brown butter brown sugar shortbread

Fifteen Decembers ago, I shared a recipe for one of the most delicious cookies I’d ever made or eaten: brown butter brown sugar shorties. I told you that because they were impossibly flavorful (nutty brown butter, brown sugar, vanilla, you’re welcome) but not terribly cute (beige, sprinkle-free) you should feel free to keep them home from parties where their feelings could be hurt as they were ignored in favor of the frosted, baubled, and brightly colored popular kids. They’re too good to share, anyway.

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But the recipe turned out to fail one crucial test: It doesn’t work for everyone. The problem is the brown butter. All butter has some water content; when we brown it, the water content evaporates off and the amount of butterfat and milk solids left behind is variable. When you’re making salted brown butter crispy treats or a wedding cake with brown butter vanilla cake layers, it doesn’t matter: these recipes are forgiving. When you make a shaped cookie, like a slice-and-bake or cookie cutter shape that has to be consistent for everyone, it does. There were so many comments about the cookies turning into a crumbly mess that I had to add a note of caution, warning you to proceed only with modest expectations.

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Not a single year has passed in which I haven’t been distressed by the knowledge that one of the most delicious cookies on the website is one of the least reliable, but I come bearing a breakthrough: Keep the cookie, lose the pre-oven structure. By baking these in a pan, just like the best classic shortbread cookies on earth, the sides hold the shape so the cookies don’t have to. We cut them after their shape is set. And while the squiggle of icing on top isn’t necessary for taste, after so long stuck in the shadows of other, more glamorous cookies, I felt this shortbread deserved a little glow-up for the holiday season, a rightful place in the limelight. 15 years is long enough! I hope you make these immediately.

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16 years ago: Robert Linxe’s Chocolate Truffles and Caramel Cake
17 years ago: Parmesan Black Pepper Biscotti


brown butter brown sugar shortbread-12

Brown Butter Brown Sugar Shortbread

  • Servings: 24 to 36 cookies
  • Source: Smitten Kitchen
  • Print

Small update 12/19/23: The water, which was initially added to the hot butter, is now added later in the recipe due to unhappy experiences in the comments. Here’s to happier baking!

  • 1 cup (225 grams or 8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons water
  • 2 cups plus 3 tablespoons (290 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup (145 grams) packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
  • Icing (optional)
  • 1/2 cup (60 grams) powdered sugar
  • 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

    Brown your butter: In a medium saucepan or frying pan, melt butter over medium-high heat. It will melt, then foam, then turn clear golden and some toasted speckles will appear. As soon as they do, remove the pan from the burner; the residual heat will be sufficient to toast the rest of the butter to a deep golden brown. Pour butter and all the toasty flecks into a medium bowl then transfer to the freezer.

    Chill the browned butter: We want to freeze the butter until it’s solid throughout but trust me, this speeds it up: Freeze the butter in the bowl for 30 minutes then give it a full stir, scraping down the sides, mixing the still melted parts in the center over the solidified chunks. Return to the freezer for another 30 minutes — it should now be totally solid throughout. Cut it into chunks, right in the bowl. No need to make them even.

    Heat your oven: To 300°F. Line an 8-inch square cake pan with parchment paper that extends up two sides. There is no need to grease it.

    Make the shortbread dough one of two ways:

  • In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment: Beat browned butter chunks, brown sugar, and salt together, scraping frequently, until evenly mixed. Add vanilla, water, and flour, and mix just until combined, scraping down the bowl again. This is the same order as for a hand mixer, but with a hand mixer, you’ll need the butter warmed to semi-soft first.
  • In a food processor: Combine brown sugar, salt, and flour in the work bowl, pulsing a few times. Add cold browned butter chunks, vanilla, and water and pulse several times to chop the butter down into even smaller pieces. Then, run the machine until it is fully incorporated and comes together in a smooth mass, 1 to 2 minutes more, scraping down as needed for even mixing.
  • Both methods: Transfer shortbread dough to prepared baking pan and your fingers to press it into an even, flat layer, then use an offset spatula to smooth the top.

    Bake the shortbread: For 30 minutes — it will not be fully baked yet — and remove from the oven just long enough to shape the shortbread.

    To create the diamond shape shown, use the back of a paring knife (yes, the dull side) or a bench scraper to make light line indentations barely 1/4-inch into the shortbread, about 1 inch apart. Then, at about a 45-degree angle from the first lines, make remaining indentations 1.5 inches apart. [Note: I absolutely never measure and it’s more intuitive than it sounds when you read the above.] Use a very thin, sharp paring knife (this is my go-to) to cut along these lines to the bottom of the pan. Use the back of a wooden skewer (the dull end) to dock the shortbread wherever it suits you (it’s for aesthetics) about 1/3 of the way into the cookie.

    Finish baking: Return the shortbread to the oven for another 15 to 20 minutes, or until more deeply golden at the edges. Let cool in the pan, or, if you’re impatient, let them cool for 10 minutes, and then remove them, using one of the extended sides of the parchment paper lining the pan to make it easier. Let shortbread cool completely, then separate the shortbread where they were cut. If needed, use your paring knife again to make clean separations.

    Squiggle with icing (optional): Space shortbread evenly out on a rack and place over a tray to catch drips. Place powdered sugar in a small bowl and add 1 tablespoon lemon juice, mixing to combine. We’re looking for a thick but drizzle-able consistency. Add all or part of remaining 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice if needed to achieve it. Transfer icing to a sandwich bag and snip a tiny bit of the corner off and drizzle the icing over the shortbread. Let set for one hour at room temperature.

