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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, 5-7 minutes. 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Historically, Scottish shortbread only varied from traditional shortbread in that it was originally made with remnants of bread dough, oatmeal and yeast, resulting in a dry, biscuit-like cookie.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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  • pammy54
    Feb 7, 2021

    I did substitute white sugar for the brown because I have tried it both ways and prefer the white. The only other thing I did different was when all the baking was done and I had the bars arranged on a plate, I drizzled a chocolate ganache over everything. My granddaughter just preferred to dip one end of the shortbread into the bowl of ganache. Just an extra touch.. but oh-so-good!

  • Greg
    Jan 7, 2021

    Tastes wonderful. Topped a few as experiment, with cinnamon sugar like snickerdoodles. Great.

  • Elizabeth
    Dec 22, 2020

    At what point in the process do you refrigerate? After rolling and before cutting? Before rolling? Thanks

  • Terry
    Dec 20, 2020

    I have always used another recipe. I was never quite happy with it. Decided on this one. There amazing. This is going to be the recipe I use from here in out. Thanks for sharing.

  • Shirley
    Dec 18, 2020

    Close, but not my Scottish grandmother’s recipe. I can’t imagine it with brown sugar. I’ve only ever used white and baked it in a pan then cut into bars.

  • AlejandraFoley
    Dec 12, 2020

    Excellent! Can't get enough of these!!

  • Amy
    Dec 10, 2020

    I’ve made shortbread every year for a long time, and this year wanted to try a different recipe. It is a delicious cookie, but next time I’d use white sugar instead of brown. It has a less appealing dark color, and the flavor is a little different than what I normally think of as shortbread. Still a delicious, buttery cookie, and one I won’t have trouble eating. :)

  • Patricia
    Dec 6, 2020

    First time I made these cookies, absolutely delicious! Gave some to the neighbors and they raved about them. This is my go to recipe, easy to make and wonderful with a cup of tea!!

  • Jellybug
    Dec 4, 2020

    I tried this recipe out and fell in love I did. The shortbread is not complicated to assemble, The finish product is buttery sweet piece of heaven. Crispy and light.

  • zaxoma
    Nov 16, 2020

    No comment left