The best tender traditional Scottish shortbread recipe is 4 basic ingredients: butter, sugar, and flour and is ready in minutes. Plus I’ll show you how to make molded shortbread for beautiful cookie gifts.
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 them into shapes! The secret of shortbread’s buttery crumb lies in its simplicity.
If you love shortbread recipes, you are going to love these other popular cookies: Crumbl Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe, Greek Butter Cookies and 5 Ingredient Raspberry Cheesecake Cookies <<– a must try! Simple and elegant, these gorgeous Champagne Truffles!
So maybe you are wondering if this is the official Ted Lasso shortbread recipe, not quite, but these are certainly a crumbly, tender, buttery delicious version — and mine were popular before Ted Lasso’s recipe! 🙂
I enjoy giving precise details in my recipe posts to lead my readers through any questions. If you’re just here for the printable recipe, you can Jump to Recipe to head straight there!
This is hands down the best shortbread I’ve ever made (or eaten) — absolute buttery heaven, a huge hit at my recent BBQ. Delicious.Leslie
Why You Will Love this 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. In fact, I recommend you splurge for European butter like Kerrygold Irish butter 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!
- Easy, seriously, 4 simple, everyday pantry ingredients turn into cookies worthy of special occasions.
History of Scottish 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.
Shortbread Simple Ingredients
- Simple pantry ingredients that hopefully everyone has on hand! You will whip this traditional shortbread recipe up in no time!
- This is a recipe from a dear Scottish family friend, I could listen to her beautiful Scottish lilt all day long! 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 which adds a little caramel taste and requires creaming a little longer, granulated white sugar or bakers sugar also called caster sugar may be substituted. I even know of people who have used powdered sugar and brown sugar.
- Pure vanilla Extract | Adds a lovely vanilla hint to the cookie, try other extracts as well, like almond, lemon, orange, but just add ⅛-¼ teaspoon
- All-purpose flour | I use unbleached flour in most of my baking, see below for how to make gluten-free
- Cornstarch | Cornstarch adds an amazing tenderness, lightness and a bit of chew to the cookie. A soft, buttery bite, I like non-GMO cornstarch
- Sea salt | Or kosher salt, you just need a touch! If using table salt, use a little less.
How to Make Traditional Scottish Shortbread Cookies
Step 1 | Make short bread dough
In the bowl of a stand mixer (or electric mixer), fitted with a paddle attachment, beat butter at medium speed until light and creamy, about 1-2 minutes; gradually add ½ cup sugar, beating well for about 2-4 minutes, beating longer for cane sugar or brown sugar as it’s more coarse. Add vanilla.
In a large bowl, combine flour, cornstarch, and salt and whisk until combined well.
Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture, beating at low speed after each addition. (Mixture will be stiff)
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface; it will be crumbly.
Step 2 | Knead and prepare dough
Knead dough until it holds together, about 7-8 times. Folding it over on itself, using the heel of your palm to work the dough.
Prick dough at 1-inch intervals with a fork, and score (cut, but not all the way through) using a sharp knife 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 and allow for that delectable light, crisp crumb you get with Scottish Shortbread.
If desired sprinkle with raw sugar, turbinado or Demerara sugar, or colored sugars before baking.
Step 3 | Baking Short bread
Bake in preheated 325°F (162° C) for 35 minutes, until set and very lightly golden brown. Cool in a pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes; then cut the shortbread into bars using previously scored lines.
Cool completely before removing from the pan.
Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week. Freeze for up to 6 months, when wrapped well in plastic wrap, then placed in air tight container or plastic baggie.
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), brown sugar 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 confectioner sugar, tho I am told it works.
Frequently Asked Questions
Shortbread tends to have a crumbly texture, but if too crumbly 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.
If still too crumbly to hold a shape, add a touch of water, again teaspoons at a time, mixing until it holds its shape. If it holds its 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.
Yes! You can freeze the dough and bake as directed, or simply freeze cooled, baked cookies and thaw at room temperature.
If baking frozen dough, bake an additional 2-3 minutes, covering it with foil if they start browning too quickly. Remove from the freezer for 20-30 minutes while you preheat your oven.
You bet! Follow the same process, careful not to over process the dough after adding the flour mixture.
Why is my shortbread dough crumbly? And how do I fix it?
- Butter | 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.
- Was it my flour? Perhaps you used a pastry flour, gluten-free flour 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.
Can I make sugar-free Shortbread Cookies?
I have had great success substituting monk fruit (granulated) sugar cup-for-cup in many recipes, I am confident it will work well with this recipe too. Be sure it is a cup-for-cup sugar replacement.
Gluten-Free Shortbread Cookies
I have found that when the ingredients are simple, converting recipes to gluten-free is easy. You can substitute the all-purpose flour for your favorite 1-to-1 Gluten Free All-Purpose Flour, rice flour or try Almond Flour. I prefer personally using Almond flour in gluten-free shortbread cookies or a half and half mixture.
How to make Rolled Cookie Cutter Shortbread cookies
Shortbread dough is so versatile. If you want to cut shapes with cookie cutters, chill the dough in 2-3 discs wrapped in plastic wrap for 2 hours. Be sure to watch the video in this post for how I rolled and cut-out cookies.
Using a rolling pin or your hands, roll or press dough to about ⅓ – ½ inch thick and press cookie cutters into the dough, transferring shapes with a spatula to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Like these fun Valentine’s Day Shortbread cookies below.