    Do ahead: Shortbread keeps for 1 week, if not longer, at room temperature. It freezes well too, just wrap it tight, and don’t squiggle with icing until defrosted.

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206 comments on brown butter brown sugar shortbread

  1. Claire

    Still my favourite cookies ever even if they are really sensitive to the right butter and/or season in which the butter is made (but hey, they work 8/10 times and the 2 failures are used as the best ever dessert toppings!).
    I will try this new form definitely! I just need to add some of the sugar crunch from the former version because that added nicely to the cookie.

    1. Amy

      These are fantastic! Definitely a keeper. I had the same issue with oven temps, so here’s what I did…my electric oven cycles on and off. When I removed the pan at 30 minutes, I turned it off and re-programmed it for 325, and sure enough the reading said it was at 280. So takes at least 5 minutes to come up to the new temp, so I left it climbing slowly up for 10 minutes and then 5 minutes at 325. The texture is great, just a little chewier because of the brown sugar which is delicious. It’s difficult to tell if they’re done because the dough is already light brown. Don’t be tempted to leave them in past the 45 minutes she recommends. They will continue to bake in the pan as they cool. Also they will keep longer if slightly underbaked. Sooo worth it.

  2. Charlotte

    Baking these tomorrow! I would bake them today but i’m out of butter. I think they’d benefit from my go-to brown butter icing/glaze (2 tbsp salted butter, browned—use while still warm, 
½ cup sifted powdered sugar, 
generous pinch of salt
, 1 tsp vanilla extract or paste
, 2-3 tbsp milk to make glaze) so i’ll do that instead.

      1. Carole S.

        I just made these in the Nordic ware shortbread tin with the very fine snowflakes, and it came out perfectly. I’m so excited to have this recipe. The tin instructions want you to use a baking spray that has flour, but I just have the regular non-stick spray, so I sprayed the tin and dusted the pan with flour, pressed the dough in firmly, and lightly docked the dough in the pan. I let the shortbread sit in the pan for 10 minutes after removing from the oven, loosened around the edges, put a cutting board over the pan, flipped it and tapped the whole thing firmly against the cupboard, and it came out slick as a whistle. I can’t say how happy this makes me. Now to do this 4 more times for a cookie exchange!

        1. Kate O’Sullivan

          Holiday decorating idea that worked for me! Made the (delicious) icing. Spooned half of it into another bowl. Added a drop of food coloring and stirred. Used one sandwich bag as instructed to drizzle the white frosting, followed by another bag w the colorful frosting. I used blue with the white, giving me Hanukkah shortbreads to bring to cookie swap today! I’m sure red or green would work too ;-)

  3. Stephanie

    What if you don’t freeze the browned butter, and just mix in the other ingredients while it’s melted? Would you expect that to change the texture of the cookies?

  4. Taylor

    I am thinking about including these in my Christmas cookie tin this year! Do you think I could get away with adding sprinkles to the top of them to make them look a bit more festive?

  5. Lee

    Those are some of my absolute favourite cookies and go to shortbread for the holidays. I’m almost nervous to see if these stack up, but I’ll have to try! Yes the other ones have been crumbly sometimes more than others but they’re so so worth it.

  6. Kim Sequoia

    These cookies sound delicious! I love brown butter and brown sugar. Plus, a drizzle of icing is always fine by me. I can’t wait to bake them.

    I just have one favor to ask… Could you please make the picture print with the recipe? For years, I have printed your recipes as Word documents, so I can add the pictures. I’d love to be able to simply print your lovely recipes with a photo direct from your page.

  7. So grateful you figured this out and posted it.

    Making the brown butter ahead and keeping it in the freezer until I make the cookies to save time. This sound OK to you?

    Your brown butter hack is the same thing I do for my chocolate chip recipe and works really well. Only difference instead of 1 1/2 tablbepoons of water I stir in an ice cube then pop it in the freezer.

    For the dark brown sugar I have light brown and will add a little molasses to make the dark brown.

    1. deb

      Yes, the brown butter will keep. If you’re not in a rush, the fridge is fine. I just find that it takes at least a few hours to chill until solid in the fridge, and when I want to make cookies, I don’t want to wait that long. You can add a little molasses for a darker brown, but just a smidge.

  8. Emily

    Is 300°F a typo, by any chance? I’ve had these in the oven for 55 mins now and they’re still looking pretty soft/gooey and not at all golden brown. 300°F seems unusual and I’m wondering if I should have baked them at 350…

    1. deb

      No, that’s the standard temp for shortbread and also what I use in my classic shortbread recipe. However, there I have this warning and here I do not and should perhaps add it: I find that home ovens can be unreliable at 300 degrees. If yours looks like it needs longer, add more time. You’re looking for edges that have taken on a little color and the cookies should feel dry on top.

      1. Emily

        Thanks! I bet oven temp variation was the culprit, I didn’t have a thermometer in there so who knows what temperature it really was. I eventually took them out around 65 mins and they still hadn’t gotten golden at all, but they were dry enough to cut apart and keep their shape, and tasty! Made a great holiday gift for my beloved house cleaners :)

    2. Calisson

      I had the same problem, mine took forever to bake. I knew my oven was correct when it was set to 350 degrees, but for some reason when I put in the thermometer when the oven was set for 300 it was way off.

