One of my favourite cookies at this time of year – Christmas shortbread cookies! – and I’ve made these ones for the last 6 years in a row. With that perfect melt-in-the-mouth crumbly texture, and buttery shortbread flavour, I always have a hard time stopping at one …. or two ….. or three.

More shortbreads perfect for Christmas time are these Cranberry Pistachio Shortbread Cookies  and these Dark Chocolate Shortbread Cookies.

Birdseye view of a pastel green plate topped with star-shaped shortbread cookies

What makes this shortbread different from others is the light sugary coating of festive spices that make them totally irresistible.

Aside from being delicious, shortbread are such a versatile biscuit.

  • no chilling required
  • quick to make
  • perfect for giving as a gift
  • amazing used to accompany creamy desserts

In fact, you can see these cookies in action, sitting pretty atop my Boozy Eggnog Panna Cotta and they’d work well with this Gingerbread Trifle, Eggnog Creme Brulee or as the cookie component in this Peppermint Hedgehog Slice.

A stack of spiced star-shaped shortbread cookies on a sheet of baking paper on a green plate

So, Exactly What Is Shortbread?

Shortbread is a crumbly, buttery biscuit made with only 3-4 ingredients and originating in Scotland. At it’s very basic, it contains just flour, sugar and butter but there are a number of twists on the classic recipe.

Melting Moments are a type of shortbread biscuit that also contains cornflour (cornstarch) and many recipes, including my own contain rice flour for an extra crisp texture.

Shortbread is traditionally enjoyed dry, with a cup of tea or coffee but you can also ice them or make them extra festive by dusting them with warming spices as I have here. In this spice mix, you’ll find sugar – white and brown, cinnamon, allspice, ginger and nutmeg.

You could ice these Christmas shortbread cookies using the royal icing from my iced cookies recipe.

Should Shortbread Be Pale In Colour?

Yes, shortbread is meant to be a pale cookie with very little to no colouring. I like to take mine out of the oven just as I see the edges getting the slightest bit golden. This way, I know they are cooked through and the golden edges will intensify the buttery flavour. If you prefer, take them out before the edges start colouring.

Closeup of a stack of star-shaped shortbread cookies on a sheet of crumpled baking paper

How To Make Shortbread Cookies / Biscuits

  1. Start by beating together butter and sugar until lightened and fluffy in a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer.
  2. Add the combined flour and rice flour to the mixing bowl and beat it through until just combined.
  3. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough out, on a lightly floured worktop, to about 4-5mm thick.
  4. Cut shapes from the dough then place on a lined baking sheet about 1 inch apart to allow for airflow. I like this star shaped cookie cutters set
  5. Bake the biscuits for around 15 minutes until the edges just get the slightest bit of colour
  6. Let them cool a little on a wire rack.

How To Make The Spice Dust

The spice dust topping is super easy.

  • Mix together the sugar and spices.
  • Melt a little butter then brush it over the almost cooled cookies.
  • Dip the cookies into the spice mix and flip them around to get well coated.

This spicy coating is what makes these the perfect Christmas cookie recipe, to me, but feel free to swap it for royal icing or just dust them with icing / powdered sugar.

Bakers Tips For Perfect Christmas Shortbread Cookies

  • Make sure to beat the butter and sugar well but once the flour is added, only beat enough to incorporate it evenly.
  • Leave gaps of about 1 inch between the dough on the baking trays. While shortbread doesn’t spread much, it does need airflow to cook evenly.
  • When brushing butter over the cookies, do half a batch at a time before dipping them into the spice dust. If you do it too early the dust will just clump on the wet patches of butter. It needs to soak into the cookies just a little.

Storing and Freezing Shortbread

How Long Will Shortbread Keep?

Shortbread makes a great food gift since they keep for so long – 3-4 weeks stored in an airtight container in a cool spot. 

Can You Freeze Shortbread?

Yes, shortbread can be frozen. Store it in the freezer in an airtight container and will thaw at room temperature in around 1/2 an hour.

The cookie dough can be frozen too. Wrap well in plastic wrap (at least 2 layers) then freeze for up to 2 months. You can roll it into a log if you like, then thaw it in the fridge for a few hours for slice and bake cookies.

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A pastel green plate topped with star shaped shortbread cookies. A mug of tea in the background

You should make a bunch of these and put them in cute little cellophane bags and give them as Christmas gifts. These Spiced Shortbread Christmas Cookies are so easy to make, quick to make and I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love them (I’m sure those people exist but they wouldn’t still be reading so it’s ok to say that now).

If you try this Christmas shortbread cookies recipe, please take a moment to leave a rating and comment below. I love hearing from you and it helps other readers too! You can also take a photo and tag @sugarsaltmagic on Instagram.

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Birdseye view of a pastel green plate topped with star-shaped shortbread cookies

Spiced Shortbread Christmas Cookies

4.1 from 8 votes – Rate this recipe!
This Spiced Christmas Shortbread recipe is the classic shortbread you know and love but coated in your favourite Christmas spices.

Ingredients

FOR THE SHORTBREAD

  • 115 g unsalted butter, softened (1 stick / ½ cup)
  • 50 g caster (superfine) sugar
  • 130 g plain (all-purp) flour (1 cup)
  • 40 g rice flour

FOR THE SPICE MIX

  • 2 tablespoons caster (superfine) sugar (notes)
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice
  • pinch of ground nutmeg
  • pinch of ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

Equipment

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 180C / 350F / 160C fan forced. Line two cookie trays with baking paper.
  • Beat together butter and sugar until lightened and fluffy. Sift together the flour and rice flour, then add to the butter and sugar and beat until incorporated and it starts clumping together.
  • On a lightly floured surface, pull the dough together into a ball, then roll it out to about 5mm -6mm thick. Use a cookie cutter to cut out as many cookies as possible. Re-roll any scraps and cut out more cookies. Use a palette knife to help you to transfer the cookies to the baking tray
  • Bake for around 15 minutes until just starting to turn golden on the edges.
  • Mix the spice mix dry ingredients together (not the butter) rubbing between your fingers to distribute everything well.
  • Brush the cookies with the melted butter, then flip them over in the spice mix to coat.

Notes

  1. I use a standard Australian 20ml tablespoon (4 teaspoons worldwide)
  2. All ovens vary – always test for doneness 2-3 minutes before the recipe suggests
  3. For best results, you should always weigh ingredients like flour and sugar. Kitchen scales are relatively cheap but if you can’t weigh the ingredients, use the spoon and level method (don’t scoop).
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