Scottish Shortbread Cookies {Made with Powdered Sugar}

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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.

Scottish shortbread cookies on a plate next to a cup of tea.
Classic Shortbread Fingers with an afternoon “cuppa”.

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. 

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!

Scottish shortbread cookies on Queen Elizabeth Coronation Plate.
This commemorative plate was from Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation in 1953.

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:

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.

Patting shortbread dough into a pan.

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. 

Fork pricking shortbread dough.

Chilling the dough at this point makes it easier to remove the shortbread from the baking sheet, and helps it keep its shape on a warm day.

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!

Classic Scottish shortbread shaped into rounds.
Fingers or thistle rounds? I usually make a few of both!

Scottish shortbread cookies - image for Pinterest.
Classic Scottish Shortbread

Scottish Shortbread Cookies

Cynthia
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.
4.94 from 61 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
chill 20 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Course Cookie
Cuisine British
Servings 36 biscuits
Calories 83 kcal

Ingredients
  

Instructions
 

  • 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 1/2" thick.
  • Trim edges to make neat sides. Using a knife slice into rectangles about 2"x1". Prick with a fork three times on each rectangle. Put rectangles on a cookie sheet.
  • For best results, chill shortbread for 20 minutes. This will help them retain their shape.
  • 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.

Notes

Notes:
  • 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.
  • some recipes call for granulated sugar..some call for cornstarch. Confectioner’s sugar is both mixed together

Nutrition

Serving: 1biscuitCalories: 83kcalCarbohydrates: 8gProtein: 1gFat: 5gSaturated Fat: 3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.2gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0.2gCholesterol: 14mgSodium: 33mgPotassium: 9mgFiber: 0.2gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 157IUCalcium: 3mgIron: 0.3mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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108 Comments

  1. Hi,
    Do you use an electric mixer to mix in the flour or only to cream the butter and sugar and then do the flour
    mix by hand ? Thank you.

  2. 4 stars
    I have an old recipe from a friend who used to live in Scotland and she did half rice flour and half regular flour. The rice flour is so lightweight that it adds a real lightness to the shortbread.

    1. 4 stars
      It also lends flakiness. Some Scots add white rice flour, others cornflour (cornstarch). It depends upon whether you want flakier, crisper shortbread, or a sandier version. A mixer is never used by any of the Scots I know. Shortbread is best mixed by running the butter into the flour and sugar with the tips of the fingers. I was raised on it, and make it every year for Christmas. This is an American version, not Scottish.

  3. Why do you use the extra step of two cookie sheets and having to move them? Why not just pay them out, cut and poke them on the parchment/silpat lined cookie sheet and then refrigerate? I’m confused…

    1. I’ve just always done it that way because I know the depth of the cookie sheet and can make them more uniform. Then I just put the cookie sheet in the fridge until they are chilled.

  4. Weighed ingredients, checked oven temp w new oven thermometer, cut 3×1-in fingers, placed on parchment, chilled overnight. Fingers spread.
    How to fix? Tx.

    1. Hi Mary! It sounds as though you did everything right! Was it a particularly warm day? Other than that, I’m not sure? How did they taste?

      1. They tasted just fine. Just disappointed they spread – I wanted them to have well-defined edges like yours. Day I made them was warm, but baked them 1st thing next morning, straight out of fridge to oven. Perplexed

  5. 5 stars
    I’ve made this recipe several times, and they always turn out perfect. Last time I made them as wedding shower favors for my daughter’s event. I rolled the dough out and used cookie cutters, and they were both beautiful and delicious.

  6. 5 stars
    Love shortbread, and this is so simple to make and delicious. It makes a great gift. I made these for my daughter’s wedding shower as a gift for the guests, and used a heart shaped cookie cutter. They were just perfect!

  7. 5 stars
    This is the best short red recipe! I have tried a number of them, but this one is perfect for me. For those commenters that felt it was not Scottish (because they were or know someone who was), please remember that there are always variations for any given recipe. You just need to find the one you like best.

    1. I agree! This recipe came from an elderly Glaswegian neighbor in the 70s! I’ve seen “Scottish” shortbread with rice flour and oatmeal too! Thanks for your comment!

4.94 from 61 votes (28 ratings without comment)

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