Or shape into a rectangle about ¼ inch thick and cut it into finger sized rectangles, piercing with a fork for the traditional shortbread appearance. or cut into squares, then cut squares at a diagonal.
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 what you are after. Read on for how to dip them in chocolate.
How to make 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 a microwave-safe bowl 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 it to “break”. If it burns or breaks, add a teaspoon at a time of a little vegetable oil, whisking until smooth and glossy.
Dip as desired and add sprinkles if desired.
High Altitude Adjustment for Traditional Shortbread Recipe
This recipe is a winner at sea level and high altitude and anywhere in between! No adjustments necessary!
How to press Shortbread into a cookie mold
If you want to get really fancy, press dough into a pretty shortbread mold and make Christmas shortbread cookies! Easy and gorgeous!
Simply prepare the mold you want to use (love this snowflake mold), press dough evenly into pan, and bake as directed, they are a little thicker, so might need an additional 3-5 minutes of baking time.
I hope you try this simple butter cookie and trust that it will soon become your favorite cookie as well!
Get the pan!
- Love this shortbread cookie mold! The snowflake design is so pretty and makes beautiful cookie gifts.
Need more great cookie recipes?
- Lemon shortbread cookies (melt-in-your-mouth!)
- Oatmeal Cutout Cookies
- Oreo Crumbl Cookie | Crumbl Cookie Recipe
- Pfeffernusse Cookies (German Spice Cookies)
- White Chocolate Peppermint Cookies
- Eggnog Gooey Butter Cookies (from scratch)
- Greek Butter Cookies | Koulourakia
- Pan Banging Sugar Cookies
- Classic Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies or M & M Chocolate Chip Cookies
Best drinks to serve with shortbread
Who doesn’t love dunking a rich cookie into a cold glass of milk or a warm cup of tea or coffee? Try this easy Christmas morning chai Dutch Bros (not just for Christmas morning), or my homeamde chai tea latte, for the adults, this Starucks Eggnog latte or this classic Irish coffee.
The Best Christmas Morning Chai Recipe (Dutch Bros)
This holiday season enjoy this copycat Dutch Bros Christmas Morning Chai recipe. A chai latte that is spicy and flavorful chai tea mixed with half and half and swirled with white chocolate syrup. Delicious hot or cold.
Homemade Eggnog Latte Recipe (Starbucks Copycat)
Celebrate the beginning of the holiday season with my rich, creamy Copycat Starbucks Eggnog Latte recipe. This homemade eggnog latte is so simple to make and so festive to drink! Enjoy this warm eggnog coffee drink before a crisp morning walk, or as a special treat on a chilly afternoon.
Homemade Chai Tea Latte
Using everyday ingredients, save money by creating your own all natural Chai Tea Latte, superior to a fancy coffee shop.
Easy Classic Irish Coffee Recipe (4 ingredients)
This easy Irish coffee recipe is a classic Irish coffee cocktail that is ideal for chilly nights. It is a delightful blend of coffee, whiskey, sugar, and cream, perfect for warming you up on a cold night or adding a touch of sophistication to your after-dinner drink.
Like this recipe?
Don’t forget to give it a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ star rating and leave a comment below the recipe!
Best Easy Shortbread (Traditional Scottish Recipe)
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- 1 cup unsalted butter 2 sticks; I love using Irish butter like Kerrygold, softened (you may use salted butter, but omit the salt)
- ½ cup cane sugar I use all natural pure cane sugar, white or bakers sugar may be substituted
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract try other extracts as well, like Almond or orange, but use just a fraction
- 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup cornstarch I use a non-GMO cornstarch
- ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt omit if using salted butter
- all natural or sanding sugar for sprinkling optional
- 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 whisking to mix; gradually add to butter mixture, beating at low speed after each addition. (Mixture will be stiff and may be crumbly)
- Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface; knead lightly 8-10 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 and provide that delectable light, crisp crumb you get with Scottish Shortbread. If desired, sprinkle with all-natural sugar or sanding sugar before baking.
- Bake at 325° F (162° C) for 35 minutes, until set and lightly browned. Do not over bake! Cookies should be just lightly golden at the edges, baking too long will make them dry. Cool in a pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes; cut the shortbread into bars using previously scored lines. Cool completely before removing from the pan. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week, or freeze for up to 6 months. This recipe easily doubles!
- Roll or press dough to about ⅓ inch thick and press cookie cutters into the dough, transferring shapes with a spatula to a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Like these fun Valentine’s Day Shortbread cookies
- Or shape into a 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.
- Transfer to a 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 fancy, press dough into a pretty shortbread mold.
- 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. Meaning, it is rock-hard coming out of the fridge. I prefer using European butter (e.g. Kerrygold) as it’s higher in butterfat than American butters.
- How did you measure the flour? Might be too much flour. Use the spoon and level method, spooning your flour into the measuring cup, then using the straight edge of a knife to level.
- Did you use all-purpose flour? Perhaps you used a pastry, gluten-free 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 out from the mixer, get in there with your hands and gently knead the dough until it begins to come together. It is called short “bread”
- To fix, try kneading by hand for several minutes until it comes together.
- If still too crumbly to hold its shape, add a few drops of water and knead in, or try a few teaspoons of butter.
CHOCOLATE DIPPED SHORTBREAD COOKIESIf you’d like to dip these shortbread cookies into a little dark, milk or white chocolate as shown in the pictures on the post.
- 1 cup of your choice of chips (dark chocolate, semi-sweet, milk or white chocolate chips)
- 2 teaspoons butter