  9. Sylvia

    Delicious after a couple disasters! When I stirred the water in to the hot butter, it bubbled up all over the counter and the floor. For the second round, I used a bigger bowl. For the mixing portion, I recommend the food processor instead of the mixer. The amount of scraping needed to get the frozen butter mixed with the sugar is insane and it took forever for the flour to mix in. I’ll remember for next time to use the cuisinart!!

    1. bethh

      I’m so glad you mentioned that this might take a lot of scraping – I’ve been wondering if something is wrong with my stand mixer, but I think it’s just that I use it for fairly small-batch cooking. I feel like I spend more time scraping than mixing! Maybe I’ll be more of a food processor person after all.

  10. Lily

    These look gorgeous! What do you reckon to making these with vegan block ‘butter’ (I’m in the U.K. and thinking of Flora blocks)? I have some vegans at my Christmas party this week

    1. Amanda

      these will be awfully dull as vegan cookies, as all the flavor in shortbread comes from the butter, and vegan butter is wonderful at supporting other, punchier flavors. Try a vegan ginger molasses cookie, or a tahini chocolate chunk cookie, or a peanut butter cookie!

    2. V

      Some vegan butters brown! But not all of them. Generally those with some protein content, i.e almonds, do. Flora doesn’t work, but if you can find Naturli, it browns beautifully. And adding a little almond butter to odourless coconut oil can also mimic a brown butter flavour.

  11. Pam from Montreal

    Woke up very early this morning dreaming of this recipe. As I stood at my stove browning my butter, I couldn’t help but imagine how many others around the globe (in the safe places, at least) were standing in their own kitchens doing the same thing – the sisterhood/brotherhood of bakers. Can’t wait to taste, and share, these ones.

    1. Lucy

      What a beautiful thought!
      Thank you to Deb for creating this awesome community, and to all of you for warmly participating. Bakers are the best people!
      Peace and safety to us all

    2. Cathy Norton

      This thought made me drop what I was doing and make them. Thanks for the thought.

      Deb: You could do a patreon-type baking club. I’d join.

  12. Carmela

    So excited for these! Look delicious AND egg-free for my toddler w/ allergy! Would these be able to travel/stack after icing or would you recommend icing once at destination? Thanks & happy holidays!

  13. Faye

    Thanks so much for this gorgeous recipe that i will be making forthwith.
    Deb, I’m just curious-if given the choice of mixing methods, which machine do you prefer? I do appreciate all the options being put out there, though.

      1. Christine in Denver

        Are you at high altitude? This recipe does not apply to you. Move along, do not waste $10 worth of butter. I did and it was a soupy mess.

        1. J

          I’m also in Denver and mine came out a little strange (greasier, crispier than expected). I used light brown sugar instead of dark brown sugar and wasn’t super precise about measurements (was multitasking), so it could have been an error on my part, in combination with the fact that cookies tend to spread and get greasier at altitude compared to sea level. I think next time I’m going to try the following:
          – 1 TBSP less butter
          – 1/2 TBSP less sugar
          – 1-2 TBSPs more flour (or sub in a few TBSPs of bread flour for extra protein, which should help with the structure of the cookie)
          – a dash more water, if the dough looks like it needs it

          Curious if anyone else has a fix for this!

          1. Marla Hutchison

            Just mixed up these cookies and the dough is just so crumbly and did not come together at all. Is that the way it should look?

              1. Cathy

                I used a food processor and it took awhile. I would imagine the same thing applies to a mixer. Mix until it is no longer crumby. It will become a big thick blob eventually. Hope that helps.

        2. Kate

          I just made these at 7500 ft and they came out gorgeous! Followed the recipe exactly except added an extra tsp of water and started with the brown butter cool but not frozen. Had to let my food processor go the entire 2 mins to get the dough to be a “smooth mass.” Had to babysit my oven a little to keep it around 300. Don’t give up!

  14. Ellen Connorton

    Deb, I really appreciate you for providing both stand mixer and food processor instructions. A plea – it would be great to know when it’s OK to use a hand mixer vice a stand mixer. I have a much-loved food processor, never had room for a stand mixer but do have a hand mixer. If there are cases in which you think a hand mixer will not do the job, it would be great if you could specify – not just for this recipe, but generally. (Most recipes these days specify a stand mixer without reference to alternatives.) Thank you!

    1. amy

      @Ellen I would go ahead and use your hand mixer for any cookie, including shortbread! I’ve been using a hand mixer for 40 years, my mother used a handmixer since probably the mid-1940s (last century), and before that my british and swedish grandmothers made out-of-this world shortbreads and other confections with a wooden spoon and pure muscle power! Its all good

  15. These sound incredible! I would like to add them to my Christmas cookie baking list and am wondering how you think they would do if I added some chopped hazelnuts. I only ask because I would like to also do a hazelnut cookie and kinda think marrying these with that as-yet-unfound recipe could be realy tasty.

    1. Lisa

      Molly Stevens has an AMAZING browned butter hazelnut cookie in her book All About Dinner! Not to take away from the attention here – but I think Deb would like this recipe too!

  16. Marcy

    Read this and went straight into my kitchen to make them. I used gluten-free all-purpose flour and they’re my first shortbread that have ever come out well GF. Super easy and the brown butter is amazing. Thank you!

