Butter Shortbread Cookies

The Spruce
Prep: 30 mins
Cook: 15 mins
Total: 45 mins
Servings: 9 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
367 Calories
25g Fat
33g Carbs
3g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 9
Amount per serving
Calories 367
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 25g 32%
Saturated Fat 14g 69%
Cholesterol 54mg 18%
Sodium 536mg 23%
Total Carbohydrate 33g 12%
Dietary Fiber 3g 9%
Protein 3g
Calcium 73mg 6%
*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.)

These traditional shortbread cookies come together with the classic simple ingredients of butter, sugar, and flour. Queen Victoria purportedly liked her shortbread with a little salt, so that is included as well.

Shortbread originated in Scotland as far back as the 12th century. The first printed recipe was by a Mrs. McLintock, of Scotland, in 1736. The cookies are made without leavening from yeast or baking powder, so they are very firm when baked and they travel well without breaking.

Mary, Queen of Scots, is said to have treasured shortbread in the 16th century and it was served for special occasions as butter was an expensive commodity. The shortbread was part of Christmas and Hogmanay (Scottish New Year's Eve) celebrations.

Shortbread can be shaped and cut out in a variety of ways. One of the more traditional ways is the large, round disk with shapes pressed onto the dough. Alternatively, you can make it in the simple oblong finger shapes pricked with the tines of a fork, or you can form them into the traditional "petticoat tail" wedges or other shapes. 

This version includes a pinch of salt, but go ahead and omit it if you use salted butter. There are many possible variations on the classic recipe. Granulated sugar can be used, or for a darker shortbread, use light or dark brown sugar. 


  • For the Shortbread
  • 1 cup unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • For Dipping
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 teaspoons shortening

Steps to Make It

Note: while there are multiple steps to this recipe, this shortbread cookie is broken down into workable categories to help you better plan for preparation and baking.

Make the Shortbread

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Preheat the oven to 325 F.

  3. In a bowl, combine the flour and salt; stir to blend thoroughly and set aside.

  4. In a mixing bowl with an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

  5. Beat in the vanilla.

  6. Kneading with your hands, gradually add the flour and salt mixture into ​the creamed mixture until you have a stiff dough that can be rolled. Do not overwork the dough.

  7. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and pat or roll it out to 1/4-inch thickness.

  8. Cut the dough into squares -- or another shape, if you like.

  9. Prick them in several places with the tines of a fork and place the cookies on an ungreased (or parchment paper-lined) cookie sheet.

  10. Bake in the preheated oven for approximately 15 minutes or until golden brown.

  11. Cool and store in airtight containers.

Dip the Shortbread in Chocolate

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. In a microwave-safe bowl, combine 1 cup of semisweet chocolate chips with 2 teaspoons of shortening.

  3. Microwave uncovered on 100% power for about 1 1/2 minutes, or until melted. Stir the chocolate until smooth.

  4. Dip half of each shortbread cookie in the melted chocolate and place them on wax paper until the chocolate has set.

  5. If desired, sprinkle the chocolate coating with finely chopped nuts, crushed candy canes, or bits o' brickle before it is set.

Recipe Variations