How to Make Gluten-Free Shortbread Cookies

Love this simple, buttery treat? Here's a recipe for gluten-free shortbread cookies, perfected by the Taste of Home Test Kitchen.

Slightly sweet, pleasantly crunchy and super buttery, shortbread cookies are so simple to make. The recipe calls for only a handful of ingredients, all of which are probably already in your pantry.

Luckily for gluten-free bakers, making gluten-free shortbread cookies is easy. Delicate gluten-free flour makes for cookies so tender they almost melt in your mouth. In our recipe, rich butter flavor is the star, with a slight sweetness and a hint of vanilla. They’re perfect to bake for a gluten-free holiday potluck dessert or to keep in your own cookie jar. Here’s how to make them!

Gluten-Free Shortbread Cookies Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups gluten-free all-purpose baking flour
  • Melted semisweet chocolate, optional

Directions

Step 1: Cream the butter and sugar

Gluten-Free Shortbread Cookies cream butter and sugarTMB Studio

In a large bowl, beat the butter, confectioners’ sugar and salt until blended. The butter should look pale and fluffy.

Step 2: Add vanilla

Gluten-Free Shortbread Cookie vanillaTMB Studio

Beat in the vanilla extract.

Step 3: Add flour

Gluten-Free Shortbread Cookie flourTMB Studio

Gradually beat in flour. Pour in about a third of the flour at a time, beating between additions to ensure that the flour completely mixes in.

Step 4: Chill

Gluten-Free Shortbread Cookie doughTMB Studio

Scrape the dough out of the bowl and shape it into a disk. Cover or wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or until firm enough to roll. Cooling the dough gives the flour time to absorb liquid, making for tender cookies. It also makes it easier to handle fragile gluten-free dough.

Step 5: Roll out and cut

Gluten-Free Shortbread Cookie dough rolled outTMB Studio

Preheat oven to 325°F. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough to 1/4-in. thickness. If the dough isn’t rolling out well, let it sit at room temperature a few minutes to soften. Conversely, if the dough is too rubbery or greasy to the touch, return it to the fridge to firm back up.

Cut into rectangles that are about 2×1-in. This size is perfect for dunking into coffee or tea. Making cookies much larger will make them more fragile and at risk of crumbling.

Step 6: Pierce with a fork

Gluten-Free Shortbread CookiesTMB Studio

Place cookies 1 in. apart on greased baking sheets. Prick the tops with a fork. This keeps them from puffing up unevenly and doubles as a subtle decoration.

Step 7: Bake

Gluten-Free Shortbread CookiesTMB Studio

Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until edges are golden brown. Err on the side of underbaking, as the cookies will continue to firm up a few moments after removing from the oven.

Remove from pans to wire racks to cool. Enjoy slightly warm or cool.

Variations for Gluten-Free Shortbread Cookies

While the simplicity of shortbread is part of its charm, you can absolutely jazz up shortbread cookies. One popular method is to dip baked and cooled cookies into melted chocolate. Allow the chocolate to set before eating. You may also season the dough with a favorite spice, like nutmeg, or sprinkle cinnamon sugar over the cookies before baking.

Shortbread cookies also make excellent cutout cookies. Roll out the dough as in step 5, and then use your favorite cookie cutters to cut cookies into shapes. Top with sprinkles or pipe with royal icing.

How to Store Gluten-Free Shortbread Cookies

Gluten-free shortbread is best enjoyed the day it’s made. If you have leftovers, store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two days. Gluten-free baked goods tend to dry out more quickly than their gluten-containing counterparts. Reheating for a few seconds in the microwave will soften a stale cookie a bit, as will a dunk in a glass of milk or tea.

You may freeze shortbread cookie dough or baked cookies. Tightly wrap and freeze for up to a month. Defrost uncooked dough in the fridge overnight, roll out and bake as normal. Defrost baked cookies in the fridge or heat in the microwave and enjoy immediately.

Tips for Making Gluten-Free Shortbread Cookies

What kind of gluten-free flour should you use?

Use an all-purpose gluten-free flour blend, whether it’s homemade GF flour or store-bought GF flour. A white, starch-forward mix is ideal—most store-bought all-purpose blends fit the bill just fine. Avoid flours with strong flavors, like buckwheat or teff, and don’t use nut flours, which are too oily and dense for this delicate recipe.

How can you make gluten-free shortbread cookies dairy-free?

You may substitute vegan butter here. Make sure to choose one that’s meant for baking.

How can you make sure gluten-free shortbread cookies aren’t crumbly?

Shortbread cookies do tend to be more crumbly than other types of cookies (like these gluten-free chocolate chip cookies) because the recipe is meant to be delicate. To avoid too much crumble, don’t overbake gluten-free cookies. Follow the baking time to the letter, and err on the side of underbaking. Remember that cookies will continue to firm and cook for a few minutes after emerging from the oven. Smaller cookies are also less likely to crumble, so don’t try to make oversized shortbreads.

How can you prevent gluten-free shortbread cookies from spreading?

If your cookies spread during baking, they weren’t chilled enough. The butter in the dough needs to be cold when it goes into the oven. While you’re rolling or cutting the cookies, if your dough becomes soft or rubbery—and especially if it becomes greasy (a sign of melting butter)—return the dough to the fridge for at least 30 minutes to cool back down.

Can you make gluten-free shortbread cookies ahead of time?

You may make the dough through Step 4, then keep it in the refrigerator overnight before rolling out and baking. (Keeping any longer in the fridge will dry the dough out, which might result in a more crumbly cookie.) You may also freeze the uncooked dough, tightly wrapped, for up to a month. Defrost in the fridge overnight before rolling and baking.

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Kelsey Rae Dimberg
A former in-house editor at Taste of Home, Kelsey now writes articles and novels from her home in Milwaukee. She's an avid cook, reader, flâneur, and noir fanatic. Her debut novel, Girl in the Rearview Mirror, will be published in June 2019 by William Morrow.