3-Ingredient Shortbread Cookies Recipe (2024)

About My 3-Ingredient, No-Spread, Shortbread Cookies Recipe

Shortbread cookies are one of the most delicious holiday cookies, and they’re also probably the easiest to make! This recipe gives cookies that are super buttery, and literally melt-in-your-mouth. The base recipe has only three ingredients, yet still leaves lots of room to get creative—it works beautifully with a variety of mix-ins such as lemon zest, chocolate chips, dried fruit and nuts.

I designed the recipe so that these cookies hold their shapes perfectly as they bake. So, you can get creative making different shapes and designs and get stunning results!

This recipe is taken from my cookbook, Simple Pleasures.

Why this recipe works

I designed this shortbread recipe so that the cookies will hold their shapes and patterns beautifully when they bake. To enable this, there are a few differences to many traditional Scottish shortbread recipes.

In particular, I’m using powdered sugar (icing sugar) rather than the traditional granulated sugar. The powdered sugar gives the cookies a fine texture, and helps them retain a precise shape as they bake. It does this in a couple of ways.

First, the fine powder dissolves into the butter quickly. This is important because we want to work quickly so as not to incorporate air into the mixture, otherwise the cookies will puff up and not keep their precise shapes when they bake.

Second, powdered sugar contains corn starch (to stop the powered sugar setting solid in its packaging). This gives us another benefit for the recipe. The polysaccharides that make up cornstarch interrupt the gluten network in the shortbread dough, reducing its elasticity, and helping to prevent the cookies from spreading out as they bake.

What is the secret to making good shortbread?

It’s the combination of lots of good, salty butter and sugar which gives shortbread cookies their amazing flavor. Use the best quality butter you can find – the better it is, the more delicious your shortbread will be. Under no circ*mstances use “spreadable from the fridge” products. You must use butter that is solid when in the fridge.

What is the difference between a butter cookie and a shortbread cookie?

The difference between butter cookies and shortbread cookies is the amount butter in the recipe vs the amount of sugar. Butter cookies typically are made using more sugar and less butter than shortbread. Shortbread cookies contain more butter, which gives them their amazing crumbly, melt-in-your-mouth texture.

What are common mistakes when making shortbread?

The most common mistakes when making shortbread are over-working the dough, and incorporating too much flour. The less you work the dough, the more crumbly and melt-in-your-mouth your shortbread cookies will be. When you’re working the dough, try to avoid incorporating extra flour, because it will throw the recipe off and make the cookies tough.

Get creative with cutters, stamps, molds, and embossed rolling pins

By mixing and matching different cookie cutters, cookie stamps, molds and more, you can make a stunning range of unique cookies. For example, combining a circular cookie cutter with a snowflake stamp makes it easy to create snowflake shortbread cookies.

Then, you can take the idea a stage further to cut out holes, to make sandwich cookies where the filling e.g. jam, shows through.

Or, use cookie molds to create beautiful, intricately patterned cookies in a few seconds. For example, this pine cone cookie.

Some ideas for shortbread mix-ins / additions

Shortbread is really flexible when it comes to mix-ins and other additions. I love adding pistachios or chocolate chips. Dried cranberries and pecans is a combination that work well, and is very festive. You could also try peanuts or walnuts and raisins. Chopped up pieces of preserved ginger in syrup (stem ginger) are another delicious add-on.

Another great addition is to scent the shortbread using citrus. Grated lemon, orange and clementine zest all work really well. Similarly, if you like spices, adding vanilla extract, ground nutmeg, ground cinnamon or ground ginger can be delicious.

Sprinkling the shortbread with granulated sugar before baking is also delicious and traditional.

Finally, dipping shortbread in melted white, milk or dark chocolate is a delicious addition.

Make Ahead and Freeze

Once the shortbread cookies have been baked and are fully cool, store them rigid airtight containers. They will keep for up to 5 days at room temperature. They can be frozen in the airtight containers for up to 3 months. To defrost, take the cookies out of their containers and place on a wire rack at room temperature for about an hour.

Unbaked shortbread dough freezes well. Covered tightly with plastic wrap and freeze for up to 3 months. Defrost the unbaked dough in the fridge over night before rolling out and shaping the cookies.

3-Ingredient Shortbread Cookies Recipe (2024)


What is the mistake in making shortbread? ›

The most common mistakes when making shortbread are over-working the dough, and incorporating too much flour. The less you work the dough, the more crumbly and melt-in-your-mouth your shortbread cookies will be.

