Traditional Scottish Shortbread (2024)

Published: by Chef Dennis Littley

5 from 66 votes

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Traditional Scottish Shortbread Cookies has always been one of my favorite cookies. Made with four simple ingredients, flour, butter, sugar and salt, these crumbly, buttery, delicious shortbread cookies will be a sweet treat your whole family will love!

Traditional Scottish Shortbread (1)

There are lots of shortbread recipes on the internet but not all of them are Scottish Shortbread recipes, and there is a difference. Trust me when I tell you this is the best shortbread cookie recipe you’ll ever make.

Traditional Scottish Shortbread (2)

Although the baking time is a little longer than most cookie recipes, my traditional shortbread recipe couldn’t be easier to make and the results are well worth the extra time in the oven.

If you love delicious cookies make sure to try my Pistachio Cornmeal Butter Cookies.

Table of Contents:

Ingredients to make Scottish Shortbread

Traditional Scottish Shortbread (3)

Let’s start by gathering the simple ingredients we need to make Traditional Scottish Shortbread. In Chef Speak, this is called the “Mise en Place,” which translates to “Everything in its Place.”

Not only does setting up your ingredients ahead of time speed up the cooking process, it also helps ensure you have everything you need to make the dish.

Made with four basic ingredients

  • all-purpose flour
  • unsalted butter (European butter is best)
  • caster sugar (superfine white sugar)
  • table salt

How to make Traditional Scottish Shortbread

Line an 8×8 baking dish with parchment paper, leaving a 1-inch overhang on two sides for easy removal. Set aside until needed. *You can also use a 9×9 inch pan or round cake pan.

Traditional Scottish Shortbread (4)
  • Add the flour, sugar, and salt to the bowl of a food processor (you can also use a large bowl with an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment to make the dough).
  • Pulse the dry ingredients until well combined.
  • Add the butter to the flour mixture. The butter should be room temperature but not too soft.
  • Pulse until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs, but is still soft and pliable.

It might be easier to dump the dough out on a lightly floured surface to form the shortbread dough into a ball and use a rolling pin to form the sheet, but adding extra flour will negatively affect the cookie.

Traditional Scottish Shortbread (5)
  • Add the mixture to the parchment-lined baking pan.
  • Press dough into the pan, using your fingers and hands to firmly press the mixture down.*If the shortbread dough is too dry to work with, it wasn’t pulsed long enough.
  • Prick the dough at 1-inch intervals with the tines of a fork. Then score the dough with a sharp knife into 2 x 1-inch bars. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours.
  • Place the baking pan on the middle rack of a preheated oven and bake for 30-35 minutes, until set and lightly golden brown. Do not overbake or the cookies will be dry.

*Place the pan on a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes.

Cut the shortbread into bars using the lines you scored the dough with as a guide. Let the cookies cool completely before removing them from the pan.

You can also use a round cake pan to make these buttery shortbread cookies. Place a large circle of parchment paper in the bottom of the cake pan before adding the cookie dough.

I have seen recipes that use a cookie cutter to cut out individual cookies and bake them on a parchment-lined baking sheet, but that method yields dry cookies that don’t have the same crumbly texture.

Traditional Scottish Shortbread (6)

These delightful Scottish Shortbread cookies ( aka biscuits) can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for 5-7 days and can also be frozen.

If you’re looking for the perfect cookie for special occasions, dip the shortbread cookie in melted chocolate. That makes them even harder to resist and more delicious.

Recipe FAQ’s

What’s 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.

What is the secret to making good Scottish shortbread?

The most important ingredient is the butter. Use the best quality butter available, and make sure it’s real butter. The other crucial part of the recipe is not to overwork the dough. That will make the cookies tough instead of tender.

Can I add other flavors to Scottish shortbread?

Absolutely! Although the traditional version is plain, you can add various flavors such as vanilla extract, lemon zest, almond extract, or even mini chocolate chips for a different twist on this classic cookie.

More Recipes You’ll Love!

  • Pistachio Cornmeal Butter Cookies
  • Heath Bar Cookies Recipe
  • Classic Sugar Cookie Recipe
  • Classic Peanut Butter Cookie Recipe

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Traditional Scottish Shortbread (11)

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5 from 66 votes

Best Traditional Scottish Shortbread

Traditional Scottish Shortbread Cookies has always been one of my favorite cookies. Made with four simple ingredients, flour, butter, sugar and salt, these crumbly, buttery, delicious shortbread cookies will be a sweet treat your whole family will love!

