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Traditional Shortbread Recipe

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The secret of shortbread’s buttery crumb lies in its simplicity. This traditional shortbread recipe is a simple blend of 4 basic ingredients; butter, sugar, and flour resulting in a taste far more than the sum of its parts. This recipe is a classic Scottish Shortbread recipe, and our family’s favorite! They are even Ted Lasso worthy!

Shortbread cookies are probably one of my favorite Christmas cookies, but I make these cookies all year long! They are so versatile, you can make them in a pan, or roll and cut into shapes!

If you love a buttery cookie, you are going to love these other family TFC Favorites: Eggnog Gooey Butter Cookies, Greek Butter Cookies and Pan Banging Sugar Cookies <<– a must try! And if you are looking for simple and elegant, you must try this gorgeous Champagne Truffles!

Classic Shortbread Recipe with shortbread fingers sitting diagonally on a wooden tray.

So maybe you are wondering if this is the official Ted Lasso Shortbread Recipe, well not quite, but these are certainly a crumbly, tender, buttery delicious version — and mine were popular before Ted Lasso’s recipe! 🙂

Scottish Shortbread Recipe

I believe the secret to delectable, buttery, soft, melt in your mouth Scottish shortbread comes from quality ingredients.

The better the butter, the better the shortbread! No blends here! If it’s soft coming out of the fridge, it’s not pure butter, splurge for these delicious cookies.

In fact, shortbread biscuits or cookies are all the rage thanks to the Ted Lasso Biscuit recipe — I think you will find these superior!

Classic Shortbread Recipe shows Shortbread fingers sliced and sitting askew on parchment paper.

History of Shortbread Cookies aka Biscuits

According to Saveur this delicious confection was once considered a festive food consumed only on Christmas or on Hogmanay, the Scottish New Year’s Eve, shortbread has evolved into a treat enjoyed year-round—and there are as many variations of it as days in the calendar.

Since medieval times the term short has been used to describe all things crisp and crumbly, but it wasn’t applied to cake and bread until the 1600s, when it came to refer to baked goods that contained a lot of butter or shortening.

The first shortbread recipe appeared in a Scottish cookbook dated 1736; early formulas called for yeast, but by 1850 most were utilizing only butter, flour, and sugar, combined in a ratio bakers still use.

Scottish Short Bread Recipe Ingredients

Simple pantry ingredients that hopefully everyone has on hand! You will whip this traditional shortbread recipe up in no time!

Ingredients for classic shortbread recipe. left to right. Cornstarch, vanilla, salt, real butter, all purpose flour and cane sugar.

This is a recipe from a dear Scottish friend of our family, I halved the original recipe I have been using for decades.

It yields about 2 ½ dozen, but know that the recipe is easily doubled to make 5 dozen Scottish Shortbread Cookies.

  • Unsalted butter | Use the real deal, no blends here, real creamery butter, salted may also be used, but omit the salt
  • Sugar | I use all natural pure cane sugar, white or bakers sugar may be substituted
  • Pure vanilla Extract | Adds a lovely vanilla hint to the coookie
  • All-purpose flour | I use unbleached flour for all of my baking
  • Cornstarch | This will give it a soft, buttery bite, I like non GMO starch
  • Sea salt | Or kosher salt, you just need a touch!

How to Make Traditional Shortbread Recipe

Process shots for Classic shortbread cookies. 1. adding sugar to butter. 2. whisking together salt, flour and cornstarch. 3. adding flour mixture to sugar/butter mix. 4. crumbly dough before kneading.

Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy; gradually add sugar, beating well about 2-3 minutes. Stir in vanilla.

Combine flour, cornstarch, and salt and whisk until combined

Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture, beating at low speed after each addition. (Mixture will be stiff) 

Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface; it will be crumbly.

Process shots for classic shortbread cookies. 5. kneading dough smooth. Placing in jelly roll pan. 7. smoothing into pan. 8. pricking with fork and scoring.

Knead dough until it holds together, about 7-8 times.

Press dough into an un-greased 11×7 or 9×9 pan (if doubling, use a 15×10 in jellyroll pan, parchment lined if desired for easier removal). 

Prick dough at 1-inch intervals with a fork, and score (cut) into 2 ½ x 1 inch bars. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours. *Make sure to chill, this will firm the butterfat back up allow for that delectable light, crisp crumb you get with Scottish Shortbread.

If desired sprinkle with raw sugar or colored sugars before baking.

Bake at 325F degrees for 35 minutes, until set and very lightly golden. Cool in pan on a wire rack 5 minutes; cut shortbread into bars using previously scored lines. Cool completely before removing from pan. Store in airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week, or freeze up to 6 months.

Best Traditional Shortbread Recipe with image of knife slicing through the scored marks of fresh baked shortbread.

What Type of Sugar is Used in Shortbread Cookies

You will find recipes using all types of sugar! Classic white sugar, castor or Baker’s sugar (here in the states) and powdered sugar.

I use all natural cane sugar, the grain is a little larger, but I love the slightly caramel flavor it lends to the shortbread.

For this recipe, you can easily replace the sugar with classic white, or bakers sugar, but I have never tried using powdered or confectioners sugar, let me know if you try it.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is my shortbread dough crumbly? And How do I fix it?

  • The quality of your butter and the amount of fat it contains can change the moisture content, so be sure to start with REAL butter. How did you measure the flour? Might be too much flour. Use the spoon and level method.
  • Did you use all-purpose flour? Perhaps you used a pastry or whole wheat flour, whole wheat flour absorbs more moisture which would lend to a dryer crumb.

  • Be sure to cream your butter and sugar together well, at least 2-3 minutes on medium speed.Knead! The dough will be somewhat crumbly when you take it from the mixer, get in there with your hands and gently knead the dough until it begins to come together.
  • How Do I fix Crumbly Shortbread?

