Classic Shortbread Cookies

Classic Shortbread Cookies are buttery, crisp and so delicious. This simple 5-ingredient recipe requires very little time and effort to make the most perfect shortbread cookie you’ve ever tasted. Makes 18 cookies.

Close up of stacked round shortbread cookies

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You know that scene from Love Actually where the guy (whose name I can never remember) stands outside Keira Knightley’s home and holds up the sign that says, “To me, you are perfect?”

That’s me to these cookies.

I am obsessed with all things shortbread, and over the last few years, I’ve been attempting to perfect my classic shortbread recipe… and it’s finally heeeeere!

Why I love this recipe:

I have been a fan of shortbread cookies since I was in college and one of my mom’s students sent her home with the most magical, decadent shortbread cookies for the holiday break.

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    That was the first time I ever ate shortbread, and it was life-altering.

    And over the years, I’ve made so many variations of shortbread… but I did not have a classic… until now.

    We’re using the 3-2-1 method for this shortbread recipe, which means three parts flour, two parts butter and one part sugar. However, please note that 3-2-1 method is based on weight, not volume… which is why this recipe took me a moment to figure out and perfect. 

    Also, please note that these cookies are not technically Scottish shortbread cookies because we’ve added salt and vanilla to the batter, as well.

    The end result is everything I want in a shortbread cookie. The cookies have buttery flavor and a crisp, crumbly texture. They’re not too sweet. And they pair nicely with so many things, from coffee to tea and more. You can also dress them up the way you want, if desired. It’s all about your personal preference here.

    Also, this recipe makes enough cookies to share, but not so many that you’ll eat the entire batch. (Ask me how I know.) But you could also double it if you want more cookies to share with the people you love.

    Basically, to me, this shortbread is perfect. And I hope you agree because holy cow, am I proud of this one.

    More easy recipes for shortbread: Shortbread Brown Butter Cookies | Orange Raspberry Shortbread Cookies | Ginger Rosemary Shortbread Cookies | Toasted Pecan Shortbread Cookies | Lemon Shortbread Cookies with Honey | Peanut Butter Shortbread Cookies with Raspberry-Orange Glaze

    Need more cookie inspiration? Head over to my Cookie Recipe Index for more ideas.

    a banner that has a dark background with gold writing that says the sweetest season

    Let’s talk about The Sweetest Season and Cookies for Kids Cancer!

    The Sweetest Season is my annual holiday cookie week.

    In 2011, I decided to share my favorite Christmas cookies… then invited other bloggers to join me. The celebration grew, we changed the name to make it more inclusive, my friend Susannah stepped up to help and the rest is history.

    And now, every year, food bloggers get together to share new holiday cookie recipes.

    This year, we’re raising money in support of Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, a recognized 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to funding research for new, innovative and less-toxic treatments for childhood cancer.

    Since 2008, Cookies for Kids’ Cancer has granted nearly $18 million to pediatric cancer research in the form of 100+ research grants to leading pediatric cancer centers. More than 35 treatments available to kids battling cancer today were stemmed from these grants.

    We’d love for you to help us raise money for this cause! You can donate through our fundraising page.

    Currently, Cookies for Kids’ Cancer is in a matching window with their friends at OXO. This means OXO will match every dollar up to $100,000 raised through the end of 2023. So whatever money we raise will automatically double!

    Ingredients to make classic shortbread on a blue surface with a white linen

    What you need to make this recipe:

    The Speckled Palate participates in affiliate programs. As an Amazon Associate, I earn a commission from qualifying purchases. Please refer to my disclosure page for more information about these affiliate programs.

    Let’s talk ingredients!

    In addition to the tools above, you’re going to need some ingredients to make this recipe, too! Chances are, you might already have some of them in your fridge or pantry. Scroll down to the recipe card for the full measurements and instructions.

    Here’s are the basic ingredients you need to purchase from the grocery store:

    • Unsalted butter — set it out 30-45 minutes before you plan to make the batter so it is room temperature. This will help it blend more easily.
    • Powdered sugar—also known as confectioner’s sugar or icing sugar, this adds sweetness to our cookies. I prefer powdered sugar in shortbread to granulated sugar because it melds into the butter really easily.
    • Vanilla extract — use the real deal stuff. It’s going to elevate the other ingredients.
    • All purpose flour —  we keep unbleached AP flour at our house, but you can use the regular kind, too. I have not tried this recipe with a gluten-free flour blend and do not recommend that at this time.
    • Salt — I use medium grain kosher salt (Diamond Crystal is my go-to brand) or a similarly sized sea salt.

    Variations on this recipe:

    • Dip them in melted chocolate for chocolate-covered shortbread cookies. White chocolate would be a sweet addition, too.
    • Add a sprinkling of powdered sugar ​after they cool.
    • Drizzle with a little sugar cookie icing if you like a sweeter cookie. (My kids would be into this because they didn’t like how this dough was not overly sweet.)
    • Press dough into a log shape to make slice-and-bake shortbread cookies.

    How to make Simple Shortbread Cookies

    Cream the softened butter with the sifted powdered sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat for 2-3 minutes, or until the butter and sugar are creamed.

