Lovely crisp Scottish shortbread, made with just 4 simple ingredients! Simply mix and press into the pan. The unique twice-baked shortbread ensures perfect texture every time.
This Scottish Shortbread recipe was the WINNER of the
Pancake Princess’ Best Shortbread Bake-Off!!
Why you’ll love this Scottish Shortbread recipe
For me, there’s just so much to love about Scottish Shortbread cookies, especially at Christmas. I love the thick cookie sticks, with its sandy texture and touch of crisp. They also tend to fall right in the middle on the sweet scale, which is just perfect for me.
I’ve made many, many batches, searching for the best Scottish Shortbread and this is where I have settled. Adapted from Michael Ruhlman, this recipe uses just 4 simple ingredients – all purpose flour, rice flour, good butter and sugar. The addition of rice flour is perhaps the biggest game-changer with these shortbread cookies. It produces a texture that’s impossible to achieve with other additions or with simply regular flour.
Beyond the simple ingredients, I use a bit of a unique twice-cooked cooking method that ensures a lovely tender-crisp finished texture.
These cookies can be enjoyed on the day they are baked, but they only get better with each day that passes, so they are perfect for making ahead.
Butter – when it comes to shortbread, the better your butter, the better your shortbread! Buy the best butter you can find and if you can get your hands on some higher butterfat butter (such as Gay Lea’s Baker’s Gold (84% b.f. or Kerrygold 82% b.f.), definitely go for it. Alternately, just use the best butter you can find. This is no time for the value brand :)
You can use either salted or unsalted butter here, but my preference is always unsalted butter, as it tends to be the best butter. If using unsalted butter, you can add a pinch of salt to the cookie dough.
Rice Flour – rice flour is relatively easy to find and makes all the difference in these shortbread cookies. I highly recommend seeking it out and using for these cookies! Look for White Rice Flour from Bob’s Red Mill or Clubhouse, among others or if you are in Canada, you’ll easily find it at Bulk Barn. You don’t want to use any rice flour labelled as “glutinous”, as that is a different product.
If you absolutely can’t find rice flour, you can substitute an equal amount of cornstarch (cornflour), though cornstarch will produce less crispy cookie.
All Purpose Flour – I prefer regular bleached all purpose flour for these cookies, as it produces a lighter coloured cookie, but unbleached all purpose flour will work here, as well.
White granulated sugar – this recipe is written for regular, white granulated sugar. If you like to experiment, instead of 1/2 cup regular white sugar, use 1/4 cup superfine white sugar and 1/4 cup regular white sugar. The superfine sugar does lovely things to the finished texture, though I found it a little too sweet when I tried all superfine sugar.
How to make Scottish Shortbread: In Photos
Don’t expect this dough to really “come together” as you are mixing it. It will and should be sandy, with small, even-sized pieces of butter. If you squeeze a small bit together though, it should clump (you can see a “clump” in the process photo below where it’s dumped into the pan. That is a clump, not a lump of butter on top.)
After adding to your pan, use your kitchen spatula to press down firmly into the pan. I’ve added some pictures just to assure you that yes, this is what it’s supposed to look like :)
If by chance your dough has turned out more moist than shown here, it may be due to your butter having more moisture in it. As long as it isn’t too moist (sticky), it will be fine. If your dough is sticky, you have likely not added enough flour (perhaps due to how you measured it). I would suggest adding a bit more flour, as needed, until the dough is no longer sticky.
Finally, if you dough doesn’t clump at all (it’s too dry), you have probably added too much flour. Again, it’s probably due to how you measured the flour. I always recommend measuring flour using the stir, spoon and level method, for best results. To correct too dry a mixture, add a bit of water, a teaspoon at a time, until the dough clumps, as shown.
- If your butter has a lot of moisture (less expensive butter tends to have more water in it), your dough may be more moist than is shown here. The cookies will still be fine, but with a slightly different texture.
- For the final cooking period (with the oven off), leave in the oven for 30 minutes for crisp, but still light coloured cookies or 45 minutes for crispier, lightly golden cookies. I personally find about 40 minutes just perfect.
- If you like, you can sprinkle a little white sugar on top of your cookies before the final baking.
- As these cookies have a very fine texture, they are quite fragile and prone to breaking as you work through making them. If you are just making for yourself, no worries if one or two break, but if making these to gift, consider cutting smaller pieces (1-inch x 2-inch maybe) or even squares, so they will be less likely to break.