  • Try kneading it a few times and see if it begins to hold together, something about kneading by hand will typically bring the mixture together.

  • Add softened butter, a few teaspoons at a time.
  • If still too crumbly to hold a shape, add a touch of water, again teaspoons at a time, mixing until it holds it shape. If it holds it shape enough to press into a baking pan, don’t worry too much about how crumbly it is, it should blend and bake together well.
  • Can I freeze Traditional Shortbread recipe?

    Yes! You can freeze the dough and bake as directed, or simply freeze the baked cookies and thaw at room temperature.

    If baking frozen dough, bake an additional 2-3 minutes, covering with foil if they start browning too quickly. Remove from freezer for 20-30 minutes while you preheat your oven.

    Close up shot of shortbread fingers on wooden platter with crumbs from Classic Shortbread Recipe.

    Gluten-Free Shortbread Cookies

    I have found that when the ingredients are simple, it’s easy to convert recipes to be gluten-free. I haven’t tried making shortbread gluten-free, let me know if you do!

    Substitute the all-purpose flour for your favorite 1-to-1 Gluten Free All Purpose Flour or try Almond Flour as well, many cookies do extremely well made with almond flour!

    High Altitude Adjustments

    This recipe is a winner at sea level and high altitude and anywhere in between! No adjustments necessary!

    How to Shape Shortbread!

    Shortbread dough is quite versatile. If you want to cut shapes with your cookie cutters, chill the dough in 2-3 discs wrapped in plastic wrap for 2 hours.

    Roll or press dough to about ⅓ – 1/2 inch thick and press cookie cutters into dough, transferring shapes with a spatula to a parchment lined cookie sheet. Like these fun Valentine’s Day Shortbread cookies

    Heart Shaped Scottish Shortbread cookies dipped in white chocolate with light pink sprinkles.

    Or shape into rectangle about ¼ inch thick and cut into finger sized rectangles, piercing with a fork for the traditional shortbread appearance. or cut into squares, then cut squares at a diagonal.

    Pretty Wedge shaped Scottish shortbread cookies dipped in chocolate on a galvanized tray.

    Transfer to parchment lined cookie sheet with a few inches between each cookie for a crisper cookie. Bake at 325 for 10-12 minutes, do not let them brown (golden is fine.)

    If you want to get really fancy, press dough into a pretty shortbread mold and make Christmas shortbread cookies! Easy and gorgeous!

    Molded Classic Shortbread Recipe using a snowflake mold, sitting on cutting board with twinkle lights and a sprig of evergreen.

    CHOCOLATE DIPPED SHORTBREAD COOKIES

    If you’d like to dip these shortbread cookies into a little dark, milk or white chocolate as shown in the pictures.

    • 1 cup of your choice of chips (dark chocolate, semi-sweet, milk or white chocolate chips)
    • 2 teaspoons butter

    Melt on high in 20-30 second intervals, stirring well between heatings. The chocolate will continue to melt with residual heat, it’s important not to overheat it as it will cause the chocolate to “break”. If it does burn or break, try adding a teaspoon at a time of a little vegetable oil whisking until smooth and glossy.

    Dip as desired and add sprinkles if desired.

    I hope you try this simple cookie and trust that it will soon become your favorite cookie as well!

    Need more great holiday cookie recipes?

    Don’t forget to PIN to your favorite Cookies board!

    Long Pin image for Pinterest for Scottish Shortbread Cookies. Top image, baked shortbread cookies sliced and sitting askew on parchment. Bottom image has shortbread fingers lined up on diagonal on wooden tray.

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    22 Comments

    1. 5 stars
      Oh my! I doubled and made a batch last night. Followed recipe to a “T”. Easy to cut and held their shape but still had that great crumbly taste. Will try as cut-outs next. Traditional, Delicious and OH so easy!

    2. I made these as a test batch last night in the pan with some vanilla and they taste great! Can I make this into a log and cut the cookies into bars? I’m thinking the baked edge might look better. Do they keep their shape?

      1. Hi Ashely, they do keep their shape pretty well, I don’t know if you saw, but you can make cutout cookies with this dough as well, I am sure you can make it into a log and then cut the cookies into bars! Let me know how they turn out!

    3. I love shortbread cookies and these sound amazing! I would love to have one now along with chai! Also, love the simple and outstanding options to make for different occasions.

    4. Made this for the holidays with my family- everyone loved them compared to the store purchased ones I also brought (just in case) …, if I made a mistake – actually I don’t make mistakes- I should have cooked a little, maybe 2 minutes longer, most likely not… each day they just tasted better… I put them out on a tray next to the Italian super coffee maker and each day they were gone! Love the recipe… will make again

    5. Personal experience (through my mother) about crumbly dough: She would always end up just putting the crumbly dough into the pan and pressing it down. No matter how long she kneaded the dough, it would not come together. My aunt (Mom’s sister-in-law) helped make it one year and her dough came together after just a tiny bit of kneading. Turns out my Mom has COLD hands! If you have COLD HANDS, the kneading doesn’t help as much! As I said, she just put the crumbly dough into the pan, after a bit of kneading, and pressed it down. Always came out just fine! So, consider just putting the still crumbly dough into the pan without trying “fixes” (after a bit of kneading) and just proceeding to the next step. It should be just fine. We had a great guffaw about the realization about her hands after all those years! BEST SHORTBREAD EVER, despite the crumbly dough.

    6. As a Scot, I can tell this recipe will turn out great shortbread. Tried powder sugar for first time yesterday. Only fit for bin. I’m a purist and going back to my 1-2-3 method.