  17. Coriander

    These look great and I’d like to try them, but I don’t have a mixer or food processor – I generally use a whisk or a wooden spoon. Using cold butter, I’d be inclined to use a pastry cutter or my fingertips. Or I could bring the butter to room temperature and use a spoon. Do you have a recommendation for making these without a machine?

  18. D

    Made these today- good but my dough was pitifully dry and wouldn’t meld- I’m in Europe so wondering if the lower water content in the butter here was the culprit. If this happens to anyone else I was able to salvage at the end with the addition of leftover cream I thankfully had in the fridge (about a 1/4 cup).

    Also, I greatly preferred the shortbread date and oatmeal cookies from Keepers… much more of a complex flavor.

    1. Kayla

      Same thing happened to me- I added some cream per your recommendation.

      However, I just realized that I added only half the amount of butter I was supposed to- I misread her instructions to say 8 tbl instead of 8 oz, lol! Anyway, maybe that happened to you as well. They still smell super buttery so I am very curious how they will turn out.

        1. deb

          I think it will just make it, but it will be tight. You can see my 11-cup in the 4th photo — it’s near the top when blending. It’s worth trying! Worst case scenario: You blend half at a time just to get it mixed then put them together at the end for a final blend.

  19. Anna

    Thank you so much for posting!! I was in the camp of “this recipe didn’t work for me” re: the brown butter shorties, and it kinda also haunted me for years if I’m being honest. I love brown butter and wanted them to work so badly.

    I made this shortbread today and I’m SO SO SO pleased with it. Taste is perfect, but the texture also shines. It’s so nice and moist- I cannot cope with dry shortbread and therefore don’t usually eat it unless I make it myself. So excited for my partner to come home and try them!

  20. Mary

    So I made these trying to use a hand held mixer. I let the butter come to room temp (which is still pretty firm) and used a pastry cutter to mash the sugar and butter together and then used the my mixer to go further with the creaming. But when I added the flour it just wouldn’t come together, it was just like fine crumbs. So I just started pressing it altogether with my hands, kind of like you would press pastry dough together before chilling when there’s still flour to incorporate. I knew all the butter would warm and stick it together eventually. So after squeezing it altogether by hand it came together in a big clump and then I just pressed it into the pan and it baked up just fine! It’s delicious, even without the icing.
    Just wanted to share that in case anyone else gets to that point with a hand mixer and despairs. Don’t give up!

  21. Marianne

    I’m planning on trying these this weekend to bring to a cookie party. Do you think any other flavors of icing would work aside from lemon? Wondering an almond flavor perhaps? Thanks in advance!!

    1. John

      Deb, What about adding milk powder to the butter to amp up the flavor more brown bits.
      I’ve done this for a chocolate chip brown butter recipe?

      1. Lynn

        I add toasted milk powder (can do in a dry pan on stovetop or in oven) to all of my baked goods. Such a great addition. No need to add to butter if you have it already toasted on hand, and it never throws off the liquid/dry ratio in a recipe.

  22. LitProf

    Baked these for after-school treats and one of my kids said, “Mom, you’re making everything cozy!” Perfect instructions. I added glaze when the shortbread hadn’t cooled completely, so it sort of melted and became translucent and wasn’t as opaque as Deb’s, but it was all delicious. Thank you for another winner!

    Deb, a website question: would you ever consider adding a feature that would let readers bookmark recipes and add their own notes?

    1. Cara

      I do this in the comments! I put my notes/any modifications that might help future me or someone else. Then when I am making the recipe next time, I use ctrl F to find my name in the hundreds of comments.

  23. bethh

    Is it taking it to the next level to suggest freezing the butter IN the mixer bowl?? Seems like that would save a dish. (at least for those using the mixer version)

    This looks super yummy and baking it in a pan is a stroke of genius. I’m going home to brown and freeze some butter (yes, in the mixer bowl).

  24. Lauren G.

    I had to make these immediately! Unfortunately, the recipe that was posted the day this was published had an error – originally, it said 325 g of dark brown sugar, more than double what is called for, according to the since revised recipe! My dough never really came together the way i would have expected it to, but I forged ahead, anyway. They didn’t come out, but I’ll try again with the correct measurements. Sighhhhhh.

    1. deb

      I have this one and honestly the 11-cups are harder and harder to find (13- and 14-cup are more popular these days, or so brands think) and it bums me out because it’s the best size. Highly recommend.

      1. let’s bake

        I had a Cuisinart but will never buy one again. The company was terrible when there was a blade recall – it took ages to get the replacement part. (For the record, I tried using it in a recipe involving palm sugar, and now the blade is fused to the base, which finally prompted me to buy another brand as a replacement.)

  25. Kai

    Okay, these are SHOCKINGLY good…perhaps in part because I used bourbon in place of the 1.5T water??? I imagine that the recipe as it’s written knocks it out of the park, but I can definitely recommend that little tweak to add even more fabulousness.

    1. Yael

      I followed your lead and replaced some of the water (not all) with rum, creating what is essentially a buttered rum cookie. Delicious.

  26. Molly G.

    These are phenomenal! I love that brown butter flavor and the texture of the shortbread is so so good. These are going to be made on repeat!

