Easy Classic Shortbread Cookies Recipe

Classic shortbread cookies are a perfect holiday treat! This recipe is tender, buttery-rich, flaky, and a close copycat recipe for Walker’s Shortbread.

Classic shortbread cookies in stick shape and shortbread pan shape on a wooden cutting board.

Why You’ll Love These

  • Only four ingredients! That’s it, and I’m betting you already have them in your kitchen.
  • So easy you’ll be making them all year.
  • You will never purchase another plaid tin box again!
  • You don’t need a food processor or even have to roll the dough!
  • As with most of our cookie recipes, these easy shortbread cookies make great gifts.
  • The classic Christmas cookie!

During Christmas, we also love to make our thumbprint cookie with a red center, chocolate orange cookies, sugar cookies with heavy cream, and gingerbread cookies with corn syrup icing. Just a few of the cookies we enjoy during the holiday season.

Classic shortbread cookies in stick shape and shortbread pan shape on a wooden cutting board.

What are shortbread cookies?

Traditionally shortbread cookies are made with sugar, good-quality butter, and flour. Unlike other cookies, shortbread cookies do not require a leavening agent.

Recipe Ingredients

You only need all-purpose flour, unsalted butter, confectioners’ sugar (icing sugar), and salt.

I’ve used standard butter and European-style butter. There is a significant difference in these cookies’ flavor and crumbly texture. Both are delicious, but one is superior in taste and texture. Use the European-style butter if you can.

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How to Make Classic Shortbread Cookies

If you have never made shortbread before, you will be amazed by how quick and easy it is to whip up a traditional shortbread recipe.  

Traditional Scottish shortbread typically uses caster sugar or baker’s sugar. Powdered sugar is easier to find in our area.

Cookie dough in a metal mixing bowl.
Dough pressed into a baking pan with plastic wrap.

Whisk together the all-purpose flour, powdered sugar (icing sugar), and salt in a bowl.

Cream the room temperature unsalted butter until fluffy. Slowly add the flour and sugar mixture, then beat until light and fluffy again.

Dough sliced and pierced before baking.
Baked classic shortbread cookies in the baking pan.

Press the dough firmly into a parchment paper-lined 8×8 or 9×9 baking pan. You can also use a shortbread pan. Place a sheet of plastic wrap on the dough.

Refrigerate for about 20 to 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F, with a rack in the upper third.

Remove, cut the dough into your desired shapes, and dock all over with a toothpick or wooden skewer.

Classic shortbread cookies baked in the pan on a wire rack

Bake for 30-40 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and to a wire rack. With the cookies still warm in the pan, recut them into previous shapes while still in the pan.

I went with the traditional “sticks” and it was a perfect size to have with my afternoon coffee.

Classic shortbread cookies in stick shape and shortbread pan shape on a wooden cutting board.

Enjoy this melt-in-your-mouth best shortbread recipe ever.

Tips

  • Be sure to measure the flour and powdered sugar properly. Aerate, spoon, and swoop level.
  • This recipe uses unsalted butter. It’s harder to control the seasoning level with salted butter. Preferably European butter with at least 82% fat!
  • If using salted butter, reduce the amount of salt in the recipe to 1/4 teaspoon.
  • Traditionally shortbread cookies are pale in color. To achieve this, we use a low oven temperature. But we like a little color on these to have that signature buttery crunch. Just do not overbake them.
  • Piercing the cookie dough allows heat to penetrate the cookie for more even baking. You can do this with a toothpick or a fork. Don’t skip this step.

Variations

  • For this recipe, you can use an 8×8 (3/4 inch thick cookie), 9×9 (1/2 inch thick cookie) baking pan, or a shortbread pan.
  • Use a round cake pan and cut the dough into wedges.
  • Toss in some toasted pecans to make a pecan shortbread.
  • Dip them in melted chocolate and add some sprinkles.
  • Sprinkle the top of the dough with granulated sugar or sparkling sugar.

