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Buttery and with just the right amount of chew, these brown sugar Christmas Shortbread Cookies are simple to whip up and only require 5 ingredients! Perfect for cut outs or slice and bake–the rich flavor paired with a simple icing and festive sprinkles will be a winner this holiday season!

Christmas shortbread cookies with white icing and red and green holiday sprinkles arranged on counter.
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It’s the most wonderful time of the year for BAKING! And these iced Christmas Shortbread Cookies are so simple to whip up and the cookies themselves require only 5 ingredients.

Traditionally, shortbread cookies contain white sugar or even powdered sugar, but these chewy, buttery goodies are made with brown sugar for a fun twist on this classic cookie!

These Egg Free Sugar Cookies and Peppermint Chip Cookies are also holiday favorites! And if you love egg free cookies–try these Rosemary Orange Cookies for a fun recipe as well!

Why You Will Love This Christmas Shortbread Cookies Recipe:

  1. 5 ingredients! Yes, indeed! And I ALWAYS have every single item on hand. So when I get an itching for some buttery cookies, I can always count on this brown sugar shortbread cookies recipe.
  2. Perfect for cut outs. Christmas baking is so much more fun when you can include the kiddos. Pop out the cookie cutters–everyone will love these iced Christmas Shortbread Cookies–even the child at heart.
  3. Can be made slice and bake. Remember when slice and bake cookies hit the groceries? I sure do. They were a game changer. And so are these. Roll them into a log and you can slice off the number of cookies you need.
  4. Perfect for decorating. The icing may be simple, but it makes for the perfect cookie. A touch of icing and some sprinkles make these cookies gorgeous and delicious! You could also opt for some royal icing if you want to take them up a notch!

Let the baking begin!

Christmas iced cookies arranged on surface with bite taken out of center cookie.

What you need to make this recipe:

  • butter: I use unsalted butter. If you only have salted, just omit the salt when making these Christmas shortbread cookies.
  • flour: all purpose flour, measured by fluffing/stirring and then scooping into measuring cup and leveling with a knife. You don’t want to scoop your measuring cup directly into your flour. I had one recipe tester try these with a 1:1 gluten free flour and found the cookies a bit dry. Gluten free flours may not be ideal for this shortbread cookie recipe.
  • vanilla: I find a good vanilla extract really rounds out the flavor in this recipe. If you can skip the imitation vanilla here, it will make a difference.
  • salt: just a touch, I prefer sea salt
  • icing: The icing consists of powdered sugar, cream and almond extract. Simple, but just the right touch to your cookies. You could use a royal icing if you prefer.
Butter, brown sugar, almond extract, flour and other ingredients arranged on surface for recipe.

How to make these Iced Christmas Shortbread Cookies:

To make these simple brown sugar Christmas Shortbread Cookies, follow the following steps:

  • Cream the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl with a standing or handheld mixer on high. Softened butter should be this consistency. Make sure it is not too soft. The consistency of creamed butter and sugar is light and fluffy and the sugar and butter will be fully incorporated. This step can take several minute. Add in the vanilla and mix to combine.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk 1 3/4 cup flour and salt together. Add half of the flour mixture at a time into the butter mixture and beat to combine. Just mix until it is incorporated and no more.
  • Start to pull the dough together to form a rough ball. Don’t worry if the dough is a crumbly texture at first, it will smooth out! Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup flour over a clean surface. Knead the ball of dough for a couple minutes to add in the remaining flour. Form into 2-3 small balls or form into a log that is about 2 inches in width.
  • Wrap the balls or log in plastic wrap and chill for at least one hour. I have made these chilling them only 30 minutes and while they baked ok, they did spread slightly.
  • Once the cookies have chilled, remove them from the refrigerator. Roll them on a flour dusted surface and use cookie cutters to form shapes or slice the log. I make my cookies at least about 5/8 of an inch. 1/4 of an inch is just a bit too thin and 1/2 inch is too thick. Line them on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. (steps 10-11)
  • Bake in a preheated oven for 12-14 minutes or until they are just starting to become golden brown around the edges. Cool for a minute on the pan and then move to cooling rack. (step 12)
Baked shortbread cookies on cooling rack.

When the cookies are completely cooled, add all the icing ingredients together and whisk until smooth.

Start with half of the milk or cream and slowly add more to desired thickness. Dunk the cookies or spread the icing and add holiday sprinkles on top!