  27. Sophia

    Hi Deb! These look delicious, and I’m thinking of making them for my in-laws for the holidays. Quick question: I don’t have a stand mixer, and my food processor is very small. (The woes of cooking for a two-person household!) I am thinking of making these using my hand mixer, but what do you recommend doing for the butter? Should I freeze the butter but leave it out to warm for a bit before using?

  28. Jennifer

    I made these because they sounded so delicious, and they came out very fragile, flaky and thick. I followed the recipe exactly, as far as I can tell, and I’m wondering if they are supposed to be almost an inch thick, and extremely flaky? The flavor is wonderful though!

      1. Amy

        Interesting – I used an 8×8 pan, but mine are definitely a solid inch thick and yet not at all flaky (I’d say a bit dry/sandy on the outsides, and definitely rich and buttery on the insides). I’m not really loving the grittiness of my cookies, so maybe I’m someone who would prefer to use the brown butter method in a shortbread recipe that uses powdered sugar, rather than using brown sugar.

        The dough seemed to take quite a while to come together in my food processor so maybe I over-mixed it? The recipe says it should form a “smooth mass” but mine still seemed sort of loose and sandy when I finally stopped mixing, although it formed a just-slightly-crumbly ball when squeezed in the hand.

        As far as I can tell I followed the recipe accurately aside from substituting whiskey for the water as one commenter suggested (I weighed the ingredients, had a thermometer inside the oven to confirm 300*F, etc). I had zero browning happening so for the second baking time I did the full 20 minutes instead of 15 minutes; next time I would stick to 15 and hopefully avoid the dry/sandy tops.

        1. Laura C.

          Hi. I didn’t get a smooth mass either, so I was concerned that I might have overmixed as well. It was just a wet, sandy texture which I then patted down into the pan. They are definitely toothier than traditional shortbread should be, but, very tasty. I’m hoping Deb can give us input on what the dough should really look like after mixing.

          1. Amy

            The image of the dough pressed into the pan is a bit telling – mine didn’t look that “wet”. I’m not sure where I went wrong; I still can’t figure it out. It would maybe make sense if I had used the 325g of brown sugar that was originally posted since I have thicker cookies from an 8×8 pan and a sandier texture than expected, but I’m pretty sure I used the intended amount of 145g (there’s currently a sugar shortage in my part of Canada, so I was relieved I had enough for this recipe).

  29. Liz Garfinkle

    I’m thinking of making these with a dark chocolate ganache, rather than icing, and pouring it evenly on top, rather than drizzling. Will the cookies be impossible to cut cleanly, if I wait until after they are baked and ganache’d to cut them? I’m guessing there’s a reason why you cut them half way through.

      1. Lavender

        How interesting. I made English Toffee Cookie Bars from Bake From Scratch just before this recipe came out and shards of shortbread kept breaking off under their layer of chocolate as I was trying to cut them. Now I know to score the base layer first. Thanks!

  30. Colleen

    These are incredibly good! I didn’t have space in my freezer for the browned butter, but it solidified perfectly in the fridge, while I made dinner. Well worth the wait.

  31. Ellen

    Deb, I think your opening sentence is missing the word “most” – “Fifteen Decembers ago, I shared a recipe for one of the ___ delicious cookies I’d ever made or eaten:”

  32. Arti

    Sorry if this has been asked before – I’ve always wondered about this and am finally getting around to asking. Would it be possible just to use ghee (same quantity) and skip the step where we brown the butter? In addition to saving time, the nice thing is at this time of year ghee tends to be pretty semi-solid already just being on the countertop, so a shorter time in the fridge/freeze to turn into solid chunks for the mixer. Would love to know what you think – thank you!

    1. deb

      I haven’t swapped them in baking before, so I cannot say for sure, but I’ve always worried that it would have less of a toasty flavor since the speckled/toasted butter solids are strained out. But, as I said, I haven’t tested it so the best thing is to give it a spin and report back, please.

      1. Virginia

        I don’t think ghee can be browned, since it’s made by straining out the solid bits that give brown butter its flavor. But I have not actually cooked with it — hopefully someone here is more familiar with ghee and can comment on this!

  33. joanna

    I am one of the lucky ones – made half a batch, left the butter in the freezer too long, am in Europe [DE: Recipe worked well, added two tablespoons of water total and baked at 180°C for 8 minutes, 3mm dicke Scheiben] so probably quite different ingredients after all … and when the dough took forever to come together I cleaned the kitchen while waiting (win-win). The dough was so nice and firm-ish (and heart-stoppingly delicious!) that I made a slice-and-bake cookie out of it – came out perfectly! And I am so glad it did, the flavour is incredible and I love also how they look, speckled and cosy. Thank you, Deb and merry Christmas to everyone.

  34. Miles

    These are delicious and a lovely texture. I had some trouble with the food processor stage — maybe because I had frozen the butter overnight, but the dry ingredients and the butter just never came together into a “smooth mass” despite a lot of scraping down and many minutes of processing. It stubbornly stayed as crumbs. I gave up and pressed the crumbs into the dish and baked them anyway. Was worried this meant the final result would fall apart but they are perfectly sturdy.

    1. Laura C.

      Hi. I had the same thing happen (I used a stand mixer). When I added the flour, it remained like wet sand/crumbs and not a smooth mass. Mine are in the oven now, hope it all comes out ok.

  35. Jessica

    How much browned butter do you think you end up with? 1/2 cup? Wondering because my brown butter seriously foamed over and spilled on my counter, so not sure I have enough left to actually make the cookies!