Prep Time15 minutes mins

Cook Time35 minutes mins

Total Time50 minutes mins

Course: Dessert

Cuisine: English, Scottish

Servings: 32

Calories: 83kcal

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 8 oz unsalted butter softened – (2 sticks = 1 cup)
  • ½ cup caster sugar superfine sugar – if you only have regular sugar, pulse it in a food processor until its a finer grain. Do Not USe Powdered Sugar.
  • ¼ teaspoon table salt

Instructions

  • Line an 8×8 baking dish with parchment paper, leaving a 1-inch overhang on two sides for easy removal. Set aside.You can also use a 9×9 inch pan or round cake pan.

  • Add the flour, sugar, and salt to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until well combined.

  • Add the butter to the flour mixture and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs, but is still soft and pliable.

  • Press the mixture into the parchment-lined baking pan. Use your fingers and hands to firmly press the mixture down.

    If the mixture is too dry to work with, it wasn't pulsed long enough.

  • Prick dough at 1-inch intervals with the tines of a fork. Then score the dough with a knife into 2 x 1-inch bars. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours.

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

  • Place the baking pan on the middle rack of a preheated oven and bake for 30-35 minutes, until set and lightly golden brown. Do not overbake or the cookies will be dry,

  • Place the pan on a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes.

  • Cut the shortbread into bars using the lines you scored the dough with as a guide. Let the cookies cool completely before removing them from the pan.

  • Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week. The cookies can be kept frozen in a well-sealed container, frozen for up to 3 months.

Nutrition

Calories: 83kcal | Carbohydrates: 7g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 0.2g | Cholesterol: 15mg | Sodium: 10mg | Potassium: 10mg | Fiber: 0.2g | Sugar: 0.03g | Vitamin A: 177IU | Calcium: 3mg | Iron: 0.4mg

Tried this Recipe? Pin it for Later!Mention @askChefDennis or tag #askChefDennis!

About Chef Dennis

Chef Dennis Littley is a classically trained chef with over 40 years of experience working in the food service industry. In his second career as a food blogger he has made it his mission to demistify cooking by sharing his time-tested recipes, knowledge, and chef tips to help you create easy-to-make restaurant-quality meals in your home kitchen. Let Chef Dennis help you bring the joy of cooking into your home.For more details, check out his About page.

Reader Interactions

Comments

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  1. Flora

    Traditional Scottish Shortbread (13)
    Hi Chef Dennis, are these cookies supposed to be soft or crunchy? Mine came out very soft and I was expecting a crunchier texture, just want to make sure that’s how they’re supposed to be or if I did something wrong.

    Reply

    • Chef Dennis Littley

      They aren’t really crunchy, they’re sort of soft and crumbly.

      Reply

  2. Emily

    What about a combination of granulated sugar and corn starch? Will that work?

    Reply

    • Chef Dennis Littley

      I’ve never tried that combination, so I can’t comment on it.

      Reply

  3. Emily

    For making shortbread specifically, what is the difference between the creaming method and the food processor method? What will the texture be between the two and how will the cookie turn out after baking?

    Reply

    • Chef Dennis Littley

      I’ve never made them the traditional way but I don’t think there would be much difference in the texture as long as you don’t overpulse the mixture.

      Reply

  4. KBS

    Why not powdered sugar?

    Reply

    • Chef Dennis Littley

      Powdered sugar will not work with this recipe, it doesn’t have enough structure to hold the butter.

      Reply

  5. Sharon Class

    Traditional Scottish Shortbread (14)
    Excellent Scottish Shortbread cookie recipe, very delicious!!!

    Reply

    • Chef Dennis Littley

      I’m happy to hear you enjoyed my shortbread recipe!

      Reply

    • Ivana

      Traditional Scottish Shortbread (15)
      Amazing taste and easy to make. A keeper. I used 1 c sugar though, hubby has a sweet tooth.

      Reply

      • Chef Dennis Littley

        I’m happy to hear you enjoyed my shortbread recipe, and a little extra sugar sounds good!

  6. Angie Jolliff

    Traditional Scottish Shortbread (16)
    This shortbread took me back 60 years to my great grandparents house. My great mother immigrated from England and my great grandfather came from Scotland. The flavor and texture are indescribable. I made some for my brother and he had the exact same feeling. One difference- hers was 2” thick cut of not triangles. ! Haven’t figured out how to accomplish that. Thanks for the memory

    Reply

    • Chef Dennis Littley

      You’re very welcome, and I’m happy to hear you enjoyed the shortbread.

