This is truly the Best Shortbread Cookies Recipe! It yields tender, crisp, buttery, and perfect cookies every time. A simple straightforward recipe with under 30 minutes of prep time. Includes a how-to video!
I feel like shortbread cookies are underrated.
They’re simple, admittedly a little plain looking, and not nearly as flashy as a stack of Monster Cookies or even Chocolate Chip Cookies. They’re probably not the first cookie you’d reach for on a cookie tray, at least I know they never were my first choice.
But maybe they should be. Yes, they’re simple (only 5 ingredients), no, they’re not very flashy (though dressing them up with a chocolate drizzle helps), but the taste is sheer, simple, perfection. Buttery and tender, shortbread cookies have a delicate crispness to them, a light airiness that’s detectable as the crumb crumbles with that first bite. It’s their simplicity that actually makes them so good.
And for such a simple recipe, there are so many variations out there! Months ago I began testing recipes and tried a lot of variations before I settled on this one. I tested with powdered sugar, granulated, a mix of the two, and cornstarch. I creamed the butter, melted the butter, and cut it in with a food processor, a pastry cutter, and even a grater (it worked well with my biscuits, thought it was worth a try here). This recipe not only came out on top in terms of taste and texture, it was also one of the easiest variations that I tried.
A sister to my super popular butter cookies, these also require only a few basic ingredients. I’d bet you probably already have these in your pantry:
- Butter. I like to use unsalted and add salt (it allows us to control the flavor!), but here’s a post I wrote on how to substitute salted butter for unsalted, if needed.
- Sugar. I was so sure I’d be using powdered sugar here like I did in my shortbread-esque crust for my fruit tart, but after dozens and dozens of taste tests, granulated sugar actually came out on top.
- Vanilla extract. This is not a traditional ingredient for shortbread cookies and you can leave it out if you’d like. I, however, have trouble saying no to the flavor of vanilla and love the way it deepens the flavor of shortbread.
- Salt. For flavor, of course. See my note above with the butter.
- Flour. Use all-purpose (also often known as “plain”) flour. Self-rising flour will not work here.
There is no baking powder or baking soda needed in this recipe, their omission is not accidental! This is just a brief overview of the ingredients I use and why, for full amounts and the entire recipe, please scroll down to the recipe box below.
What’s the Difference Between a Sugar Cookie and Shortbread Cookies?
The main difference between these two cookies is the ingredients and the ratios of the ingredients. Sugar cookies typically contain eggs, while shortbread cookie recipes do not. Shortbread also has a higher ratio of butter to flour, and the resulting cookies are usually more crumbly and tender.
Here is a great sugar cookie recipe if you happen to be on the hunt for one!
Do You Have to Refrigerate Shortbread Dough?
For my shortbread cookies refrigerating the dough is required. A minimum of 15 minutes is needed to ensure that the dough is manageable and that it’s not going to spread in the oven.
You need to refrigerate this recipe for at least 15-30 minutes, but it can stay wrapped up in the refrigerator for up to five days. Keep in mind that if the dough is chilled for longer than an hour, it will become really firm and difficult to roll. Let the dough sit at room temperature for about 10-15 minutes and it should be softened enough to roll and cut out.
Other Recipes You Might Like:
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened (226g)
- ¾ cups granulated sugar (150g)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract optional¹
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour (280g)
- 1 cup dark chocolate melting wafers or semisweet chocolate chips for drizzling/dipping optional (170g)
- In a large bowl with an electric mixer (or using a stand mixer) beat butter until creamy.
- Add sugar, vanilla extract, and salt, and beat until completely combined.
- Gradually add flour until completely combined into butter mixture. Be sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed so all flour is incorporated. Stir until combined, but try not to over-work the batter as this can warm it up and make it sticky/difficult to manage and make your resulting cookies tough.
- Use a spoon or spatula to work dough together into a ball and then transfer to a piece of plastic wrap or wax paper. Work into a disk then transfer to refrigerator to chill for at least 15-30 minutes.
- Once dough has nearly finished chilling, preheat oven to 350F (175C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
- Once dough has finished chilling, transfer to a lightly floured surface and use a rolling pin to roll out to just over ¼" thickness. Use round, 2 ½" cookie cutter to cut into shapes. Use a spatula to transfer to prepared baking sheet. Space cookies at least 1" apart.
- Bake in 350F (175C) oven for 15 minutes or until edges are just beginning to turn a light golden brown. Allow to cool completely on baking sheet before enjoying or dipping in chocolate.
- If you'd like to dip/drizzle in chocolate, prepare melting wafers according to instructions on packet (or melt chocolate chips in a heatproof bowl in 15 second increments, stirring well between, until completely melted). Dip cooled cookies in chocolate or drizzle chocolate over cookies. Allow chocolate to harden completely before enjoying.
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered an estimate only. Actual nutritional content will vary based upon brands used, measuring methods, cooking method, portion sizes, and more.
Great recipe! I had to add a couple tablespoons of melted butter because the dough was too crumbly before rolling. Maybe because it was so cold out? They baked great though.
Good morning- I haven’t tried this recipe yet, but use your whipped shortbread recipe ALL the time and it’s a huge hit! I’ve been reveling in past Christmas memories and purchased a cookie press (gun) lol. Can I use either of your shortbread recipes in it? If so, which is the preference? I appreciate your time and wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas 🎄
Thank you in advance!
Hi Candise! I’m so glad you have enjoyed the whipped shortbread cookies so much! They may actually work in your cookie press, but I do have a spritz cookie that works really well in a cookie press. 🙂
The cookies are very good but mine did spread. Why?
Hi Maryann! I’m so glad you enjoyed them! A few things that may cause the spreading here would be; the dough needs a little more flour, any substitutions for the butter, or the dough may just need a little longer to chill. I hope this helps. 🙂
Never made shortbread before and these were super easy and HEAVENLY!! My boyfriend said they are his new favorite cookie 🙂
I’m so glad you enjoyed them so much, Kaitlyn! 🙂
Excellent cookies. My first batch was a bit dark but the second I checked before the 15 minutes (should have done that on the first) and took out at 12. I need to practice my chocolate drizzling though to make them look prettier. But they taste fantastic.
Emily @ Sugar Spun Run
We’re so happy you like them, Sharon! Thanks for trying our recipe and letting us know how they turned out for you! 😊