Classic Scottish shortbread cookies are buttery, soft, and melt in your mouth! This easy recipe is shortbread at its purest, containing nothing but butter, flour, sugar and a pinch of salt.
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What is the Secret to Good Shortbread?
Powdered sugar! Powdered (or confectioner’s) sugar is a blend of granulated sugar and cornstarch. The resulting shortbread is crisp and buttery, yet melts in your mouth.
Maybe it’s the Scottish blood coursing through my veins, but shortbread is my favorite of all cookies. This recipe comes from our Glaswegian neighbor who uses powdered sugar instead of granulated sugar for his Scottish shortbread recipe.
Cookie or Biscuit?
While Americans would consider a piece of shortbread a “cookie,” it’s actually called a “biscuit” outside of the US. This can be confusing since Americans consider a “biscuit” something similar to a British scone.
There are cookies in Britain, like snow cookies, but they tend to be softer and filled. Whatever you call shortbread, I just call it delicious!
I’ve written about shortbread before. My Lavender Shortbread and Rose Scented Shortbread are wonderful for special occasions.
Want something a little richer? How about Brown Sugar Walnut Shortbread? I’ve even made a savory version, like this Rosemary Cheddar Shortbread!
How to Make Traditional Scottish Shortbread
Today we’re talking about the classic Scotch shortbread cookie recipe. No additional ingredients, just buttery goodness!
This shortbread recipe with powdered sugar is easy to make with just the following simple ingredients:
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 8 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
- 3/4 cup powdered sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (don’t use table salt or it will be too salty!)
- 2 Tablespoons sanding sugar for dusting on cooked shortbread, optional
To make Scottish shortbread cookies, start by creaming the butter until light and fluffy. Slowly add sugar, scraping down the sides.
Mix the flour and salt together, then add it to the butter and sugar. Add flour all at once and mix just until incorporated. Do not over-mix!
Pat the shortbread into a sheet pan to get square sides. Pat it down to about 1/2″ to 3/4″ thickness. I usually make them somewhere in between.
Use a knife and cut the dough into rectangles about 2” x 1 ½”. Prick each rectangle three times. They don’t have to be perfect.
Chilling the dough at this point makes it easier to remove the shortbread from the baking sheet, and also helps it keep its shape on a warm day, but it’s not necessary.
Transfer the shortbread onto a parchment or silpat lined cookie sheet. Bake for 20-25 minutes at 325* F. The shortbread should be pale and light golden. Dust with sanding sugar, if desired, as soon as they are pulled from the oven.
Scottish shortbread cookies will stay fresh in a tin for up to a week. These make a great gift, too!
Scottish Shortbread Cookies
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt don't use table salt or it will be too salty!
- 8 ounces unsalted butter room temperature
- 3/4 cup confectioner's sugar some recipes call for granulated sugar..some call for cornstarch. Confectioner’s sugar is both mixed together
- 2 Tablespoons sanding sugar optional, for dusting on cooked shortbread
- Cream butter until light and fluffy.
- Slowly add sugar, scraping down sides.
- Mix flour and salt together. Add flour all at once, mix just until incorporated. Do not over-mix!
- Using your hands, pat into a cookie sheet, about 1/3″ to 1/2″ thick.
- Trim edges to make neat sides. Using a knife slice into rectangles about 2″x1 1/2″. Prick with a fork three times on each rectangle. Put rectangles on a cookie sheet.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes at 325* F. The shortbread should be pale and light golden. Dust with sanding sugar if desired as soon as they are pulled from the oven.
- Makes about 3 dozen.
- if it’s a particularly warm day, you might need to chill the dough for 15-20 minutes before baking.
- the quality of ingredients is important, use the best sweet cream butter you can afford.
- If you are using salted butter. DO NOT add additional salt. If you do not have kosher salt, which is less salty that regular salt, use less.
I found my shortbread a bit bland , I would add brown sugar for a bit of flavour , I am Scottish and traditional shortbread is butter and sugar , I think the powdered sugar is a bit tasteless
So sorry! This recipe was one given to me by Glaswegian neighbor many years ago.I think by its very nature, shortbread is a very simple and plain biscuit. I find things like using the best quality butter can affect the taste. I always using kerrygold unsalted. Hope those tips help.
Can I use a cookie press?
I’d use a different recipe for a cookie press…For shortbread you want to handle it as little as possible. I have used cookie molds though. A cookie press dough has eggs in it.
I would not! Shortbread doesn’t like to be over-handled. I do use a mold sometimes though. Cookie press dough uses eggs, so a different consistency.
This looks so good! I love that it makes a big recipe! Can it be split though?
Absolutely! It actually only makes about 3 dozen, so you could freeze half of the cookies (before baking) and then you’d have some ready for later!
Thanks for sharing! Does the dough or cookies freeze well?
Dough freezes well. Just wrap it well. I’d pre-cut the shapes and then freeze it. Bake them while they’re still fairly cool and they’ll keep their shape great.
Sheila R. says
Shortbread is the most classic Scottish biscuit and I wish everyone who’s never tried the real thing could try it! Using a recipe like yours with three main ingredients is key. Looks delicious!
Mrs. RBH says
I used this recipe for the first time, and the cookies came out lovely! I usually dont make these kind of cookies, so spreading them out in a jelyroll pan, evenly was an interesting dilemma. Soo, of course my edges were abit thin..lol That did not detract from the delicious results.
Thank you so much! you could always use a mold too.
Tammy L Corello says
I’ve done this recipe both with the Kosher salt and without, using only salted butter and I’ve gotta say….they are still the best Shortbread cookies I’ve ever had! I’ve shared with family and friends and they all agree…they are fantastic!
Thank you for sharing the recipe!
Thanks Tammy! That’s nice to hear!
Jayne P says
I’ve used this recipe at least a dozen times. It’s my go-to cookie/biscuit recipe. Everyone raves about them. I love to add them to my cookie gift tins.
thank you so much Jayne!
Thanks for sharing this amazing recipe.my family loved it.will be sharing this recipe with my friends.they will like it.
Just found this recipe! They are my new favorite Christmas cookie!
I’m Mexican. So, these cookies are not classic for me. I tasted them and really wanted the recipe. Thank you for sharing this “new” recipe. I can’t wait to try them! I hope they turn out as well as yours.
These are such a treat! Perfect for the holidays!
I love a classic recipe like this one! I’m thinking about making these as gifts this Christmas, so I’m glad you mentioned that they stay fresh in a tin for a week.
Robin G. says
These came out wonderfully and they were a big hit at brunch!
One of my favorites. These are perfect for holidays too. Thanks for sharing.
I’m always ready for a delicious dessert! Can’t wait to make it this weekend!
These were always my mom’s favorites! I love that there’s so few ingredients in them, so easy to whip up!
yes! that’s the beauty of them! Easy, minimal ingredients and delicious!
i love shortbreads. this classic recipe is just what i needed with my afternoon tea! delicious and easy to make
These are perfect for entertaining! Thanks for the recipe !
These are the perfect accompaniment for tea & great for holiday guests. So easy to prepare also.