Classic Scottish Shortbread

Buttery and mouthwatering, classic Scottish shortbread cookies are irresistible! With just a few ingredients this traditional treat is easy to make at home.

Three shortbread cookies on a white plate.

You may also love these chocolate chip shortbread cookies or viennese cookies

There’s a reason shortbread has been a favorite for centuries in the UK, it has a buttery, crisp texture, tastes slightly sweet and is just downright delicious! 

This Scottish shortbread recipe is easy to make at home with butter, flour, and sugar and its simple perfection appeals to both kids and grownups alike. 

Traditionally shortbread is served in Scotland on winter solstice, Christmas, New Years Eve, or New Years Day. You might hear these called Petticoat Tails which is a nod to Mary Queen of Scots who preferred these baked in a large circle and cut into triangles. 

No matter when you make this shortbread or if you decide to make it in a round shape or square, serve these melt-in-your-mouth cookies with coffee or tea, and they are pure bliss. 

Why Make Homemade Shortbread

  • Easy to make: Make your cookie dough, chill it, then bake it, it’s that simple.
  • Buttery: Need I say more? Real butter gives these their melt-in-the-mouth flavor and texture.
  • Plain perfection: They are perfect as is or dip them in chocolate, top with candied ginger, candied citrus, or chopped fresh rosemary. They are delicious any way you eat them. 
  • Gifting idea: Gift these delicious homemade cookies at the holidays, everyone will love them.
Shortbread slice on top of a black pan with cookies in it and a mug in the background.

Ingredients and Notes

Since shortbread has so few ingredients, there are not that many variations in how to make it from one recipe to another! My version though, uses cake flour which yields a tender baked good with an airy, moist crumb.

  • Flour: You will need both all purpose flour and cake flour for this shortbread recipe.
  • Sugar: Granulated sugar is best, if you can find caster sugar that is even better.
  • Salt: Just a pinch to enhance flavor.
  • Butter: Quality real butter is needed here, it’s not the time to use margarine! You will need it softened so plan accordingly.

How to Make Scottish Shortbread

Once you learn how to make classic shortbread cookies, there will be no need to buy them again! 

  1. Make your crumb mixture: To start add both flours, sugar and salt to a food processor. Add the softened butter and pulse lightly until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Ingredients in a food processor.
  1. Place dough in a baking pan: Remove dough from the processor and divide in half. Using your hands, pat the halves onto the bottom of two ungreased pie pans. 
dough pat into a pie pan.
  1. Chill the dough: If desired press a fork into the edges to make a decorative pattern, then prick dough all over to allow steam to escape while it bakes. Refrigerate both pans for about 20-30 minutes.
Dough in a pie pan with decorative pattern on top.
  1. Bake: Bake your Scottish shortbread until golden, about 40 minutes. When ready, remove from the oven, carefully cut the shortbread into wedges and let them cool completely in the pans on wire racks. Remove and serve.
Baked shortbread in pie pan.

Expert Tips

  • Thin or thick: Use two 9 inch thick pans for thinner shortbread cookies or two 8 inch pans for a thick cookie.
  • Don’t skip chilling the dough: This allows the fat to solidify, adds more concentrated flavor, and dries the dough slightly for better concentration of sugar. All this results in a chewy crisp shortbread texture.
  • Softened butter: It’s important that your butter is not too cold otherwise it won’t mix properly. Letting it sit on your counter for about 20 minutes and it should soften enough to use.
  • Quality ingredients: There are so few ingredients in this classic shortbread, choose quality over cheaper ingredients, especially when it comes to the butter.
  • Flavor: You could add a pinch of vanilla extract or almond extract for additional flavor.

FAQs

Why is it called shortbread? 

The term dates all the way back to the 12th century! At that time, it was originally made with leftover bread-making dough that was dried and hardened into a type of biscuit bread.

As things do, it evolved with time, and eventually butter replaced the yeast and it became shortbread. ‘Short’ is a nod to the crumbly texture that results from the large quantity of butter used. 

Do I have to use a food processor to make the dough?

No. If you have an electric mixer with a paddle attachment you can make your dough using that. 

Shortbread cookies on a white plate, some cookies in a black pie pan and a round shortbread cookie intact on the right side.

Should I use caster sugar? 

Many Scottish shortbread cookie recipes will call for caster sugar. While granulated sugar is fine, caster sugar is a bit more fine in texture.

If you would like to use caster sugar, make your own at home by blending regular granulated sugar in your blender for a few seconds. Just don’t use icing sugar or powdered sugar as that contains cornstarch which is not needed for this recipe.

Can I make them into other shapes?

Traditional Scottish shortbread is baked in a circle and cut into wedges. Other variations are to bake it in a rectangular or square and cut it lengthwise into ‘fingers’.

You can also make them round into biscuits. But don’t let that stop you from experimenting with other shapes! For fun Christmas cookies, cut them in any shape you like and use a cookie stamp which adds a pretty embellishment.

Storage

You can store shortbread in an airtight container for several weeks or a month. The texture and flavor only get better with time. 

To freeze your cookies after baking, store in an airtight container and place parchment paper between your layers. Thaw and bring to room temperature before enjoying. 

Three shortbread cookies on a white plate.
Three cookies on a white plate.

Classic Scottish Shortbread

Erika Marucci
Buttery and mouthwatering, classic Scottish shortbread cookies are irresistible! With just a few ingredients this traditional treat is easy to make at home.
No ratings yet
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
Chilling time 30 mins
Total Time 1 hr 20 mins
Course Dessert, Snack
Cuisine Scottish
Servings 24 cookies
Calories 262 kcal

Ingredients
 
 

  • 2 cups Cake flour
  • cups All purpose flour
  • ¾ cups Sugar
  • 1 pinch Salt
  • cups Butter (cut in pieces and softened)

Instructions
 

  • Heat the oven to 325 F (165C).
  • In a food processor mix together both the flours, sugar and salt. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  • Divide the dough in half. Pat the halves onto bottom of two ungreased 9 inch pie pans or ,if you want thicker cookies, two 8 inch pie pans.
  • Press a fork into the edges to make a decorative pattern, then prick dough all over. Refrigerate the pans for about 20-30 minutes.
  • Bake shortbread until golden, about 40 minutes. When ready, remove from the oven, carefully cute the shortbread into wedges and let them cool completely in pans on wire racks.
  • When cool, remove the wedges from pans and serve. Enjoy!

Notes

How to store Classic Shortbread Cookies at room temperature: Place the cookies in an airtight container and they will last for several weeks.
To freeze your cookies after baking, store in an airtight container and place parchment paper between your layers. Thaw and bring to room temperature before enjoying. 

Nutrition

Calories: 262kcalCarbohydrates: 24gProtein: 3gFat: 18gSaturated Fat: 11gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 46mgSodium: 139mgPotassium: 30mgFiber: 1gSugar: 6gVitamin A: 532IUCalcium: 9mgIron: 1mg
Keyword Christmas cookies, classic shortbread cookies, cookies, Scottish shortbread, shortbread
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

2 Comments

  1. Hi,
    Is that correct the amount of butter? I thought shortbread has a 3-2+1 recipe. Won’t is spread a lot? And your saying that 1 batch makes 2 8*8 pans of shortbread?

    1. Hi Karyn, that is the correct amount of butter, just make sure you use a good quality butter. That makes a difference. 🙂

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