Scottish Shortbread

It’s no secret I make an insane amount of food on a weekly basis. For all the successful sweet treats I make, they end up in one of two categories (trust me, there’s a whole other category dedicated to the major fails):

1) Delicious; definitely post-worthy; family loved them; ultimately safe to keep around if it’s just me and the treat alone in the house because for one reason or another, while tasty, they don’t speak to my soul like some desserts.
2) Perfection; yummiest things on earth; I most likely end up dreaming about them, get them out of my house immediately because I will eat every little morsel before Brian gets home from work (and you don’t even want to know the lengths I’ve gone to disguise the fact that I did just that).

I’m not even exaggerating about #2. While I do have a certain amount of self-control when it comes to food (I think I kind of have to as a food blogger unless I want to change shape quickly, if you know what I mean), there are a handful of things that I am literally powerless to resist. It’s ridiculous. That pretzel caramel dark chocolate mess I posted about last week is a classic example.

And surprisingly (in case you are wondering where I’m going with this), so is this amazing shortbread. Shortbread, who knew, right? But really, I could not stop eating this. So much so that I made my Aunt Marilyn meet me at an undisclosed location halfway between our two houses really late one night to make a handoff that felt kind of shady but totally necessary under the circumstances.

Scottish Shortbread

Shortbread is such a quintessential holiday cookie, don’t you think? This version wowed me big time and made me think that shortbread could even surpass some of my chocolate-filled cookie favorites. Or better yet, maybe dipping the shortbread in chocolate could accomplish the best of both worlds.

I stuck with the simple route of cutting the shortbread into thin rectangles (to make it more like a cookie versus baking it super thick and cutting after it cools like many recipes call for) – you could also roll out the shortbread dough and cut it into any shape you like as long as you have a cookie cutter ready and waiting.

While I’ve made chocolate shortbread lots (and lots and lots) of times, this is my first venture into classic Scottish shortbread and I now understand what people mean when they talk about how addicting it is.

It may not be the most glamorous holiday cookie out there, but it certainly is one of the most delicious. Sometimes simple really is the best.

One Year Ago: Roasted Cauliflower and White Cheddar Soup
Two Years Ago: Shrimp Cocktail
Three Years Ago: Buffalo Chicken Bites

Amazing Scottish Shortbread

Yield: 2 dozen or so depending on how you cut the cookies

Amazing Scottish Shortbread

Cake flour helps this shortbread be amazingly light and tender. If you don't have any on hand, here's a quick DIY: How to Make Cake Flour. If you want to get especially adventurous, substitute rice flour for the cake flour - it makes the shortbread even lighter and more crisp.

I like to make the shortbread thin and delicate but you could cut it much thicker (upwards of 3/4-inch thick); increase the baking time to nearly double if doing so.


  • 1 pound (4 sticks) butter, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar (5 1/2 ounces)
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (12 1/2 ounces)
  • 1 cup cake flour (5 ounces)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


  1. In a large bowl (or in the bowl of a stand mixer), beat the butter, vanilla and powdered sugar together with an electric mixer (use the paddle attachment on a stand mixer, if using) until combined.
  2. Gradually add the all-purpose flour, cake flour and salt and mix until just combined (don't over mix the dough).
  3. Press the dough into a rectangle shape about 1 1/2 inches high (see pictures below) on a parchment lined baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about an hour. The dough can e refrigerated for several days. Alternately, if you want to cut the shortbread into different shapes (other than a thin rectangle), press the dough into a disc-shape and cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate (similar to how you would do it if refrigerating sugar cookie dough or a pie crust).
  4. Once firm, take a large, sharp knife or the straight edge of a bench scraper and cut the long rectangle dough into 1/4-inch slices (again, see picture below). If the cookies aren't perfectly straight not he edges, press them into an even shape or trim the edges. Otherwise, roll the dough out on a lightly floured countertop to about 1/4-inch thickness and cut into desired shapes.
  5. Place the cut cookies about 1-inch apart on a parchment or silpat-lined baking sheet. Prick each cookie a few times with the tines of a fork.
  6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the cookies for 15-18 minutes until lightly golden around the edges, increasing or decreasing the baking time as needed. Let the cookies sit on the baking sheets for 2-3 minutes after removing from the oven before sliding to a cooling rack to cool completely.
  7. The shortbread can be stored covered at room temperature for several days.

