Scottish Shortbread

Shortbread biscuits on a board
Shortbread biscuits on a board

These delicious, melt-in-the-mouth shortbread biscuits are a treat all year round but are an absolute Christmas classic. One of the festive foods I miss the most as a vegan are biscuit selection boxes which are sold everywhere, but this recipe acts as a perfect base for you to make your own. Make a batch as a gift for friends or colleagues and they will never know the difference!

Shortbread biscuits on a board

This is a very simple recipe for traditional Scottish Shortbread, with only 4 ingredients and easy preparation. The fun comes in the variety of shapes and flavours you can add to this basic recipe –
the options are endless. Once you have the dough made you can easily recreate any of your selection tin favourites. I’ve made a few common ones here (with instructions on how to make the shapes) to inspire you.

The most important ingredient to these biscuits is the butter as it really is the main flavour in a traditional shortbread recipe. You need to use a vegan butter that tastes really good, not just one that has a buttery texture. There’s a reason they call it ‘all-butter’ shortbread.

Shortbread biscuits on a board

I recently found the brand Naturli in Sainsbury’s. It comes in a spreadable version for general use but also now in a block for baking. Not only does it taste great with a more mild yellow colour than others, it is also organic and palm-oil free, which is rare in vegan butters and nearly all pre-baked vegan products. If you can’t get hold of this, Vitalite is a good alternative which I have used a lot. I also recommend adding a little baking powder just to soften the dough and improve the texture.

I have included a full instruction guide (below the recipe) for a range of traditional designs made with simple fluted cutters, which can be found very cheaply. Alternatively you can choose your favourite cookie cutter, stamp or silicone mould and just make a whole batch. I hope you enjoy making some delicious shortbread to share this festive season!

Shortbread biscuits on a board

Scottish Shortbread

Traditional, melt-in-the-mouth shortbread biscuits, dusted in sugar for a perfect festive treat

Course Baking
Cuisine British, Scottish, Vegan
Tags christmas, shortbread, vegan
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cooking Time 10 minutes
Chilling Time 30 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 24 biscuits


  • 200 g vegan butter see notes
  • 135 g caster sugar + more for dusting
  • 325 g plain flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder


  1. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the vegan butter and sugar with a wooden spoon or mixer until combined.
  2. Sieve the flour and baking powder together and add to the butter mixture. Stir together with a wooden spoon until it starts to come together and then use your hands to kneed into a rough dough. It will seem very crumbly at first but this is important for the melt-in-the-mouth texture of the final biscuit.

  3. Knead with your hands for 1-2 minutes until the dough smooths out. The warmth of your hands will help with this, do not be tempted to add extra butter or non-dairy milk to help it combine. Keep kneading until the dough smooths out and you can pick up all the little bits left in the bowl.

  4. Once smooth, transfer to a lightly floured board, shape the dough into a disc shape and wrap in cling film. Place in the fridge to chill for about 30 minutes.

  5. When you’re ready to roll out the dough, preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius. Line and grease two baking trays.

  6. On a lightly floured board, roll out half of the dough with a rolling pin to around 1/2 inch thickness.

  7. To cut into traditional shortbread fingers, measure out 1 x 3 inch fingers with a clean ruler, neatly slice with a sharp knife and transfer carefully to the baking trays. Give them some room for even heat distribution then repeat with the other half of the dough. This will make around 24 fingers.
  8. If you want to make different shapes, you can cut the dough into thirds and use a piece for each shape or make half into fingers and use the other half for different shapes (see below for full guide to shapes).

  9. Bake in the centre of the oven for 10 minutes. The edges should only have a touch of colour and they should still be mostly pale. They may seem soft but will firm up when you get them out of the oven.

  10. Let them cool on the trays for 3-4 minutes before transferring to a wire cooling rack. Using a small sieve (like a tea strainer) evenly dust some more caster sugar on to the biscuits while they are still warm.

  11. Once cool, they are ready to serve! They will keep nicely for 3-5 days.

Recipe Notes

Products used:

Naturli Vegan Block

Shortbread biscuits on a board

Shape Guide:

Shortbread biscuits on a board

FINGER: Roll the dough out and with a clean ruler, measure fingers of 1 x 3 inch and cut carefully with a sharp knife. In a zig-zag pattern, poke holes into the top for a traditional shortbread look using a chopstick or a cocktail stick.

Shortbread biscuits on a board
Shortbread biscuits on a board

ROUND: Use a 2 inch round cutter to cut out circles. You can also use the other side of the cutter to get a fluted edge. They can be dipped in chocolate and drizzled with a contrasting chocolate (e.g. dark with white drizzle, white with milk drizzle – as pictured). I also add chocolate chips to some of both the round and fluted biscuits.

Shortbread biscuits on a board

WEDGE (round triangle):  Take a 2 & 1/2 inch round cutter and cut circles out of the dough. Using a sharp knife, cut down two sides of the circle to make a triangle with a large rounded side. You can use the fluted side of the cutter to press a border onto the round edge and press holes into three neat lines starting from the point.

