vanilla shortbread cookies on wire rack

This is my classic shortbread recipe, which is intensely buttery and subtly sweet, easy to make, and stores well for packing into holiday cookie boxes. I make these cookies every year – they are a family favorite, and my mom has been known to smuggle them out of my house in her purse, only to bring them home and freeze them, eating one every day until she runs out.

Shortbread does not use any leavening, and is known for its “short” or crumbly texture. The shining ingredient is of course, butter. I have quite a few recipes for shortbread and sables in my books; all of them quite similar in nature, and all of them well-loved by my family.

I like to use both granulated and confectioners’ sugar and a good bit of salt, and also add an egg yolk to add both a little color and richness.

Tips for Making Shortbread Cookies:

Butter is the major ingredient here, so make sure to use a brand of butter that you love.

I prefer to use unsalted butter so I can control how much salt I put into the cookie, but if you have a salted butter you love, you can use that instead; taste the finished dough before adding more salt. Make sure that the dough is completely combined, and use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the mixer.

A Twist Shortbread Variation

I love different versions of half-and-half cookies, like my White Chocolate Raspberry Sugar Cookies. Two flavors in one bite, and the distinct colors are beautiful. So I did that with these cookies as well, half chocolate shortbread, half vanilla. They taste like a twist cone, but in cookie form. The recipe notes to make them are included below.

vanilla and chocolate shortbread cookies on cooling rack

More Shortbread Recipes:

vanilla shortbread cookies on wire rack


  • 1 cup [2 sticks or 227 g] unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup [130 g] granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup [40 g] confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fine salt
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups [284 g] all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup [100 g] sanding sugar or other coarse sugar for sprinkling
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy, about 1 minute. Add the granulated and confectioners’ sugar and salt, and beat again on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape down the bowl and add the egg yolks and vanilla, and mix on low speed until incorporated. Then add the flour and mix on low speed until just combined.

  • Transfer the dough to a workspace and pat the dough into a 4 by 6 in [10 by 15 cm] rectangle. Cut the rectangle in half vertically, so it is now 2 in by 6 in [5 by 15 cm]. Roll and form each half into a log about 2 in [5 cm] wide and 6 or 7 in [15 or 16 cm] long. Place the log on a large piece of plastic, a few inches longer than the log. Sprinkle about a teaspoon of sanding sugar over each side of the log, covering the outside of the dough. Gently press the sugar into the dough with your hands. Wrap the log in the plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours, or overnight.

  • Adjust an oven rack to the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F [180°C]. Line three sheet pans with parchment paper.

  • Sprinkle some more sanding sugar over each side of the log, if desired. Slice the chilled log into ½ in [12 mm] thick rounds. Space the rounds about 2 in [5 cm] apart on the sheet pans. Bake one pan at a time, rotating halfway through baking. Bake until the edges are light golden brown but the centers are still pale, 14 to 16 minutes. Move the pan to a wire rack and let the cookies cool completely on the pan. Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Twist Variation: Use one recipe of Vanilla Shortbread and one of Chocolate Shortbread. After shaping in logs, cut each log in half horizontally. Match a vanilla half with a chocolate half, press together, and then roll until the halves bind together. Sprinkle, chill, and bake as directed above.  
vanilla and chocolate shortbread cookies on cooling rack

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