- If you find your cookie sticks break in the middle, you can often “repair” them before the final cooking by simply pressing the two pieces together well. They will often mend together during the final bake.
Storage and Freezing
Shortbread cookies only get better with age, so my preference is to simply store at room temperature in an airtight container, such as a cookie tin. They will keep well for several weeks, so don’t hesitate to make ahead.
While you can freeze these cookies, I always find that cookies tend to pick up some freezer flavours or slightly change in texture. As shortbread keeps so well at room temperature, for a quite long period of time, I would only freeze for much longer storage circumstances.
I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to shortbread cookies, but if you would like to dress up your shortbread, some people like to dip the bottom is melted chocolate.
Scottish shortbread is sometimes made with either all or part brown sugar. I haven’t tried this myself, but if you are the experimenting type, you could try replacing half of the white sugar with brown sugar.
Get the Recipe: Simply Perfect Crispy Scottish Shortbread
- 1 1/2 cups (187.5 g) all purpose flour, measure with the spoon and level method
- 1/2 cup (80 g) white rice flour, (not glutinous rice flour)
- 1/2 cup (100 g) white granulated sugar
- 1 cup (227 g) unsalted butter, cold, cut into about 16 pieces **see Note 2 below
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt , omit if using salted butter
- Preheat oven to 350F (regular bake/not fan assisted), with rack in centre of the oven. Line an 8-inch square metal baking pan with parchment paper, leaving an inch or so overhanging the sides to use as handles to remove the cookies later. Set aside.
- In a large bowl with an electric mixer or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the all purpose flour, rice flour and sugar. Add the cold butter cubes and mix on low speed for several minutes, until butter is broken down into small, even-sized pieces. Mixture will usually be loose and sandy, but if you grab a bit of it and squeeze it, it should form a clump. (If your butter had more moisture, the mixture could be more moist. As long as it isn't sticky, it's fine. See Note 2 below to troubleshoot texture).
- Dump mixture into your prepared baking pan. Using a kitchen spatula, press mixture firmly into the pan. (See process photos above this recipe card). Try to get the top as even as you can.
- Bake in preheated oven for about 35 minutes or until set, but not with any browning around the edges at all. (If you dough was more moist, it may need a few more minutes in the oven, maybe 40 minutes). Remove from oven (*Leave oven on!) and let stand for ONLY 10 minutes. Using a sharp knife, cut (slowly and carefully), into 16 pieces (1-inch wide x 4-inches long). Using a fork, press fork twice into each of the "sticks", if you like, making sure to press right through the cookie to the bottom of the pan.
- Grab a baking sheet. Very carefully, using the parchment overhang as handles, lift the cookies out of the pan on the parchment paper. Set onto baking sheet with parchment paper still underneath. Using a fork, gently slide the cookie sticks apart, so there is a bit of space between each piece. *If a cookie stick breaks, you can often press it back together at this point and it will mend itself during the final bit of cooking.
- Return to the 350F oven, BUT IMMEDIATELY TURN THE OVEN OFF!. Let sit on the baking sheet in the still-warm oven for 30-45 minutes. (30 minutes for a lightly crisp, light coloured cookie or up to 45 minutes for a crispier, lightly golden cookie). Remove from oven and transfer cookies to a cooling rack to cool completely.
- Once cooled, store in an airtight container at room temperature. Cookies can be eaten right away, but they develop even more flavour as they sit, so don't hesitate to make ahead.
- Unsalted butter will produce the best results and is recommended. Look for high fat (84%) butter, European style butter or something like a Kerrygold. The best butter you can find! Salted butter will work, but omit the added salt in the dough.
- If by chance your dough has turned out more moist than shown here, it may be due to your butter having more moisture in it. As long as it isn't too moist (sticky), it will be fine. If your dough is sticky, you have likely not added enough flour (perhaps due to how you measured it). I would suggest adding a bit more flour, as needed, until the dough is no longer sticky. Finally, if you dough doesn't clump at all (it's too dry), you have probably added too much flour. Again, it's probably due to how you measured the flour. I always recommend measuring flour using the stir, spoon and level method, for best results. To correct too dry a mixture, add a bit of water, a teaspoon at a time, until the dough clumps, as shown.
