These classic shortbread cookies are made with just 5 ingredients! They are simple as can be but so buttery and delicious!

Shortbread cookies on a white plate with a sugar bowl in the background.

Hello my friend!

I’m back today with another fabulous cookie recipe!

After I made those pecan sandies last month, it reminded me how delicious a simple, buttery cookie can be. Peanut butter cookies and oatmeal chocolate chip cookies are fun and hearty and full of bold flavors, but sometimes you really crave something that’s a little more delicate and understated.

Shortbread is a great example. It’s as simple as can be. And a slightly less sweet cookie puts all the focus on the rich, buttery flavor and the tender, melt-in-your-mouth consistency.

These shortbread cookies are so easy to make, and they pair beautifully with a hot cup of tea, coffee, or cocoa. Read on for my best shortbread cookie recipe!

Shortbread cookies on a white plate with a text overlay above that reads "Shortbread Cookies."

WHAT ARE SHORTBREAD COOKIES?

Shortbread cookies are a tender, buttery cookie that’s simple and just sweet enough. They’ve been a staple in the UK for centuries; Scottish shortbread is particularly well-known and beloved.

The cookies are typically very pale in color, with a crumbly texture.

They aren’t quite crunchy or soft. The mouthfeel is more sandy and tender, and because of the high butter content, they melt in the mouth in a very satisfying way.

HOW TO MAKE SHORTBREAD COOKIES

This easy recipe has just 5 simple ingredients! And while there is some downtime waiting for things to chill, it takes less than 5 minutes to make the dough.

Start by placing sugar and salt in a food processor.

Process these 2 ingredients on high speed for 30 seconds to a minute. This will create finer particles that will dissolve into the butter more easily.

Next comes butter. Since butter is the key ingredient in shortbread cookies, it’s important to use the best quality you can get your hands on. European-style butter has a higher fat content and it will give the most amazing, rich flavor.

Sugar, salt, and butter in the bowl of a food processor.

Pulse the butter and vanilla in until the mixture looks like coarse breadcrumbs, then pulse in the flour. When you see it starting to clump up, you’re good to go.

The dough will be very crumbly at this stage. But if you squeeze a handful, it should hold together.

Squeezing crumbly shortbread cookie dough to hold its shape.

If it seems too dry, you can moisten it up slightly with 1 to 2 teaspoons of heavy cream, but be really careful not to overdo it! Bear in mind that the dough will hydrate as it chills. If it’s too wet, your shortbread cookies will spread in the oven and go flat. Sad face.

Wrap the dough up very tightly in plastic wrap, creating a large, flat square shape. Press hard on it to compact it (see the video in the recipe card below), and pop it into the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour.

Shortbread cookie dough pressed into a flat square and wrapped in plastic wrap.

After it’s chilled, it should look a lot less dry and be a bit easier to work with.

Roll it out to an even thickness, trim away any uneven edges, and cut the shortbread into finger-shaped bars.

Cutting shortbread cookies into bar shapes.

Then prick them with a fork, toothpick or bamboo skewer to create the signature holes on top.

Docking shortbread cookies with a bamboo skewer.

Give the shortbread another 30 minutes in the fridge to really firm up nicely, then bake them off until *just barely* beginning to turn golden on the bottoms.

SHORTBREAD COOKIE SHAPES

I really love the look of shortbread “fingers” because it’s just so iconic, but the shortbread dough can also be pressed into the bottom of a springform pan, scored, baked, and then cut into wedges. Shortbread cookies that are made in this way are known as “petticoat tails.”

You can also use a 2-inch diameter round cookie cutter and make shortbread rounds.

WHAT TO DO IF SHORTBREAD COOKIES SPREAD

Because this is such a buttery cookie, it does tend to melt/spread in the oven as it bakes. If you’re looking for a cookie-cutter cookie recipe that does not do this AT ALL, check out this recipe: Cut-out Cookies that Don’t Spread.

But these shortbread cookies are classic, traditional, and they have fewer ingredients.

If you don’t like the way they look after they’ve baked, just take a sharp knife to their edges while they’re still hot from the oven. It works like a charm and really neatens up the appearance!

DIFFERENT WAYS TO FLAVOR SHORTBREAD

The recipe below is for a very simple vanilla shortbread, but you can really get creative with something like this!

Here are a few ideas to get you inspired. Try adding some:

All of these extras can be added to taste, they will not really mess with the chemistry of the recipe.

You can also dip your shortbread in melted chocolate. Yum!

GLUTEN-FREE SHORTBREAD COOKIES

While I have not personally tested it this way, if you have a gluten-free flour blend that subs 1:1 for regular flour, I would think that would work well as a replacement for the all-purpose flour.

Here are a few good options:

Overhead image of shortbread cookies for Christmas, on a plate with a gray napkin and a cup of tea.

HOW TO STORE SHORTBREAD COOKIES

Because of the naturally tender-crisp texture of these cookies, they have an excellent shelf-life.

No matter how you store them, just be sure to wrap them tightly so they don’t pick up any off odors.

AT ROOM TEMPERATURE

They will keep for at least a week.

IN THE REFRIGERATOR

They’ll last at least 2 weeks, if not longer.

IN THE FREEZER

Shortbread cookies will last for several months in the freezer.

CAN THE DOUGH BE MADE AHEAD?

You can definitely make this dough ahead. It will become less dry and more “dough-like” as it sits, so feel free to make it a day or two before you plan to bake and enjoy it.

Best shortbread cookie recipe made and served on a white plate with a sugar bowl in the background.

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Shortbread Cookies
Prep Time
25 mins
Cook Time
20 mins
Chill Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 45 mins
 

These classic shortbread cookies are made with just 5 ingredients! They are simple as can be but so buttery and delicious!

Course: Dessert, Snack
Cuisine: Scottish
Keyword: best shortbread cookie recipe, shortbread cookie recipe, shortbread cookies, shortbread cookies Christmas
Servings: 27 cookies
Calories: 170 kcal
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Place the sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor, and process on high until the mixture is milled to a powder (about 1 minute).

  2. Pulse in the butter and vanilla until the mixture looks like coarse breadcrumbs.

  3. Pulse in the flour until the mixture begins to clump up.*

  4. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

  5. Unwrap the dough, trim off any uneven edges, and cut into 3-inch long by 1-inch wide bars.

  6. Dock the cookies with a fork, toothpick, or bamboo skewer, and place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

  7. Sprinkle them with additional sugar, and chill in the refrigerator for another 30 minutes.

  8. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

  9. Bake the cookies for 20 to 25 minutes, or until just barely beginning to turn golden around the edges.

  10. If the cookies have spread during baking, they can be trimmed back into shape with a sharp knife while hot from the oven.

Recipe Video

Recipe Notes

*The mixture will seem very crumbly, but it should hold its shape when squeezed. If it is too dry, add 1 to 2 teaspoons of heavy cream to moisten it up slightly, but be very careful not to overdo it as it will cause your cookies to spread in the oven.

Nutrition Facts
Shortbread Cookies
Amount Per Serving
Calories 170 Calories from Fat 90
% Daily Value*
Fat 10g15%
Saturated Fat 6g38%
Cholesterol 27mg9%
Sodium 45mg2%
Potassium 18mg1%
Carbohydrates 18g6%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 7g8%
Protein 2g4%
Vitamin A 315IU6%
Calcium 5mg1%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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