  36. ehme

    Hiya. I’ve always replaced part of the flour in shortbread with corn meal for crunch. Wondering if you think that would work here? I’ve never made anything with brown butter before so don’t know the flavor profile. (i know. gasp!)

      1. Diana

        I have a question about this–I made a batch that was delicious but I don’t think I baked them long enough. They were kind of soft-ish. So the texture *is* supposed to be crunchy? I want to try again and bake for longer

  37. Kara Churas

    Made exactly as instructed and they are excellent; I just snuck a corner while they are cooling. Mine took the full 20 minutes on the second bake to color up in the corners. I may do some icing once they are cool, still on the fence since they’re sooo good without.
    FWIW, I cook a lot and recently put in an oven thermostat to make sure my oven is running accurate temps, and it’s been great to have that reassurance.
    Happy Holidays :)

  38. Allie

    Do you have the weight of your butter after browning? I’ve made other recipes where if my weight was less than the recipe, I just added in a little non brown butter to get the right amount. Or I guess I could just add enough water to get back to 225 g (if the 1.5 tbsp isn’t enough).

  39. Rona Edelman

    I made these yesterday, and as expected, they were awesome. But I do have one observation: rather than put a bowl of hot butter into the freezer, which would be unkind to the other items on your freezer, what about an ice bath? I did this, and not only did it work perfectly, it worked faster.

  40. Nancy

    I find that when I make browned butter some of the brown bits stick to the pan and don’t come out to join the party. What am I doing wrong? Heat too high maybe? Or is this typical?

      1. Kay

        I made these and they were good! I do hope you will add a note about adding the water to the butter so others don’t lose their precious browned butter like I did. It seems common sense to me now but at the time I didn’t think about it. I browned the butter and transferred to a glass measuring cup before adding the water and it foamed all over my counter down the side of the oven and into puddles on the floor :(

        1. deb

          So sorry to read this! It never happened to me but it makes sense that it *could* happen. I will check next time I make them if it’s just as fine to add it with the cold butter in the dough — should be.

    1. Calisson

      I would suggest just using milk. Another reader here recommended a brown butter glaze, which I used when I made them, and it was wonderful.

  41. Bethany

    Deb, please help! I followed the directions exactly and the dough came out with the appearance of thoroughly chopped graham crackers! Almost dusty! I panicked, and added a few tablespoons of water but google said to add fat, so i melted another half stick of butter. Why was it so dry? It’s baking now. I also doubled the recipe and didn’t know what size pan you used for one. I’m not a baker but LOVE brown sugar and browned butter. It does taste yummy so far! Thank you💗

  42. Modgie B

    Holy geez, Deb. These are delicious. Followed your directions to a tee and they came out perfectly. My sister said that “it’s one of the best things (she’s) ever tasted. EVER.” Bravo!

  43. Calisson

    These were amazing. My oven temperature was apparently off, so I had to cook them a lot longer than the recipe said, but no harm was done to the end result. And I didn’t want to add the taste of lemon to the glaze, so I use the suggestion of one of the readers here to make a brown butter glaze, which was fabulous. I did not find using a plastic bag to be a useful way of spreading the glaze, though; it worked better to simply dip a knife in the glaze and then drizzle it over the cookies. Anyway, this recipe is a keeper!

  44. Hannah

    My Mum declared these the best cookie ever and immediately demanded the recipe. These are a sleeper hit and I love it. Unassuming but all consuming. Thank you for a lovely recipe!

  45. Marie

    These are indeed the best cookies. I make the recipe from 15 years ago (!) multiple times every holiday season because these cookies are the ones everyone remembers and requests. I have never experienced a failure. I don’t chill the brown butter, but just let it cool on the countertop until it’s more or less solid again (our house is quite cool). I think it’s important to beat the butter with the sugar until it’s really fluffy and creamy. I think these are good when they’re slightly salty and I add the contents of a vanilla bean if I’m feeling fancy. The dough doesn’t seem like it will totally cohere going into the wrapping/chilling phase, but it does. I like to roll the dough in sugar before chilling so it really sticks. (I love the crunchy sugar coating that’s part of the earlier version.) The cookies slice a little more easily when not totally cold, but I have found I can get clean cuts right out of the fridge with a very sharp chef’s knife if I’m careful. I hope everyone gives these a try (in whichever format) – they are so good!

  46. Catherine J Fowler

    Made these. They came out really hard although the flavor was fantastic. It seemed like the butter separated and was just bubbling at the bottom. Maybe I should have put in the fridge after put in pan to get cold? I make a lot of different shortbread and have never had this happen. Several people said it failed for them but I’m seeing much trouble shooting. Any thoughts? I did make your Unfussy sugar cookies again yesterday. I thank you for that yummy, easy technique every time.

  47. Ed Dale

    Butter measurement (1 cup (225 grams or 8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into chunks) seems off. 8oz = 1/2 cup and 113 grams. So I’ll go with 16oz. And thanks for all the great recipes and insights.

    1. ScoobyDooooooooo!

      You may be confusing ounces and tablespoons here. Take a closer look at the markings on your butter package, or weight it yourself.

