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Perfect Shortbread Cookies

4.66 from 49 votes

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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!

Shortbread Cookies

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 CookiesVanilla 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!

shortbread dough in mixing bowl

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

Bake until the bottoms of the cookies are barely golden brown. Let cookies cool for about 5 mins on hot baking trays before transferring to cooling racks.

hand holding shortbread dough

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.

Shortbread Cookies Recipe

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!

The printable recipe card is below. Make sure you save it so you can make these Shortbread Cookies later. Have a great day, friends! 🙂

Shortbread Cookies in a white bowl
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4.66 from 49 votes

Shortbread Cookies

Get perfect Shortbread Cookies every time with this buttery, yet sweet Shortbread Cookie Recipe. Just in time for Christmas Cookie exchanges!
servings 24 cookies
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 35 mins



  • 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.


**feel free to scoop and roll shortbread cookie dough into smooth balls and indenting with a fork.


Calories: 130kcal | Carbohydrates: 14g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 20mg | Sodium: 68mg | Potassium: 16mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 236IU | Calcium: 4mg | Iron: 1mg
Course: Cookies, Dessert, Desserts
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Christmas Cookies, shortbread cookie recipe, shortbread cookies

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Recipe Rating

138 Responses
  1. Jennifer Hamilton

    5 stars
    I followed this recipe to a T. I had one big problem… while mixing and then rolling… How did you manage to cut them and bake them? I couldn’t stop eating the dough ha ha. It was so delicious. I was worried e cause my oven is off and these still came out perfect!! They taste like heaven.

  2. Máire MacEóin

    5 stars
    I have made this recipe several times and have been very successful. I made Christmas cookie shapes and jam thumbprints. I would recommend putting cookie dough in the freezer for about 20 minutes before putting the cookies in the oven. It helps cookies to retain their shape.
    Thank you for this recipe.

  3. Camden Jordan

    I made these a couple years ago in a cool climate and they were great. I am making them again and I find the dough super smooth and soft this time instead of crumbly. I sifted the flour and the powdered sugar, spooned them into the measuring cup, and knocked off excess with a knife. I honestly don’t remember if I did that last time. Also, I now live in a hot area. What should I be doing differently?

  4. Sarah

    4 stars
    I made these today and the cookies spreaded on me. I put them in the fridge for 10 minutes prior to baking and thought it would help keep their shape but the spreading is not attractive. The taste is great, but not the look.

  5. Yvonne

    5 stars
    I made this recipe just as it is written and couldn’t be happier with the result!

    For those who wonder why it seems too crumbly or dry, try beating it longer. I did not need to add milk. I used a handheld electric mixer and literally beat it on low for five or six whole minutes. The “crumbs”’will be small and sandy at first but after four or five minutes of beating, the crumbs start sticking together a bit to form even larger, more moist crumbs. Trust me! I made icing with 1 tsp milk +and 1/4 cup powdered sugar + food colouring to decorate for afternoon tea with girl friends. Cookies were a hit!
    Thanks for such a great yet simple recipe!

  6. Doris

    5 stars
    I made the shortbread cookies, put them in a long square skinny plastic container with saran wrap, sliced them. Poked with a fork and baked. They were awesome! Had no trouble at all. I always sift my flour … thank you so much..

  7. Phyllis Garton

    5 stars
    I just tried these shortbread cookies and I think they will be my “go to” shortbreads from now on. I used thick chopsticks to keep the thickness consistent and topped each with half of a maraschino cherry. Hubby will let me know for sure when he tries a couple with his afternoon coffee. But for me it’s a big thumbs up.

  8. PaulaT

    5 stars
    The shortbread cookies were fantastic. Best ever. I needed to add a little extra flour to keep them from spreading (about 1-2Tbs.).
    They were perfect. I cut them in a rectangle and dipped them in chocolate. This recipe is definitely a new “keeper”.
    Thanks for sharing!!

  9. Caroline Ryan

    5 stars
    This was perfect! Thank you so much. This will definitely be my go to recipe from now on. I doubled the batches – was nervous about making two large batches without testing first but I was so pleasantly surprised.

    I made an orange zest batch and a rosemary batch. Thank you again.

  10. Hannah

    5 stars
    Hello I’ve tried this recipe and they turned out amazing. I was wondering do they freeze well? Mine didn’t make it that long to try and freeze them.

  11. Ann

    5 stars
    I used the metric measurements with a scale. I fluffed the flour and had no trouble rolling out the dough after squeezing the dough ball together with my hands.

  12. Sissy

    5 stars
    I tried the recipe with unsalted butter. Loved the texture of this dough! But, it seemed to be missing something. Maybe salt? Do you recommend salted or unsalted butter? Thank you for sharing your recipe! Best shortbread recipe I have found so far!

  13. Lindsey

    5 stars
    My family said these were the best cookies I’ve ever baked! I added 1/4 teaspoon of almond extract and dipped them in semi sweet chocolate. Thanks for the recipe!

  14. Julie

    1 star
    Made these and like other comment needed to add a little milk. Baked them for 15 minutes and still raw inside. Not a favorite recipe sorry

  15. Cate Caron

    3 stars
    Although this is the first time I’ve tried making shortbread cookies the dough was very sticky and hard to work with. I had to refrigerate after each batch in order to touch it. Of course they tasted yummy they came out fairly flat? With nay 3 ingredients what could I have done wrong?

  16. Allyson Jeffers

    So excited to try this recipe today!! Quick question, on the recipe card next to servings it says 24 cookies. The nutrition fact table seems super low to be per 24 cookies, if it is im not complaining! but thought i’d ask. Is the nutrition facts per 1 cookie or 24?

  17. Diana Brown

    Great cookies, I used 1/2 cup less flour , due to higher elevation. They didn’t crumble and are delicious. I like to add chocolate chip to half the batter, and save it .

  18. Carrie

    I love shortbread but uave never made it before. This recipie looks so easy I will have to add it to my list this year. Or maybe I’ll just make some after the boys go to bed and hide a stash in the pantry…

  19. Cortney

    I don’t have a stand mixer-will the hand mixer work okay? I hate that we just don’t have a stand mixer yet. Money and space are the issues. I guess I will see what happens…thanks for this beautiful recipe. I can’t wait to try them.

  20. Emily

    I can’t wait to make these for the holidays! I’ve been looking for the perfect shortbread recipe for ages. All others I have seen have been so complicated. Can’t wait to try this one with melted chocolate!

  21. Jenn E.

    5 stars
    Oh my gosh I am in love with shortbread and this recipe is so easy. I always have these ingredients on hand and can throw them together when the craving hits.

  22. Amber h

    Shortbread cookies are my FAVORITE, but I’ve yet to find a really great recipe, so I cant wait to try this one! The texture looks divine as well 😍

  23. Kim Warren

    Buttery, simple, beautiful shortbread! One of my all-time favorites. Making these soon and sandwiching some with jam. 😋 Thanks for sharing delicious-ness!

  24. marian davey

    Shortbread is my favourite biscuit! Thank you for posting this recipe and I am so looking forward to making them! My only concern is, I will eat the whole batch in one sitting!!!!!


    This recipe reminds me of my mama. She would make put pecans in them. Roll up and put in the freezer to get firm so they would cut better. We would sneak in and cut them off and eat raw. You know back then nothing made us sick. But today I would not want my grandkids to eat raw dough.