What happens if you add too much butter to shortbread cookies? ›

Butter is an emulsifier and it makes cookies tender. It also adds in the crispy-around-the-edges element. Adding too much butter can cause the cookies to be flat and greasy. Adding too little butter can cause the cookies to be tough and crumbly.

Why do you put baking powder in shortbread? ›

You can start with this recipe for Salted caramel shortbread bars; your baking powder will give the rich and buttery shortbread just enough lift to make it flaky and delicate.

What not to do when making shortbread? ›

Avoid making your shortbread too thick

This is much thicker than a roll-and-slice sugar cookie — or really any other popular type of cookie. If you keep your dough any thicker, you risk the dough coming out of the oven raw. If it's any thinner, the cookie will have a crispy texture with the snap of a graham cracker.

Is powdered sugar or granulated sugar better for shortbread? ›

Takeaway: look for recipes that use granulated sugar for a more crisp-style shortbread and powdered sugar for a more tender shortbread!

Should you chill shortbread dough before baking? ›

After shaping the cookies, don't rush to the oven! Instead, chill the dough in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or so (overnight is OK, too). A short stay in the fridge will firm up the cookies and solidify the butter. This will help keep them from spreading too much.

What is the difference between Scottish shortbread and regular shortbread? ›

Traditional Scottish shortbread is a simple recipe made with sugar, butter, flour, and salt. Other shortbread styles will include leavening agents like baking powder and baking soda, which makes them crisp instead of crumbly like traditional Scottish shortbread.

Should butter be cold for shortbread? ›

Should butter be cold or room temperature for making shortbread? Always start with cold butter straight from the refrigerator. This will keep the dough from warming up, making it greasy and difficult to roll out.

Why poke holes in shortbread? ›

The word "bread" comes from "biscuit bread" which was made from leftover bread dough that was sweetened and dried out in the oven to make biscuits. Why do you poke holes in shortbread? The holes allow the moisture to escape during baking and more even heat distribution. This helps dry out and crisp up the cookies.

How to tell if shortbread is done? ›

Bake the shortbread until it's a light golden brown across the top surface and a deeper golden brown around the edges, about 35 minutes. Remove the shortbread from the oven and turn it out of the pans and onto a clean work surface.

Why did my shortbread fail? ›

There are a variety of reasons why the shortbread could be damp underneath but it is most likely that either the dough is being pressed out too thickly, the pan is not metal so heats up too slowly, or the oven temperature is too high causing the top to brown before the bottom has cooked sufficiently.

What does adding cornstarch to shortbread do? ›

Cornstarch provides the shortbread with structure, but its biggest job is keeping the cookies extra soft, tender, and light. I love adding a small amount to chocolate chip cookies too. Optional Coarse Sugar Topping: For an optional sparkly crunch on your shortbread wedges, add a sprinkle of coarse sugar before baking.

Why use unsalted butter in shortbread? ›

Unsalted butter for best results

Use unsalted butter for balanced flavour. Unsalted butter was traditionally used in baking because it was a superior product to salted - salt is used as a preservative so unsalted butter was thought to be fresher.

Is 4 teaspoons of baking powder too much? ›

Note: The general rule of thumb for amount of baking powder in recipes: 1 to 2 teaspoons (5-10 grams) of baking powder leavens 1 cup (140 grams) of flour. The amount will depend on the ingredients and how they are mixed.

Should you soften butter for shortbread cookies? ›

Many shortbread recipes start by having you cream softened butter with sugar, incorporating the dough with what former Serious Eats editor Stella Parks describes as “micro pockets of air.” Because air is a poor conductor of heat, “it helps insulate the dough from the hot baking sheet in the oven, slowing the rate at ...

Why chill shortbread dough before baking? ›

And once you have cut out or shaped your dough make sure you chill it for at least 30 minutes before baking so that the butter can re-solidify before reaching the heat of the oven.

How do you keep shortbread crust from sticking? ›

Shortbread Crust: Lightly butter, or spray with a non stick vegetable spray, an 8 or 9 inch (20-23 cm) tart pan with a removable bottom.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Nicola Considine CPA

Last Updated:

Views: 6702

Rating: 4.9 / 5 (49 voted)

Reviews: 88% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Nicola Considine CPA

Birthday: 1993-02-26

Address: 3809 Clinton Inlet, East Aleisha, UT 46318-2392

Phone: +2681424145499

Job: Government Technician

Hobby: Calligraphy, Lego building, Worldbuilding, Shooting, Bird watching, Shopping, Cooking

Introduction: My name is Nicola Considine CPA, I am a determined, witty, powerful, brainy, open, smiling, proud person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.