Like most bakers, I have a go-to list of cookie favorites that I bake and give year-round and, while I like them all, this Classic Vanilla Shortbread is my first choice for all occasions, especially around the holidays. It has all of the essential elements for success. It’s easy to prepare, packed with big-time flavor, makes a big batch (32 cookies in one pan!) and it has a dreamy melt-in-your-mouth texture that’s out of this world. Oh, and the recipe also includes tons of flavor variations (see below) to please everyone on your cookie gift-giving list. I’m not sure you can ask any more of one cookie.

This small but mighty cookie is proof that the even the simplest ingredients can make for an elegant and flavorful baked result. The combination of unsalted butter (use the good stuff), flour, cornstarch and sugar make for a tender, meltaway texture. Adding in a good dose of vanilla extract (use the pure stuff) and salt (don’t skimp on it) makes each bite of this shortbread slightly sweet, slightly savory, and wonderfully fragrant.

Reminder: With so many flavor variations, please share with us which one you made in the comments below the recipe. Inquiring baking minds want to know!

And if you’re new to Baking Together, be sure to check out the entire archive of 38 recipes, each with tips and flavor variations.


Make and Store

Stow the baked and cooled cookies in an airtight container for up to 4 days at room temperature or freeze for up to 6 weeks.


Flavor Variations

Lemon: Reduce the vanilla to 3/4 teaspoon and add 1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest along with the vanilla.

Coffee: Dissolve 1/2 teaspoon instant espresso or coffee granules (decaf is okay too) in the vanilla extract.

Ginger: (paired with the classic vanilla or lemon variation) Add 1/3 cup (1 3/8 ounces) finely chopped crystallized ginger along with the flour mixture.

Chocolate Chip: (delicious when paired with the classic vanilla or coffee variation) Add 1/3 cup (2 ounces) finely chopped bittersweet, milk or white chocolate along with the flour mixture.

Nutty: (delicious alone or when paired with the classic vanilla, coffee or lemon variation) Add 1/2 cup (2 ounces) toasted, finely chopped nuts (your choice) along with the flour mixture.