These Shortbread Cookies are deliciously crisp and buttery in a classic way, and are especially wonderful for Christmas and holiday baking! The dough is easy to make using five simple ingredients. 

Dare I say that these are my favorite cookies ever?

There are all sorts of stunts out there with cookies, like stuffing dough with Rolos and other odd things, but it’s hard to beat classic, buttery shortbread.

Shortbread Cookies - In Rows on a Silicone Mat with Swirl Shape

These cookies are reminiscent of the Danish butter cookies that come in those blue tins around Christmas time.

I have such a nostalgia for those cookies, as they always appeared in our pantry during the holidays of my childhood.

What’s most funny about them is there are always several different types, but it’s all the same dough, just baked in different shapes. It really shows how much the shape and texture of the cookie can change the experience.

The circular swirl cookies were always my favorite in the tin. 

Two Butter Cookies on A Plate with Swirl Shape

Because these cookies are so simple, it’s important to use a really good butter.

I usually opt for European Style butter, which has a higher milk fat content than the cheaper butter.

The whole point of these cookies is that you get a crisp, buttery experience where the sweet cream flavor of butter really comes through, so it’s worth the little bit of extra money to get the good stuff.

Shortbread Cookie Recipe - Served On a Silicone Mat in Rows with a Piped Swirl Shape

One thing I love about these cookies is they are very forgiving with regards to piping the dough.

You’ll see below in my process shots that I’m not the best piper in the world (okay, I’m actually pretty terrible at piping, which is why I’m not a cake decorator), but the cookies still bake up and spread beautifully.

Any flaws in piping smooth out as they bake.

A Danish Butter Cookie Held Up by Hand to Show Swirl Shape

These cookies are also very sturdy, which makes them great to be shipped or gifted to friends and family.

When I do that, I’ll usually include some plain ones, plus some dipped in white chocolate, and some dipped in dark chocolate.

You can even add sprinkles or whatever you’d like to jazz them up. Not that they need jazzing. They’re delicious plain too!

How to Make Shortbread Cookies:

Start by creaming together two sticks of butter with confectioner’s sugar and vanilla:

Creamed Butter and Sugar in Bowl with Mixer

Ideally, you want to use salted butter. Shortbread is the only instance in baking where I now use salted butter.

If you only have unsalted, that’s completely fine, you can simply add a pinch of salt with the flour.

This is what I used to do, but once I started using salted, I liked it a lot more. When adding salt yourself, the salt never really dissolves or disperses as well, whereas using salted butter ensures even seasoning.

The butter and sugar are properly mixed when it looks fluffy and light, but is very smooth when spread with a spatula:

Spatula Showing Smooth Texture of Creamed Butter and Sugar

Now add all-purpose flour, and salt if you used unsalted butter:

Adding Flour to Creamed Butter and Sugar in Mixing Bowl

Mix until you get pebbles, like this:

Crumbly Mixed Shortbread Cookie Dough Crumbles in Bowl

Add a tablespoon of milk:

Pouring Milk Into Cookie Dough Crumbles

Mix for another 15 seconds or so until a dough comes together:

Mixing the Danish Butter Cookie Dough With Beaters to Show Smoother Texture

Place the dough into a piping bag fitted with a large star tip (mine was the Ateco 827), and pipe circles onto a silicone mat or parchment paper-lined baking sheet:

Piping Swirls of Butter Shortbread Dough Onto Silicone Mat

What I like about the mat more than parchment paper is that the mat is nice and heavy, so it’s easier to pipe onto it.

When using parchment, sometimes the paper wants to lift up with the tip.

Space out 12 cookies per sheet pan:

Piped Swirled Circles of Dough on Silicone Mat Unbaked

Bake until golden on the edges, then let the cookies cool completely.

Christmas Shortbread Cookies on Silicone Mat with Christmas Jar Decoration in Background

The full recipe is below, and I have a full video as well if you want more guidance.

For the holidays I also love these Chocolate Crinkle CookiesPistachio Snowballs, and Snickerdoodles. If you want to do some decorating, these are the Best Cutout Cookies for that.

For more cookie inspiration, visit the Cookies section of my recipe index.

Happy baking!

Shortbread FAQs:

Can shortbread cookies be frozen? Yes, they freeze beautifully! Store in an airtight container or bag for up to two months.

Can shortbread cookies be made with brown sugar? Brown sugar is usually added for chewiness, which you don’t want here. These are supposed to be crisp and crumbly. So, I don’t recommend brown sugar.

Can shortbread cookies be made ahead? Definitely! And these honestly don’t taste best when they are freshly out of the oven. You want to let them cool completely, ideally for a few hours.

How to store shortbread cookies: Let cool completely, then store in an airtight tin at room temperature for up to two weeks.

If the cookies spread during baking, this means the butter warmed up too much while you were working with the dough. Next time, pop the tray with the piped cookies into the fridge or freezer until the cookies are firm to the touch and chilled, 15-30 minutes, then bake immediately.

Two Butter Cookies on A Plate with Swirl Shape

Shortbread Cookies

Butter Swirl Shortbread Cookies are a great Christmas Cookie for Holiday Baking! The dough is so easy to make and uses simple ingredients. These are a classic, crisp cookie.

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  • 1 cup salted butter at room temperature (8 ounces)*
  • 1 cup confectioner's sugar (4 ounces by weight)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all purpose flour (10 ounces by weight)
  • 1 tbsp milk**


  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Place the butter, confectioner’s sugar and vanilla in a large bowl, and beat with an electric mixer until combined, light, and fluffy.
  • Add the flour and mix until it’s crumbly and looks like it can’t be mixed more.
  • Add the milk and keep mixing. The dough should clump together after about 15 seconds. 
  • Place the dough into a pastry bag fitted with a very large star tip, and pipe onto a silicone mat lined baking sheet, with no more than 12 cookies per sheet. 
  • Bake the cookies for 15 minutes or until lightly golden.
  • Let them cool completely (on the tray is fine)***, and enjoy!


*If using unsalted butter, add 1/4 tsp of salt with the flour.
**Shortbreads are naturally thick and a more dry dough. If the dough doesn't come together, add another tablespoon or two of milk. Make sure to use a VERY large open tip for piping the dough, otherwise it will be too difficult to pipe it out. You can also use a cookie press instead, or even slice and bake.
***The cookies crisp more as they cool, so it's important to let them cool down for at least an hour.


Calories: 126kcal, Carbohydrates: 16g, Protein: 1.16g, Fat: 7.75g, Saturated Fat: 4.9g, Cholesterol: 20mg, Sodium: 26mg, Fiber: 0.25g, Sugar: 5g

Nutrition is estimated using a food database and is only intended to be used as a guideline for informational purposes.

Post updated in September 2018. Originally published December 2015. This post contains an affiliate link.