These shortbread take no time or effort to make, and they definitely live up to their name. I used a food processor, and in less than 5 minutes had them in the oven. I’ve tried countless shortbread recipes over many years, and while most of them have been very good, the baked shortbread didn’t tick all the boxes the way these did. These are buttery, light, crisp, and tender. They melt in your mouth. I like shortbread lightly golden and dry so left them in the oven for about 45 minutes with the oven off. They baked up perfectly smooth and level after the first bake, which for me was 45 minutes at 325°. They were set, but flexible, after the first bake, and didn’t crack when I removed them from the pan. I cut them into 32 fingers on the parchment paper they were baked on, then transferred them in one piece on the same paper to a baking sheet before separating, using a pizza peel. Even though I didn’t use a premium butter and did the taste test as soon as the shortbread cooled they were delicious. They’ll only get better as they mellow.
So glad you enjoyed them, Sadie! Thanks so much :)
Season’s greetings from across the pond! I’ve just been gifted a beautiful American stoneware shortbread mould, and wondered if your (delicious sounding!) recipe would work with one of these? Any tips would be much appreciated.
Hi Paula! This should work in a mould, though I have to say, I’ve never had great success using the moulds. It tends to stick. But that could totally be my user error :)
My absolute favorite shortbread cookie recipe! The rice flour adds a delicious crispy finish. I did actually mess up my first batch, I think I spent too long mixing the butter with my small mixer and it unfortunately warmed up quite a bit before going in the oven. The first batch came out like little dough balls. On my second time I made sure to refrigerate the dough for an hour for good measure, and they came out fantastic! Does anyone know if a food processor can be used to add the butter in so I can avoid it warming up so much?
So glad you are enjoying it, Nicole! I haven’t ever tried the food processor. Maybe someone who has tried it will weigh in for you. Thanks!
Hi, am I able to make these as cookies instead of bars? I’m excited to try these out!
Hi Marnie and no, I’m afraid this dough is not suitable for rolling and cutting as it is too crumbly and won’t hold it’s shape.
Can you please help? How thick should these be? I only had a 14×4 tart pan. I am trying to analyze whether mine baked properly. It would help immensely to know how the thickness of your fully baked shortbread fingers. Thank you.
Hi Emilia, I didn’t measure them, but when baked in an 8×8-inch pan (as done/shown here), they would look to be about 3/4-inch thick-ish. An 8×8-inch pan has 64 square inches. Your 14×4-inch pan has only 56 square inches, so it is smaller. I would expect that your shortbread would be thicker due to the smaller pan (which may have required a slightly longer first bake).
Found this recipe through the Pancake Princess Bakeoff, made a batch earlier this week to hand out to neighbours for Christmas. I was left with a few for myself, so good. I will making a double batch for myself to have with my tea over the Christmas holidays. Absolute perfection.
So glad to hear, Sarah :) Thanks so much!
Came here after these shortbread cookies ranked first in the Pancake Princess bake-off. I am so thankful I came across this recipe. My family and I LOVE shortbread and these are simply delightful. They come together so quickly and have a great texture and flavor. I am a vanilla freak so I did add 1 splash of vanilla extract to mine. Thank you for such a great recipe!
So glad to hear, Hannah :) Thanks so much!
This makes a delicious cookie. Thank you for the recipe. For variety, I add orange zest from a large Navel orange and press the dough into a scalloped 2 piece tart in. I cut the cookies into 20 pieces–makes for a nice petticoat tail presentation. Sometimes I’ll dip the cooled cookies into melted chocolate.
Sounds lovely, Elaine :) So glad you are enjoying them. Thanks!
These are excellent! Not too sweet. Great instructions and appreciate the process photos.
So glad you enjoyed them, Lisa :) Thanks so much!
how far in advance can I make this recipe ?
Hi Kelli, these ones don’t need to age a long time, like some shortbread. I think most shortbread benefit from a day or two to develop best flavour. They will also keep well in an airtight container for a couple of weeks. So to answer your question, I think I wouldn’t go much more than a week ahead.
Hello Jennifer! Nice to see a shortbread recipe that uses rice flour. Having worked at Marks and Spencer’s for several years (when they were retailing in Canada), I was introduced to this version and fell in love with them instantly. There’s something very special about the crispness of the rice flour in this kind of cookie. I never found rice flour shortbreads in our stores and missed these very much after Marks left the country. I cannot wait to try your recipe! How long would you age these cookies? Many thanks for the interesting post. I’ll be looking for a “whipped shortbread” recipe now too!
