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3-Ingredient Buttery Shortbread Cookies

These Butter Shortbread Cookies are the easiest, most flavorful shortbread cookies we’ve had the joy of making. They’re melt-in-your-mouth tender, with just the right amount of crispy bite. They’re great for freezing or gifting.

butter shortbread cookies
These are the EASIEST shortbread cookies, and they’re absolutely perfect.

The Best Shortbread Cookies

We’re neck deep in cookies all over our kitchen and will hopefully continue the trend in the next couple of days.  When there are Littles at home and they have friends, sometimes they all come swarming…and cookies disappear in nanoseconds.

We had such fun over the weekend celebrating the holidays early with some family and friends.  Dozens of kids included, half of which were unapologetically hungry teens.

Translation: tables full of food and counters teeming with treats to satisfy those not-so-little-anymore Littles. Enter these butter shortbread cookies.

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3 ingredient shortbread cookies
Shortbread cookies have a special butter to sugar ratio, which yields the tenderness they’re famous for.

What are Shortbread Cookies?

Shortbread cookies are just about the most simple cookies you can make during holiday season and beyond. They’re actually called “short” because of the traditional ratio of the 1:2 ratio of sugar to butter, providing a higher fat content to the dough. This ratio is what yields a soft, buttery crumb that is literally melt-in-your-mouth amazing.

Shortbread cookies are famous for their ultra-buttery, tender texture as well as their extraordinary flavor. With just 3 little ingredients, it’s surprising how big in flavor these shortbread cookies are. They’re the perfect canvas for rolling and slicing, shaping with cookie cutters, and decorating any which way you’d like.

best shortbread cookies
You’ll only need butter, sugar, and flour for the perfect shortbread cookies.

3-Ingredients For ShortBread Cookies

These buttery, melt-in-your-mouth shortbread cookies contain only 3 simple, pure ingredients and nothing else. No fillers, no additives, nothing artificial at all.

You’ll only need:

  • Salted Butter – you’ll want to keep the butter cold. No need to soften or melt the butter. No extra salt is needed in the recipe, since you’ll be using salted butter. However, if you use unsalted butter, you’ll want to add 1/4 tsp table salt.
  • Light Brown Sugar – the tip for brown sugar is to use fresh brown sugar that has not lost any of its moisture from sitting in the pantry too long. Many shortbread recipes use white sugar or powdered sugar, but light brown sugar is the secret to a deliciously caramelized flavor.
  • Flour – simple, all-purpose flour will do just fine for this easy recipe.
  • Sprinkles are optional and lend a boost of colorful fun!
butter shortbread cookies

Shortbread cookies to Bake, Gift, Freeze

These 3-ingredient buttery shortbread cookies make my top 3 favorite holiday cookies every single year. They’re easy, no-frills, and 120% mouthwatering.

Bonus: they keep nicely for days, making them a tasty edible gift. The dough and baked cookies both freeze beautifully for at least a week or two. Once I make a batch of this cookie dough, I often use half and freeze the other half for all those seasonal cookie emergencies that inevitably pop up during busy holiday season and beyond.

Shortbread Cookies
Commonly Asked Questions

Are butter cookies and shortbread cookies the same?

The main difference in the two types of cookies is the amount of sugar to butter ratio. Butter cookies generally contain more sugar and are baked a higher temperatures. Shortbread cookies contain a higher fat content, which yields a melt-in-your-mouth texture.

Are shortbread cookies soft or crisp?

Shortbread is a wonderful balance of tender and slightly crisp textures when you bite into it. At first, there will be a light crunch, followed by a melt-in-your-mouth sensation.

Can shortbread be made with margarine?

It’s important that shortbread be made with 100% pure, quality butter. It’s the high butter content that makes these shortbread cookies so incredible.

Why does shortbread dough need to be chilled before using?

Chilled dough allows butter to re-solidify and helps the cookies keep their shape during baking, preventing them from spreading too much.

More to Bake and Eat

Shop This Recipe

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  • Ever run out of counter space for all the cooling racks? This multi-tiered rack even collapses for further space saving.

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shortbread cookies

3-Ingredient Buttery Shortbread Cookies

4.39 from 583 ratings
These buttery shortbread cookies are simply divine. They are melt-in-your-mouth amazing, bursting with the goodness of butter, and easily dressed up or down.
Prep Time: 30 mins
Cook Time: 15 mins
Servings: 3 dozen


Optional: sprinkles to suit any occasion throughout the year


    • In the bowl of a stand mixer, add cold butter slices and brown sugar. Using paddle attachment on medium-high speed, cream until mixture is combined and has a pasty texture. Scrape down sides and paddle.
      Add only 3 1/2 cups of the flour and mix on medium-low speed just until combined; do not over-mix.
    • On a large board, sprinkle 1/2 cup flour to keep dough from sticking to the board. Use rubber spatula to transfer dough to the board. Knead dough by hand, adding only as much of the remaining 1/2 cup flour as needed to make a soft dough, while continuing to knead. The dough should end up soft and pliable, similar to play-dough, not sticky.
      Gently work in desired amount of sprinkles, if using them.
      Important Note: You may not end up using all the flour, depending on how dough feels; it's important to stop adding flour as soon as your dough feels like soft play dough.
    • Divide dough into 3 balls, and flatten them into discs. Wrap tightly with cling wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes or until firm enough to roll and cut shapes.
      Meanwhile, preheat oven to 325F, with rack on lower middle position. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats; set aside.
    • Take out one of dough discs and roll it out to about 1/2 inch thickness – lightly flour board if needed. Either cut into 3×1 rectangular strips, triangles, or use cookie cutters (I use 1-2" cookie cutters).
      Place cookies 2 inches apart on baking sheet. Poke cookies with fork on top for a design, if not using sprinkles. Place entire baking sheet in fridge for 15 minutes.
    • Bake chilled cookies for 15-20 minutes, or until edges are golden brown. For smaller cookies, bake closer to 15 minutes; bake longer for larger shapes. Repeat with the remaining dough, working in batches so dough stays chilled.
    • Cool completely on wire rack before serving. Cookies keep very when sealed airtight, at room temp.


