Shortbread Cookies Recipe - Love and Lemons (2024)

This shortbread cookie recipe is easy to make with 5 simple ingredients. The cookies are tender and buttery. They practically melt in your mouth!

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Shortbread Cookies Recipe - Love and Lemons (1)

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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!

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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 flourSpoon 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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More Cookie Recipes

If you love these classic shortbread cookies, try one of these easy cookie recipes next:

  • Easy Sugar Cookies
  • Thumbprint Cookies
  • Lemon Cookies
  • Mexican Wedding Cookies
  • Chewy Molasses Cookies
  • Gingerbread Cookies
  • Best Peanut Butter Cookies
  • Or any of these 17 Easy Cookie Recipes!

Shortbread Cookies Recipe - Love and Lemons (8)

Shortbread Cookies Recipe

rate this recipe:

5 from 13 votes

Prep Time: 15 minutes mins

Cook Time: 20 minutes mins

Chilling Time: 1 hour hr

Total Time: 1 hour hr 35 minutes mins

Serves 24

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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!



  • 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.


Makes about 24 cookies

Shortbread Cookies Recipe - Love and Lemons (2024)


What is the secret to making good shortbread cookies? ›

Tips To Make the Best Shortbread Cookies
  1. Choose High Quality Butter. No matter what brand of butter you buy, if it's real butter, you can rest assured that it's the best. ...
  2. Keep Ingredients Simple. ...
  3. Add Flavor. ...
  4. Don't Overwork. ...
  5. Shape Dough. ...
  6. Chill Before Baking. ...
  7. Bake Until Golden. ...
  8. Add Finishing Touches.

What is the mistake in making shortbread? ›

The most common mistakes when making shortbread are over-working the dough, and incorporating too much flour.

When making shortbread What must you not do? ›

The key with shortbread is not to overhandle it. Make the dough exactly as instructed, but don't mess around making shapes or over rolling the dough - you will end up with delicious but tough biscuits. Stretching and pulling the dough activates the gluten in the flour, making chewy cookies and not crisp ones.

What is the difference between a butter cookie and shortbread cookie? ›

Compared to butter cookies, shortbread uses a higher ratio of butter to flour, and is baked at a lower temperature. This gives it its signature delicate consistency that crumbles in the mouth when bitten. It's also often baked in a pan and cut up after baking, rather than being cut into shapes before baking.

What is the difference between Scottish shortbread and regular shortbread? ›

Traditional Scottish shortbread is a simple recipe made with sugar, butter, flour, and salt. Other shortbread styles will include leavening agents like baking powder and baking soda, which makes them crisp instead of crumbly like traditional Scottish shortbread.

What's the difference between Irish shortbread and Scottish shortbread? ›

Irish Shortbread Is Distinct From Scottish Shortbread

Irish shortbread not only sometimes changes up the butter-to-sugar ratio (possibly going with 2/3 a cup of sugar to 1 cup of butter), but also adds cornstarch in place of some of the flour present in the traditional recipe.

Should shortbread dough be chilled before baking? ›

Step 3: The Secret to the Absolute Best Shortbread

After shaping the cookies, don't rush to the oven! Instead, chill the dough in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or so (overnight is OK, too). A short stay in the fridge will firm up the cookies and solidify the butter. This will help keep them from spreading too much.

Why is shortbread unhealthy? ›

Why is shortbread considered to be bad for you? Shortbread is considered unhealthy because of the high butter content. How long do gingerbread houses last before eating them could make you sick?

Should butter be cold or room temperature for shortbread? ›

If it's too warm, the butter and sugar cannot properly cream and the cookies will taste dense. Many shortbread recipes call for cold butter worked into the dry ingredients and that gives you a wonderfully flaky cookie but if not mixed properly, the results can be inconsistent.

What happens if you don't chill shortbread 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.

What are the disadvantages of shortbread? ›

Sugar provides a fast source of energy. There are rarely any artificial additives. Cons: Shortbread is a weight watcher's nightmare because it is extremely high in saturated fat and calories. Saturated fat is the 'bad' fat which is linked to artery-clogging high cholesterol and heart disease.

What is the best brand of butter for shortbread cookies? ›

Spend extra when it really counts: If you're making a recipe where butter really is the star (think shortbread or biscuits), splashing out for a package of Kerrygold or Vital Farms is worth the expense. The fine differences in the flavor are most impactful in these recipes.

Is salted or unsalted butter better for shortbread cookies? ›

If you don't have salted butter, unsalted butter will also work, simply add about ¼ teaspoon of salt to the cookie dough. The reason the salt is needed is because salt brings out the flavor in the cookies, without it, your cookies will taste bland.

Why use unsalted butter in shortbread? ›

Use unsalted butter for balanced flavour. Unsalted butter was traditionally used in baking because it was a superior product to salted - salt is used as a preservative so unsalted butter was thought to be fresher.

Is butter or margarine better for shortbread? ›

Shortbread relies on really good-quality unsalted butter for its flavour, so don't skimp on this and never use margarine! The high butter (or shortening ) content helps to keep the gluten in the flour short and soft. But, for that delectable, friable texture, it's also important to keep a light hand.

Why do you put an egg in shortbread? ›

This unexpected addition will make buttery confections like shortbreads and shortcakes even more tender and flaky. “Biscuits should be crumbly, buttery and sweet,” reads a headnote for a cinnamon sugar-spiced shortbread recipe in the Ritz London Cookbook.

What happens if you add too much butter to shortbread cookies? ›

Butter is an emulsifier and it makes cookies tender. It also adds in the crispy-around-the-edges element. Adding too much butter can cause the cookies to be flat and greasy. Adding too little butter can cause the cookies to be tough and crumbly.

Should shortbread cookies be soft or hard? ›

Shortbread should always have a tender, melting texture, but be slightly crisp when you bite into it. It should not generally be damp or wet underneath. A classic shortbread recipe will also only have flour, butter and sugar as the ingredients (in a 3:2:1 ratio) and not egg, which could lead to excess moisture.

Why did my shortbread cookies come out hard? ›

These proportions make shortbread a lot more dense compared to cookies, which means you could easily end up with shortbread that's hard and crunchy rather than buttery and crumbly. Per Cooktop Cove, this can occur when the dough has either been overworked or not chilled for long enough.

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