Classic Scottish Shortbread Cookies

Classic Shortbread
Diana Rattray
Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 45 mins
Total: 60 mins
Servings: 24 servings
Yield: 24 cookies
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
157 Calories
8g Fat
20g Carbs
2g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 24
Amount per serving
Calories 157
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 8g 10%
Saturated Fat 5g 24%
Cholesterol 20mg 7%
Sodium 61mg 3%
Total Carbohydrate 20g 7%
Dietary Fiber 0g 2%
Total Sugars 8g
Protein 2g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 5mg 0%
Iron 1mg 4%
Potassium 19mg 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.)


Traditional Scottish shortbread consists of only three ingredients: butter, flour, and salt. It is its simplicity but also the buttery flavor that makes it so popular all around the world, year-round, as an everyday treat or for holidays such as Christmas and Easter. 

This basic shortbread recipe is delicious as is, but you can add vanilla powder for extra flavor. Or, you can make the shortbread the favorite way Mary, Queen of Scots liked to eat it in the 16th century: with caraway seeds. The shortbread was baked as a thin circle and cut into triangular wedges, which gave it its name, Petticoat Tails. 

Traditionally Scottish shortbread is baked in the shape of a large rectangle or square, then cut into narrow bars, also referred to as “fingers,” and in the above-mentioned Petticoat Tails. You can also cut it out as round cookies, squares, or any other simple geometric shape. Because shortbread is so short, meaning crumbly, cutting it with cookie cutters in elaborate shapes is usually not successful. 

While Scottish shortbread is egg-free, you can add a simple egg wash and sugar topping before baking, which gives it a nice crisp topping. Gently brush the egg wash—1 egg white beaten with 1 teaspoon water—onto the cookies and sprinkle it with plain granulated sugar or a colorful decorating sugar. 

Shortbread does not change its color dramatically during baking, in order words, it should not bake so long that it browns. Shortbread should be light golden brown at the maximum. In this recipe the shortbread is baked at a relatively low temperature for a longer time. Because every oven is different, make sure it does not overbake and check the color after 30 minutes, then again at 5-minutes intervals. 

Right after baking, the shortbread is soft and breaks easily, Leave it on the cookie sheets for a few minutes, then carefully transfer the cookies to a cooling rack and let them fully cool before storing them in airtight containers. At room temperature, they keep for one week, or in the fridge for 10 days. You can also freeze the shortbread cookies in a sealed freezer bag for up to three months.




  • 1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour

Steps to Make It

  1. Thoroughly cream sugar and butter. Add 2 1/2 cups of the flour and mix thoroughly. Turn out onto a surface floured with remaining 1/2 cup of flour. Knead dough until it cracks on the surface.

  2. Roll out 1/4-inch thick and cut out with cutters. Prick cookies with fork tines and place on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake at 275 F for about 45 to 55 minutes or until lightly browned.