Melt-in-the-mouth Vegan Shortbread Cookies that you’ll be making again and again for family and friends — and yourself. These need just four ingredients — flour, vegan butter, vanilla and sugar — and they come together in minutes. Nut-free and soy-free recipe.
Classic Scottish shortbread is Desi’s favorite cookie, and he always has some around to munch on. That’s why, years ago, I created a vegan version of shortbread for him, and good as that was, I’ve been working to improve that recipe ever since.
This cookie I have for you today is the realization of that quest to find the perfect Vegan Shortbread Cookie recipe.
Shortbread is an addictive cookie indeed — both, I think, for the eater and for the baker. For the baker because making a really great shortbread is no small feat. As simple and basic as this recipe is, and as easy as it is to put together with just three building blocks — flour, butter and sugar — you still need all of the ingredients to come together in just the right proportion using just the right technique so you can taste the magic.
A good shortbread has to be perfectly buttery and perfectly tender. It should be a firm cookie to the touch, but when you bite into it, it should melt in your mouth.
To achieve that result, you need a dough with a high ratio of fat to flour, with no liquid added, if possible, because liquid encourages the formation of gluten, and gluten is the last thing you want in your shortbread cookie.
How to make the perfect vegan shortbread cookie:
Despite all I said, it’s really quite simple — if you follow the instructions. And no, you can’t add applesauce or bananas or something else in place of the fat because they will interfere with the cookie’s texture, and texture really is king here. If you’re worried about the fat, eat in moderation.
- Make sure you have your vegan butter at room temperature because you want it to bind the flour — remember, there’s no liquid here.
- Beat the sugar and the butter until they’re thoroughly mixed. Once you add the flour, you want to keep any mixing to a minimum.
- Add the vanilla. While not a classic shortbread ingredient, I think it gives vegan shortbread — which is not made with real butter — more of a buttery flavor.
- After you add the flour to the butter-sugar-vanilla mixture, all at once, make sure you mix it with the paddle attachment of your stand mixer, or with a fork, for just a few seconds just until the dough comes together. Some crumbly bits remaining in the bowl are fine, you can gather them up by hand.
- DON’T roll out the shortbread dough. I cannot emphasize this enough. This is not a sugar cookie. Overhandling your dough will only result in the cookie getting tougher. Instead, press the dough into your pan using your fingers. Then lay a sheet of parchment on top of the pressed dough and gently smooth it to even out the top.
- Don’t forget to prick your shortbread dough all over with a fork to help them bake evenly, and to give them a pretty, classic shortbread-y look.
- Bake your shortbread at a low temperature for a longer time. This recipe requires 35 minutes in the oven at 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Your shortbread will bake in one piece, like a cake, so be sure to cut it into individual cookies as soon as it comes out of the oven. If you wait too long, it will firm up and will be difficult to cut. Proceed to cool the cookies on a rack before eating. Some recipes require you to score the cookies even before they go into the oven, and I used to do that with my earlier shortbread version, but this latest recipe, which I adapted from King Arthur, can be cut after baking.
Ingredients for vegan shortbread:
- Unbleached all-purpose flour (not whole wheat flour, not pastry flour, not cake flour). If you’re looking for a gluten-free version of shortbread, you will love my vegan almond flour shortbread cookies. They come together in 20 minutes.
- Vegan butter sticks
- Pure vanilla extract
- Powdered (confectioners’) sugar
That’s all. You don’t need salt because I find that vegan butters tend to be salty, but if you have to add it, add no more than 1/4 of a teaspoon.
So now that you are chock-full of all of my shortbread-making wisdom, let’s turn our hands to the actual job of making them. Shortbread cookies are perfect for the holidays, and especially for Santa. They also make a great gift.
These are divine just plain, but if you want to dress them up, you can dip them in melted chocolate, sandwich some jam between two cookies, or even slather on icing.
And as always, if you make them, I wanna hear. So let me know in the comments below!
Looking for more vegan cookie recipes?
- Vegan Almond Flour Shortbread Cookies
- Vegan Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies
- Vegan and Gluten-Free Italian Amaretti Cookies
- Chocolate Coconut Cookie Bars, Gluten-free
- Vegan Coconut Almond Macaroons
Vegan Shortbread Cookies
- Stand mixer or large bowl
- Two 9-inch cake tins (round or square are fine. If you want to cut your shortbread in bars, bake in a square tin)
- Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Butter two 9-inch cake tins and line the bottoms with parchment paper, and then butter the parchment paper as well. This will make it much easier to get the shortbread out of the pan.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a large bowl, beat together the sugar, butter and vanilla until fluffy.
- Add all of the flour at once and, using the paddle attachment on your stand mixer at medium-high speed, or with a fork, mix together just until the dough comes together.
- Gather any crumbly bits into a ball of dough, then divide the dough into two. Using your fingers, gently press in each ball of dough into the prepared cake pan. The parchment can make this a little difficult because it tends to slide, but be patient. Once the dough is in the pan, you can smooth it out by laying a sheet of parchment temporarily on top and smoothing with your fingers. Once the dough has been smoothed, press holes into the dough using the tines of a fork in a decorative pattern. Repeat for the other ball of dough in the other cake tin.
- Place both cake tins in the oven and bake for 35 minutes until the top is lightly golden and the edges are a deeper gold.
- Remove the tins from the oven and immediately turn the cookie out on a chopping board. Do this in a swift motion so the cookie doesn't break — remember, it's still quite soft at this stage.
- Use a pizza wheel or knife to cut the cookie into wedges. You can cut each circle into 8 really large cookies, or 12 smaller ones.
- Transfer the cookies to a rack and cool thoroughly before eating.