    • Note that 2 cups butter = 4 sticks butter.
    • Many shortbread recipes use granulated or confectioner’s sugar, but light brown sugar is the secret to a wonderfully caramelized flavor. 
    • If you need to use unsalted butter, add 1/4 tsp fine table salt to the dough.
    • If you have unbaked cookies waiting to go into the oven, place them in the fridge to keep cold until it’s their turn to bake.
    • Unbaked dough can be frozen for up to 2 months. Wrap completely airtight; defrost dough when ready to roll/cut.
    If you enjoyed these cookies, please come back and give them a rating ♡


    Calories: 128kcal | Carbohydrates: 13.4g | Protein: 1.3g | Fat: 7.8g | Saturated Fat: 4.9g | Trans Fat: 0.3g | Cholesterol: 20.3mg | Sodium: 62.3mg | Fiber: 0.3g | Sugar: 4.5g
    Course: Dessert
    Cuisine: American
    Diet: Vegetarian
    Method: baking

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    Recipe Rating


      • Ellen Hansen

      Can’t wait to try these. My son in law cannot have eggs and of all the cookies we make at Christmas time he can only have gingerbread. This will be a nice treat that I can make for him year round. He’s definitely deserving. Thank you!

      • Missy
      • 5 stars

      These are wonderful cookies! I was getting a pizza delivered while baking them and traded the deliver boy some cookies fresh from the over for them. He was scarfing them down as he walked away. Pizza Delivery Boy approved cookies, for sure! <3

        • Amy Dong

        Love it! 🙂


      Can this dough be used in cookie press or Wilson cookie mold?

        • Amy Dong

        A cookie mould should work nicely!

      • Charlotte
      • 5 stars

      1. LOVE this recipe.
      2. I always freeze my cookies for 5 minutes after cutting them into shapes right before baking, it helps keep their shape.
      3. I add in a 1/4 tsp of almond extract and it’s SO good

      • Nora
      • 5 stars

      Amazing. Easy. Tasty.

      • Megan
      • 5 stars

      The flavor was delicious – mine seemed a bit “oily” though. I’m not a baker so I’m confident it’s me, not the recipe. Is that an indication I didn’t use enough flour?

      • 5 stars

      Can’t wait to try.

      • Simon Horsfield

      Same measurements but use icing sugar, salted butter and rice flour. A much more tastier shortbread. Try it!

      • Sarah
      • 5 stars

      Made this recipe tonight. I had dark brown sugar on hand not light but these were soooo good. Thanks for the recipe

        • Amy Dong

        Yay, Sarah!

      • Susan VonEhr

      Can you use dark brown sugar for these cookies?

        • Amy Dong

        Yes; they’ll just be a bit darker in color, but still delish!

      • Annette
      • 5 stars

      I will definitely make these cookies! I love to serve them with a cup of tea…or cup of coffee!

      • Melissa Swingle

      I was wondering it anyone has ever used this recipe with a stamper? is it to firm for a stamper? And if cooking them at a higher temp than 325 would help them not spread. Or if by placing them in the refrigerator prior to cooking would help lessin the spreading effect. Any tips or ticks would be greatly appreciated. ( My stamper has lettering on it, if that helps- not just a design.

        • M
        • 5 stars

        I’m guessing it would work with a stamper as the dough is pretty firm once cooled. I drew little designs in mine that stayed pretty in tact once baked

        • Britt
        • 5 stars

        I used a stamper today when I made and it worked really well for me. I just applied a bit of pressure!

        • Nora
        • 5 stars

        I used a cookie cutter after rolling. Baked at 325. They did not spread at all.

      • Sarah

      Hi there, hard to measure 2 cups of cubes butter, what weight of butter would be equivalent to 2 cups please?

        • Amy Dong

        2 cups butter = 16 ounces. SO excited for you to taste these!

        • Judy

        Stick butter has these markings on the wrapper.

      • Brooke

      I am doubling the recipe, do I still only use 3 1/2 cups of flour?

        • Amy Dong

        If doubling the recipe, use 7 cups flour to start with.

      • Terri
      • 5 stars

      I make these cookies a lot. Birthdays, family dinners, other holidays. This is a requested cookie. Everyone loves them. I cut them into one inch squares. Very easy to make. At least five dozen of these yummy gems per batch.

      • Sue
      • 5 stars

      These cookies are so tender and delicious!

        • Amy Dong

        Thank you, Sue!

      • Elizabeth
      • 5 stars

      Delicious! I love the flavor of brown sugar in your recipe!!!

        • Amy Dong

        Thank you, Elizabeth!

      • Fran @ G’day Souffle
      • 4 stars

      Because of the high fat content, my cookies didn’t hold their shape when baking- I chilled them in the freezer for several minutes before baking to make sure they were extra firm. Next time, I will try adding some more flour- otherwise they tasted good!

        • Amy Dong

        Did you start with cold butter – and beat butter and sugar for full amount of time? Feel free to email me and I can help figure it out!

      • Yunj
      • 5 stars

      Don’t listen to selinda DO NOT BROWN THE BUTTER

      • Selinda
      • 5 stars

      Brown the butter first at to level up this already fantastic recipe! This is my go to shortbread recipe, easy & delicious!

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