Melt in Your Mouth Shortbread Cookies
These shortbread cookies are the Christmas cookies mom has made every holiday season. They're whipped shortbread cookies that are so soft they literally melt in your mouth. You will LOVE them!
If you love shortbread cookies as much as we do, also try our gluten-free shortbread cookies, almond flour shortbread cookies, and chocolate dipped shortbread cookies!
Table of contents
- Best shortbread cookie recipe
- Shortbread cookie ingredients
- How to make the softest whipped shortbread cookies
- Tips for making whipped shortbread cookies in a stand mixer
- Variations to try
- Tips for making the softest shortbread cookies
- What do these Christmas shortbread cookies taste like?
- FAQs about this shortbread cookie recipe
- Making shortbread cookies ahead of time
- How to store shortbread cookies
- Can I freeze these shortbread cookies?
- Popular Christmas Baking Recipes
- More cookie recipes to try
This recipe was originally published in 2011. We've updated the post with some new photos, and more information but the delicious recipe remains the same.
Best shortbread cookie recipe
This is the shortbread cookie recipe our family has been making for decades. They were part of the Christmas cookie spread that always included mom's nanaimo bars, turtles, and butter tarts. Christmas wouldn't be the same without them.
These shortbread cookies are crazy soft. When we say they melt in your mouth, we mean it. No chewing required. They’re the most tender shortbread cookies you will ever eat. In the words of one of our taste testers, “I don't know what just happened in my mouth, but I want more of it.”
This shortbread cookie recipe has only 5 ingredients, is made in one bowl, and is the best shortbread you will ever eat. Are you sold? You should be!
Shortbread cookie ingredients
This easy recipe is made with only five ingredients!
Butter – We prefer to use salted butter. If you only have unsalted butter, simply add salt to the recipe. Make sure the butter is at room temperature before making these cookies.
Flour – Unbleached, all-purpose flour works best in this recipe.
Icing sugar – Also known as powdered sugar.
Cornstarch – This is added to make the shortbread cookies even softer.
Vanilla – We add this for a subtle flavor.
How to make the softest whipped shortbread cookies
Making whipped shortbread is incredibly easy. But it does help to have a look at the pictures above so that you can see what the dough looks like in the 4 different stages that it goes through while you're beating it.
- You'll start by slowly mixing the salted butter, flour, icing sugar, cornstarch, and vanilla using electric beaters at their lowest setting – this is to prevent a cloud of flour dust from flying out of the bowl. After a minute, the dough will no longer be dusty but will have larger chunks of butter coated in flour.
- A few minutes later, when the dough starts to look like sand, turn the beaters up to medium speed. At this point, you'll likely think that it will never come together, but have patience and trust that it will.
- Keep beating the sandy dough for 3-4 minutes and all of a sudden you will feel your beaters start to strain and the dough will come together.
- Turn your beaters up to high and continue to beat the dough for another 1-2 minutes, or until it resembles thick whipped cream.
Now all that's left to do is drop mounds of the dough onto baking sheets and bake them for 15 minutes. So easy!
Full shortbread cookie recipe in the recipe card below.
Tips for making whipped shortbread cookies in a stand mixer
Using a stand mixer to make shortbread cookies is a little trickier as you have to stop often to scrape the bowl AND it's easy to overwhip them.
- Always use the whisk attachment. The paddle attachment is not able to whip the shortbread properly.
- Stop frequently to scrape the side of the bowl. Otherwise, some of the dough will be whipped and some won't. You'll see the difference the first time you stop to scrape the bowl.
- Keep a close eye on the dough at the end. As soon as it resembles thick whipped cream, stop beating it. Overbeating the dough can cause the cookies to flatten when they bake.
- The total time you'll need to whip the cookie dough in a stand mixer is about 5 minutes.
Variations to try
- Top with red and green sprinkles for Christmas shortbread cookies. You can also try blending the sprinkles right into the batter.
- Add lemon or orange zest to the batter.
- Drizzle the tops with chocolate.
- Swap the vanilla for your favorite flavor extract.
- Make whipped shortbread cookies with Toblerone by stirring 1 cup of chopped Toblerone into the batter.
Tips for making the softest shortbread cookies
- This recipe works best if you beat the dough with electric beaters. While you can use a stand mixer, you'll need to watch the dough carefully to make sure that you don't overwhip it.
- Make sure the cookie dough is cold before you put it in the oven. If your house is quite warm, put the cookie dough in the fridge to chill it before you bake the cookies.
