Classic Shortbread Cookies Recipe

5 from 2 votes
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Buttery delicious Shortbread Cookies are an easy cookie recipe that you only need five ingredients to make! These cookies literally melt in your mouth and are perfect any time of year, but especially during the holidays.

These are such a classic and you are going to want to make a batch for all your cookie platters!

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Stack of rectangular shortbread cookies on a wood cutting board

I love to get fancy with cookies and add all the frosting, sprinkles, and decorations, but when it comes to shortbread, I keep it simple! These rich and buttery cookies are amazing just as they are – no extra bells and whistles required!

If you’ve ever had a bite of a homemade shortbread cookie, you already know what to expect – a crumbly, buttery, rich cookie that melts in your mouth. If you’ve never made them yourself, you’re in for a pleasant surprise because they are simple to make.

This classic shortbread recipe is my favorite. They might look like basic cookies, but they have the most fantastic flavor and the perfect shortbread texture.

Make a batch and treat yourself to one (or two or three…) along with a cup of coffee or tea. Or make a batch to give away – they are perfect for the holidays or any time you want to make someone’s day.

What are shortbread cookies?

Shortbread, or what I like to call little bites of butter heaven, are delicious cookies with a crumbly texture and rich butter flavor. They’re really simple cookies, and the magic is in how you work the dough and butter.

When you make the dough, you don’t work it a lot, so the gluten is not developed. This results in a cookie that just melts in your mouth when you take a bite. The crumbly texture is why it’s called shortbread – the ratio of butter to flour creates the crumbly texture, which is also called “short.” Hence the name!

Stack of shortbread cookies on a wood cutting board with one upright in front of stack

5 Ingredient Shortbread

I love this recipe because it’s simple, but the cookies have a wonderful flavor with a crumbly buttery texture.

  • Unsalted butter: shortbread is all about the softened unsalted butter!
  • Powdered Sugar: I like to use powdered sugar instead of granulated sugar because it gives the cookies a great texture.
  • Vanilla:just a hint gives nice flavor.
  • Salt:because every cookie needs a little to enhance the flavors!
  • All-purpose flour: be sure to use the spoon and level method for measuring!

How to Make Shortbread Cookies

Mix: Cream the butter and powdered sugar in a stand mixer or large bowl with a hand mixer. Add the vanilla, salt, and mix until smooth.

Add the flour: Slowly add the flour, one cup at a time. As you add the flour cup by cup, wait until it’s absorbed into the dough before adding the next cup.

Do you need to chill the dough? Once you’ve added the flour, check to see how sticky it is. If the dough is sticky, chill it for 20 minutes. Otherwise, you can turn it out onto your work surface to roll it out.

Close up shot of rectangular shortbread cookies stacked on eachother with top one broken in half

How to Roll Out the Dough

Divide the dough in half and place each piece between two pieces of wax paper or parchment paper. Roll each piece out until it’s ¼” thick.

Chill the dough for at least two hours or overnight. Don’t skip this step because it allows the dough to rest, and chilling it will also allow the flavors to develop fully.

Cut Out the Cookies and Bake Them

Cookie Cutters or Slicing: You can cut the dough into a variety of different shapes using cookie cutters or just a knife. You don’t want to overwork the dough, so I prefer to cut them into squares and use a ruler and knife, so they are all the same size. I cut them into squares approximately 1-inch by 2-inches.

Decoration: If you want to give them some detail, use the tines of a fork to prick the surface of each cookie.

Cookie Sheets: Place them on prepared cookie sheets. Shortbread cookies don’t spread much when they bake, so you can space them one to two inches apart.

Bake: Bake them for 14 to 18 minutes at 350°F or until they turn golden around the edges. If your cookies are larger (or smaller) or thicker than ¼”, you will need to add additional baking time.

Store: Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days or freeze for up to a month.

Overhead shot of shortbread cookies on a periwinkle colored plate

FAQ

Do you cut shortbread before or after baking?

