Classic Shortbread

Shortbread cookies
The Spruce
  • Total: 45 mins
  • Prep: 10 mins
  • Cook: 35 mins
  • Yield: 36 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
84 Calories
6g Fat
7g Carbs
1g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 36 servings
Amount per serving
Calories 84
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 6g 8%
Saturated Fat 3g 17%
Cholesterol 14mg 5%
Sodium 101mg 4%
Total Carbohydrate 7g 3%
Dietary Fiber 1g 2%
Protein 1g
Calcium 15mg 1%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

This basic Scottish butter shortbread is a simple three-ingredient cookie, but modern versions call for two types of sugar, salt, or small amounts of cornbread. The name comes from the fact that "short" was an old usage for the term "crumbly": because of the high-fat content, the biscuit's texture is indeed crumbly and crispy. The shortbreads can be shaped before or after cooking, and most traditional recipes call for discs, squares, petticoat tails (triangular pizza-shaped slices made out of a big circle), or thick rectangular fingers. Pat the shortbread into the pan or roll it and cut the dough in the preferred shape.

For a sweet twist, dip the cookies into melted chocolate or white chocolate or frost them for a festive holiday treat. Make bigger batches and give them as holiday gifts to family and friends. Keep for up to 5 days at room temperature in an airtight container.

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Ingredients

  • 8 ounces butter (softened)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 9 ounces all-purpose flour
  • Optional: Powdered sugar for dusting

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather ingredients.

  2. Heat the oven to 300 F.

    Tools for shortbread cookies.
     The Spruce
  3. Combine butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Alternatively, use a hand mixer in a sturdy bowl.

    Combining butter and sugar.
     The Spruce
  4. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

    Creaming butter and sugar.
     The Spruce
  5. Gradually stir flour into the creamed mixture until well blended. Use a paddle attachment for the stand mixer, or mix by hand with the help of a wooden spoon.

    Gradually adding flour.
     The Spruce
  6. Once the mixture is well incorporated, spread or pat it on the bottom of an ungreased 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan. If you'd like a thicker shortbread, use a 9-inch square pan. Prick the dough all over with a fork. Alternatively, roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface and cut out with round or square cookie cutters.

    Shortbread dough.
     The Spruce
  7. Bake at 300 F for 30 to 40 minutes, until just lightly browned.

    Shortbread cookies.
     The Spruce
  8. Remove from oven and immediately cut into squares or rectangles, and cool completely before removing from pan. If using, dust with powdered sugar.

  9. Enjoy!

Flavored Shortbread

Because of its mild buttery flavor, the traditional shortbread recipe has room for other flavors. Here are a few suggestions; add them before incorporating the flour to the butter-sugar creamed mixture:

  • Vanilla: Add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, or the contents of 1 vanilla pod, to the butter-sugar mixture.
  • Toasted Nuts: Add 1/2 cup of finely chopped toasted pecans, almonds, pistachios, or walnuts to make nut-flavored shortbreads.
  • Citrus: Add 3 tablespoons of finely grated orange, lemon, yuzu, or lime zest
  • Chocolate: Melt 1 cup of semisweet chocolate. Drizzle it on top of the cookies, or partially dip the cookies in it. Place the shortbread on waxed paper to set the chocolate and sprinkle finely chopped nuts or small pieces of candy canes before the chocolate sets completely.
  • Fall Spices: Add 1/2 tablespoon cinnamon, or nutmeg, to the creamed butter and sugar before adding the flour.