Shortbread Cookies (Easy Butter Cookie Recipe) - Fifteen Spatulas (2024)

These are the Best Butter Shortbread Cookies! They are deliciously crisp and rich, just like the classic Danish butter cookies that come in the blue tin. A fresh batch of these is especially wonderful for Christmasand holiday baking. The dough is easy to make using five simple, natural ingredients.

Shortbread Cookies (Easy Butter Cookie Recipe) - Fifteen Spatulas (1)

Dare I say that these are my favorite cookies ever?

There are all sorts of stunts out there with dessert, busy concoctions like Monster Cookies or these White Chocolate Dipped Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies, but it’s hard to beat classic, butter shortbread.

These are reminiscent of the Danish butter cookies that come in those blue tins around Christmas time. I have such a nostalgia for those, as they always appeared in our pantry during the holidays of my childhood.

What’s most funny about those blue tin cookies is there are always several different types, but it’s all the same dough, just baked in different shapes. It really shows how much the shape and texture of the cookie can change the experience.

The circular swirls were always my favorite kind in the tin, so that’s how I pipe these, but you can do whatever shape you prefer.You can also have success rolling the dough out and cutting shapes with cookie cutters, or simply doing a “slice and bake” by shaping the dough into a cylinder or log.

Shortbread Cookies (Easy Butter Cookie Recipe) - Fifteen Spatulas (2)

Use a Good Butter for the Best Results

I usually opt for European Style butter for this recipe, which has a higher butterfat content than the cheaper butter. Because these shortbread cookies are so simple, it’s a good case for splurging on the really good stuff.

The whole point of these cookies is that you get a crisp, buttery experience where the sweet cream flavor of butter really comes through. My personal favorite choice is Kerrygold Irish Butter, which is readily available here in the US.

Shortbread Cookies (Easy Butter Cookie Recipe) - Fifteen Spatulas (3)

This Dough Is Forgiving

One thing I love about this recipe is that the end results are very forgivingwith regards to piping the dough.

You’ll see below in my process shots that I’m not the best piper in the world (okay, I’m actually pretty terrible at piping, which is why I’m not a cake decorator), but the cookies still bake up and spread beautifully.

Any flaws in piping smooth out as they bake.

Shortbread Cookies (Easy Butter Cookie Recipe) - Fifteen Spatulas (4)

This Recipe Is Shipping Friendly and Sturdy

These cookies are also very sturdy, which makes them great to be shipped or gifted to friends and family (see 12 shipping-friendly food gift ideas for Christmas and beyond for more ideas).

When I make tins for shipping, I’ll usually include some plain ones, plus some dipped in white chocolate, and some dipped in dark chocolate. You can even add sprinkles or whatever you’d like to jazz them up. Not that they need jazzing. They’re delicious plain too!

I also sometimes add other kinds of shortbread, like Coconut Shortbread Cookies, Lavender Shortbread Cookies, and Millionaire’s Shortbread.

Step by Step Overview:

As an overview, here are the steps:

  1. Cream together butter, confectioner’s sugar, and vanilla.
  2. Add flour.
  3. Add milk.
  4. Pipe dough into circles on baking tray.
  5. Bake.

Cream Together the Butter and Sugar

Using a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, start by creaming together two sticks of room temperature butter with confectioner’s sugar and vanilla extract, using medium-high speed:

Shortbread Cookies (Easy Butter Cookie Recipe) - Fifteen Spatulas (5)

It’s very important the butter is softened to room temperature, otherwise it will be very difficult to pipe the cookies.

Ideally, Use Salted Butter

Shortbread is the only instance in baking where I now use salted butter.

Normally when I make Cookies, I always use unsalted butter so I can control the salt content, but I found with shortbread that when you add salt yourself, the salt never really dissolves or disperses as well. Using salted butter ensures even seasoning, and in my experience, a better cookie.

If you only have unsalted butter on hand, you can still make this. Simply add a pinch of salt with the flour.

The butter and sugar are properly mixed when it looks fluffy and light, but very smooth when spread with a spatula:

Shortbread Cookies (Easy Butter Cookie Recipe) - Fifteen Spatulas (6)

Add the Dry Ingredients

Add all-purpose flour to the bowl. If you used unsalted butter, add the salt now as well. You may also add orange zest, or any desired spices that you’d like. Sometimes I’ll add orange and cinnamon, which really makes these feel like nostalgic Christmas cookies.

Shortbread Cookies (Easy Butter Cookie Recipe) - Fifteen Spatulas (7)

Mix with the hand mixer until you get pebbles, like this:

Shortbread Cookies (Easy Butter Cookie Recipe) - Fifteen Spatulas (8)

Add a Touch of Milk

Now add one tablespoon of milk:

Shortbread Cookies (Easy Butter Cookie Recipe) - Fifteen Spatulas (9)

Mix for another 15 seconds or so until the dough comes together:

Shortbread Cookies (Easy Butter Cookie Recipe) - Fifteen Spatulas (10)

We are using the BARE MINIMUM of liquid here, just enough to bring the dough together. Resist the temptation to add much more, as it will change the texture of the butter cookies and not be as crisp.