Shortbread biscuits on a board

WHEEL:  Cut out a fluted circle with a 2 inch cutter, then poke a hole in the centre with a chopstick or cocktail stick. Then using the same tool, gently press eight lines evenly around the biscuits, pointing towards the centre. Then poke holes towards the outer edges of each segment.

Shortbread biscuits on a board

FLOWERS:  Take a 2 inch round cutter and cut out circles. Using 1 & 1/2 inch fluted cutter press a border on to the biscuit and then poke holes in the centre using a chopstick or cocktail stick.

Shortbread biscuits on a board

I made custom temporary cutters out of foil for both the heart and the thistle shapes. You can do this by taking some foil (preferably extra strong), fold it over about 1/2 inch in width and continue to do this as neatly as possible, pressing down the edges really well. Once you have a firm strip, fold the final edge down well.

Then using a ruler to help you shape any corners and something round – I used an icing tip – to shape any curves, shape your cutter as you want and use some sellotape to stick the ends together. These will get a little misshapen as you go along but should hold for one batch. They still give you a more consistent shape than freehand cutting, and you can always clean up the edges before baking.

Shortbread biscuits on a board

HEART:  Take a 9 inch tin foil strip, measure 4 & 1/2 inches to the middle and using a ruler fold in half. Take the undersides of the strip one at a time, then curve the strip round to meet together at the bottom. Once you are happy that you have an even heart shape, sellotape the ends together at the bottom.

Cut your heart shapes out. To decorate, roll the edge of a fluted cutter gently around the edge of the heart to make indented border. Then poke holes in the centre: three rows of three in the centre and then one row of two either side.

Shortbread biscuits on a board

THISTLE:  Take a 10 inch foil strip, measure 1/2 inch from the end, then fold with a ruler, measure 1 & 1/2 inch along and fold again. Measure 1/2 inch again and fold. You now have the top of your thistle. The rest of the length now needs to be curved round to meet the start. Make it more of an oval shape than a circle and then sellotape the ends together with around a 1/2 inch overlap

Cut out your thistle shapes. Then using a chopstick or a cocktail stick, press six lines into the top strip, three each side angled outwards following the edge of the biscuit. Then on the bottom oval, carefully pull the point along the dough to draw a criss-cross pattern. Don’t worry if it looks a bit messy as when it’s baked and dusted with sugar it will cover any imperfections.

Shortbread biscuits on a board
15 comments Add yours
  1. Hi, if I package these would they last a month. Normal shortbread lasts a month however not sure if due to vegan butter it make affect this. Can you let me know. This recipe looks delicious .

    1. Hi Loulou, I personally have never kept them that long so I’m not sure. I would say up to a week in a sealed container would be fine. Let me know how you get on if you try it!

  2. These biscuits are so lovely. Glad i found this recipe after doing a google search for naturli recipes for biscuits. Thank you. Any tips on how to dip them in chocolate, i always find the chocolate clouds and looks naff.

    1. Hi Bryony! I’m glad you like them 🙂 Look up how to temper chocolate – it’s a bit of a faff but will set very shiny and smooth if that’s what you’re after.

  3. I tried these, after 10mins they still looked raw, I put them back in twice! They don’t seem crumbly either? What have I done wrong, just need to check the gas mark conversion too x

    1. Hi Sally, biscuits often will look underdone when you take them out of the oven as they firm up so much as they cool. That may be why you’re not getting a crumbly texture if they’ve been overcooked. The vegan butter also makes a difference, margarine or spread won’t be as crumbly. Hope this helps and you get a better result next time! 🙂

  4. I made these just now with homemade vegan butter. The mixture after I put it in the fridge fell to bits when I went to roll it. I mean crumbs. I can’t find vegan marg or butter in Brazil

    1. Hi Kerrie, I’m sorry to hear that. I’ve never made vegan butter or used it in this recipe unfortunately so I can’t say how it would cause this outcome. The only thing I can suggest is if the dough held together before chilling then just skip the fridge and go straight to rolling it out – you may just want to use some extra flour on your surface to stop it sticking too much. Anna

  5. These are the best shortbread, my mum absolutely loved them and she is a pretty tough one to please! Thanks for the fabulous recipe:)

    1. Thank you Tasha! So glad you and your mum liked them! 🙂

  6. What vegan butter was used? I used earth balance. I kneaded for 20 minutes to have it come together and even then it was questionable and after it rested in the fridge for 30 minutes it was a brick that just crumbled. Also the temperature of the oven took 25 minutes for these to bake and they still tasted under done.

    The only thing I can think of is the quality of butter. Everything was measured out meticulously!! Shortbread fail 100%

    1. Hi Melissa. Something definitely doesn’t sound right there! I use either Naturli or Vitalite vegan butter however these may only be available in the UK. I have never used Earth Balance so can’t say how it would change the result. The only other things I can think that would affect it – was the butter chilled/hard rather than room temp (as that would make it very hard to make the dough) and was the oven temperature used as Fahrenheit rather than Celsius? Hope that helps!

  7. This recipe worked really well. I didn’t have vegan butter so used pure spread and it worked well ( you just don’t get the buttery taste but we had to make do as we’re in isolation!) we will definitely use this over and over again!

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