Pink dish filled with iced shortbread cookies with red and green sprinkles.

Recipe Notes and Tips:

  • Chilling is essential when making these cookies. When I tried these Christmas Shortbread Cookies without chilling, they flattened. Chilling helps them keep a nice shape. I recommend chilling for no less than 30 minutes and ideally about one hour.
  • These cookies are great to make ahead. Since you need to chill the dough, it’s easy to prepare in advance and then bake them when you want a few (or ten!) and save the rest for another time.
  • You can freeze this cookie dough. The brown sugar shortbread dough will keep for about 2 months wrapped in plastic and stored in a freezer safe bag as well. I recommend thawing the dough before baking. You can slice off a few cookies from a frozen log and allow them to sit out a bit to thaw.

These buttery, melt in your mouth cookies can easily be varied. Add in some extra ingredients for fun flavors!

  • Cranberry Orange: Add orange zest from one orange and about a cup of dried cranberries. Drizzle with white chocolate when cooled.
  • Citrus: add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon extract (or lime). You can also add in lemon or lime zest.
  • Maple Pecan: add chopped pecans to the cookie dough and then stir in a tablespoon of maple syrup into the glaze (adjusting the amount of cream or milk by one less tablespoon)
  • Peppermint Chocolate: Add 1/2 tsp peppermint extract to the cookie dough and drizzle with melted dark chocolate. Garnish with crushed peppermints.
  • Add some spice: a touch of cinnamon or cardamom would be great. If adding the cardamom, chopped pecans are great with that as well!
Stack of iced brown sugar Christmas shortbread cookies with one cookie propped up against the stack.

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5 from 4 votes

Christmas Shortbread Cookies

Buttery and with just the right amount of chew, these brown sugar Christmas Shortbread Cookies are simple to whip up and only require 5 ingredients! Perfect for cut outs or slice and bake–the rich flavor paired with a simple icing and festive sprinkles will be a winner this holiday season!
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes
Chill: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Servings: 24 cookies

Ingredients 

For the Cookies

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, (2 sticks)softened
  • c brown sugar, packed
  • 1 ½ – 2 tsp Vanilla
  • 2 c flour
  • ½ tsp sea salt

For the Icing

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Instructions 

  • Add brown sugar and butter to mixing bowl or standing mixer bowl. Beat on high to cream until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and beat to incorporate.
  • In a small bowl, whisk the salt and 1 3/4 cup flour together. Slowly add the dry ingredients into the creamed butter and sugar mixture. Mix until fully incorporated.
  • Take the remaining 1/4 cup flour and add it to a clean surface. Transfer the cookie dough to the surface and knead the dough until nice and smooth and the extra flour is incorporated.
  • Divide the dough into either three separate balls (if you plan to roll out for cookie cutters) or roll into one big log for slice and bake. Wrap in plastic wrap tightly and chill for at least 30 minutes.
  • When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Either slice and place on parchment lined cookie sheet or roll out on a flour dusted surface and cut with cookie cutter. I make my cookies a bit over 1/4 inch thickness.
  • Bake for 12-14 minutes or when the edges start to turn golden brown. Allow to sit for 2 minutes on the pan and then transfer to a rack.
  • Wait until completely cool and then whisk icing ingredients together. Spread over each cookie and add sprinkles. Allow the icing to set before serving. (But who is really gonna do that???)
  • Store in an airtight container for about 5-7 days. If they last that long!

Notes

  • Chilling is essential when making these cookies. When I tried these Christmas Shortbread Cookies without chilling, they flattened. Chilling helps them keep a nice shape. I recommend chilling for no less than 30 minutes and ideally about one hour.
  • These cookies are great to make ahead. Since you need to chill the dough, it’s easy to prepare in advance and then bake them when you want a few (or ten!) and save the rest for another time.
  • You can freeze this cookie dough. The brown sugar shortbread dough will keep for about 2 months wrapped in plastic and stored in a freezer safe bag as well. I recommend thawing the dough before baking. You can slice off a few cookies from a frozen log and allow them to sit out a bit to thaw.
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Nutrition

Calories: 169kcal, Carbohydrates: 22g, Protein: 1g, Fat: 9g, Saturated Fat: 5g, Cholesterol: 24mg, Sodium: 53mg, Potassium: 23mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 13g, Vitamin A: 273IU, Calcium: 11mg, Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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