- Watch the dough. We used to set a timer and beat the dough for 10 minutes. This worked great with older beaters, but more powerful ones are able to whip the dough in a shorter amount of time. It's best to watch the dough and stop beating it once it looks like thick whipped cream.
- Use salted butter. This has nothing to do with making the softest shortbread cookies, but it will make the tastiest ones.
What do these Christmas shortbread cookies taste like?
Eating this shortbread is like eating buttery soft crumbly clouds.
If you're after a firm, biscuit-like shortbread (like our Scottish shortbread), then this is not your recipe.
This recipe is for you if you want soft, melt in your mouth shortbread. (And really, who doesn't want that?)
FAQs about this shortbread cookie recipe
There are two kinds of shortbread: Irish shortbread and whipped shortbread. This is a whipped shortbread recipe. The difference between the two is that in whipped shortbread the ingredients are whipped until they become light and fluffy. When the cookies are baked, they have an airy texture from being whipped.
Shortbread cookies have the highest ratio of butter to flour. Butter cookies (while very buttery, as the name suggests) have more flour and sugar, which results in a sturdier dough that can be rolled and cut.
This recipe has been tested using unbleached, all-purpose flour.
This recipe works best with salted butter. Remember to let it soften to room temperature before you use it. If you only have unsalted butter, make sure to add 1 teaspoon of kosher salt or ½ teaspoon of table salt to the batter.
No, this shortbread is not overly sweet. If you'd like them a little sweeter, a sprinkle of icing sugar after they come out of the oven does the trick!
Because these cookies are quite delicate, they cannot be rolled and decorated with icing. However, several readers have commented that they've had success using this dough with a cookie press. If you really want to decorate these shortbread cookies, wait until they have cooled completely and then drizzle a little chocolate over the top.
If you'd like to make shortbread cookies that you can decorate, try our Scottish shortbread cookies!
No, margarine doesn't make great shortbread cookies. It will cause the cookies to spread more when making and they won't have a nice buttery flavor.
The cookies will puff up ever so slightly and the bottoms will be the lightest golden brown while the tops of the cookies will remain almost white.
Making shortbread cookies ahead of time
This shortbread cookie recipe is great to make ahead of time. Not only do they keep well for many many days on your counter, but you can also put them into your freezer for months. So go ahead and make a big batch and have some on hand next time a cookie craving strikes!
How to store shortbread cookies
One of the many wonderful things about shortbread cookies is that they stay fresh for a LONG time. They will keep well stored in a container on your counter for at least a week.
Or you can put them in your fridge for up to two weeks.
Can I freeze these shortbread cookies?
Yes! These cookies freeze very well.
Once they're completely cool, freeze them on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Once they're frozen, transfer them to a freezer-safe container and layer them between sheets of parchment paper.
If you love shortbread cookie recipes, also try our almond flour shortbread cookies!
Popular Christmas Baking Recipes
- Holiday Spiced Almond Shortbread Cookies
- Cranberry and White Chocolate Butter Cookies
- Mom's Nanaimo Bar Recipe
- Cranberry and White Chocolate Mini Cheesecakes
Best Shortbread Cookies
If you love this recipe as much as we do, let us know with a 5-star rating!
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 cups salted butter, at room temperature – see notes
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- ½ cup cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Colored candied cherries or dried cranberries, for garnish
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Position your oven rack in the middle of your oven.
- Add the flour, butter, powdered sugar, cornstarch, and vanilla to a deep mixing bowl.3 cups all-purpose flour, 2 cups salted butter, 1 cup powdered sugar, ½ cup cornstarch, 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Begin mixing the ingredients using electric beaters at their lowest speed. Once the dry ingredients begin mixing with the butter and are not dusty anymore, increase the speed to medium.
- A few minutes later, the dough will start to look like sand. Keep beating the dough for another 3-4 minutes and it will start to come together.
- Once the dough comes together and your beaters start straining, increase the speed to high and beat the dough for another 1-2 minutes, or until it resembles thick whipped cream.
- Drop the dough into small mounds (about 2-3 tablespoons) on a baking sheet. If using, gently press a dried cranberry into the tops of the cookies then bake for 15 minutes. It is best to bake one sheet of cookies at the same time. Use a new sheet pan for the next batch. The cookie dough must be added to a cool baking sheet.Colored candied cherries or dried cranberries
- Let the cookies cool for at least 10 minutes then use an offset spatula or slotted fish spatula to remove the cookies from the sheet pan and transfer them to a cooling rack.
