Traditional Scottish shortbread is buttery, crispy, and lightly sweetened to perfection. Simply made with butter, flour, sugar, and salt, this classic treat can easily be made for the holidays or any time of year.
I love a classic holiday cookie that we look forward to making every year. This Scottish shortbread is definitely one that always makes an appearance. It’s so delicious and never disappoints! Try more of my favorite holiday cookies like these pumpkin cookies, my cute grinch cookies, or these yummy Christmas butter cookies.
What is Scottish Shortbread?
Shortbread has been around for centuries. (It’s no secret why with how buttery and delicious it is!) Hailing from Scotland, the name has been attributed to Mary, Queen of Scots, who had a love for this buttery treat. It’s so fun to learn about the evolution of century-old recipes. Shortbread was once called petticoat tails because of its original wedge shape that looked like a woman’s frilly skirt. It’s also fascinating to know that shortbread was originally made from leftover bread dough that was left out to dry and harden into biscuit bread.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 today appears in so many recipes and is a great base for some of my favorite treats. It’s amazing 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 compliments the chocolate so well. I also love these lemon shortbread cookies because anything with lemon is a MUST for me!
Scottish Shortbread Cookie Ingredients
A traditional shortbread recipe only requires a few simple ingredients. You probably have all of them on hand! You’re going to 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 mildly sweet.
- Salt: A pinch is all you need!
- Unsalted Butter: Using high-quality butter is KEY. It will take the flavor to the next level! You also want to make sure it’s at room temperature before adding it to your dough mixture.
Scottish Shortbread Recipe
This shortbread cookie recipe is incredibly easy to make! Pulse your ingredients in a food processor then press the dough into a pan! The oven does all the work. Then you have perfect Scottish shortbread to share or keep for yourself! You won’t be able to get enough.
- Preheat Oven/Prepare Baking Dish: Preheat the oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Then line an 8×8 baking dish with parchment paper, leaving a 1-inch overhang on two sides for easy removal. Set aside.
- 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.
- Press Dough Into Pan and Chill: Press the dough into the prepared pan and chill for 20-30 minutes.
- Bake and Prick Shortbread: Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the top begins to turn golden brown. Let the shortbread rest out of the oven for 5-10 minutes. Then prick 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.
- Allow to Cool: Let cool completely before serving.
Tips and Tricks
Here are a few tips that will give you the best results. They’ll ensure a perfect Scottish shortbread cookie every time!
- High-Quality Butter: Using high-quality butter give these buttery cookies a richer flavor! Standard butter works as well if that’s what you have on hand.
- Don’t Overwork: Avoid handling the dough too much in order to keep it light and crisp. Pulse just until it begins to come together then press directly into the prepared baking dish.
- Chill The Dough: Chill the cookie dough for at least 20 minutes before baking. You can prepare the dough the day before, cover it tightly with plastic wrap, then bake it the next day.
- Make Sure to Poke Holes: To keep the shortbread from puffing up in the oven, poke holes into the dough! Poking holes after it bakes allows the steam to escape. This keeps the cookie dense and holds its shape.
Try These Delicious Shortbread Variations
Scottish shortbread is so fun to make! I love it because you can get 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 meant for shortbread. It is the absolute BEST. End of story.
Storing and Freezing Leftovers
This Scottish shortbread recipe is a great one to make in advance. Known for their crumbly texture, they don’t have to be made fresh the day of to be delicious. These buttery cookies are perfect for gifting! You can also make them ahead of time for a special occasion.
- At Room Temperature: Store cookies in an airtight container for up to 7 days.
- In the Freezer: Freeze baked cookies in an airtight container or sealed freezer bag for up to 2 months. Let the shortbread thaw completely on the counter at room temperature before serving.
Scottish Shortbread Cookies
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 cup high quality unsalted butter, room temperature
- Preheat the oven to 350° Fahrenheit and line an 8×8 baking dish with parchment paper, leaving a 1 inch overhang on two sides for easy removal. Set 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 chill for 20-30 minutes.
- Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the top begins to turn golden brown. Let rest out of the oven for 5-10 minutes before pricking with a fork in about 6 rows. Carefully lift the warm shortbread out of the pan and cut into 12 pieces, using the fork marks as a guide.
- Let cool completely before serving.
All nutritional information is based on third party calculations and is only an estimate. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods and portion sizes per household.
I have made this several times in the last few weeks. I used to make digestive biscuits to enjoy with our afternoon cup of tea but these shortbread biscuits are our new favorite.
Today I baked up a batch in a 9″ dia tart tin with a removable base which made it much easier to get the biscuits out of the tin; no need for a parchment paper sling. The 9″ round tin has the same surface area as the 8″ square tin (63.6 sq in vs 64 sq in) so the bake time/temperature is not affected.
I don’t have a food processor but would like to make this recipe for shortbread. Is it possible without a processor?
Yes! You can use any sort of mixer or hand mixer. Or, you can add the ingredients to a large ziplock bag and roll over them with a rolling pin until they are crushed and resemble breadcrumbs!
I’ve made traditional Scottish shortbread for years, as it’s a tradition in my family, use a clean counter and combine ingredients by hand easily! This recipe is very close to my family’s traditional recipe.