A melt-in-your-mouth Thumbprint Shortbread cookie recipe that is so incredibly easy to make that you can involve the kids in helping you whip them up without worrying that half of the cookies will end up broken.
Thumbprint Shortbread Cookies Recipe
Thumbprint Shortbread cookies are such a classic Christmas cookie, but a lot of shortbread cookie recipes are so finicky that many people get frustrated and write off ever making them again after a couple of failed attempts.
I’ve tried so many different methods of making shortbread – from using rice flour instead of all-purpose, very low baking temperatures with longer cooking times, cornstarch to replace a bit of the flour, etc etc.
While I really enjoyed the delicate crumb of using rice flour, I found the dough so tricky to work with and the finished cookies crumbled so easily that this substitute isn’t personally worth it to me. I want to reliably know how many cookies I will end up with at the end of my baking session and also involve my daughter if she wants to help without fearing that one false move will result in half of the batch being unpresentable or un-giftable (though broken cookies still taste just as good).
This shortbread cookie recipe is absolutely fool-proof! It takes less than 10 minutes to whip up and requires no chilling time.
You still get melt-in-your-mouth shortbread cookies without all of the hassle and heartbreak of more delicate recipes.
The butter in the shortbread dough and the jam used to fill the indentations are the heroes of this recipe so you really want to ensure that you use a butter and jams that you love. I used a variety of different Sara Beth’s jams because my family all has different favorites and I wanted to ensure that everyone had a few cookies that they loved.
Below I’ve included 10 tips to ensure that your shortbread baking experience is super smooth and easy.
Tips for Perfect Shortbread
- Use good-quality butter and don’t substitute with margarine. You want a butter that you enjoy the flavour of because it will form the basis of most of the shortbread’s flavour.
- Use room temperature butter that has been sitting out for a few hours or overnight. Don’t use any hacks like grating or microwaving the butter as you will end up with an over-worked dough.
- Cream the butter and sugar together until very light colored, as you want the sugar to really dissolve well.
- If desired, you can replace a bit of the all-purpose flour with rice flour to give the cookies a lighter texture, but don’t go over replacing half of the flour or the dough will be frustratingly delicate.
- You can chill the dough twice, and it’s a good idea if you’ve spent too much time shaping the dough or have been distracted. Note that I’ve developed this recipe to not need refrigeration, but refrigeration helps develop the flavour and is a good idea if you’re working in a hot or humid kitchen.
- If doing a second chill, it doesn’t need to be for long and you don’t need to cover the dough – in fact, leaving it uncovered for 20-30 minutes in your fridge will help dry out the butter a bit and help the cookies become a bit more light and crisp with baking.
- Ensure that all of the cookies are as close to the same size as possible to ensure even baking. An easy way to do that with thumbprint cookies is to use a cookie scoop or a tablespoon to portion out the dough before rolling and imprinting.
- When forming the shortbread, try not to overwork the dough as it will result in tough cookies.
- You don’t want any browning in the baked cookies – you just want them to be light and set. The minute one cookie starts to show some cracks, the cookies are done.
Can these shortbread cookies be frozen? Yes – that’s one of the best things about shortbread is that it freezes beautifully and the flavour even improves with freezing – and one of my secret indulgences is sneaking a frozen shortbread cookie out of the freezer and enjoying it super cold.
To store, use parchment or wax paper in between layers of the shortbread and store in an airtight freezer bag or your favourite freezer containers (this set of freezer containers is a crazy bargain).
For more classic Christmas cookie inspiration, check out our Classic Christmas Cookies ebook, where we have gathered 40 of our favorite Christmas cookie recipes – from Peanut Butter Buckeyes to Easy Shortbread, Cream Cheese Mints to Toffee Biscuits!
These cookies all share a few things in common:
- They are easy enough for the kids to help make
- They require no special ingredients requiring visits to 5 different grocery stores
- They are Christmas classics that everyone will be excited to see at the Cookie Exchange
- And they are delicious!
To make your holiday baking even easier, we’ve included several tips to ensure the best results so you can just focus on having fun with your kids and trust that these cookies will turn out perfectly, every time.
Grab your copy of our Classic Christmas Cookies ebook:
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Thumbprint Shortbread Ingredients
- Butter, softened
- White Sugar
- Vanilla Extract
- All-Purpose Flour
- Preserves or Jam <– Sara Beth’s is my far our favorite and totally worth the splurge!
Scroll down to the printable recipe card for full measurements.
Tip: use a variety of jams or preserves for some different flavor profiles without much extra work.
Kitchen Tools You May Find Helpful
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Mixing bowl
- Electric mixer <– this is a great hand mixer if you don’t want to make the investment into a stand mixer
- Parchment Paper
- Cookie Sheets
- Cooling racks <– I have and love these tiered cooling racks, they save so much counter space and are also oven-safe
- Small bowl, for holding the sprinkles
- Cookie Scoop
How to Make Thumbprint Shortbread Cookies
Preheat oven to 350ºF.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking sheets.
In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and creamy, at least 2 minutes.
Beat in vanilla extract and then slowly beat in the flour until just incorporated.
Use a cookie scoop to portion out the dough on the prepared cookie sheets, about 1″ apart.
Use an inverted tablespoon to press down on the cookies, flattening them and making a small dip in the center of each cookie.
Bake for 12-15 minutes until just very lightly golden.
Immediately after baking, press the tablespoon back into each indent, as they likely baked up a bit and aren’t as deep.
Cool on the cookie sheet for about 15 minutes
Fill each cookie thumbprint with approximately 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons jam.
Makes 35-40 cookies.
Grab your free printable recipe card for our thumbprint shortbread cookie recipe:
- 1 1/2 cups Butter, softened
- 3/4 cup White Sugar
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
- 3 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour
- 1 cup Preserves or Jam
- Preheat oven to 350ºF.
- Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking sheets.
- In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and creamy, at least 2 minutes.
- Beat in vanilla extract and then slowly beat in the flour until just incorporated.
- Use a cookie scoop to portion out the dough on the prepared cookie sheets, about 1" apart.
- Use an inverted tablespoon to press down on the cookies, flattening them and making a small dip in the center of each cookie.
- Bake for 12-15 minutes until just very lightly golden.
- Immediately after baking, press the tablespoon back into each indent, as they likely baked up a bit and aren't as deep.
- Cool on the cookie sheet for about 15 minutes
- Fill each cookie thumbprint with approximately 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons jam.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 139Total Fat: 7gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 18mgSodium: 58mgCarbohydrates: 18gFiber: 0gSugar: 8gProtein: 1g
Sugar, Spice and Glitter uses an auto-generate nutrition calculator. Nutrition information isn’t always accurate unless analyzed in a scientific lab, so these should be considered more of a guideline than medical information.
I hope your family loves these shortbread cookies as much as mine does – and that your kids enjoy helping you make them, too!
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