      Reply

  7. Lolly McDonnell

    Traditional Scottish Shortbread (17)
    I modified this recipe for my daughter who has to avoid dairy and soy. I found a soy free margarine, and the cookies were still excellent. I did add an additional splash of sugar to the dough, as well as sprinkle sugar on top as she has a sweet tooth. The result was delicious!

    Reply

    • Chef Dennis Littley

      I’m happy to hear you were able to adapt the cookies and that your daughter enjoyed them!

      Reply

  8. Kay

    Chef Dennis,

    I tried your recipe for the first time and followed it as closely as I could. I wonder if you know what caused the finished product to have holes over the entire top. You couldn’t tell that I had used a fork at intervals nor scored the bars per the instructions. They tasted wonderful but not sure why they didn’t look just right. Any help appreciated!

    Reply

    • Chef Dennis Littley

      The only reasons I can think of is if you used a mixer to mix the ingredients that the butter and sugar was over creamed or if you used a whisk attachment instead of a paddle attachment to cream the butter and add in the flour.

      Reply

  9. Jessica

    Hello! I am looking forward to trying this recipe. Can I use a stoneware “petticoat tails” mold, or would that cause them to be overcooked?

    Thank you!

    Reply

    • Chef Dennis Littley

      I have never used a mold to make these, but I have a feeling they would get too brown.

      Reply

      • Jessica

        That was my suspicion, as well. I think I will try two batches – one in the mold and one as your recipe indicates. I’ll let you know what happens 🙂

  10. Martha Allan Raffae

    Traditional Scottish Shortbread (18)
    This is the best Scottish Shortbread , it adheres to the traditional recipe and method -simplicity of the ingredients being the charm of the great but austere Scottish Shortbread .We had no processor, Mom made it very much like a pie dough sans liquid .Quickly turned out after rough mix in bowl by hand , onto cold marble shaped and then chilled overnight. Yours described method comes closest to assuring they stay tender. Too many people overcook them too- golden edges only , please! Great recipe, great method! Thank you!

    Reply

    • Chef Dennis Littley

      Thank you so much for such a wonderful comment and review! I’m happy to hear you enjoyed my shortbread recipe.

      Reply

  11. Janine Schreiber

    Traditional Scottish Shortbread (19)
    Dear Dennis,

    I tried your shortbread recipe. It was great!

    I have a real challenge for you. Growing up, my family used to frequent a Cantonese Chinese Restaurant. They made the best Cantonese BBQ Ribs. The husband and wife retired so, I asked the owner if he could give me his recipe and I promised that I would not sell the recipe, I would only enjoy them at my home. This is all he gave me. Do you think you could figure out the measurements of each of the items he has given me for a rack of pork ribs? This is what he had to say:

    My wife starts with Sweet Baby Ray’s and doctors it up with Chinese 5 spice powder, pineapple juice, tomato ketchup, chopped garlic and Hoisin sauce which adds a bit of sweetness . You will have to experiment to get the desired taste.

    Let me know if you can figure it out. I would be eternally grateful!

    Janine

    Reply

    • Chef Dennis Littley

      I will put it on my list of recipes to do but I may not be able to get to it for quite some time.

      Reply

Traditional Scottish Shortbread (2024)

FAQs

What is the tradition of shortbread in Scotland? ›

Shortbread was expensive and reserved as a luxury for special occasions such as Christmas, Hogmanay (Scottish New Year's Eve), and weddings. In Scotland, it was traditional to break a decorated shortbread cake (infar-cake or dreaming bread) over the head of a new bride on the entrance of her new house.

What are the 3 traditional shapes of shortbread? ›

Shortbread is traditionally formed into one of three shapes: one large circle divided into segments (“Petticoat Tails”); individual round biscuits (“Shortbread Rounds”); or a thick rectangular slab cut into “fingers.”

What is the secret to making good shortbread? ›

Tips To Make the Best Shortbread Cookies
  • Choose High Quality Butter. No matter what brand of butter you buy, if it's real butter, you can rest assured that it's the best. ...
  • Keep Ingredients Simple. ...
  • Add Flavor. ...
  • Don't Overwork. ...
  • Shape Dough. ...
  • Chill Before Baking. ...
  • Bake Until Golden. ...
  • Add Finishing Touches.

What is the difference between shortbread and Scottish 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.

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