Nov 30, 2023
This shortbread cookie recipe is easy to make with 5 simple ingredients. The cookies are tender and buttery. They practically melt in your mouth!
Shortbread cookies are perfect for the holidays, but they’re so delicious that I make them all throughout the year. They have crisp edges, a buttery flavor, and a tender, melt-in-your-mouth texture. When I want a little treat to enjoy with a coffee or tea, shortbread cookies always hit the spot.
I’ve previously shared a lemon shortbread cookie recipe and an orange shortbread cookie recipe, but this classic shortbread recipe is the one I make the most. The cookies are simple, scrumptious, and easy to make with 5 ingredients. Add them to a Christmas cookie plate this season, or keep them on hand for whenever you’re craving something sweet. I think you’ll love them!
Ingredients in Shortbread Cookies
Traditional Scottish shortbread is made with just 3 ingredients:
- Granulated sugar – Use regular white sugar, not natural cane sugar, for the best tender texture.
- Butter – For rich, buttery flavor. I use unsalted butter and add salt to the dough separately. If you prefer, use salted butter and omit the salt from the recipe.
- All-purpose flour – Spoon and level it to avoid packing too much into your measuring cup.
In my shortbread cookie recipe, I enhance the dough with 2 additional ingredients:
- Vanilla extract – For warm depth of flavor.
- And sea salt – To make the buttery flavor pop! Omit it if you’re using salted butter.
Find the complete recipe with measurements below.
What is the difference between butter cookies and shortbread?
While sugar cookies and butter cookies both have a lot in common with shortbread, they’re not exactly the same.
Shortbread contains no leavening, such as baking powder, baking soda, or eggs. Sugar and butter cookies, on the other hand, generally include one or more of these ingredients. The lack of a leavening agent in shortbread contributes to its signature crumbly texture.
How to Make Shortbread Cookies
This shortbread cookie recipe is easy to make! Here’s how it goes:
First, make the cookie dough. Use a stand mixer or electric mixer to cream the butter. Add the sugar and vanilla, and beat until fluffy. Finally, add the flour and salt and mix on low speed to combine.
Next, shape the dough. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, and divide it in half. Form each half into a rectangular block about 2 inches wide and 1 inch thick.
Then, chill the dough. Wrap each block tightly in plastic wrap, and chill for 1 hour, until firm.
When the dough has chilled, cut the cookies. Use a sharp knife to cut the block crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Use a toothpick to poke several holes in each cookie. Any pattern goes here! The holes minimize warping in the oven and give the cookies a classic look.
Finally, bake the cookies in a 350°F oven for 10 minutes, or until the edges are just golden brown. Allow them to cool for 10 minutes on the baking sheet. Then, transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.
Find the complete recipe with measurements below.
What happens if I don’t chill my shortbread dough?
When I make cookies, I want to enjoy them ASAP, so I’m always tempted to skip chilling the dough. But in this shortbread cookie recipe, it really makes a difference. Chilling the dough helps the cookies hold their shape. If you don’t chill your shortbread dough, the cookies will spread as they bake.
Tips for Making Shortbread Cookies
- Plan ahead. This shortbread cookie recipe starts with room temperature butter. I recommend letting it soften on the counter for an hour before you start to bake!
- Slice the cookies 1/2 inch thick. Any thinner, and they’ll come out crisp instead of tender. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, depending on your taste, but I personally prefer the delicate texture of a 1/2-inch-thick cookie.
- Baking time determines texture. The longer you bake them, the crisper they’ll be. I like these shortbread cookies best after 10 minutes in the oven. At that point, their edges will be lightly golden brown, but they’ll still look underdone in the middle. Remove them from the oven, and let them rest on the pan for another 10 minutes. They’ll set up with a delicious crumbly texture!
- Freeze the extras. Shortbread cookies keep well in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week. If you want to keep them around for longer, I recommend freezing them. Stored in an airtight container or bag in the freezer, they keep well for up to 3 months. Let them thaw at room temperature before enjoying.
More Cookie Recipes
If you love these classic shortbread cookies, try one of these easy cookie recipes next:
Shortbread Cookies Recipe
These classic shortbread cookies have a delicious buttery flavor and melt-in-your-mouth texture. They’re perfect for the holidays or with a cup of coffee or tea for an afternoon treat!
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In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using an electric hand mixer, cream the butter. Add the sugar and vanilla and beat until fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the flour and salt and mix on low speed to combine.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide in half. Shape each half into a rectangular block about 2 inches wide and 1 inch thick. Wrap in plastic and chill for 1 hour, or until firm.
Preheat the oven to 350°F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Unwrap the dough and use a sharp knife to cut it crosswise into ½-inch-thick slices.
Arrange the slices on the prepared baking sheets, leaving an inch between cookies. Use a toothpick to poke holes in the cookies, decorating them with your desired pattern. Bake, one sheet at a time, for 10 minutes. The cookies will just be turning golden brown around the bottom edges but will otherwise be very pale and soft. Let cool on the baking sheets for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.