Cookies Holidays

Buttery Vanilla Shortbread

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

Buttery Vanilla Shortbread Cookies

Servings: 50 small cookies
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Refrigeration Time: 2 hours
These melt in your mouth vanilla shortbread cookies are buttery and delightful. This recipe has both granulated and confectioner's sugar for the perfect texture. Easy to make and they store well for cookie boxes.
Sarah Kieffer
5 from 18 votes
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  • 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
  • Reply
    Paula Campos
    Thursday, March 14, 2024 at 7:11 am

    If I didn’t want to roll in logs, how thick would I need to roll the dough? I was thinking of using this recipe for the Williams Sonoma stamps..

  • Reply
    Sunday, March 10, 2024 at 10:27 am

    5 stars
    Hi Sarah,
    First let me say, I’m a huge fan! I have tried and loved so many of your recipes, including this one. I look forward to each new recipe. That said, my favorites are the shortbread cookies. I was wondering if you’ve got a recipe for chai shortbread. I’ve seen several versions online but they don’t seem to be the same quality you provide.
    Fingers crossed!

  • Reply
    Tim Phillips
    Wednesday, January 31, 2024 at 2:32 pm

    5 stars
    Great and easy recipe…. Thank you the cookies are delicious. I plan to try the chocolate ones too. ?

  • Reply
    Randy Heyl
    Monday, January 15, 2024 at 6:57 pm

    5 stars
    Great recipe. Question on the quantity? I got about 25 out of the recipe using the instructions. How small would they have to be to make 50? Seems they would be very very small!

  • Reply
    Trish Pines
    Monday, December 18, 2023 at 9:38 am

    I love these cookies. They are so delicious and full of a lovely butter flavor. They fit perfectly with the other cookies I baked for holiday treat boxes.

  • Reply
    Friday, December 15, 2023 at 11:31 am

    I am making cookies to send to California. All I have found say they will last 3 to 5 days. DO you have a shortbread that will be good for longer than 3 to 5 days, like for 2 weeks?
    Thank you.

  • Reply
    Sunday, December 3, 2023 at 11:20 am

    5 stars
    I love shortbread and found this recipe so delicious! Sadly I only had one stick of butter, so I could only make a half batch. Will definitely be making this recipe again and would love to make the vanilla/chocolate combo as well.

  • Reply
    Sunday, April 16, 2023 at 9:10 pm

    5 stars
    I followed the directions and then added dried chopped cherries that I had first sifted in sugar. One of the best cookies I’ve ever made! Thank you for a delicious and fancy-but-easy recipe!

  • Reply
    Tuesday, December 20, 2022 at 4:54 pm

    5 stars
    These tasted great even though I got distracted and added the egg yolks before the sugar! I decided to just push through and see what came out of the oven and I was not disappointed. Looking forward to making them the right way, lol!

  • Reply
    Saturday, December 17, 2022 at 8:23 am

    Hi, can I check if the oven temperature is for fan forced? Thank you.

  • Reply
    Tuesday, November 15, 2022 at 9:49 am

    5 stars
    These are amazingly delicious and so easy to make. I love the crunch of the sugar around the edges as well. I am eating one made two days ago with my coffee and somehow the flavor today is even better than it was yesterday.

  • Reply
    Sunday, November 6, 2022 at 5:12 pm

    Hello, I was curious if anyone knows how to make this shortbread recipe using a shortbread pan? I was gifted one made by Nordic Ware but I’ve never used it! Do you press the dough into the pan? I’m sure this is a dumb question but I am learning and love trying new things. Thank you! M.Fay

5 from 18 votes (11 ratings without comment)

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