Make melt-in-your-mouth buttery shortbread cookies with only 3 ingredients! These versatile cookies are perfect for holidays, teatime, or anytime you need a sweet treat.
Shortbread is a classic cookie that has stood the test of time. These simple, unassuming buttery little cookies are equally at home at high tea or your house party. They also take about 10 minutes to make and 10 minutes to bake. That’s right. If you follow this step-by-step recipe you can have some of the best cookies out there in 20 minutes!
This great recipe gives you the easiest butter cookies around. You can serve them in many different ways: with ice cream, hot chocolate, or a delicious dessert dip. Make them any shape for any occasion, and enjoy that tender buttery flavor!
Shortbread vs Sugar Cookies vs Butter Cookies
All three of these delicious treats use the same base ingredients and are know for their deliciously buttery flavor and lovely golden color. So, what’s the difference between the three?
The short version is the texture. Changing the ratio of butter to flour means that each of these cookies has a different feel in your mouth. Here’s the skinny:
- Shortbread Cookies: These have the highest fat to flour ratio, meaning that they have a melt-in-your-mouth texture, but are the most crumbly of the three. These are fantastic dipped in coffee or hot chocolate, and also make great dippers for sweet dips like this banana dip or this pumpkin fluff.
- Butter Cookies: These are right in the center with a fairly balanced butter to flour ratio. Butter cookies are less crumbly and can be rolled and cut into shapes.
- Sugar Cookies: Good old fashioned sugar cookies have the lowest butter to flour ratio, meaning that they have a lot of structure. These cookies can be formed into many shapes, and are not fragile at all! If you’re looking for a good soft sugar cookie recipe, I love this one!
This recipe falls somewhere between shortbread and butter cookies. The dough can be rolled and cut like a butter cookie, but the final result is crumbly like a delicious shortbread! I went back and forth about what to call these. You can feel free to call them either three-ingredient shortbread or three-ingredient butter cookies. Take your pick!
What’s in 3-ingredient shortbread cookies?
As one of the simplest cookie recipes I know how to make, it’s no surprise that the ingredients list is extremely simple. Two pantry staples and one fridge friend are all you need for homemade butter cookies!
- Butter: I use unsalted butter in this recipe. Salted butter is a fine substitution, and some people really like the added flavor the salt brings. Regardless of which type of butter you use, this recipe works best if your butter is softened beforehand.
- Powdered Sugar: Bringing the sweetness to the equation, we have powdered sugar. Powdered sugar works best in these delicate cookies because it’s so light!
- Flour: This recipe has been tested with all-purpose flour. I’ve never tried other flours, but if you do, let us know how it went in the comments. The flour is in here to give the cookies structure.
Making shortbread butter cookies
Step 1 | Cream the butter and sugar
Start by creaming your butter and powdered sugar in a large mixing bowl. This works best when the butter is softened — hard butter is impossible to cream! I recommend an electric mixer for this step.
Step 2 | Add the flour
Once you’ve gotten your butter and sugar creamed, you can add in your flour. It’s going to look very dry at first, but keep mixing. Eventually, the ingredients will come together to create a lovely cookie dough. It will look like this:
Step 3 | Roll and Cut
Turn your dough out onto a floured surface and roll out flat. You’re looking for a thickness of 1/4″-1/2″. If you go any thinner, you’ll get something like a buttery cracker, and if you go thicker, your shortbread might not bake all the way through. You can also roll your dough into a log shape and use dental floss to cut rounds. Check out this video to see the floss method in action.
When your dough is rolled out, you can either use cookie cutters or a pizza cutter to cut out cookies. Place your cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Use a fork to prick the tops. You can make any design you want!
Step 4 | Bake
Your cookies bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes. They’re done when the bottoms begin to turn golden brown, even if the tops don’t look done. If you like crispy butter cookies, you can leave them in for an extra minute or two, until the entire cookie is golden.
- These cookies will keep their shape while baking. Enjoy creating shapes to fit your events!
- For best results, take your cookies out just before they’re fully baked. Leave them on the cookie sheet for 5-10 mintues. They’ll continue to develop on the sheet and you’ll get perfectly bake cookies!
Substitutions and Additions
This recipe will work with a few substitutions, although you should be aware that any changes can affect the texture and taste of the finished product!
- For the butter:
- You can sub margarine or butter-flavored Crisco for the butter. Your cookie will have a different taste — margarine is more mild than butter — and the texture will be a bit softer. Your cookies may spread some during baking. You can combat this by chilling the dough for 30 minutes before baking.
- Creamy peanut butter can also be used, but it will result in a completely different taste and texture! In short, you’d be making 3-ingredient peanut butter cookies!
- For the powdered sugar: Brown sugar in a 1:1 ratio, or 1/3 cup of maple syrup works in this recipe. It will give you soft cookies with a molasses undertone to the taste. Your cookies will also be browner! I do NOT recommend subbing white sugar in for the powdered sugar. It will create a dry, brittle cookie.
You can also add mix-ins to the basic dough. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Orange or lemon zest: Use the zest of one orange or one lemon to add a citrusy vibe to your cookies.
- Vanilla, Almond, or Butter Extract: Add 1 tsp of vanilla extract (or almond, or butter) to your cookies to add a depth of flavor
- Mini Chocolate Chips: Regular sized chocolate chips are just a little too big for these delicate cookies. Their size can cause the cookies to crack and crumble. However, if you use mini chocolate chips, you’ll get gorgeous little bursts of melted chocolate with each buttery bite. Pure heaven for a cookie lover! 1 cup of mini chocolate chips is the perfect amount for this recipe, but chocolate chips can be measured with the heart, so don’t feel bad if you put in a bit more or less!
- Lavender: 1 tsp of chopped lavender lends a delicate floral flavor. This addition feels very high-end — perfect for your fancy tea party!
How to Serve Your Shortbread
A batch of these cookies are fantastic served by themselves as a sweet snack. They also go well tucked into a bowl of ice cream, dipped in hot chocolate, coffee, or tea, or as a dipper for a dessert dip.
You can dress your cookies up by dipping them in melted chocolate or drizzling it over the top of the cookies. Finished it up with some chopped nuts or sprinkles!
No. This recipe uses both butter and flour. These are foundational ingredients for this recipe. If you’re looking for a vegan/dairy-free alternative, these vegan shortbread cookies from Oh My Veggies are excellent! For a gluten-free alternative, check out these cookies from The Pretty Bee.
I believe the real reason is that it keeps the cookies rom getting bubbly tops. I do it because it makes the cookies recognizable as shortbread!
Line your baking pan with a sheet of parchment paper or a silicone baking mat to avoid sticking issues.
What do I do with the leftovers?
Shortbread cookies store really well! The baked cookies keep for up to a week in an airtight container like a cookie jar or cookie tins!
You can freeze shortbread. Just place it in an freezer-safe container and put it in the freezer. It will keep for up to 3 months. To thaw, just place the cookies on the counter for about 4 hours and enjoy!
3-Ingredient Buttery Shortbread Cookies
- 2 sticks butter
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- Preheat oven to 350°.
- In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and powdered sugar.
- Add flour and mix until a a dough forms.
- Turn dough out onto floured surface. Roll out dough and cut into shapes.
- Place shapes on a lined cookie sheet.
- Bake for 10-12 minutes at 350°.