Shortbread Cookies

These crumbly, buttery cookies are a perfect treat with afternoon tea, or with ice cream, fruit, or chocolate for dessert.

The best shortbread cookie recipe

Matt Taylor-Gross / Food Styling by Debbie Wee

Active Time:
15 mins
Total Time:
50 mins
12 servings
24 cookies

Shortbread cookies are a classic treat in Scotland, and beloved all over for their buttery flavor and crumbly texture. This recipe has just a hint of salt to balance the richness of the butter; be sure to use fine table salt, so it mixes into the dough evenly. Be sure to prick the dough with a fork before baking the cookies; the holes allow steam to release from the shortbread as it bakes and helps make sure it doesn’t bubble or buckle.

This is an excellent baseline recipe for shortbread cookies but can be personalized to your tastes. You can start by adding a teaspoon of almond extract, or a tablespoon of finely grated lemon of orange zest to the dough when beating the butter (use a Microplane to grate the citrus zest so you have tiny flakes of zest throughout the cookie dough). Or drizzle melted chocolate on top of the cookies after they have cooled, and sprinkle toasted chopped nuts, shredded coconut, or pieces of candied citrus peel on the chocolate before it hardens.


  • 1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter, cold, cut into pieces

  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar

  • 3/4 teaspoon fine table salt

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour


  1. Preheat oven to 300°F. Line 2 (8-inch) square or round cake pans with parchment and grease parchment.

  2. Using a stand mixer and paddle attachment or electric mixer and a medium bowl, beat butter, vanilla, and sugar until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add salt and flour, beating until just combined, about 2 minutes. Cookie dough will be stiff and a bit crumbly; add 1 teaspoon water while mixing if needed to bring dough together.

  3. Divide dough in half and press into prepared cake pans, using your fingers or a greased piece of parchment to press dough into pans evenly. Using a paring knife, cut cookie dough into thirds in 1 direction, and into 1-inch pieces in the other direction. Prick dough all over with a fork. Bake shortbread until light golden brown, about 45 minutes.

  4. Remove shortbread from pans and repeat cuts while still warm. Shortbread can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature up to a week, or longer in freezer.

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