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traditional shortbread cookies on a wooden board background

Traditional Shortbread Recipe

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Oh how we all love shortbread! Small buttery delights decorated or flavored in unlimited ways, shortbread cookies are an iconic Christmas cookie. In order to make all those wonderful variations and flavor combos though, you need to start with a base recipe. I dug out all my old cookbooks and did some digging to find a foolproof, traditional shortbread recipe that requires no special ingredients, skills, or equipment!

Traditionally a Scottish Christmas cookie, the very oldest recipes simply consisted of one part sugar, two parts butter, and three parts flour. Modern recipes have been altered though to enhance the taste and texture of the cookies. The recipe below has been tweaked to create a traditional shortbread that is buttery, but not overwhelmingly sweet, making it ideal for decorating with chocolate, fruit glazes, or icing.vertical image of traditional shortbread cookies stacked on a wooden surface

 

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What Are The Ingredients For Classic Shortbread Cookies?

The beauty of these cookies lies in their simplicity. All you need to make traditional shortbread is:

  • 3/4 cup room temperature butter
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • 2 cups all purpose flour

With only those three simple ingredients, you can make delicious, buttery sweet, shortbread cookies! 

You need absolutely no baking experience or specialized equipment. If you have a mixing bowl, measuring cup, cookie sheet, and fork, you can make this traditional shortbread recipe.

Some things such as a rolling pin, parchment paper, wire cooling rack, and off-set spatula will make life easier when making these classic cookies, but in a pinch you can easily do without.

Some recipes call for cornstarch. Do you need to add it?

Cornstarch is sometimes added to reduce the amount of flour in the recipe (and therefor the gluten), making the cookies a little softer. Traditionally cornstarch was not an ingredient used in shortbread, and as long as you don’t over knead the dough and ‘develop’ the gluten (as you do in bread for example), the cookies will come out light and flaky!

Traditional Shortbread Recipe

As mentioned above you need no special equipment, or skills, and only a handful of everyday ingredients. Shortbread is meant to be easy, and as such you shouldn’t over work the dough. Simply form the dough until it creates a ball, making sure not to over-knead or work it to much. Otherwise the shortbread will become tough and dense. So let’s get to it shall we!

Related:  Vanillekipferl Cookies (German Vanilla Almond Crescents)
  1. Cube the butter into small pieces and place them all in a mixing bowl. Add the icing sugar to the butter, and use a fork to completely mix the two. (I like to squish the butter first, and then ‘mix’ the sugar in.)a series of four images showing how traditional shortbread dough is mixed
  2. Add the all purpose flour to the bowl, and using the fork, mix the ingredients until they start to clump together. With your hands continue to gently mix (knead) the dough until it forms a smooth ball.finished shortbread dough in a metal bowl
  3. Roll out the traditional shortbread dough on a lightly floured counter to roughly 1/4 ” – 1/2 ” thickness. (If you have no rolling pin, use a wine bottle, or simply flatten the dough with your hands…it’s that versatile!)rolling out shortbread dough on a lightly floured counter
  4. Cut the shortbread into squares, fingers, or use a cookie cutter to punch out rounds and other varying shapes.cutting out shortbread rounds with a cookie cutter
  5. Place the cookies on a parchment lined or lightly greased cookie sheet, and bake at 325F for 15 minutes.traditional shoprtbread cookies on a cookie sheet before baking
  6. Remove the cookies from the oven, and immediately remove from the hot cookie sheet to cool.
  7. Garnish these classic shortbread cookies to your hearts content and enjoy!
Related:  Glazed Lemon Shortbread Cookies

Can You Freeze Shortbread Cookies?

Absolutely! For best results, let the cookies cool completely to room temperature after baking, and then immediately store in an air tight Tupperware or similar container and freeze. The frozen shortbread cookies will last for up to three months, and only need to be thawed, before decorating and serving.traditional shortbread cookies on a wooden board background

Looking for more Shortbread Cookie Recipes? 

