These butter cookies are simple but so good! Melt-in-your-mouth tender & perfumed with sweet vanilla, with a crunchy sparkling sugared edge.
More and more, I find myself craving simple cookies, without a lot of added embellishments. Just really high-quality ingredients, allowed to shine in their own right.
These butter cookies really fit the bill.
Butter is the star ingredient, and it’s one of my top favorites!
Table of Contents
- What are butter cookies?
- What’s great about this butter cookie recipe
- What does this butter cookies recipe taste like?
- Special equipment
- How to make butter cookies
- How to serve
- Expert tips
- Frequently asked questions
- A few more of my favorite cookie recipes
What are butter cookies?
This recipe was inspired by the French classic: sable cookies.
They are simple as can be and so buttery. They’re short and tender, and they just crumble and melt in your mouth.
Just sweet enough, with a sparkly edge of coarse sugar. Gorgeously perfumed with sweet vanilla.
This butter cookie recipe is sophisticated without being the least bit fussy. I think you’re going to absolutely love it.
What’s great about this butter cookie recipe
- Tastes amazing: These are so rich and buttery, with just the right amount of sweetness.
- Few ingredients: You’ll only need a handful of basic pantry staples to make it.
- Easy to make: The dough comes together in a matter of minutes.
- Simple: These cookies are simple but so good. They’re a great accompaniment to a cup of coffee, tea, or hot chocolate.
What does this butter cookies recipe taste like?
I love the flavor of these simple little treats. They’re so buttery-tasting, and they have just the right amount of sweetness. Plus the rich, fragrant aroma of vanilla really shines.
The star of the show!
I like to use unsalted butter because it lets me control the amount of salt in the dish. Different brands of butter can contain different amounts of salt, so this way you get a more consistent result.
For a vegan or dairy-free butter cookie recipe, use a plant-based butter that can substitute for dairy butter 1:1.
This recipe works best if you allow the butter to come to room temperature first. You can set it out on the counter a few hours ahead of making your cookies, or you can microwave it for 10 seconds, turn it over, and microwave it again for another 8 seconds.
Sugar adds sweetness (obvs!) but it also aids in browning and keeps things moist, since it’s hydrophilic (this means it loves water, in other words, it draws moisture in).
I like a combination of granulated white sugar and powdered sugar for this recipe. The granulated sugar helps to crisp things up, and the powdered sugar makes everything so tender. My theory is that the small amount of cornstarch it contains provides a little extra structure without any gluten.
I also like to coat the outside edge in sparkling sugar. It adds a crunchy texture, looks so wintry and nice, and gives a little added sweetness as well.
You’ll need one large chicken egg, or a plant-based product that subs 1:1. You’ll separate the egg and use the yolk in the dough (for richness and structure), and the white will get brushed on to help the sparkling sugar to adhere.
Because these cookies are so simple, I like to amp up the vanilla flavor as much as possible. Vanilla extract will work in a pinch, but if you can get your hands on a jar of vanilla bean paste, that’s even better!
You could also split a vanilla bean down the center lengthwise, scrape out the seeds, and add those.
All-purpose flour is my go-to, but you can swap it out for any kind of whole-grain option if you like. You may need slightly less if you go that route.
A gluten-free flour blend that can sub 1:1 for regular flour should also work just fine, if you’d like to make gluten-free butter cookies.
Salt carries the flavors and intensifies them. The end result won’t taste salty, but it will make everything so much more flavorful!
I like kosher salt best because it doesn’t have any additives (table salt usually contains iodine which can leave a bitter taste), so the flavor is pure. It’s also inexpensive and easy to find in a regular grocery store.
- Measuring cups and spoons: For measuring ingredients accurately. Follow this guide: How to Measure Ingredients for Baking.
- Mixing bowl: In which to prepare the dough.
- Electric mixer: It’s a stiff dough, so you’ll want either a stand mixer or a powerful handheld electric mixer.
- Silicone spatula: Reaches and incorporates any ingredients that might be hiding from the mixer, and helps to get every bit of dough from the bowl!
- Parchment paper sheets: Prevents the cookies from sticking to the pan, and makes cleanup a snap!
- Pastry brush: The logs of dough get brushed with egg white to help the sparkling sugar to adhere.
- Knife: For slicing the logs into rounds.
- Baking sheets: On which to bake the cookies.
How to make butter cookies
This easy recipe comes together in just a few simple steps.
Step 1: Blend butter and sugar
Place the butter, granulated sugar, and powdered sugar together in your mixing bowl.
Fit your mixer with the paddle attachment and stir these ingredients together on medium-low speed just until they’re smoothly combined.
Step 2: Add eggs and vanilla
Next, drop in the egg yolk and the vanilla.
Again, you only have to mix these in until everything’s combined.
Step 3: Add flour and salt
Flour and salt go into the bowl next.
It’s a good idea to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl with a silicone spatula at this stage. This way, you know that everything is getting worked in evenly.
Step 4: Chill
Once the flour and salt have been incorporated, divide the dough in half and roughly shape it into logs on sheets of parchment.
Roll the parchment around the logs, smoothing the shape a bit as you go.
And chill the dough in the fridge for at least an hour so it firms up.
Step 5: Slice and bake
Once the dough is nice and firm, peel away the parchment and brush the logs with the egg white you have left over.
Shake a fair amount of sparkling sugar out onto a plate or tray, and roll the logs in the sugar.
You want the whole outside to be coated in the crunchy, coarse sugar.
Then just grab your knife and start slicing! I like to cut coins that are around 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch thick.
Place the rounds on parchment-lined baking sheets and slide them into a hot oven.
You’ll know they’re done baking when they’re just barely beginning to go golden around the edges.
How to serve
These butter cookies make a lovely afternoon pick-me-up, along with a hot drink. Their flavor is so simple and unassuming, you know they can only enhance the taste of your coffee, tea, or hot chocolate.
Don’t whip too much: Unlike a lot of other cookie recipes, we don’t want to incorporate a ton of air into this dough. That will just cause the cookies to spread too much in the oven.
Scrape: Don’t forget to scrape the bottom and sides of your bowl with a silicone spatula, to loosen any dense butter and sugar that might be hiding, and make sure it gets incorporated.
Don’t overmix: Once the flour’s gone in, it’s really important that you don’t overwork the dough. This could result in tough cookies. We want tender, not tough!
Frequently asked questions
The dough can keep in the fridge for several days, or in the freezer for a month or two.
Once baked, the cookies can be slipped into an airtight container and kept at room temperature for a week or so.
This recipe makes around 4 dozen cookies. Each cookie equals one serving.
The nutritional info provided in the recipe card below is for 1/48th of the whole batch.
A few more of my favorite cookie recipes
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- 1 cup (227 g) unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup (60 g) powdered sugar
- 1 (44 g) egg , large (separated)
- 1 teaspoon (5 g) vanilla bean paste, or vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups (187.5 g) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon (3 g) kosher salt
- 1/3 cup (78.67 g) sparkling sugar, approximately
- Mix the butter, granulated sugar, and powdered sugar together on medium-low speed until smooth.
- Stir in the egg yolk and vanilla.
- Add the flour and salt, and mix together until just barely combined.
- Divide the dough into two logs and wrap in parchment.
- Chill in the refrigerator for one hour.
- Unwrap the logs and brush with the remaining egg white.
- Roll the logs in sparkling sugar to coat.
- Slice into 3/8-inch rounds and place on the prepared baking sheets.
- Bake until just barely beginning to turn golden around the edges (approx. 10 to 14 minutes).