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Scottish shortbread is that classic crisp, buttery, and not-too-sweet biscuit everyone loves. They're a must-make around the holidays, and taste great anytime with a cup of tea. With just four basic ingredients, they're as simple as it gets yet completely irresistible!
If you like Walker's Scottish shortbread cookies, you're going to love our homemade version! They're buttery, with just the right amount of sweetness and a nice crisp texture.
Scottish shortbread is as basic and simple as a cookie (err, biscuit) can get. It's made from just three simple ingredients: butter, sugar, and flour. Yet somehow it manages to taste incredibly indulgent!
Making shortbread is actually very straightforward. All you need to do is beat the butter and sugars together until they're fluffy, then add in the flour until it's well mixed. Roll out the dough on parchment paper, cut it into strips, prick holes in it, and bake it until it's golden.
You can enjoy them year-round (like they do in Scotland), but they're a favorite around the holidays, and they're perfect for cookie exchanges or as hostess gifts.
They taste especially wonderful with a warm cup of tea, coffee, or hot cocoa!
Whipped shortbread vs Scottish shortbread
Scottish shortbread has been around since the 12th century, so the traditional shortbread recipe has seen its fair share of interpretations. The two most common types of shortbread are whipped shortbread and Scottish shortbread. What's the difference?
Basically, whipped shortbread is made with icing sugar and sometimes cornstarch, and is very light in texture like this melt-in-your mouth shortbread recipe. Scottish shortbread has more of a biscuit feel, with a denser texture.
Scottish shortbread ingredients
This Scottish shortbread cookie recipe is made from just four basic ingredients. Here's what you need:
- Butter – we often splurge on nice butter for shortbread as you can taste the flavor. But even a basic salted butter will make delicious cookies.
- Granulated sugar and brown sugar – although caster sugar is traditional for Scottish shortbread, we use a mix of granulated sugar and brown sugar instead. In North America, caster sugar is tricky to find (and often expensive) and we've found through experimentation that granulated sugar and brown sugar are the perfect combination! The granulated sugar makes the shortbread crisp, and the brown sugar keeps it dense and a little soft.
- All-purpose flour – any type of regular all-purpose flour will do the trick!
How to make Scottish shortbread
Scottish shortbread is a classic cookie with a satisfying crunch, and it's easy to make! If you grew up eating shortbread around the holidays, you know it's not Christmas without it. Here's how we make it in a few simple steps:
- Use a stand mixer to cream the butter and sugars together until fluffy. If you don't have a stand mixer, a handheld electric mixer works as well.
- Add the flour and beat again until it's well combined.
- Time to get rollin'! Use a rolling pin to roll out the dough on a large piece of parchment paper. The parchment paper really helps with transferring the dough.
- Cut the dough into uniform strips, and use a fork to poke holes into the tops of the cookies. Transfer the cookies to a baking pan, and place them in your fridge for at least an hour.
- When you're ready to bake them, make sure the cookies are spaced about an inch apart.
- Bake them until they're light golden brown and then allow them to cool completely on the baking sheet. Enjoy!
Handy tools for making this recipe
Here are a few kitchen tools we've found to be especially helpful in making this Scottish shortbread recipe:
- A bench scraper – this will help you form and cut the dough. Use it to create smooth edges, and uniform cuts. You can also use a sharp knife.
- A stand mixer (or electric hand mixer) – creaming the butter and sugars together until they're light and fluffy is really hard to do without some electric help. Our stand mixer by far gets the most use at Christmas (aka cookie season).
- Parchment paper – any type of parchment paper will work. You'll need a large piece that will help you transfer the dough. Try to avoid the pre-cut sheets as they won't be large enough.
Why do I need to poke holes in the shortbread?
Poking holes in shortbread actually lets out steam and helps them keep their shape. It's an important step (so don't skip it)!
Can I use unsalted butter instead?
Yes you can, but be sure to add 1 teaspoon of salt to the mix as it helps bring out the flavor.
How long will it stay fresh on the counter?
Shortbread is a great cookie recipe to make ahead as it stays fresh for longer than most. It will keep fresh on the counter in a container for at least a week.
Can I freeze shortbread?
Definitely, it freezes really well. It can be frozen for up to 3 months if stored in an airtight container.
Once you've got the basic recipe down, you can spice, ice, decorate, and drizzle your shortbread in any way your heart desires. Here are a few of our favorite ways to dress up shortbread:
- Add spice – caraway seeds were traditionally used in petticoat tails, but other warm spices like ground cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, or allspice will make your shortbread tastes like the holidays.
- Drizzle or dip in chocolate – melt some chocolate and dip half your baked shortbread in it, or drizzle it over top for an extra sweet treat.
- Add icing and decorate – mix up some royal icing, pull out the sprinkles, and decorate your shortbread in any way your like, for any special occasion!
- 2 cups salted butter (at room temperature)
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- Using a stand mixer or electric beaters, cream the butter and sugars until they're light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.2 cups salted butter, ½ cup granulated sugar, ½ cup brown sugar
- Add the flour then beat on low speed until it's mostly incorporated then increase the speed to medium and beat until the flour is mixed into the butter.4 cups all-purpose flour
- Lightly flour a piece of parchment paper that is larger than 10"x16". Put the dough on the parchment paper and form it into a rectangle. Then, roll the dough until it is 10"x16".
- Cut the dough into strips that are 1-inch wide by 2 ½-inches long – see notes. Use a fork to poke holes into the tops of all the cookies. Use the parchment paper to transfer the cookies to a baking sheet then put them into your fridge for at least 1 hour.
- Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Remove the cookies from the fridge and separate them into individual cookies. Put them onto a baking sheet, spacing them 1-inch apart.
- Bake the shortbread for 20-25 minutes, until they are light golden brown. Remove them from the oven and let them cool completely on the baking sheet.
We have thoroughly tested this recipe for accuracy. However, individual results may vary. See our full recipe disclosure here.