Glazed Lemon Shortbread Cookies

Vanillekipferl

Tried the recipe? Take a picture and tag me on Facebook & Instagram: @earthfoodandfire . For more from scratch recipes follow me on Instagram & Pinterest

traditional shortbread cookies on a wooden board background
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5 from 12 votes

Traditional Shortbread Recipe

A traditional shortbread recipe using only three ingredients! No special skills, or equipment needed to create this classic holiday cookie. 
Course Dessert
Cuisine American, Scottish
Keyword butter shortbread cookies, How do you make shortbread cookies, shortbread cookies
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 24 cookies
Calories 2364.1kcal
Author Chef Markus Mueller

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup butter softened
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

Instructions

  • Cube the butter into small pieces and place them all in a mixing bowl. Add the icing sugar to the butter, and use a fork to completely mix the two. 
  • Add the all purpose flour to the bowl, and using the fork, mix the ingredients until they start to clump together and form a smooth ball.
  • Roll out the traditional shortbread dough on a lightly floured counter to roughly 1/4 " - 1/2 " in thickness. 
  • Cut the shortbread into squares, fingers, or use a cookie cutter to punch out rounds and other varying shapes.
  • Place the cookies on a parchment lined or lightly greased cookie sheet, and bake at 325F for 15 minutes.
  • Remove the cookies from the oven, and immediately remove from the hot cookie sheet to cool.


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27 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    It looks so yummy! I love the step-by-step instructions, making it an easy recipe to follow!

  2. 5 stars
    Oldies but goldies. These cookies are on my Holiday table every year. Love your recipe. Cookies look absolutely perfect. I’ll give it a try.

  3. No one loves shortbread more than I do. I must make these soon!

  4. 5 stars
    Wow, I had no idea shortbread cookies only had 3 ingredients! Doesn’t get any easier than that. My parents are coming to visit for the holidays, and I think I’m going to need to make these for them

  5. Shortbread is one of my favorites and I’m loving this traditional take on the classic. I may just have to make cookies tonight!

  6. 5 stars
    Oh, wow! Just the recipe I wanted always but which was still not at the forefront of my mind somehow! I love shortbread cookies but they’re so expensive. Your recipe gives me the perfect excuse to try them at home! Pinning it.

  7. 5 stars
    These are firm family favourites, melt in the mouth, rich and buttery! A perfect recipe for a holiday season.

  8. 5 stars
    Love traditional recipes! Will have to give these a try this season!

  9. I had no idea that shortbread cookies could be so easy. I have to try these as part of my Christmas cookie bundles for friends!!

  10. Marisa Franca

    5 stars
    I’ve never tasted shortbread cookies although I’ve always wanted to try to make some. I’ve been a bit skeptical about some of the recipes I’ve seen. You’ve taken all of mystery out of it to make a delicious shortbread cookie. Your tips are wonderful and I’m saving this post to make my own traditional shortbread cookies. Thank you for doing all the work.

    • You’ve never had shortbread cookies!!!!!!!!!! O My! I hope you love this recipe as much as I do! My personal favorite, I love that anyone can make it and you don’t need any special equipment such as a food processor!

  11. Katherine Chase

    5 stars
    Nothing to me says Christmas like the classic shortbread cookie. I love it when a recipe like this delivers exactly what it says it will! YUM!

  12. 5 stars
    OH I might have to make these! My in-laws LOVE shortbread cookies!

  13. Trying to these right now…. I couldn’t resist!

  14. 5 stars
    No special ingredients, skills, or equipment? PERFECT! I mean, seriously … only three ingredients!?! I love that you did so much research to find the ideal base recipe for all sorts of terrific flavor variations – that’s a terrific idea, and really great around the holidays when it’s super-handy to be able to create several types of cookies from one beginning base. Plus, gorgeous photos and helpful tips – another terrific post! 😀

  15. 5 stars
    My husband has a Scottish background and he sure loves his shortbread! Love yours and your tips for making it come out perfectly! Simply scrumptious! 🙂

  16. 5 stars
    Shrotbread is one of my all-time favourite treats, especially during festive period! Your version looks so delicious, wish I’ve had some in the front of me right now to go with my cuppa!!!

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