Pipe the Dough

Place the dough into a piping bag fitted with a very large star tip (mine was the Ateco 827). You really need to use an oversized tip here, otherwise the dough will be impossible to pipe. You may also use a cookie press if you prefer it.

Pipe circles of dough onto a silicone mator parchment paper-lined cookie sheet:

Shortbread Cookies (Easy Butter Cookie Recipe) - Fifteen Spatulas (11)

What I like about the mat (affiliate) more than parchment paper is that the mat is nice and heavy, so it’s easier to pipe onto it. When using parchment, sometimes the paper wants to lift up with the tip.

Space out 12 circles per half sheet pan:

Shortbread Cookies (Easy Butter Cookie Recipe) - Fifteen Spatulas (12)

Don’t want to pipe?

If you don’t have a very large piping tip, or if you don’t want to pipe the dough at all, you can also roll the dough 1/2″ thick on a lightly floured surface using a rolling pin, and cut your desired shapes with a knife or cookie cutters.

You may also shape the buttery cookie dough into a log, then slice and bake. I recommend cutting 1/2″ thick, but you may do thicker or thinner as you desire.


Bake each tray until the piped circles are golden brown on the edges, then let the shortbread cookies cool completely. This is very important for having a crispy, pleasingly crumbly texture.

It’s fine to cool these right on the tray instead of transferring the cookies to a wire rack.

Shortbread Cookies (Easy Butter Cookie Recipe) - Fifteen Spatulas (13)

I personally love these plain, but feel free to dip them in melted chocolate, add sprinkles, or decorate them as you see fit. There are lots of options to jazz these up if you’d like, but know that these delicious cookies certainly don’t need it.

These classic shortbread cookies are perfect for a cookie exchange or another occasion for sharing sweet treats during the holiday season. For more shortbread recipes, also try Lavender Shortbread Cookies, Coconut Shortbread Cookies, or Millionaire’s Shortbread. And if you want to do some true holiday cookie decorating, these are theBest Cutout Cookiesfor that.

The full printable Shortbread Cookie Recipe is below, and I have a full video for these as well if you want more guidance.

More Favorite Christmas Recipes

  • Chocolate Bark
  • Tiramisu
  • Pistachio Snowballs
  • Snickerdoodles
  • Homemade Chocolate Truffles
  • Rice Pudding

Recipe FAQ and Tips

Can Butter Shortbread Cookies be frozen?

Yes, they freeze beautifully! Store in an airtight container or bag for up to two months.

Can Shortbread Cookies be made with brown sugar instead?

Brown sugar is usually added for chewiness, which you don’t want here. These are supposed to be crisp and crumbly. So, I don’t recommend brown sugar.

Can Shortbread Cookies be made ahead of time?

Definitely! And these honestly don’t taste best when they are freshly out of the oven. You want to let them cool completely, ideally for a few hours.

How do you store Butter Cookies?

Let cool completely, then store in an airtight tin at room temperature for up to two weeks.

What if the shortbread cookies spread too much during baking?

This means the butter warmed up too much while you were working with the dough. Next time, pop the tray with the piped cookies into the fridge or freezer until the cookies are firm to the touch and chilled, 15-30 minutes, then bake immediately.

Did you enjoy the recipe? Please leave a 5-star rating in the recipe card below and/or a review in the comments section further down the page. Or, follow me on Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest!

Shortbread Cookies (Easy Butter Cookie Recipe) - Fifteen Spatulas (14)

Shortbread Cookies

Servings: 24 cookies

Prep Time: 10 minutes mins

Cook Time: 15 minutes mins

Total Time: 25 minutes mins

Butter Swirl Shortbread Cookies are a great Christmas Cookie for Holiday Baking! The dough is so easy to make and uses simple ingredients. These are classic and crisp.

Print Recipe Pin Recipe


Leave a Review »


  • 1 cup salted butter at room temperature (8 ounces)*
  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar (4 ounces by weight)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all purpose flour (10 ounces by weight)
  • 1 tbsp milk**


  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

  • Place the butter, confectioner’s sugar and vanilla in a large bowl, and beat with an electric mixer until combined, light, and fluffy.

  • Add the flour and mix until it’s crumbly and looks like it can’t be mixed more.

  • Add the milk and keep mixing. The dough should clump together after about 15 seconds.

  • Place the dough into a pastry bag fitted with a very large star tip, and pipe onto a silicone mat lined baking sheet, with no more than 12 cookies per sheet.

  • Bake the cookies for 15 minutes or until lightly golden.

  • Let them cool completely (on the tray is fine)***, and enjoy!


*If using unsalted butter, add 1/4 tsp of salt with the flour.

