Only four simple ingredients are needed to make Scottish shortbread cookies! These buttery biscuits are super easy to make and perfect for any occasion.

scottish shortbread cookies on white round plate next to mug of coffee.

There’s a reason shortbread cookies have been around for centuries. They have timeless ingredients and a buttery taste that satisfies any palette. These Scottish biscuits use a simple recipe that requires only four ingredients. They taste similar to Walkers shortbread, but even better because they are homemade!

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

  • Only 4 ingredients. If you have flour, powdered sugar, butter and vanilla, then you can make this recipe.
  • Melt-in-your-mouth texture. Soft, buttery and subtly sweet, each bite is a treat for the tastebuds!
  • No spreading in the oven. The cookies don’t spread in the oven and they are incredibly easy to make!
  • Easy to make ahead of time. Since the dough is shaped into a rectangle before cutting, it’s easy to wrap and chill in the refrigerator a day in advance or freeze until you’re ready to bake.
  • Perfect for any occasion. Add some sprinkles and serve them at Christmas or bake a batch next time you have guests stopping by for coffee or tea.

Ingredient Notes

bowls of ingredients to make scottish shortbread cookies.
  • Flour: Regular all-purpose flour is preferred for shortbread!
  • Confectioners’ sugar: For a soft, melt-in-your-mouth texture, use confectioners’ sugar (also known as powdered sugar). You can also use caster sugar, which is superfine granulated sugar.
  • Butter: Good-quality unsalted butter is necessary for this recipe. It’s the primary taste in shortbread after all! I prefer Kerrygold. Bring to room temperature before using.
  • Vanilla: Use 100% pure vanilla extract (not imitation) for the best flavor.

Refer to the recipe card for ingredient measurements.

Recipe Variations

Use almond extract. One of my favorite flavors, almond extract is an excellent addition to cookies. Add 1/2 teaspoon with the vanilla.

Cut the dough into circles. The rectangular shape is classic, but you can also roll the dough into a 12-inch log and cut into discs (similar to my pecan sandies). Slice thickness and baking time is the same.

Add some decoration! Before baking, top the cookies with sprinkles. You can also dip the baked cookies in melted chocolate and sprinkle with chopped nuts.

How to Make Shortbread Cookies

photo collage demonstrating how to make shortbread cookie dough, then shape and cut shortbread cookies.
  1. Beat butter with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add confectioners’ sugar and vanilla and mix until combined. Slowly add flour and salt. Mix just until combined.
  2. Shape dough into a rectangle (9 inches by 3 inches). Chill the dough. Place dough in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
  3. Use a sharp knife to cut the dough into 1/2-inch wide rectangles. Place on parchment-lined baking sheet and use a fork to poke holes into the cookies.
  4. Bake cookies at 350 F for 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Expert Tips

Chill the dough. This is vital to making sure the cookies don’t spread in the oven. Don’t skip this step!

Use a silpat mat. It makes it easier to chill the dough and the dough won’t stick. It can go in the oven too! You can buy a silpat mat on amazon.

Prick the sliced dough with a fork. This releases air from the dough while baking so the cookies don’t puff up. They will bake flat on top instead and give the traditional appearance of Scottish shortbread.

Weigh your ingredients. If too much flour is added, the cookies will be very crumbly. Use a kitchen scale to measure the flour properly or use the spoon and level method (don’t pack flour into a measuring cup).

stack of scottish shortbread cookies in front of more cookies and coffee mug.

Make Ahead and Storage Tips

Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week. Make sure they are completely cooled before storing.

Make ahead the dough, wrap in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours.

Freeze for up to 3 months. Once you shape the dough into a rectangle, wrap it securely with plastic wrap and store in the freezer. Defrost in the refrigerator before cutting and baking.

Recipe FAQ

Can you make shortbread cookies with granulated sugar?

Yes, you can use the same amount of granulated sugar in this recipe. However, the cookies won’t be as soft. I think caster sugar (aka Bakers sugar) works better.

Why are my shortbread cookies spreading?

Cookies spread when the dough is too warm or there is too much fat (butter). Try adding 2 more tablespoons of flour and make sure the dough is cold when you cut it.

Why is my shortbread crumbly?

There is probably too much flour. Use a kitchen scale to measure the flour properly and make sure the dough is cold when you slice it. Remember shortbread cookies are supposed to be a little crumbly.

Can I use salted butter?

Yes, if you’re not sensitive to salt, then salted butter works fine. Keep in mind different brands of butter have different amounts of salt added.

shortbread cookie broken in half showing buttery texture leaning on top of another cookie.

Did you love this recipe? Please leave a 5-star ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ rating in the recipe card below and if you REALLY loved it, consider leaving a comment further down the page.

scottish shortbread cookies on white round plate next to mug of coffee.

Get the Recipe: Scottish Shortbread Cookies (slice-n-bake)

Only four simple ingredients are needed for Scottish shortbread cookies! The buttery biscuits are easy to make and perfect for any occasion.
5 (7 ratings)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (226 g or 2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • โ…” cup (80 g) confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • ยฝ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (250 g) all purpose flour

Instructions 

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer (or using a hand mixer), beat butter on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add confectioners' sugar, salt and vanilla. Beat until well combined, about 1 minute, and scrape down the sides of the bowl if necessary. With the mixer on low, slowly add the flour. Mix until dough comes together in large clumps.
  • Place the dough on a silpat mat and shape into a rectangle 9 inches long and 3 inches wide.
  • Cover the dough with plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour and up to 48 hours.
  • Ten minutes before the dough is done chilling, preheat the oven to 350ยฐ F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  • Remove dough from the refrigerator and use a sharp knife or pastry cutter to cut the dough into 1/2-inch thick rectangles. Place cookies 1 inch apart on prepared baking sheet. Use a fork or toothpick to poke holes in the shortbread.
  • Bake cookies for 10 minutes. Let them cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.

Notes

Salted butter may be used, but keep in mind different brands of butter have different amounts of salt added. On average, about 1/4 teaspoon salt is in each 1/2 cup (1 stick).
Sugar: Confectioners’ sugar makes a softer crumb, more tender texture and smoother appearance. For a slightly crisper cookie, substitute with the same amount of caster sugar (superfine granulated sugar).
Freeze dough for up to 3 months. After shaping the dough into a rectangle, wrap it securely in plastic wrap and freeze. Defrost in the refrigerator before cutting the cookie dough and baking.
Serving: 1cookie, Calories: 174kcal, Carbohydrates: 18g, Protein: 2g, Fat: 10g, Saturated Fat: 7g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.5g, Monounsaturated Fat: 3g, Trans Fat: 0.4g, Cholesterol: 27mg, Sodium: 66mg, Potassium: 22mg, Fiber: 0.5g, Sugar: 5g, Vitamin A: 315IU, Calcium: 6mg, Iron: 1mg

References: Historic UK; Bake from Scratch

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