All-Butter Scottish Shortbread

All-Butter Scottish Shortbread Recipe

The Spruce

Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 25 mins
Total: 45 mins
Servings: 12 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
275 Calories
16g Fat
32g Carbs
2g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 12
Amount per serving
Calories 275
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 16g 20%
Saturated Fat 10g 48%
Cholesterol 41mg 14%
Sodium 30mg 1%
Total Carbohydrate 32g 12%
Dietary Fiber 1g 2%
Total Sugars 8g
Protein 2g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 8mg 1%
Iron 1mg 6%
Potassium 27mg 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.)

Shortbread is one of the most famous Scottish cookies. It's eaten around Christmas and is also an essential part of Hogmanay, the traditional Scottish New Year. Made with a lot of butter, this was considered a special treat when butter was a luxury item. Thankfully, we can make and eat shortbreads more often, and enjoy their crumbly and buttery texture all year round.

The success of what's known in Scotland as a "shortie" depends on handling the dough with care and working it as little as possible—cold butter, cold work surface, cold hands, and no pounding or heavy kneading help achieve the perfect texture for the dough. When overworked, the dough becomes a greasy mess, the gluten in the flour will develop, the butter will melt, and the crumb will be either too chewy or too tough. A successful shortbread should be light and crumbly, with a dense, buttery taste.

The term "short" refers to the crumbly texture of the cookies afforded by the high fat content. Standard recipes have few ingredients, and the addition of cornstarch depends on the tradition each home cook follows. Some swear by the use of it, like us, but some prefer to leave it out. Adding it has been done for decades and helps to make the shortbread crisper on the edges and softer in the center. Because there are just five ingredients, the quality of each one is vital for a successful cookie, and using the best butter you can find is very important.

Our main recipe shows you how to shape these delicious treats before baking, but you can learn how to do it once the shortbread is cooked in the recipe variations. For storing either version of the shortbread, chose an airtight container and keep it in a cold place for a week, or 10 days in the fridge.

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Ingredients

  • 8 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature

  • 1/2 cup caster sugar, or superfine sugar, more as needed

  • 1 pinch kosher salt

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, more as needed

  • 3 1/2 ounces cornstarch

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for the All-Butter Scottish Shortbread recipe
    The Spruce 
  2. Preheat the oven to 325 F. Lightly grease a baking sheet. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, and salt until light, fluffy, and pale in color, either by hand or with the help of an electric mixer. This might take about 10 minutes.

    Creamed butter, salt, and sugar in a bowl
     The Spruce
  3. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the flour and cornstarch. Sift the dry ingredients into the bowl with the butter and sugar. Mix quickly and thoroughly to bring all the ingredients together but do not overmix. If worked too much, the dough will warm up and the shortbread will have a poor crumb.

    Mixed shortbread ingredients
     The Spruce
  4. Tip the mixture onto a cold and lightly floured work surface. Knead lightly and quickly to form a loose dough. 

    Scottish shortbread dough
     The Spruce
  5. Roll out the dough between 2 sheets of parchment paper to 1/4 inch thick. Cut into desired shapes or rounds using cookie cutters. Place the shortbreads onto the prepared baking sheet, prick the surface all over with a fork, and bake for 25 minutes, or until pale brown and crisp.

  6. Once they're cooked, sprinkle the warm shortbreads with superfine sugar and let cool completely on a wire rack.

    Scottish shortbread cooling on a wire rack
     The Spruce
  7. Enjoy!

    Scottish shorties on a plate with strawberries
     The Spruce

What is Caster Sugar?

Caster sugar is a superfine sugar, similar in flavor and appearance to the commonly available granulated sugar, but with a smaller grain and finer texture. Although interchangeable 1:1 for common sugar, caster sugar dissolves faster and more easily, thus making it the preferred sugar for baking. If you can find caster sugar, simply blend the regular white sugar you have at hand at high speed until the grain is smaller, but not as fine as powdered sugar.

Flavored Shortbread

Our basic dough allows home bakers to experiment with flavors and create their own shortbreads. To spice up your dough, here are a few suggestions. Add one of the following ingredients to the butter while creaming it:

  • The leaves of 1 bag Earl Grey tea for an earthy and flavorful treat.
  • A 1/4 tablespoon each of ground cinnamon and nutmeg for a warm, spicy kick.
  • The contents of 1 vanilla bean for a fragrant and sweet cookie.
  • A couple of tablespoons of matcha powder will make green shortbreads with wonderful green color and flavor.
  • A zesty addition of 1 tablespoon of lime, lemon, or orange zest will brighten the buttery flavor of the shortbread.

If instead you want to add some non-traditional crunch, add 1/2 cup of semisweet chocolate chips, currants, tart cherries, or golden raisins before quickly kneading your dough.

Cutting After Baking

If you choose to shape the shortbreads after they've been baked, follow these steps:

  • Preheat the oven to 325 F. Grease a 13 x 9-inch pan with butter.
  • Press the dough evenly into the pan and prick it all over with a fork.
  • Bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown.
  • With the shortbread still in the pan, cut into squares or rectangles, dust with sugar, and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before carefully removing the shortbread to a wire rack to cool completely.