    You could also do this in a large bowl with a hand mixer. 

    I like to sift the measured powdered sugar directly on top of the butter into the bowl.

    Butter and powdered sugar in a metal bowl after creaming with vanilla extract

    Pour in the vanilla extract. Mix until combined. 

    The mixture should be smooth and smell amazing.

    Sift the flour and salt together into another bowl OR directly on top of the wet ingredients. These are your dry ingredients.

    Pour the flour mixture on top of the wet ingredients, mixing until just incorporated. 

    This batter is kind of crumbly at first, so you will need to let it mix for a little while. Mine came together in about 2-3 minutes in my stand mixer.

    Crumbly shortbread dough before chilling

    Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour. Ideally, the shortbread dough will spend a couple of hours chilling, or even overnight.

    Once your cookie dough has chilled, preheat the oven to 300°F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment or a nonstick baking mat, and set aside.

    Remove the cookie dough from the refrigerator.


    Prepare your work surface. Sprinkle a clean, flat surface with a little flour or powdered sugar. 

    Place the cookie dough the lightly floured surface, and sprinkle with more flour or sugar.

    Use a rolling pin to roll out the cookie dough into a 1/6” round.

    WHAT TO USE TO CUT OUT SHORTBREAD

    I love to use cookie cutters to cut out a cookie like this, but you can use a sharp knife to cut patterns into the rolled cookie dough. 

    You can also use the rim of a glass and run a knife around it to make a round shape or you can free-hand it.

    Cut out the cookies using your favorite cookie cutters, and transfer to the parchment-lined baking sheet. 

    Roll out any scraps of dough into a second round, and cut out the rest of the cookies.


    Poke the tops of the shortbread cookies with a fork two to three times. This will help steam escape so that the cookies can bake more flat (and have less air bubbles.)

    Transfer the sheet pan into the oven. Bake for 20-23 minutes or until light golden brown and crisp.

    Cool completely on a wire cooling rack.

    How to store shortbread:

    Store in an airtight container, like a cookie tin, at room temperature for 3-4 days. Place them in a single layer, and separate the layers with parchment or wax paper. Keep them separate from other cookies, as flavor creep can happen.

    A hand holds a halved crispy shortbread cookie over a baking sheet with more

    Erin’s Easy Entertaining Tips

    Shortbread cookies are some of my favorite HOLIDAY COOKIES because oh my word, they are so decadent and not too sweet and just perfect.

    They’re also fabulous for a Cookie Gift Box.

    Here are some tips and tricks to making these beauties for a crowd:

    • Double the recipe if you’re hosting several people OR wanting to share these goodies with friends and family this holiday season. I recommend putting them in pretty take out boxes* (affiliate link) so guests can see what they’re getting!
    • Serve them at a gingerbread house decorating party or cookie exchange.
    • Make-ahead instructions: Put together the dough the day before. Chill overnight and bake ’em off in the morning. You’ll be glad you did!
    A red Christmas tree cookie tin holds a serving of scalloped shortbread cookies

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What is the secret to good shortbread?

    High quality ingredients are key to good shortbread! As is not rushing them during the making process, the bake or the cooling process.

    What is the difference between a butter cookie and a shortbread cookie?

    Shortbread cookies have a lower sugar ratio and a higher fat content than butter cookies. Butter cookies are sweeter because they have more sugar added than shortbread cookies do.

    What is the difference between Scottish shortbread and regular shortbread?

    Scottish shortbread is made with butter, flour and sugar. Nothing else.

    What makes shortbread so good?

    That depends on you and your tastebuds. I think shortbread is so good because it strikes the perfect balance. It’s not too sweet and the texture is so satisfying to enjoy with a latte or a cup of tea.

    A white plate holds a large stack of shortbread cookies in front of a red and white cookie tin on a blue surface

    Quick tips and tricks for the best shortbread cookies

    • Start with softened butter. Your cookie dough will come together a lot easier!
    • Use a stand mixer to combine the batter. I’ve found this is the easiest way to mix it. I do not recommend mixing it by hand.
    • How to store: Store in an airtight container, like a cookie tin, at room temperature for 3-4 days. Place them in a single layer, and separate the layers with parchment or wax paper. Keep them separate from other cookies, as flavor creep can happen.

    More cookie recipes to bake this year:

    bake better cookies!

    download our holiday cookie cheat sheet to build the perfect cookie platter this season. you’ll also get our best cookie recipes, baking tips, tricks and more!

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      Now who wants to bake these?

      Close up of stacked round shortbread cookies

      Classic Shortbread Cookies

      Classic Shortbread Cookies are buttery, crisp and so delicious. This simple 5-ingredient recipe requires very little time and effort to make the most perfect shortbread cookie you’ve ever tasted.
      4.63 from 27 votes
      Servings 18 (3″) cookies
      Calories 92 kcal
      Prep Time 10 minutes
      Cook Time 20 minutes
      Chilling Time 45 minutes

      Ingredients
        

      • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened 4 oz.
      • ½ cup powdered sugar 2 oz./56g, sifted
      • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract 3g
      • 1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour 6 oz./170g, sifted
      • ½ teaspoon kosher salt 2g

      As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.

