These shortbread cookies are so simple, yet so tasty. Buttery, crispy and decadent, they’re perfect during the holidays and year round!

a pile of a pile of shortbread cookies

Shortbread cookies are the epitome of melt-in-your-mouth, crumbly goodness. Unlike other cookies, they have a texture all their own and a much higher content of butter. If you’re a butter lover, you’re in the right place!

Although they are very popular during the holidays, shortbread cookies are awesome paired with coffee and tea year round. And since the flavor is so neutral and simple, you can easily adapt the recipe to the season by adding in your favorite nuts, dried fruits, or chocolates.

Are Shortbread Cookies and Sugar Cookies the Same?

Although similar in certain respects, shortbread cookies and sugar cookies are not the same. What’s the difference? Sugar cookies have a higher ratio of flour to fat, giving them a sturdier texture. This makes them perfect for making those fun cut-outs of snowmen and Santa Claus during the holidays. On the other hand, shortbread cookies have a higher ratio of fat to flour, making them super buttery and flaky. 

How to Make Shortbread Cookies

Shortbread cookies require under 10 ingredients to make and a few simple steps. Below, find a brief overview of the recipe before you dive in.

  • Make the Dough: Using a hand mixer or stand mixer, beat the softened butter and eggs until creamy. Next, slowly add in the powdered sugar, followed by the flour. Once the dough is smooth and not crumbly, divide it into two parts.
  • Add the Dried Fruit & Nuts: To one portion of dough, mix in the dried cranberries. To the other portion of dough, mix in the chopped nuts.
  • Roll & Refrigerate the Dough: Place each portion of dough on a large piece of plastic and roll each into a log. Refrigerate the logs for an hour.
  • Bake the Cookies: Slice the logs into even-sized cookies (about 1-inch thick) and assemble them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake them at 375 °F for about 10 minutes. Allow the cookies to cool on a wire rack and enjoy!

Tips & Tricks

Below, find a collection of pro tips and tricks to help you make the best shortbread cookies.

  • Don’t overwork the dough. Overworking your dough will make for tough shortbread cookies instead of crumbly and tender ones. To side step this mistake, cream the sugar and butter first and add the flour slowly as you beat the dough.
  • Use a good quality, European butter. European butters are great because they contain more fat than American varieties. A couple great brands include Kerrygold and Pulgra.
  • Let your butter get soft. Pull the butter out and leave it at room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour before baking. Softened butter is so much easier to work with.
  • Don’t skip the salt. The best of the shortbread cookie flavor is brought out by adding a touch of salt. 1/8 of a tsp works great, but feel free to add a little bit more if you like a bigger contrast of sweet and salty.
  • Pierce your shortbread with a fork. You may have seen fork piercings in shortbread before. The reason for this is to promote even, internal cooking. It also just looks cute!

Different Varieties of Shortbread Cookies 

Shortbread cookies are wonderful plain but they also can be spruced up. Below, find a couple of fun variations to play around with.

  • Orange Zest – Add in the zest of two large oranges to make a citrusy variation to your standard shortbread.
  • Cranberry & Orange – Add in 1/2-cup of dried cranberries and the zest of one orange. Perfect for the holidays!
  • Chocolate Dipped – Allow your shortbread cookies to completely cool. Melt 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips with 2 tablespoons of shortening in the microwave for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes or until smooth. Dip half of your cookie in the chocolate and set it on a baking sheet lined with waxed paper to set. 
  • Nut Bits – Follow the directions for chocolate dipped shortbread cookies, but dip the chocolate half in chopped nuts before placing the cookie on wax paper to set. Feel free to use pecans, walnuts, or hazelnuts. 

Storing Shortbread Cookies

  • Room Temperature: Store shortbread cookies in an airtight container on the counter. They will last up to a week.
  • Refrigerator: Store cooked shortbread cookies in an airtight container in the fridge for up to ten days. You can store uncooked dough in the fridge for 2-3 days before baking. Make sure you wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap.
  • Freezer: You can freeze your shortbread cookie dough for later use by wrapping it tightly in plastic wrap and storing it in a freezer-safe bag or airtight container. It will last up to three months. 
shortbread cookies cut out from the dough

FAQ

What is the secret to good shortbread?

The secret to good shortbread lies in chilling the dough before you bake it. This prevents the cookies from spreading and results in that signature, biscuit-like texture.

Why are they called shortbread cookies?

The name “shortbread” refers to the unleavened, high-fat dough used to make the beloved biscuit. Unlike fluffy baked treats, shortbread cookies contain a higher fat content and dense, crumbly texture.

Should I chill my shortbread dough?

Yes, you should chill your shortbread dough. Refrigerating the dough hardens the butter and prevents the cookies from spreading during baking.

What does cornstarch do for shortbread cookies?

Some bakers add cornstarch to their shortbread to make them more crumbly and tender. As a non-caking agent, cornstarch helps soften the protein of the flour.

Are shortbread cookies and butter cookies the same thing?

Shortbread and butter cookies are not the same thing. Shortbread cookies have a higher content of butter, making them more brittle. On the other hand, butter cookies have a lower content of butter, more flour, and a more solid shape.

Other Holiday Cookies to Try

About Author

Natalya Drozhzhin

Natalya founded Momsdish to demonstrate that placing a homemade meal on the table is not hard at all. Natalya makes cooking easier and approachable, by simplifying the ingredients, while still producing the same great taste.