Light, crispy, and buttery this 3 ingredient shortbread cookie recipe would please even Mary, Queen of Scots.

A Brief History of Shortbread Cookies

Shortbread cookies didn’t start out as the buttery, tender cookies we recognize today. They evolved from a leavened biscuit bread that was twice-baked hardening it into a crispy, dried biscuit. At some point along its culinary journey the yeast in the biscuit bread was replaced with butter.

Recipes for shortbread first appear in cookbooks in the 16th century though it has been a popular since the 12th century. Mary, Queen of Scots was particularly fond of these cookies and it’s believed that it was her penchant for French foods that helped to refine them into the cookies we enjoy today.

Shortbread Cookie Fun Facts

  • Traditional shapes for shortbread include a circle divided into equal segments called petticoat tails, individual round cookies, and the rectangular shape called fingers.
  • Shortbread is traditionally served in Scotland during Christmas celebration and Hogmanay (Scottish New Year)
  • The first printed recipe for shortbread appeared in Mrs. McLintock’s Receipts for Cookery and Pastry-Work in 1736.
  • Scottish wedding traditions include the groom breaking a piece of shortbread over his bride’s head. If the cookie crumbles, the marriage will be fruitful.
  • January 6th is National Shortbread Day.
  • Scottish bakers successfully lobbied to retain the name shortbread rather than biscuits, avoiding paying a government tax.

Serving Shortbread Cookies

These cookies can certainly stand on their own, but when you can take it to the next level, why wouldn’t you? Here are some of my favorite ways to serve them

  • Tea is always a good bet. Fragrant Earl Grey or robust English Breakfast are the perfect foils for these rich cookies.
  • Buttery, dense shortbread cookies are perfect for dunking in Costa Rican or Brazilian coffee.
  • Bubbly wines like Prosecco, Cava, or Champagne compliment the richness of shortbread cookies.
  • For an exquisitely, luxurious pairing serve these buttery treats with hot chocolate. Better yet, with this recipe for Hot Chocolate Custard
  • Brew up some mulled wine for a festive holiday dessert pairing.
  • Garnish a scoop of your favorite ice cream. This recipe for No Churn Chocolate Caramel Ice Cream looks like a pretty good candidate!
  • Pair with Mabel’s Ginger Snap Cookies, Angel Slices, and Rhubarb Oatmeal Bars for and afternoon tea.

3 ingredient Scotch Shortbread Cookies piles on a plate with coffee and a spoon.

Scotch Shortbread

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Chill: 30 minutes
Course: Christmas, Cookies, Dessert
Cuisine: Scottish
Keywords: shortbread cookie recipe
Servings: 70 cookies
Calories: 47kcal
Light, crispy, and buttery this 3 ingredient shortbread cookie recipe would please even Mary, Queen of Scots.


  • 1 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 1/4 cups cake flour


  • Set a rack in the top and bottom thirds of your oven and heat to 325˚F.
  • Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mat.
  • With a stand mixer or hand mixer on low speed, beat the butter for 30 seconds until creamy and whipped.
  • Add the sugar and beat on high until the mixture is fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl periodically.
  • Add flour gradually and stir until well blended.
  • Place the dough onto a work surface dusted with flour and shape into a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.
  • On lightly floured work surface, roll out dough to 1/4-inch thick.
  • Cut into 1-inch by 2-inch cookies with a pastry wheel.
  • Transfer to baking sheets and bake for 15 - 20 minutes until the edges are slightly browned.


Serving: 2cookies | Calories: 47kcal | Carbohydrates: 5g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 3g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 7mg | Sodium: 24mg | Potassium: 8mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 81IU | Calcium: 3mg | Iron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @theheritagecookbookproject or tag #theheritagecookbookproject!

Recipe Box Roulette

This recipe is from a social media game we developed called Recipe Box Roulette.  Find a family recipe box and play along.

The rules are simple.  Let your fingers wander over the recipes cards in the box, draw one at random, share it with us on FB Page or on your Instagram Feed. Remember to tag @theheritagcookbookproject and use the hashtag #recipeboxroulette.

Extra credit – make the recipe and share a photograph.

Scotch Shortbread from Ruth Haerr’s recipe box

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