It depends on the recipe! Some recipes have you score the dough first before you bake it and then slice the cookies as soon as they come out of the oven. Others, like the one I’m sharing, have you cut the dough before baking. I think it’s easier to do before you bake the cookies.

Why do you put shortbread in the fridge before baking?

You need to chill the shortbread dough so the butter can firm up before you bake the cookies. If you skip chilling the dough, the cookies will spread too much when they bake. Chilling also helps develop the flavors, so the cookies taste amazing.

How do you know when shortbread is cooked?

The easiest way to tell when the shortbread cookies are done is to check the edges. They should be lightly golden around the edges.

Can you use salted butter in the recipe?

Yes, just omit the added salt in the recipe.

Can you freeze shortbread cookies?

Shortbread freezes great! Allow the cookies to cool and then store them in a freezer-safe container. They will keep in the freezer for up to three months.

What is the difference between Scottish shortbread and regular shortbread?

Scottish shortbread has a different texture. It’s crispier because it’s made with vegetable oil or a mix of butter and oil. Regular shortbread is made with only butter giving the cookies a richer, melt-in-your-mouth texture.

I hope you give this simple shortbread cookie recipe a try! It’s one I’ve made many times because it’s always a hit with our friends and family. No one can resist these buttery little bites!

Have you made this recipe?

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Shortbread Cookies Recipe

Classic Shortbread Cookies are an easy cookie recipe that is super buttery! You can make these into any shape and they are the perfect shortbread cookie for all year but especially for Christmas.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 18 minutes
Chill Time 2 hours
Yield 48 cookies
Serving Size 1 serving

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter softened (3 sticks)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour

Instructions

  • In a large bowl with a hand or a stand mixer, cream butter and powdered sugar until smooth.
  • Add vanilla and salt, then mix until smooth.
  • Add flour, 1 cup at a time, mixing between each addition until completely mixed.
  • If dough is too sticky to roll at this point, chill for 20 minutes.
  • Otherwise, divide dough in half. Roll each half out to 1/4-inch thick between two pieces of wax paper or parchment paper.
  • Chill at least 2 hours or overnight. Chilling the dough lets it rest and adds to the overall flavor of the shortbread.
  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 3 cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
  • You can cut your shortbread as desired, using cookie cutters for shapes or circles, but I use a ruler and a pizza cutter to cut squares that are approximately 1-inch by 2-inches. Prick each with the tines of a fork for decoration.
  • These don’t spread, so you don’t need to space them more than an inch or two on the cookie sheets. Bake for about 14-18 minutes (depending on size of cookie and thickness) until they start to get golden around the edges.
  • Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days or freeze for up to a month.

Recipe Notes

How do you know when shortbread is cooked?
The easiest way to tell when the shortbread cookies are done is to check the edges. They should be lightly golden around the edges.
Can you use salted butter in the recipe?
Yes, just omit the added salt in the recipe.
Can you freeze shortbread cookies?
Shortbread freezes great! Allow the cookies to cool and then store them in a freezer-safe container. They will keep in the freezer for up to three months.

Nutrition Information

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 89kcal | Carbohydrates: 8g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 15mg | Sodium: 13mg | Potassium: 10mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 177IU | Calcium: 3mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutritional information not guaranteed to be accurate

Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword cookies
Stack of rectangular shortbread cookies on a wood cutting board with recipe title on bottom of image

Classic Shortbread Cookies are an easy cookie recipe that is super buttery! You can make these into any shape and they are the perfect shortbread cookie for all year but especially for Christmas.

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2 CommentsLeave a comment or review

  1. So delicious and easy! My first try at shortbread cookies. My husband is eating cookies for supper tonight! Thanks!

  2. Dorothy, you are awesome! These are fantastic cookies! Made them tonight to share with neighbors and they went in 5 minutes! Another batch made for my husband so his glum face smiled.
    Thank you for this recipe!