      8 oz. (weight or volume) = 1 cup
      8 tablespoons butter (U.S.) = 1 stick butter = 4 oz. = half cup =quarter pound = 113 grams
      Thereby, the recipe calls for 2 sticks butter (U.S.)= 8 oz. = one cup = half pound = 226 grams

  48. Keri

    I am so bummed! The Smitten Kitchen brown butter brown sugar shorties are one of my absolute favorite cookies… I’ve made them a zillion times. Thought I’d make a double batch of these for gifting since they’re a little prettier. They turned out super oily and dense! No clue what I did wrong…. followed all the steps to a T.
    Alas, I think of the hundreds of Smitten Kitchen recipes I have tried this is the first to not turn out well, so I guess that’s saying something!

  49. Breanne

    Hi Deb –
    Should we still have 225g of butter post-browning and water adding? Brown the butter, weigh it, and then add enough water to get to 225 grams. Is that the idea? Thank you!

  50. Karen

    These are outstanding! Well worth the wait of the fifteen Decembers. Thank you! (I was lazy and didn’t add the icing. Maybe next time, if I’m feeling fancy.)

  51. Carol

    I have made most of your cookie recipes. Really? The best cookie you’ve ever made OR eaten??? I thought I was done baking cookies for Christmas. And now I have to make these. Thanks Deb! (No, seriously, thanks Deb! In advance. I just trust you.)

  52. Rebecca

    Please don’t follow the recipe when it comes to cooling the browned butter. I made the mistake of adding water to the bowl of browned butter and it exploded over my hands, leaving me with burns. It is practically asking you to put cold water into boiling oil. I would ask that the recipe gets edited so this doesn’t happen to more people.

    1. Muriel

      Sorry to hear that you were injured and hope the burns heal quickly and well. The way I read the instructions, you add the water with the brown sugar, salt, vanilla after the butter is chilled or frozen.

    2. Muriel Panza

      Sorry that you were burned– that sounds painful. Hope it heals well and quickly.

      The way I read the recipe instructions, we are to add the water along with the brown sugar, vanilla, etc. to the chilled/frozen butter not to the hot butter.

      1. Laura C.

        It must have been changed. Originally, you were instructed to remove browned butter from the heat and add the water. This is what I did and I had no issues with burns or boiling over of things. Sorry that happened though.

  53. CK

    These sound amazing. I randomly came across some maple candy in the cupboard (made of only maple syrup) and was considering breaking some of it up in the food processor in place of some of the brown sugar in these cookies. The texture of both seem similar. Would that be a terrible idea?

  54. Louann

    These are on my list to make because they look soooo good! An artisan baker in my area shared a tip on what to do when using browned butter in a cookie recipe. He said to add 2 tablespoons of buttermilk to the batter for every 1/2 pound of browned butter in the recipe. The buttermilk replaces the milk that evaporated in the browning process. Works great and adds a depth of flavor.

  55. Laura C.

    Hi Deb. It’s me again. I had the same experience as some other bakers. The final mix didn’t product a smooth dough mass but was wet, sand in texture. It did hold together though as I pressed it into the pan. I used my paddle attachment on my stand mixer. Also, what is your go-to favorite butter brand that you use for baking? Just curious. I use Trader Joe’s butter. Happy Holidays!

      1. Laura C.

        Hi Deb. The final product had wonderful flavor, and a difference in texture from traditional shortbread, “toothier, chewier”. I used a stand mixer with a paddle to mix. I noticed you use a food processor, maybe that’s a better way?

    1. Marina

      I’m no Deb, but in my experience with browning butter, you can whisk it a little but you don’t have to. I sometimes swish it around in the pan a little bit to get a better sense of the color underneath the foaming and bubbling. If it’s your first time browning butter, then using a lighter-colored pan also helps to see the color change of the milk solids.

  56. MW

    I made these for the first time (at around 5,000ft elevation) and the only modification I had to make was add 1 extra teaspoon of water. It turned out perfectly!

  57. Dee

    These came out pretty good! My only adjustment was swapping in half a cup of whole wheat flour since I figured a bit of that sort of nutty flavour would play nice with the rest (it did!). And maybe adding a little extra vanilla because I have no self-control. Makes a very substantial shortbread with notes of toffee.

  58. Jacqueline

    I began these cookies on the very evening just before you posted the update. I had browned the butter, let it cool slightly and added the water and put it in the refrigerator over night (no mishaps, fortunately). This morning, when I continued the recipe and saw there was an update, I was pretty worried. I am glad it was only about the butter/water. My butter/water, overnight in the fridge was solid but not rock hard.
    I followed your instructions only using Mexican vanilla because I like that flavor. They came together (in a food processor) and baked exactly like yours. I cut mine into 36 small squares and I will forgo the squiggle, but they are delicious. Browned butter and brown sugar make a slightly different shortbread but I am happy to add them to my cookie plates to be given out tomorrow. Happy Holidays to you and your family and thank you for adding so much to ours.

  59. Stephanie P

    These are so good! Chilling the butter in the fridge all afternoon worked well. They never really browned, but started looking fairly set/done, so I took out at the 18-minute mark in the second bake. Great texture and amazing flavor!

  60. K

    These are delicious! I’ve already made them twice by request of my children and they are good enough (and good looking enough) that I included them in my assortment given to neighbors for the holidays. Thank you so much for this recipe, happy holidays!

  61. Elizabeth

    I’d love to see these made in one of your videos. I hear what you’re saying with the cutting, etc, but I’d love to SEE it.
    Thank you!

