Shortbread Cookies

published Dec 6, 2023
Shortbread Cookies Recipe

This classic shortbread is made with just butter, sugar, flour, and salt.

Makesmakes 18 (3-inch) cookies

Prep15 minutes to 20 minutes

Cook30 minutes to 32 minutes

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Overhead shot of a sheet of shortbread cookies, with one of the center ones resting on the cookie to the left of it.
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: Rachel Perlmutter

Classic, buttery shortbread cookies are hands-down one of my favorite cookies and the first one I’ll eat off of a cookie plate. I love the simplicity of butter being the dominant flavor, their crisp texture, and the fact that they’re not too sweet.

Shortbreads are a great after-dinner treat to serve with coffee or a cup of tea, but my favorite time of day to enjoy them is in the late afternoon as a pick-me-up when I want a little cookie snack. While I grew up eating Walkers shortbread in their distinctive packaging, making homemade shortbread is actually quite simple and only requires four simple ingredients and a baking pan, and might not even require a trip to the grocery store first. Here’s how to do it.

Ingredients You Need for Shortbread Cookies

There are only four main ingredients in shortbread, and all are kitchen and pantry staples.

  1. Butter. Go for a high-quality butter, preferably European in style, which tends to have a higher fat content. I prefer to use unsalted butter here and to add my own salt, but if you only have salted butter, go ahead and use it but drop the added salt.
  2. Flour. Regular all-purpose flour works just fine here.
  3. Granulated sugar. I like the flavor and texture of granulated sugar. I tried making the shortbread cookies with powdered sugar, but didn’t love the final results as much.
  4. Salt. Its addition helps balance out the flavors.

This recipe has vanilla extract as an option. Traditional shortbreads don’t usually have vanilla, but it’s a nice touch here if you’d like. Coarse sanding or sparkling sugar is also optional here; it adds a nice sparkle and crunch to the cookie, but is by no means necessary.

How to Make Shortbread Cookies

  • Make the dough. I like to start shortbreads with softened butter, as I feel like it melds into the final cookie dough better and produces a more consistent texture in the cookie. Beat until smooth and creamy, then beat in the flour, sugar, and salt all at once.
  • Transfer into the baking pan. Transfer the dough into an 8-inch square baking pan lined with parchment, then press into an even layer.
  • Refrigerate the dough. Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes so that it can firm up.
  • Heat the oven. While the dough is chilling, heat the oven to 350ºF. 
  • Score the dough. Score (or cut) the dough into rectangles. You can do this right in the pan, or take it out of the pan, score, and then return to the pan.
  • Dock the dough. Use a fork to prick each shortbread four times. This will keep the dough from puffing as well as give the cookies their distinctive look. Sprinkle with crunchy sugar on top if you’d like.
  • Bake the shortbread. Bake until light golden-brown, about 30 minutes. Dock the shortbreads again, as the holes will be harder to see now. Let cool completely in the pan.
  • Cut the shortbreads. Cut along the score marks to separate the shortbread into pieces.

How Long Do Shortbread Cookies Last?

Shortbread cookies are a dense, firm cookie, so they actually last longer than most. They stay fresh for up to five days, making them great for holiday gift giving or mailing. If you want to have fun with the shape, they can be cut into squares or cut out with cookie cutters instead.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: Rachel Perlmutter

Shortbread Cookies Recipe

This classic shortbread is made with just butter, sugar, flour, and salt.

Prep time 15 minutes to 20 minutes

Cook time 30 minutes to 32 minutes

Makes makes 18 (3-inch) cookies

Nutritional Info


  • 2

    sticks unsalted butter

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 2 cups

    all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 cup

    granulated sugar

  • 1 teaspoon

    vanilla extract (optional)

  • 2 teaspoons

    coarse white sparkling or sanding sugar (optional)


  1. Place 2 sticks unsalted butter in the bowl of a stand mixer (or large bowl if using an electric mixer). Add 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Let sit at room temperature until the butter is softened. Meanwhile, line a 9x9-inch baking pan with 2 sheets of parchment paper, positioning them perpendicular to each other so that the parchment hangs about 2 inches over all 4 sides of the pan to form a sling.

  2. Beat the butter and salt with the paddle attachment on medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. Add 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract if desired. Beat on the lowest speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl halfway through, until a dough forms and most of it forms a mass around the attachment, 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 minutes. Knead the dough in the bowl by hand a few times until it forms a ball.

  3. Transfer the dough in chunks into the baking pan. Press into an even layer, going all the way to the edges and corners (press the flat part of a metal bench scraper onto the surface to get a smooth top). Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350ºF.

  4. Cut the dough by either cutting directly in the pan, or lift the slab out with the parchment onto a cutting board first. Using a knife, score 18 (3 x 1 1/2-inch) rectangles into the dough, but do not go all the way to the bottom. (Make 2 parallel scores 3 inches apart in one direction, then make 5 parallel scores 1 1/2 inches apart perpendicular to the first set of cuts). Return the slab, still on the parchment, back to the pan if you took it out.

  5. Using the tines of a fork, poke each shortbread 4 times, making sure to go all the way down to the bottom. Sprinkle with 2 teaspoons coarse white sparkling or sanding sugar if desired.

  6. Bake until light golden-brown on top, 30 to 35 minutes. Poke again with the fork to remake the holes. Let the shortbreads cool in the pan for 15 minutes; do not let cool completely. Grasping the excess parchment, lift the shortbread slab out of the pan and onto a cutting board. Using a chef’s knife, cut along the scores to separate the cookies. Let cool completely.

Recipe Notes

Other shapes: Instead of cutting out rectangles, you can cut the slab into 25 squares instead, then poke each one with a fork 3 times. The dough can also be cut out with cookie cutters: Roll out the dough between 2 sheets of parchment paper until 1/2-inch thick, then refrigerate for 30 minutes. Cut out with cookie cutters and bake as directed, checking on the cookies after 20 minutes.

Storage: The shortbreads can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.