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.
Ina Patience says
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.
Hi Ina, you can use a mixer and just mix until the flour is together, don’t over mix.
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.