Classic Shortbread

Shortbread cookies and a cup of tea on a black slate
The Spruce
Prep: 13 mins
Cook: 45 mins
Cool Time: 40 mins
Total: 98 mins
Servings: 24 to 30 servings
Yields: 24 to 30 cookies
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
98 Calories
6g Fat
10g Carbs
1g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 24 to 30
Amount per serving
Calories 98
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 6g 8%
Saturated Fat 4g 19%
Cholesterol 16mg 5%
Sodium 49mg 2%
Total Carbohydrate 10g 4%
Dietary Fiber 0g 1%
Total Sugars 3g
Protein 1g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 3mg 0%
Iron 0mg 2%
Potassium 11mg 0%
*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 that is more than the sum of its parts. The name has some interesting anecdotes associated with it, and comes from the fact that "short" was an old usage for the term "crumbly;" the related word shortening refers to any fat that may be added to produce that kind of texture. Because of the higher fat content, a good shortbread such will indeed be crumbly and crispy, along with rich in texture and a buttery, subtly sweet flavor.

The shortbread 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 and cut after baking or roll it and cut the dough in the preferred shape. Note that because this dough is fairly loose, it can be a bit challenging to roll into intricate shapes, but this is one of those cookies whose beauty is its simplicity.

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 for family and friends, or make them any old time you'd like a little something to drink with your coffee or tea.

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Click Play to See This Classic Butter Shortbread Recipe Come Together

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces butter, softened

  • 3 1/2 ounces granulated sugar

  • 9 ounces all-purpose flour

  • Powdered sugar, for dusting, optional

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for shortbread
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  2. Heat the oven to 300 F.

    Tools for shortbread cookies

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  3. Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Alternatively, use a hand mixer in a sturdy bowl.

    Combine butter and sugar in a mixing bowl

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  4. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

    Butter and sugar creamed together for shortbread cookies

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  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.

    Flour added to sugar and butter in mixing bowl

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  6. Once the mixture is well incorporated, use a small offset spatula to spread or pat it into 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.

    Unbaked shortbread dough in a square pan

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  7. Bake in the preheated oven for 40 to 45 minutes until just lightly browned.

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

  9. Enjoy!

Recipe Variations

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 creamed butter-sugar mixture:

  • Vanilla: Add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or the contents of 1 vanilla pod.
  • Toasted Nuts: Add 1/2 cup finely chopped toasted pecans, almonds, pistachios, or walnuts.
  • 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 over finely chopped nuts or small pieces of candy canes before the chocolate sets completely.
  • Fall Spices: Add 1/2 tablespoon cinnamon or a few pinches of nutmeg to the creamed butter and sugar before adding the flour

How to Store and Freeze Shortbread

Shortbread will keep well at room temperature for up to a week, if it is a sealed container.

You can freeze baked shortbread if wrapped tightly and then stored in a sealed container or zip-close freezer bag for up to 3 months. Defrost in the refrigerator or at room temperature.