Scottish Shortbread Cookies - Just three ingredients to mix up these buttery, melt-in-your-mouth cookies. So quick and easy to make and enjoy with a cup of hot tea. This buttery Scottish shortbread recipe is perfect for a weeknight dessert or a Christmas cookie tray.
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If you've never tried traditional Scottish shortbread cookies before, you are really in for a treat with this recipe. The beauty of a Scottish shortbread cookie recipe is that it requires only three ingredients. Yes - three! You'll just need sugar, butter, and flour.
What is the difference between English shortbread and Scottish shortbread?
Scottish shortbread cookies are made simply with sugar, butter, and flour. Other shortbread styles incorporate leavening like baking powder and baking soda, making them crisp instead of crumbly like a traditional Scottish shortbread.
About the ingredients for this recipe. See the recipe card below for exact amounts.
- butter - I use salted butter for this recipe, and I buy the best quality for this specific recipe. The butter accounts for the beautiful texture and flavor in this recipe and so it's really an important ingredient. Use your favorite butter. If you use unsalted butter, simply add a pinch of salt.
- sugar - regular granulated sugar. Some recipes use powdered sugar, but mine uses regular granulated white sugar.
- flour - all-purpose flour
How To Make Shortbread Cookies
- soften the butter to room temperature (check the tips below!)
- the dough will need to chill but you can line cookie sheets ahead of time if you want to
- cut some plastic wrap to size to wrap the dough in to chill
RECIPE TIP: You can use a stand mixer, electric handheld mixer, or just mix by hand using a spatula.
How to soften butter to room temperature
- The counter method - You can set the butter on your counter and leave it for an hour or two. It shouldn't be melty - just soft so that you can easily press a finger into it.
- The hot bowl method - Place the butter on a plate. Fill a large bowl with very hot water and then spill it out. Place it upside down over the top of the butter. The warmth of the bowl will slowly soften the butter.
To make the shortbread dough, start by creaming the butter and sugar together. You can do this by hand or by adding the butter and sugar to a stand mixer and whipping until soft and well incorporated.
Add the flour and mix until just combined. Don't knead the dough - this activates and makes the gluten stronger which is great for bread but not for cookies.
Roll the dough into a ball and then flatten it into a disc and wrap it in plastic. Chill the dough in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Why do you chill shortbread dough?
Chilling the dough chills the softened butter and solidifies it again. Colder butter will result in cookies that spread less, keeping their shape and height.
Room-temperature butter is too soft and will spread more in the heat of the oven, resulting in flat, spread out cookies. They will be crisp, not soft.
How to bake Scottish Shortbread
Preheat the oven to 325°F (165°C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat (so the cookies don't stick or brown too much).
Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface to about a quarter of an inch in thickness.
To shape the cookies, you can either cut out shapes with a cookie cutter or just use a knife or bench scraper to cut squares or rectangles (my preferred method).
Place the cookies on the baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes or until done. They should be lightly golden on the bottom without turning golden on the sides or tops.
Optional: Dip the baked cookies halfway into melted chocolate for a fancier looking treat.
✔ This recipe is vegetarian
> Want some flavor options?
- Try dipping the baked cookies halfway into dark chocolate.
- Add lemon or orange zest to the dough.
- Add vanilla extract to the dough.
- Add chocolate chips.
- Replace a small amount of the flour with cocoa powder.
I use either my Kitchenaid Stand mixer or a bowl and spatula to mix the dough.
I line my baking sheets with my silicone baking mat for all of my cookie baking.
I store these cookies on a plate at room temperature. They're always gone in a few days.
Store extra cookies in the freezer, in a ziptop bag, for a few months.
Tips + FAQs
Yes, chilling shortbread dough helps the butter get cold again and will help prevent your cookies from spreading and flattening while baking.
Scottish Shortbread Cookies
- 1 cup salted butter (at room temperature)
- ½ cup granulated white sugar
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- Cream together the butter and sugar.
- Add the flour. Mix together until just combined.
- Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill it for at least 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 325°F (165°C). Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat.
- Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface, to about ¼ inch thick. Be careful not to add too much flour here, the cookies can become desne and dry.
- Cut cookies however you like. I like to cut into rectangles or squares with a knife or bench scraper, or use a fluted cookie cutter.
- Bake the cookies for 12-15 minutes or until done. They will be lightly golden on the bottom and Let cool on a cooling rack.
Nutritional information is an estimate. Values vary based on products used.
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I get a commission if you decide to purchase through my link, at no extra cost to you.
This post was originally posted on December 6, 2018, and updated on December 3, 2022, for clearer recipe information and full nutrition information.
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I have a question: the ingredients for the shortbread cookies are listed as butter, sugar, and sugar. I'm guessing one of them is supposed to be flour. Is it the 1 1/2 cups?
Yes, that’s correct Tabitha, I’ve updated the recipe card. Thanks for catching this and letting me know!