Recipe Source: adapted from The Professional Pastry Chef by Bo Friberg (made the ingredient amounts a little more approachable (16 ounces butter vs. 18 1/2 ounces butter) and adapted the recipe accordingly, also changed baking temperature and time)

Scottish Shortbread

51 Responses to Amazing Scottish Shortbread

  1. Jami says:

    I made these as part of our cookie plates for Christmas and they were divine! Cut them into stars and hearts and drizzled with a melted Hershey bar so they were pretty too. Our favorite Christmas cookies this year. I would make them more often than once a year but my pants wouldn’t thank me! Thank you for all of your fabulous recipes!

  2. Cinnamom In MN says:

    Have you ever tried browning the butter for these? Or is that against the law? I would let it cool until solid and then use as regular butter.

  3. Kristi says:

    Mel my daughter is doing a presentation on shortbread and I knew I could count on you to have something awesome for me to make to share with her class! Unfortunately the Finnan Haddie (a smoked haddock that we grew up eating each Christmas morning) would probably make all of the kids in her class gag (just like I did every Christmas morning, ha ha). You’re my #1, thanks Mel!

  4. John says:

    First attempt was a failure (although some of them tasted excellent), but going to try again! What do you mean by overmixing? In the photo your dough looks so consistent, and I definitely didn’t mix mine enough.

  5. Amanda says:

    Have you ever freezes these? I need to make shortbread cookies for a bridal shower and I don’t want to make them at the last minute. I was wondering ur thoughts on how they would freeze?

  6. Nan says:

    I am going to make this recipe for my daughter’s wedding. She’s marrying someone with Scottish ancestry. Perfect.
    I do have a question on the cake flour substitution. In your DIY cake flour tutorial you state that 1 cup of cake flour should equal 4 oz, but in this recipe you list the cake flour as 1 cup or 5 oz. Should I just use my measuring cup on this one? Thanks!

    • Mel says:

      For recipes that don’t already state a weight amount, cake flour is usually about 4 ounces per cup. I know it’s a little confusing…but for the Scottish shortbread recipe, use the weight amount in the recipe (5 ounces). If you are going to make your own cake flour, use 5 ounces all-purpose flour, take out two tablespoons and add 2 tablespoons cornstarch (for every cup). Let me know if you have other questions.

  7. meg says:

    Oh my! I just made this! I tasted shortbread dipped in chocolate for the first time last year and I fell in love! This is exactly the right taste and texture! I feel like a gourmet Baker!! I drizzled mine with white chocolate, and while I don’t usually love white chocolate, it totally works and is awesome with this! Thanks Mel!!! Thanks for your quick caramel recipe too! It’s been a major hit over the holidays, and I was happy it didn’t crystallize into a rock (which has happened with my other attempts at caramel making, this keeping me from actually BEING a gourmet Baker/chef;) you and your recipes and your family for sharing you are the best!!

  8. Rachael says:

    This makes me so happy, you can read my mind! I’ve been wanting the perfect shortbread recipe and this is definitely it. 🙂 DE-licious. Thank you once again Mel!

  9. Heidi B says:

    These are the most tender, buttery, and best shortbread EVER!!!! Everyone gives them raving reviews. Thanks Mel.

  10. Valerie A. H. says:

    Forgot to add that while I’m making these Scottish Shortbread’s this is playing nice and loud:

  11. Valerie A. H. says:

    I am in the kitchen making these right now. They are delicious. I dunked 3/4 of them in chocolate on one edge. Thanks for all the wonderful recipes you share with us Mel. I know I can always trust your judgment and I use your recipes often. Thanks again! Merry Christmas to you and your very sweet family! xo

  12. Cammee says:

    I love shortbread! It is the most underrated cookie, in my opinion.

  13. Cheree says:

    Can you put this in a cookie press?

    • Mel says:

      I’m not sure since I haven’t tried it – I don’t know how the texture of the dough should be for a cookie press although perhaps after chilling a bit it would be fine. You’d have to try it out – good luck!

  14. claire says:

    I always make shortbread at christmas so I’m gong to give your recipe a try. What can look pretty is the shortbread cut with a round cookie cutter, then gently press a star cookie cutter into the circle,leaving a star impression. Then with clean hands, place a silver caschous at the point of each star before baking ( you know the ones used for cake decorating).

  15. Dawn says:

    This is the recipe I’ve been longing for. I love shortbread cookies and these are perfect, light, crisp, yummy! Thank you so much for sharing. I measured by weight and the dough was beautiful to work with. I’ll be coating the next batch in chocolate!

  16. Heidi says:

    You posted this on Christmas cookie baking day and I immediately added it to the list. Wonderful! And such a great contrast to the other rich selections I love to make. Cut them in stars and poked the fork going out to each point – simply beautiful! Thanks, Mel!

