Scottish Shortbread Recipe | The recipe critic

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Traditional Scottish shortbread is buttery, crunchy and lightly sweetened to perfection. Made simply with butter, flour, sugar and salt, this classic treat can easily be made for the holidays or any time of the year.

I love a classic Christmas cookie that we look forward to every year. This Scottish shortbread is definitely one that always shows up. It is so delicious and never disappoints! Try more of my favorite Christmas cookies like these pumpkin cookies, my cute grinch cookies, or these yummy Christmas butter cookies.

Close-up of Scottish shortbread stacked on a cooling rack.  A cookie is broken in two pieces.  A tea towel and a glass of milk are in the distance.

What is Scottish shortbread?

Shortbread has been around for centuries. (It’s no secret why it’s so buttery and delicious!) Hailing from Scotland, the name has been attributed to Mary, Queen of Scots, who had a taste for this buttery treat. It’s so much fun learning about the evolution of age-old recipes. Shortbread was once called petticoat tails because of its original wedge shape that looked like a frilly skirt for women. It’s also fascinating to know that shortbread was originally made from leftover bread dough that was left out to dry and harden into biscuit bread.

Shortbread features in so many recipes these days and is an excellent base for some of my favorite treats. It’s great because it adds a delicious buttery texture to any dessert! I love the shortbread base in my millionaire shortbread bars and Twix cookies because it pairs so well with the chocolate. I also love these lemon cookies because anything with lemon is a MUST for me!

A traditional shortbread recipe requires only a few simple ingredients. You probably have them all on hand! You’ll love making shortbread from scratch. I love these cookies because they just melt in your mouth! See recipe card below for exact measurements.

  • All Purpose Flour: A great flour to achieve the perfect shortbread texture.
  • granulated sugar: Adds just the right amount of sweetness. Shortbread is slightly sweet.
  • Salty: A pinch is all you need!
  • unsalted butter: Using quality butter is KEY. It will take the taste to the next level! Also make sure it is at room temperature before adding it to your dough mixture.

Scottish Shortbread Recipe

This shortbread recipe is incredibly easy to make! Pulse your ingredients in a food processor and then press the dough into a pan! The oven does all the work. Then you have a perfect Scottish shortbread to share or keep for yourself! You won’t be able to get enough of it.

  1. Preheat the oven / Prepare a casserole: Preheat the oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Then line an 8×8 baking dish with parchment paper, leaving a 1-inch overhang on both sides for easy removal. Put aside.
  2. Pulse ingredients: Add the flour, sugar and salt to a food processor. Pulse until combined. Then add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.
  3. Press the dough into the pan and let it cool: Press the dough into the prepared pan and let it cool for 20-30 minutes.
  4. Bake and Prick Shortbread: Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the top begins to turn golden brown. Let the shortbread rest from the oven for 5-10 minutes. Then pierce with a fork in about 6 rows. Carefully lift the warm shortbread out of the pan and cut it into 12 pieces. You can use the fork marks as a guide.
  5. Let cool: Let cool completely before serving.
The first process shot is dry ingredients in a food processor with the butter on top.  In the second photo, the ingredients have been mixed into pea-sized pieces.  Third process photo is the dough being formed into a ball for cooling.  The fourth process photo is the dough that is pressed into a square pan before baking.

Tips and tricks

Here are a few tips that will give you the best results. They make for a perfect Scottish shortbread cookie every time!

  • Of high quality Butter: By using high-quality butter, these butter biscuits get a richer taste! Standard butter also works if you have it on hand.
  • Don’t work too much: Do not touch the dough too much to keep it light and crunchy. Pulse until it begins to come together, then press directly into the prepared baking dish.
  • Cool the dough: Refrigerate the cookie dough for at least 20 minutes before baking. You can prepare the dough a day in advance, cover tightly with plastic wrap and bake the next day.
  • Be sure to poke holes: Poke holes in the dough to prevent the shortbread from puffing up in the oven! Poking holes after baking will allow the steam to escape. This keeps the cookie closed and keeps its shape.

Try these delicious shortbread variations

Scottish shortbread are so much fun to make! I love it because you can be creative with add-ins. Everyone gets excited to try them all! Here are a few ideas to get you started.

  • nuts: Add chopped nuts to your dough! Pecans, pistachios or any nut would be delicious.
  • extracts: Adding extracts is an easy way to add more flavor. Try vanilla, almond or hazelnut extract!
  • Chocolate: Shortbread and chocolate is the best combination. Drizzle or dip your shortbread for an elevated look.
  • Fruit: Dried fruit or citrus zest is my favorite way to add fruity flavors.
  • Caramel: Caramel is intended for shortbread. It is absolutely the BEST. End of story.

Top view of shortbread pieces on a gray counter and cooling rack.  Next to the cookies is a glass of milk and a tea towel.

Store and freeze leftovers

This Scottish shortbread recipe is great to make ahead of time. Known for their crumbly texture, they don’t need to be fresh all day to be delicious. These butter cookies are perfect as a gift! You can also make them ahead of time for a special occasion.

  • Bee Room temperature: Store cookies in an airtight container for up to 7 days.
  • In the freezer: Freeze baked cookies for up to 2 months in an airtight container or sealed freezer bag. Let the shortbread thaw completely on the counter at room temperature before serving.

  • Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit and line an 8×8 baking dish with parchment paper, leaving a 1-inch overhang on both sides for easy removal. Put aside.

  • Add the flour, sugar and salt to a food processor and pulse until combined. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.

  • Press the dough into the prepared pan and let it cool for 20-30 minutes.

  • Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the top begins to turn golden brown. Let rest for 5-10 minutes before piercing about 6 rows with a fork. Carefully lift the warm shortbread from the pan and cut into 12 pieces, using the fork marks as a guide.

  • Let cool completely before serving.

Serves: 12

Portion1cookiecalories244kcal (12%)Carbohydrates24g (8%)Egg white2g (4%)Fat16g (25%)Saturated fat10g (50%)Polyunsaturated Fat1gmonounsaturated fat4gtrans fat1gcholesterol41mg (14%)Sodium6mgpotassium27mg (1%)Fiber1g (4%)Sugar8g (9%)Vitamin A473IU (9%)Calcium8mg (1%)Iron1mg (6%)

All nutritional information is based on third party calculations and is an estimate only. Every recipe and nutritional value will depend on the brands you use, measurement methods and portion sizes per household.

Class Dessert

kitchen Scottish

keyword Scottish shortbread, recipe for Scottish shortbread

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