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These Shortbread Cookies are a super simple, buttery and sweet treat, perfect for Christmas time and cookie exchanges! I’ve taken this classic recipe and made it even better. Similar to this Christmas Shortbread Cookies or Vanilla Shortbread Thumbprint Cookies, enjoy these with chocolate, jam or just plain. Either way, you absolutely need to make these this holiday season!
Three Main Ingredients
All shortbread cookie recipes everywhere call for the same three basic ingredients:
- Butter-use at room temperature and yes, I use salted butter for all my baking.
- Flour– all purpose is great. I use unbleached.
- Sugar-I use powdered sugar for a softer texture, but granulated can work, too!
I do like to add in a little vanilla extract to make my shortbread that much more flavorful, but if you’re a shortbread purist, you can certainly omit it.
Shortbread Cookies vs Sugar Cookies
Shortbread cookies are more dense than a sugar cookie. Shortbread also has as super short list of ingredients without any leavening (baking soda or powder). Sugar Cookies are lighter and easier to work with for cutting and decorating with icing.
This is not my first rodeo with Shortbread Cookies. In fact, I have three others on my website that I’ll link here: Christmas Shortbread Cookies, Vanilla Shortbread Thumbprint Cookies, and Hazelnut Shortbread Wreath Cookies.
All of these cookies are perfect for the holidays, but what sets this cookie recipe apart from the others is its simplicity. This shortbread cookie recipe is a classic one that you can customize (see notes below) or leave plain. Sometimes, simple is best!
How to Make Shortbread Cookies
Shortbread cookies are some of the easiest cookies you can make! Just make sure you are using soft, room temperature butter and you are measuring your flour correctly! The finished shortbread dough will be crumbly, but when you start to form it together with your hands, it should come together just fine. (The heat of your hands will help with this!)
Preheat oven. Line two lightly colored baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
Make the Dough
In the bowl of a stand mixer, add in butter, sugar, vanilla, and flour. Mix slowly until a crumbly dough forms. I do not recommend mixing by hand.
Form Dough, Roll Out + Cut
Form dough into a ball and roll in between parchment paper to 1/3-1/2-inch thick. Cut into small 3-inch circles (or any shape desired**) and place onto prepared baking sheets. Alternately, you can roll into balls and press out with a flat bottomed glass or a fork.
Do I Need To Refrigerate My Dough Before Baking?
Not necessarily. Refrigeration for 30 minutes with any cookie helps hold the shape, but it’s not necessary with this particular recipe. If you’re concerned there is not enough flour, causing these to spread and loose their shape, then by all means refrigerate first, then bake.
Bake + Cool
Troubleshooting your Shortbread
I never knew there could be so much trouble with shortbread until I posted this recipe online! Ha! Here are my best tips and tricks to helping you get perfect shortbread cookies every time! Because we aren’t weighing the ingredients, this can cause a little differentiation in the finished product.
My Shortbread Dough is Too Crumbly!
Have you tried working the dough together with your hands? The heat of your hands should help it come together. Also, did you use room temperature butter? That will help the dough come together. If you’re trying to roll it out, the edges will be a little crumbly! Just press the extra dough back into place. When in doubt, roll into balls and press with the palm of your hand or a fork. Works like a charm!
Also, how did you measure your flour? This can vary from kitchen to kitchen! Did you fluff the flour first? Flour that sits in a canister or bag over time settles and you have to aerate it before spooning it into your measuring cup, leveling the top and adding to your recipe.
My Cookies Spread Too Much!
Again, I think this comes down to measuring the flour. Cookies spread because there isn’t enough flour in the dough. Shortbread cookies hold their shape so well because there is a lot of flour! So, they shouldn’t be spreading too much in the oven. The good news is if your cookies are spreading, add a little more flour into your dough and that will correct the problem.
My Shortbread Cookies Aren’t Crunchy!
There are a few possible reasons for this. One might be that your dough was pressed out too thick making it harder for the cookie to bake thoroughly. Another reason could be your oven is too hot- causing the top of the cookie to brown before the bottom of the cookie is fully cooked. Keep in mind shortbread cookies (especially this recipe of mine) isn’t necessarily supposed to be crunchy, but tender, buttery and a little crumbly.
Customizing Your Shortbread Cookies
So now that you know how to make this base shortbread cookie you can now customize your next batch however you like. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Extract. Instead of using vanilla extract try using almond, lemon or even lavender extract if you’re into floral flavors.
Chocolate. Add in mini chocolate chips to the dough, dip in melted chocolate or try making sandwich cookies using Nutella as the filling.
Jam. Jams are always a good idea for these shortbread cookies. Try making a jam dipping bar for these cookies.
Nuts. Chop and mix in nuts for a crunchy texture.
Sprinkles. This add-in always goes over well with my kids. Make it festive and roll in Christmas sprinkles to the top of the dough before cutting and baking. Or, after baking and cooling, spread frosting on them and dip in sprinkles.
Storing Shortbread Cookies
Stored cookies will stay fresh in airtight containers for 5 days on the counter, or up to 10 days in the fridge.
To freeze these after baking, allow to cool completely. Place in a freezer safe container and freeze for up to 3 months. Allow to come to room temperature and serve.
More Christmas Cookies to Try This Holiday Season!
- Ultimate Sugar Cookies
- Triple Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies
- Ginger Cookies “Gingerdoodles”
- Lemon Crinkle Cookies
- Candy Cane Cookies
- Peanut Butter Blossoms
The printable recipe card is below. Make sure you save it so you can make these Shortbread Cookies later. Have a great day, friends! 🙂
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line two lightly colored baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, add in butter, sugar, vanilla, and flour. (Be sure to fluff your flour before measuring to get an accurate measurement.) Mix slowly until a crumbly dough forms. It will look like crumbs in the stand mixer, but when squeezed together in your hands will hold its shape.
- Form dough into a ball and roll in between parchment paper to 1/3-1/2-inch thick. Cut into small 3-inch circles (or any shape desired**) and place onto prepared baking sheets.
- Bake 12-15 minutes or until the bottoms of the cookies are barely golden brown. Cool 5 minutes on hot baking trays before transferring to cooling racks.
- Store in airtight containers for up to 5 days.