      Instructions
       

      • Combine the softened butter and sifted powdered sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Whip mixer until creamed and combined, about 2-3 minutes. (You may do this in a large bowl with a hand mixer, too.)
      • Add the vanilla, and mix to combine.
      • Sift the flour into the bowl on top of the wet ingredients. Add the salt, too.
      • Beat the ingredients until the shortbread has just come together, about 2-3 minutes. This dough starts off as pretty crumbly, but then starts to come together. Keep an eye on it. This process is a lot faster in the stand mixer.
      • Wrap the cookie dough in plastic wrap. Chill for 45 minutes in the refrigerator.
      • Preheat the oven to 300°F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat.
      • Roll out the shortbread on a flat floured surface. The thickness should be about 1/6” thick.
      • Cut out the cookies into the desired shapes. (The size of your cookie cutter, as well as the shape, will determine how many cookies you end up with.)
      • Poke the tops of the shortbread cookies with a fork two to three times. This will help steam escape so that the cookies can bake more flat (and have less air bubbles.)
      • Bake 20-23 minutes or until the shortbread has firmed up and is lightly golden brown.
      • Let cool on a wire rack, then enjoy.

      Video

      Notes

      How to store: Store in an airtight container, like a cookie tin, at room temperature for 3-4 days. Place them in a single layer, and separate the layers with parchment or wax paper. Keep them separate from other cookies, as flavor creep can happen.

      Nutrition

      Serving: 1 cookieCalories: 92kcalCarbohydrates: 10gProtein: 1gFat: 5gSaturated Fat: 3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.2gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0.2gCholesterol: 14mgSodium: 66mgPotassium: 12mgFiber: 0.3gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 158IUCalcium: 3mgIron: 0.4mg
      Keyword christmas cookies, christmas recipe, cookie box, cookie recipe, cookies, cut out cookie, easy cookie recipe
      Course Desserts & Sweet Treats
      Cuisine American
      Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
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      About the Author:

      Erin Parker is a Southern gal living in Texas with her husband and two daughters. She started The Speckled Palate to share what she was cooking as a newlywed… and over the years, it’s evolved to capture her love for hosting. Specifically, the EASIEST, lowest key entertaining because everyone deserves to see their people and connect over good food. Learn more about her

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      22 Comments

      1. You should be proud of this cookie — it’s a classic! Thanks for all the baking tips, they turned out perfectly!

      2. These look so light and buttery! I’ve got a cookie stamp I want to try, so I may make these and see how it goes. Love the 3-2-1 method idea.

        1. Thank you, Grace! They really are wonderfully light and buttery and crisp and just perfect. If you give them a try with your cookie stamp, let me know how they go. I need to try that, too!

      3. Shortbread is my kryptonite! And these did not disappoint! Butter, crispy, but melt in your mouth!! Truly a classic, and thank you for hosting this week’s Sweetest Season, my friend! Oodles of fun!

        1. Oh man, Kathleen. Shortbread is my kryptonite, too! So so so happy to hear these ones hit the spot for you. Thanks for joining us again for this year’s exchange… it has been so much fun!

      4. Ohhhh, these cookies are so perfectly delicious! Light, crispy, buttery and just the right amount of sweetness. Speaking of sweets, THANK YOU for hosting the Sweetest Season cookie exchange. What a fun, creative way to bring together cookie bakers in support of a very important cause.

        1. Thank you, Eliza! your description of these cookies is spot-on and they are one of my new favorites!

          You are so welcome for hosting The Sweetest Season! I am so thrilled you were able to join us this year to bake for a cause and spread some good cheer. 😀 Happy holidays to you and yours!

      5. Wow Erin, these cookies turned out so buttery and delicious – thanks so much for the recipe. I think I’m gonna skip buying those Danish canned shortbread cookies this year as this batch turned out so good – now, how do I make them last??? 🙂 Thanks so much for running this campaign again, I love being a part of it and seeing ALL the incredibly tasty treats everyone shares.

        1. Thank you, Shashi! These cookies are one of my favorites and I hope they turn into one of yours! The question of how to make them last vexes me because I can never keep them in our household for long, ha!

          You are so welcome! I love that you join us every year and bring something unique to the table that’s utterly delicious. I wish we could have an in-person cookie swap so we could all taste everyone’s creations immediately!

      6. Shortbread has to be one of my favorites! I have always been scared to make it, but this recipe was just so easy and delicious!

      7. I love that shortbread is making a comeback! Thanks for sharing all of your tips for making a great cookie. So buttery!

      8. Dudette, this recipe looks so amazing. I haven’t made shortbread in years but you have inspired me to try again soon. Thanks for letting me be a part of The Sweetest Season — it’s always so fun to work with you and make all the cookies.

        1. Thank youuuuuuu. You’ve GOT to give it a try sometime soon because it’s the season and shortbread is always wonderful.

          You’re so welcome… I love working with you always, but especially for this event. So thankful to have you coordinating it all alongside me.

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