I’m a big fan of rice flour shortbread, too! Can’t beat it for crispness :)
I used this recipe and my cookies turned out excellent. It tasted even better four days after making it 😍.
I’m a bit rubbish at maths and I need some help working out measurements for making an extra batch on the go!
So here’s my question. If I need to make double the portion do I just double up on the ingredients and measurements?? I would appreciate your help in this matter 🙏
Hi Uche, I suck at math, too, but here’s what I would do :) On the recipe card on my site, change the “Servings” from 16 to 32. That will automatically double all the ingredients in the recipe card for you. Make the recipe per those doubled ingredients, except bake it in a 9×13-inch pan instead of the 8×8 pan. They should be roughly the same thickness as the single batch, so they should bake for roughly the same amount of time as the original recipe. It may vary slightly, so do check, especially in the very centre of the large pan to make sure they are set. Enjoy!
Wonderful shortbread Jennifer. Got a five star rating from our Scottish daughter-in-law. Thank you and Merry Christmas! Do you bake your shortbread in a regular oven or convection? I used convection first time and I was wondering if you would recommend using the regular oven setting.
Hi Donna, While my oven has a convection bake setting, I always bake with the regular oven setting, as it is the setting I know everyone has :)
I’m baking another batch today on my regular setting and I’ll let you know the results. Thanks again.
Yes, do let me know what difference it makes (always curious about these things :)
Jennifer the shortbread turned out perfectly using both the regular and the convection oven. I did have to lower the temperature to 325, just my oven. One more question for you, do you sift both flours and then spoon and level or is the sifting skipped? I can die happy, now that I have your recipe for shortbread!Thanks again.
Good to know, Donna. Thanks! I no, I don’t sift my flour at all. I just stir it well in my canister and then spoon and level. I’ve never sifted, but I was reading a Maida Heatter’s last cookbook and noted that she always sifts her flour for all her great baking recipes. Got me thinking :)
This is gorgeous! Made them today and they are crisp and rich. Delicious, thank you for sharing.
So glad to hear Daevania :) Thanks!
Followed the recipe with the addition of shaved chocolate and walnut bits. Baked on cookie sheet as individual cookies at 325 on convection for 20mins. Then poked with fork and baked for another 35mins with the stove off. Turned out DELICIOUS and so crispy. Melt in your mouth. Perfect sugar ratio. You’re amazing!
So glad to hear you enjoyed these, Anastasia! Thanks :)
I love shortbread and these look so delicious!
Jennifer I love your website I have baked your S’mores squares, sugar cookies and Scottish shortbread all fantastic!
Merry Christmas Jill
Thanks so much, Jill! Merry Christmas to you and yours, as well :)
It’s incredible to think that something so wonderful-tasting can be made with so few ingredients! These are an all-time favorite in our house!
I appreciate the tips on the butter and using rice flour. Will definitely give these babies a try – Scottish wee heavy ales are in season and these in combination will make for a wonderful afternoon treat with a small glass of the strong ale, mmm!
I always associate shortbread with Christmas! Made a batch yesterday. These look delicious, Jennifer. I bet they are just lovely dunked in some milk or eggnog. Definitely have to make an appearance on our cookie tray :)
Being a shortbread fanatic I loved reding all your expert advice! Thanks Jennifer, for testing and researching to make these cookies fail proof! They look wonderful!
Shortbead is one of my favorite cookies ever Jennifer! So easy to make, with only a handful of ingredients and it’s always a hit with family and friends! Buttery perfection!
Scottish shortbread is cookie perfection! Buttery and crisp, with a melt-in-your-mouth quality that can’t be beat. This looks amazing Jennifer. PINNED!
Hi there, could you use unbleached flour along with the rice flour? Also I use lactantia or gaylee butter but I don’t know if they are 84%? Also where can I purchase Kerry gold in Ontario? Thank you
Yes, you could used unbleached all-purpose flour here, though I often find bleached actually works a little nicer for cookies. Not enough to go out and buy a bag though if you only have unbleached on hand. As for the Kerry Gold, I see it here and there, usually in specialty grocers or someplace like St. Lawrence Market. There are high-fat Stirling butters that I can find at my local Sobey’s. “Churn 84” is how it is labeled.