I could easily eat a whole huge batch of cookies, I certainly don't need to! And since I'm on my own, a smaller batch is perfect. They'll still be gone way too quickly, though... they're just so stinkin' delicious!
My favorite cookies!! I could eat soo many of these!!
These are the best! Such a simple recipe but the result is shortbread perfection!
YAY! I love hearing you enjoyed so much Gina!
the BEST recipe for cookies at this time of year! Rich, crispy and just PERFECT! These were the best!
So glad you enjoyed this Shortbread Cookie recipe so much Lisalia--thanks for leaving a review.
These cookies are amazing! Perfect for the holidays and so delicious!