Um.. FIRSTLY while making these for the first time, I noticed that under the method, she included the ingredients for each step. What a legend that’s the first time I’ve ever come across such genius Ness. I’ll be subscribing forever for that convenience.
SECOND I was craving something while breastfeeding exclusively, and I wanted a soft, shortbread cookie these made about 27 and were delish. Definitely hit the spot.. thank you.
Holy delightful! Made these first time with one beater (do not recommend that) and the still came out like buttery heaven. Made them a second time (with two beaters) and they are just easy-peasy cookies of the gods. I don’t even like baking and I know these will be a go-to forever! Thank you!
Do you have to add the cornstarch? Husband loves the shortbread cookies I make now but I like this recipe because I don’t have to roll it. A half cup of cornstarch sounds like a lot and I’m concerned about the taste. Thank you for all your recipes!
The cornstarch is what makes the cookies very light and soft. I haven’t tried it without the cornstarch so I’m not sure how they would turn out. You could try replacing it with flour but my hunch is that they won’t be ‘melt in your mouth’.
Flavor is good, they do melt in your mouth. Mine were very crumbly and I had baked them in mini muffin tins with liners, so they were smaller portions, about 1 tablespoonful. I don’t know how one could manage a larger cookie without a plate and fork.
Hi there do I have to grease my baking tray before putting the mixture on?
Nope! We put the dough straight on the baking tray.
These are awesome. I made them last year and they were a hit, so I made them again this year.
My husband took one bite and said they were Perfect. Thank you!
Up here in Canada, Vancouver BC. Cookies are great and taste good but undercooked at 15 minutes. I wish I had tried one before decorating! Would recommend a few more minutes.
Hi, do you need to use a whisker or the standard beaters? You mentioned whisk is better in your notes but you use a beater in your video?
Also, how do you measure the butter softened as 2 cups? Is this diced or compacted into a measuring cup to 2 cups? Or do you have the measurements in grams?
Sorry just want to make sure I’m doing it 100% right as they’re for gifts! Thank you 😊
You can use either beaters or a whisk attachment on your Kitchen Aid. Beaters will take longer, but both will work. Just keep beating the sandy-looking dough until it comes together then starts to look like whipped cream. As far as the butter goes, it’s measured packed. We buy it in 1-cup bricks and use 2 of the bricks. You can also weigh it – 227 grams. 🙂
These are amazing and will be a holiday staple from now on. I made this recipe twice now and the first time they turned out so good, but I didnt follow the instructions 100% – I let the butter get warm but it could have softened longer, and I was not getting past the sandy texture so I added about a tablespoon of melted butter to get some more moisture and instead of the 2-3 tbsp, I did 1 tbsp and rolled balls. Like I said, they were really good and they didn’t last long. I made them a second time today but this time I had put the butter out in the morning, went to the office and started baking when I got home. The butter was VERY soft. I was also patient and waiting for the sandy texture to turn, it did it this time it did and I turned up the beaters and let it whip up, I was so surprised with the raw texture. It was like moon sand almost and I knew they would be even better this time. Sure enough, I just ate one and it literally melted in my mouth. These are so amazing!! So worth following as close to exact as possible and let your butter get over soft.
Hello, today is 2022-12-21; and I wanted to Thank you for the recipe! You are so generous to share therefore I wanted to leave a message to let you know that they came out fantastic , your TIPs were also very helpful. I recommend others to give them a try…success and delicious. Don’t hesitate to bake them. I sprinkled sparkling sugar to make them festive. Now I’m going to join the email group for more recipes. In all gentleness, Dina🇨🇦
Question: Could you use a dab of pepper jelly instead of a little cranberry? Or a chocolate chip or a pistachio nut? Thanks! I’m going to make some this afternoon. Fingers crossed!
I think you can definitely experiment with swapping the cranberry for something else. My mom uses those little red and green candied cherries for a festive look.
Are you sure this recipe should be 2 cups of butter or do you mean 2 lbs? Your picture shows two lbs, and I am beating the heck out of it as written and getting nowhere (will add a 2nd lb of butter now…
Yes, it’s 2 cups of butter. The pictures show two 1-cup bricks of butter. (From the top they do look like the usual 2-cup bricks, but they’re much thinner.) Keep beating the butter, it will eventually come together!
Do you think it would be safe to add sprinkles or edible glitter to these for decoration? They seem lovely!
While they are very soft, I think that sprinkles or edible glitter will be just fine – and so pretty!