FAQ

Should shortbread cookie dough be chilled before baking?

Do not skip chilling the dough! The butter firms up again, helping it slowly melt in the oven to make the shortbread flaky and light.

Can I make these ahead?

Yes. You can refrigerate the dough for up to 1 week.
To freeze the dough – Wrap it tightly with plastic wrap, then wrap it with aluminum foil and freeze it for up to 2 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before baking as instructed.

Storing

Place the completely cooled cookies in an air-tight container and store them at room temperature for up to one week.

Can I freeze shortbread cookies?

Absolutely, but be aware the texture is not as crispy after thawing! Place completely cooled cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze until hard, about 1 hour. Place them in a freezer-safe container or bag layered between wax or parchment paper, and freeze for up to 3 months. To thaw the cookies, remove them from the container to a baking sheet or plate and thaw at room temperature.
To revive that signature crunch, bake them in a 300 degree F oven for 10-15 minutes. The time will depend on the size of the cookies you thawed.

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Classic shortbread cookies in stick shape and shortbread pan shape on a wooden cutting board.

Easy Classic Shortbread Cookies Recipe

Classic shortbread cookies are a perfect holiday treat! This recipe is tender, buttery, flaky and a close copycat recipe for Walker’s Shortbread.
4.64 from 11 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Scotish
Keyword: classic, cookies, shortbread
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings: 16
Calories: 180kcal
Author: Leigh Harris

Ingredients
 

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter softened to room temperature (2 sticks)

Instructions

  • Line an 8×8 or 9×9 inch pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
  • Whisk together flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl.
    2 cups all-purpose flour, 3/4 cup confectioners sugar, 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • Place butter into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium-high speed until fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes, scraping down sides of the bowl.
    1 cup unsalted butter
  • Gradually add flour mixture; beat until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  • Press the dough firmly into the parchment-lined pan. Be sure the dough is evenly spread out. Place a sheet of plastic wrap on the dough, and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 300 degrees, with rack in upper third.
  • Remove plastic wrap. Cut dough into desired shapes with a knife. Using a toothpick or wooden skewer, prick all over at 1/4-inch intervals.
  • Bake until lightly golden brown and firm in the center, about 35-40 minutes. Remove pan to a wire rack. Recut shortbread into previous shapes; let cool completely.
  • Remove using the parchment as handles and transfer shortbread to an airtight container.

Notes

I have recently updated this recipe and reduced the baking time. The previous recipe stated 45 minutes to one hour. That’s way too long unless you like an extremely crispy shortbread cookie! All ovens are different so watch the cookies closely starting around the 30 minute mark.
To Make Ahead – Cover the scored (shapes cut) dough in the pan tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 days.
To Freeze the Dough – Wrap it tightly with plastic wrap, then wrap it with aluminum foil and freeze the dough for up to 2 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before baking as instructed.
Storing – Place the completely cooled cookies in an air-tight container and store them at room temperature for up to one week.
Freezing – Place completely cooled cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze until hard, about 1 hour. Place them in a freezer-safe container or bag layered between wax or parchment paper, and freeze for up to 3 months. To thaw the cookies remove them from the container to a baking sheet or plate and thaw at room temperature.

Nutrition

Calories: 180kcal | Carbohydrates: 18g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 31mg | Sodium: 184mg | Potassium: 20mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 355IU | Calcium: 6mg | Iron: 1mg

Recipe inspired by MarthaStewart

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6 Comments

  1. Your Shortbread Cookies look amazing! Hope you have a great week and thanks so much for sharing with us at Full Plate Thursday!
    Miz Helen5 stars

  2. Shortbread cookies are my husband’s absolute favorite. He eats those them like they are going out of style!! These look fabulous, an I love your slicing before and after baking technique! Genius;)

  3. My mother, being born in Scotland, always made her shortbread cookies
    With rice flour…It made them not so heavy…

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