  17. Kim in MD says:

    Yum…I love a good shortbread cookie!

  18. Lori in ND says:

    I love the idea of dipping half in chocolate. Can anyone recommend a good quality chocolate that melts well. Mel, I watched your video on how to temper chocolate at home. What kind of chocolate were you demonstrating with?

  19. Leslie Colbert says:

    This cookie recipe has inspired me to have a Christmas cookie bake off today with my two homeschooled daughters! I can hardly wait for the little ones to step off their bus after school with these cookies (and several others) waiting to greet them! Thanks for the inspiration!!

  20. S.P.Bowers says:

    Every time I make shortbread, no matter the recipe, it melts and spreads on the pan. What am I doing wrong? I am a different altitude and humidity level than you. Do I need to cut the butter?

    • Mel says:

      That’s really hard to know exactly, especially if you’re using different recipes. Try to make sure the butter isn’t too soft and maybe add a few more tablespoons flour – especially if you live at a higher altitude.

  21. Donna says:

    As soon as I saw this recipe I took inventory of my pantry to see if I had all the ingredients. The second I got off work I made them. They are beyond amazing. Mine weren’t quite as pretty as yours with the fancy edges but they still look good enough to eat! Thanks for sharing yet another marvelous recipe with us! (PS–I totally understand why you had to give some to Aunt Marilyn–I’ve eaten several and I could easily eat all of them.

  22. I liked your descriptions of the two kinds of “good” recipes! I’m exactly the same way, some stuff I just can’t leave alone! I’ve never made classic shortbread, only whipped shortbread, but after that description I’m obviously going to have to try this!

  23. Mary says:

    In Scotland they frequently use almond flour in place of the cake flour you listed… That’s yummy as well! I add a touch of lemon zest sometimes.

  24. Love this post! Some of my favorite cookies are just the basics. This is definitely going on my list!

  25. Tiffany says:

    I laughed at your description of devouring treats and hiding the evidence before your husband returns. I could relate all too well!

  26. Boe C. says:

    Mel, this was just what I needed in my life, shortbread is my absolute favorite!! I was wondering: Do you have ideas on how to dress these up for Christmas? I don’t think frosting would go very well with the buttery salty taste of shortbread, but they’re kinda plain on their own…maybe food coloring? Some kind of festive packaging idea? Thoughts?!

    • Mel says:

      What about dipping half in chocolate (or white chocolate) and sprinkling with pistachios and craisins?

      • Boe C. says:

        Mmmm that sounds wonderful! You have the best ideas Mel!!

        • Leah says:

          My mom dresses her shortbread up with candy cherries that she quarters. Putting either red or green in the middle. You could get really fancy and put a red piece in the middle and two green “leaves” on either side. I put green sprinkles on mine.

  27. These look really good. I would probably dip them in my homemade strawberry freezer jam….AKA crack jam. Oooh chocolate would also be good and caramel too.
    Ok, I must stop.

  28. Jennifer says:

    Another cookie to add to my list of cookies to bake for the holidays. I too was wondering how many they make? Thanks!

  29. Holly W says:

    How did you get your cute crinkled edges? Did you have to roll it out and use a cookie cutter to achieve that look?

    • Mel says:

      I didn’t roll mine out – I cut it from the rectangle/brick shape (pictured beneath the recipe). After cutting it into rectangles, I used this straight edge cutter I have (I think it’s some type of vintage potato cutter I’ve had for years) to trim the edges and make them crinkled. You could get the same look by rolling it to about 1/4-inch and cutting with a cookie cutter that has an edge like that.

  30. Jeanne says:

    Salted or unsalted butter? Can’t wait to try!

  31. Nancy says:

    Approximately how many cookies did you get out of the batch?

    • Mel says:

      Hi Nancy (and others who asked) – sorry I didn’t include that info. Cutting it into the rectangles like I did, I got about 2 dozen but that number will depend on how large or small you cut the shortbread (and if you roll it out like sugar cookie dough vs patting it into the rectangle/brick shape).

      • MollyBrown says:

        The high today here is -3 so what better way to hole up in the kitchen and give your cookies a try. They turned out really delicious! But on about 10 of them I melted some Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate wafers and drizzled it over them, put them outside for about 5 min. Really really good!

  32. Teresa R. says:

    We love your chocolate shortbread and I can’t wait to try this recipe. I’m adding it to my holiday baking list. My daughters and I always bake a different cookie on each of the twelve days before Christmas. We give most of the cookies away but these may be hard to part with!

  33. Sometimes simple really IS the best! Like you, I can’t resist a good shortbread cookie. I’ve pinned these to try soon!

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