  62. Emily Rosenzweig

    Made these and while I liked them, I didn’t love them. My mixture (done with a stand mixer) was much sandier than the photo of the dough here, but I have had sandy shortbread dough before and in the end these held together fine. That said, I found the final texture a little weird — much denser / firmer than I’d like in a shortbread. And I felt like the brown sugar and kind of obscured the butter flavor that I like in shortbread? We’ll eat these for sure, but don’t think I’ll make them again.

  63. Caitlin

    Made these last night using a stand mixer (and grateful for the tips in comments that it may take longer than expected to come together as a dough). The flavor is perfect, but my 8×8 square pan produced much thicker bars – more than 3/4” although not quite 1” – and I think they’d be yummier if they were thinner like in the photos. Has anyone used the recipe (without scaling) in a 9×13?

    1. deb

      I’m not certain; part of the reason why I changed this cookie from a slice-and-bake to a pan-baked shortbread is that the structure is unreliable from batch to batch.

    2. Sharon

      I made them as jam-filled cookies for Christmas. I flattened the dough into an 8×12 pan and baked for 30 minutes, then instead of using a knife to cut it, I used a rectangular cookie cutter/stamp that makes an indentation in the middle for jam (from this set: That gave me 3 rows of 7 cookies in the pan; I filled half with apricot jam and half with raspberry. Returned them to the oven for 20 minutes to finish baking, and then pulled them out and let them cool fully before separating the cookies. Worked great, and delicious!

  64. Elizabeth

    OK, I have never ever commented on a recipe blog before, but I had to report back on these. I made them yesterday and my family absolutely flipped for them. The balance of buttery sweetness and the tang of the lemon glaze is amazing. I used the food processor technique and didn’t have enough brown sugar, so I used half brown sugar and half cassonade. Next time (because there will be many next times), I’ll try with all brown sugar to see if there’s a difference.

    1. Anna

      I’m like you Elizabeth. I have been following SK for about 12 years (from New Zealand) and never once commented on a recipe, despite reading millions of other people’s comments over the years, and absorbing countless of Deb’s wonderful recipes into our family’s go-to staples… but I couldn’t stop thinking about this recipe after reading it, tried it today and it’s SO delicious that here I am, to finally give Deb some overdue thanks for her contributions to my kitchen over the years. Thank you Deb! I love everything about this site and have shared so many of your recipes with friends and family (always with credit), many of whom also now make them on repeat themselves.

      I chilled the browned butter overnight in the fridge, after putting a single ice cube in it like someone else suggested. Used the food processor, slowly added about 1T more water towards the end while it was running to help it come together, and baked in a 9 inch x 9 inch square tin for 45 mins total. I didn’t bother with icing. My 7 year old described them as “epically good” and the aroma was phenomenal. These will become a standard feature of my Christmas baking for years to come. Truly, Deb, for this and all the others, and for the love and care and dedication you pour into your recipes and your words on this site – thank you. Now to get back to the kitchen and keep tidying up those diagonal edges…

  65. Melaura

    I made these using bourbon in place of the water with the food processor method and lemon icing – they are DELICIOUS. I made the brown butter the day before and let it chill overnight. Using some parchment paper to press against the dough when you’re smoothing it flat in the pan is helpful. I’m no stickler for shortbread texture, and these came out with a slight chew at the 30 min + 18 min mark. They’re super delightful and so flavorful.

  66. Not a Karen-y Karen

    My first batch of these were a little too underbaked after at least 20 minutes extra baking time. They were delicious but the texture was too similar to an underbaked blondie for me – chewy, verging on raw. Then I read the comments.
    A few days later I made another batch with a different dark brown sugar (“dark” instead of “demerara style”, which I’ve always used interchangeably, but now realize there’s quite a difference in moisture content between the two). I also baked them at 325 for a total of closer to 70 minutes, and they were perfection.
    Take home: oven temp and type of brown sugar were the culprits!

  67. Jenn

    Failed at this right out of the gate. Getting frozen chunks of butter to blend in a stand mixer–without butter flying out–is impossible. I might try again with the food processor.

  68. Amanda

    I made these gluten free, and they are so good! I used Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1. According to the weight on the bag, 2 cups + 3 tablespoons of flour should weigh just shy of 325g, which is what I used.

    These came out tender, sturdy, just a bit flaky (in a really good way), and so very flavorful. Love love love!

  69. Amanda

    Somehow, even after reading the directions multiple times, and following them as exactly as I could…this turned into a crumbly mess. A delicious, sugary, buttery mess, don’t get me wrong, and I am 100% sure that it’s user error.

    I guess that just means I’ll have to make these again next week!

    1. Amanda

      Adding to my comment the next morning, because I figured it out: all my mistakes were in fact user error! Most of the crumbliness is just on the top of the shotbread, where my separation indents were a mess. (Next time, I will make sure to take more care when doing that! Perhaps a knife run under hot water between indents, and pressing everything down more?) I also did a total bake time of closer to 50 minutes, and that last 15 to 20 minutes could/should really have been “10 minutes, then shut the oven off entirely, leaving the shortbread inside for no more than 10 minutes before taking out to cool.

      So the next morning result is a little browner and more solid that expected, but this shortbread is still *incredibly* tasty, I will be eating the entire pan before New Year’s Day, and I have zero regrets about that :D

  70. shelly wolf

    So thrilled to see a brown sugar shortbread recipe. A bakery I like serves it but only have a recipe that makes a HUGE batch. I am trying this tonight!