What is the temperature?
These cookies are baked at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Added touch of cinnamon and put a scoop of fried up apple cinnamon topping
Can you use almond extract?
I haven’t tested this recipe using any extracts, but I’m sure a little will be just fine.
These cookies turned out perfectly and taste delicious. Thank you!
I have a kitchen aid mixer, did you use the whisk or beater bar? I am finding it is clumping inside the whisk and having to stop the machine to get the dough out of the middle. Am now cooking them so will see how they turn out!
I use the whisk attachment. While it clumps a little for me, I find the clumps work themselves out.
I love lemony shortbread cookies but how much lemon should I put in or just lemon zest?
We’ve never tried making a lemon version (though it’s a great idea!) and I’m not sure how lemon juice would affect the recipe. But lemon zest will be fine to add for flavor. I’d start with a couple of teaspoons, taste the dough, then add more if you think it needs. Let us know how it goes!
Delicious absolutely amazing
I have always had trouble making nice shortbread like my grandma used to, until BAM. I luckily fell sip on this epic A+++recipe. Thie trip is to realllllllly whip well until it resembles a very thick cake batter
How many cookies does one bacth make?
This recipe makes 30 cookies.
When you say to use whisk attachment for a stand mixer, do I use it for the whole recipe?
Hi Wendy. Yes, if you’re using your stand mixer, use the whisk attachment the whole time. And make sure to turn off the machine as soon as the dough looks like whipped cream!
Best recipe ever! Thank you for your step by step instructions. These are amazing!
One more question can I add a few tbsp of rum for a different flavor?
I would recommend using rum extract as you’ll need less so it won’t affect the recipe.
Can I flatten the dough and use cookie cutters to decorate?
No this dough doesn’t roll well. But readers have commented several times that it does pipe well from a cookie press.
These whipped shortbread cookies are awesome! They have a slight crunch, are flaky & melt in your mouth. My grandmother adores shortbread & she’s nearing the end of her life, we can’t get her to eat anything except for these cookies lol I wish she wasn’t living on sugar but that’s how she spent her life anyway. Thanks for a great recipe
Truly the best shortbread I have ever had! They do melt in your mouth, are flavourful, and just the perfect amount of sweet. I have a recipe I’ve been using for years every Christmas but I decided to try this one and I will never go back!! I made half plain shortbread and the other half with skor bit pieces – amazing!
Outstanding! These were a dream to make and so simple. The only downside? We can’t stop eating them! I took some to a friends house and they loved them too. I’ve been using the Cuisinart cookie press and they come out perfect every time. Thank you so much for sharing.
Oh my God! These are every bit as gorgeous, as they sound. In fact I can’t even describe how heavenly these cookies really are. Secretly, I think they are actually way too good to share, but being a decent friend and neighbour, I did. Once you’ve tried this oh-so-easy recipe, you’ll never want to make any others… ever!
These are really good I had my little brother shape them all nice they are so delicious
These shortbreads are exactly how they are described in the recipe. They are truly “melt in your mouth”. I halved the recipe and made 14 biscuits. I found I had to extend the cooking time to more like 18 minutes. And yes, it is good advice to have a very deep mixing bowl. I used the deep aluminium bowl from my electric mixer and I still had quite a shower of flour!
I have been baking for years. I have always read about “Melt in your mouth” recipes, but have not actually experienced one – until NOW! These cookies are FABULOUS! They literally melt in your mouth, not figuratively. They are a perfect balance – not too sweet, soft, and pillow-y. There is just no other way to describe them! Thank you for this recipe!
Out of this world, deeeeelish!!! My first time trying, and very impressed. They were exactly as explained. Melt in your mouth!!! 5 stars all the way!
Followed recipe exactly as written. Did melt in your melt as stated. I think the cornstarch made a little off putting taste. Did not like at all.
Hi, just came across your shortbread recipe, and would love to make it. I was wondering if I could use European butter for these cookies?
Looking forward to baking these.
From what I understand, European butter is 2% + higher in fat content (compared to Canadian butter, which we use) and has been cultured. My guess is that it would work, but I haven’t tested that to know for sure. If the cultured flavor of the butter is quite strong, it will come through in the flavor of the cookies.
Can the dough be frozen?
We haven’t tried freezing the dough, but most cookie dough can be frozen. But once they’re baked they freeze excellently!
I’m in the UK and I don’t know what constitutes European butter, but mine are simply heavenly, with no adjustments required..