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Scottish Shortbread

Scottish settlers first came to this area over 150 years ago. My mother herself was Scottish, and—as with most of my favorite recipes—she passed this shortbread recipe on to me. I make a triple batch of it each year at Christmas, to enjoy and as gifts. —Rose Mabee, Selkirk, Manitoba
  • Total Time
    Prep: 15 min. Bake: 20 min./batch + cooling
  • Makes
    about 4 dozen


  • 2 cups butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 4 to 4-1/2 cups all-purpose flour


  • Preheat oven to 325°. Cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add 3-3/4 cups flour; mix well. Turn dough onto a floured surface; knead for 5 minutes, adding enough remaining flour to form a soft dough.
  • Roll to 1/2-in. thickness. Cut into 3x1-in. strips. Place 1 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets. Prick with fork. Bake until cookies are lightly browned, 20-25 minutes. Cool.

Scottish Shortbread Tips

Are shortbread and butter cookies the same?

While both have a higher proportion of butter in their recipes, butter cookies contain more sugar and flour, are baked at a higher temperature and tend to hold their shape when baked. Shortbread typically has a higher ratio of butter to flour, is baked at a lower temperature and has a dry, crumbly melt-in-your-mouth quality. Learn more about the difference between shortbread and butter cookies.

Should I chill my shortbread dough?

Chilling the dough is our #1 secret to making the best shortbread! Chilling allows the dough to rest and hydrate. It also firms up the butter, making the dough easy to slice into rectangles prior to baking. We recommend chilling the dough in the fridge for 20 to 30 minutes.

Why do you poke holes in shortbread?

As the shortbread bakes, the butter in the dough melts and releases steam. To keep the shortbread from puffing up in the oven (and retain its dense texture), holes are poked into the dough prior to baking to allow the steam to escape.

What's the difference between Scottish shortbread and regular shortbread?

Historically, Scottish shortbread only varied from traditional shortbread in that it was originally made with remnants of bread dough, oatmeal and yeast, resulting in a dry, biscuit-like cookie. Over the centuries, the recipe has evolved into the much tastier, buttery treat we know it to be today. Scottish shortbread should not be confused with Scottish cookies, which contain butter and shortening and are not as crumbly as shortbread.

Nutrition Facts
1 cookie: 123 calories, 8g fat (5g saturated fat), 20mg cholesterol, 62mg sodium, 12g carbohydrate (5g sugars, 0 fiber), 1g protein.
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  • Wendy
    Oct 11, 2020

    Wished you could provide videos for all the recipes !

  • Katy's mom
    Aug 31, 2020

    While I'm sure the end result would be good, this recipe is way too labor-intensive for me. I always make shortbread in my food processor with traditional ingredient proportions (2 cups flour, 1 cup cubed salted butter softened to room temperature, and 1/2 cup superfine {not powdered} white sugar). The mixture is processed until it starts clumping together, then pressed by hand into a lightly buttered pan of a size that will make cookies that are 3/4 to 1" thick. (I usually don't bother to prick them with a fork. It's traditional to do so but not absolutely necessary.) Bake at 350 for about 25-30 minutes, or until pale gold in color, and slice when cool. This method is incredibly fast and easy. If I were to make this recipe as written, I would roll the dough into logs, chill thoroughly, and slice them, thereby eliminating the more tedious process of rolling them out. For those who want a sweeter cookie, or want to add vanilla or almond flavoring, by all means do so! Your kitchen, your ingredients. Make them according to your own taste. The result will no doubt be delicious, but it won't be Scottish shortbread.

  • Anne Bernadette
    May 28, 2020

    I followed this recipe exactly, using salted butter. I also chilled the dough for 20 minutes. I thought this simple recipe produced an easy dough to work with. My shortbread baked in 17 minutes. My husband and a luncheon guest raved about its "butterscotch" flavor. I served these along with a dish of vanilla ice cream with sliced fresh strawberries and a drizzle of chocolate syrup. They were the perfect accompaniment. This shortbread is simple, crispy, and dee-lish-us!!

  • Annah
    May 17, 2020

    Didn’t work my dough was a paste

  • Bertha
    May 13, 2020

    What?! I prepared the “dough” as instructed, adding extra flour on a floured board. Still, it was a paste. Trying to roll it was like trying to roll icing. “Easy” indeed. Doubt I’ll even finish this project.

  • tammycookblogsbooks
    Apr 15, 2020

    Such a delicious recipe! Theses cookies have the taste I was looking for. I pressed all of the dough into a sheet pan, cut it to the desired size, pricked it, and baked. After removing the shortbread from the oven I went over the cuts again to separate any that baked together.

  • Agetta
    Apr 11, 2020

    Favourite shortbread cookie. Easiest and BEST. Perfect with a cuppa. And I make them year round.

  • Bobbi
    Mar 2, 2020

    Loved this recipe. The shortbread melts in your mouth. It isn’t super sweet, but shortbread isn’t intended to be. It makes a huge bunch so I had plenty to share. I’ll definitely make it again.

  • Lisa
    Feb 24, 2020

    This. Is. So Fabulous! I was getting into all things Scottish (there are highlanders in my heritage) and I wanted quick, easy cookies to have with tea. You can't get any better than this. Crisp, delicate, buttery and AWESOME. BTW I followed the recipe 90% to the letter, EXCEPT I took a couple of shortcuts. 1. I used Antimo Caputo flour bc that's all I had on hand (no all purpose), 2. Used organic cane sugar because that's what's in our kitchen and 3. did it the easy way in the kitchenaid with the paddle attachment. After creaming the sugar and butter together (which was good ol' salted Kerrygold--and adds the PERFECT flavor) I just dropped the flour in and kept the paddle attachment on, until it mostly held together in large clumps. Then I scraped the sides and dumped the lot on a parchmented cookie sheet and pressed it down with my hands. Then I sliced it, poked it with a fork, and moved every other cookie onto a separate cookie sheet. They swelled quite a bit in baking so the extra room was needed. They came out P.E.R.F.E.C.T. I will make these again and again!

  • Linda
    Nov 30, 2019

    I think you don't need to limit yourself to the type of sugar. I got my recipe from a neighbor that was borns in Scotland, she used white sugar. My sister uses powdered.