**Shortbreads are naturally thick and a more dry dough. If the dough doesn’t come together, add another tablespoon or two of milk. Make sure to use a VERY large open tip for piping the dough, otherwise it will be too difficult to pipe it out. You can also use a cookie press instead, or even slice and bake.

***The cookies crisp more as they cool, so it’s important to let them cool down for at least an hour.

Freezing: These cookies can be frozen in an airtight container for up to 2 months.

Storage: Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.

Make ahead: These cookies are best after they’ve cooled for a few hours, so absolutely feel free to make them ahead of time.


Calories: 126kcal, Carbohydrates: 16g, Protein: 1.16g, Fat: 7.75g, Saturated Fat: 4.9g, Cholesterol: 20mg, Sodium: 26mg, Fiber: 0.25g, Sugar: 5g

Nutrition is estimated using a food database and is only intended to be used as a guideline for informational purposes.

Course: Dessert

Cuisine: American

Author: Fifteen Spatulas

Shortbread Cookies (Easy Butter Cookie Recipe) - Fifteen Spatulas (2024)


What is the secret to making good shortbread cookies? ›

Tips To Make the Best Shortbread Cookies
  1. 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. ...
  2. Keep Ingredients Simple. ...
  3. Add Flavor. ...
  4. Don't Overwork. ...
  5. Shape Dough. ...
  6. Chill Before Baking. ...
  7. Bake Until Golden. ...
  8. Add Finishing Touches.

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

Compared to butter cookies, shortbread uses a higher ratio of butter to flour, and is baked at a lower temperature. This gives it its signature delicate consistency that crumbles in the mouth when bitten. It's also often baked in a pan and cut up after baking, rather than being cut into shapes before baking.

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.

Why put egg in shortbread? ›

This unexpected addition will make buttery confections like shortbreads and shortcakes even more tender and flaky. “Biscuits should be crumbly, buttery and sweet,” reads a headnote for a cinnamon sugar-spiced shortbread recipe in the Ritz London Cookbook.

Is it best to 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.

When making shortbread, what must you not do? ›

And the three rules for making shortbread:
  1. 1 Don't overmix.
  2. 2 Do not overmix.
  3. 3 DO NOT OVERMIX. That's for pure shortbread, for biscuits and the like. If you're making shortbread for something like a pie, you can also add 1/3 part egg, after the sugar and butter have been creamed together, but before the flour is added.
Nov 30, 2020

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.

Is salted or unsalted butter better for shortbread cookies? ›

If you don't have salted butter, unsalted butter will also work, simply add about ¼ teaspoon of salt to the cookie dough. The reason the salt is needed is because salt brings out the flavor in the cookies, without it, your cookies will taste bland.

Which butter is best for cookies? ›

The best butter for your baked goods depends on what type of recipe you're whipping up. Unsalted, American-style butter works well in goods like cookies, pound cakes and pancakes that require the high-fat content of conventional butter and more flexibility with salt and flavor content.

Why poke holes in shortbread cookies? ›

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.

What happens if you don't poke holes in shortbread? ›

Why do you put fork holes in shortbread? Creating little holes in the top of the shortbread helps any moisture escape from the dough so it cooks more evenly, this also helps create the very 'short' texture of the biscuits. In baking terms, 'short' means crumbly with a melt-in-the-mouth texture.

Why is shortbread pricked with a fork? ›

Remove the wrap if you've used it, then use a fork to prick ("dock") the dough all over; this allows any steam to escape, and prevents the shortbread from bubbling as it bakes. Prick the dough in a random pattern, or create a pretty design.

Why put shortbread dough in fridge? ›

Why do you put shortbread cut-out cookies in the fridge before baking? This is to resolidify the butter. The butter is at room temperature when making the dough resulting in a soft dough. If baked straight away, the butter would melt away immediately when hitting the hot oven and the shortbread would spread.

Why do you pierce shortbread? ›

Prick the dough all over with a fork, to allow steam to escape while baking. You can play around with the patterns. Optional: chill for up to 30 minutes for the flavors to develop. Bake at 350 degrees F for 35-40 minutes or until light golden.

Why do you put cornstarch in shortbread cookies? ›

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.

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.

What are the qualities of a good shortbread? ›

Good shortbread is pale, buttery, crunchy, and 'short'. This means it crumbles at every bite, giving that characteristic shortbread texture. It shouldn't be soft or chewy like cookies, and it shouldn't be browned.

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 ...

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.


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Carlyn Walter

Last Updated:

Views: 5374

Rating: 5 / 5 (50 voted)

Reviews: 81% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Carlyn Walter

Birthday: 1996-01-03

Address: Suite 452 40815 Denyse Extensions, Sengermouth, OR 42374

Phone: +8501809515404

Job: Manufacturing Technician

Hobby: Table tennis, Archery, Vacation, Metal detecting, Yo-yoing, Crocheting, Creative writing

Introduction: My name is Carlyn Walter, I am a lively, glamorous, healthy, clean, powerful, calm, combative person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.