Brown Sugar Shortbread

Chewy, crisp, and tender brown sugar shortbread is made with a combination of light and dark brown sugar for the best flavor. These slice and bake style cookies are simple to make and you’ll love the extra sparkle of coarse sugar on the edges!

brown sugar shortbread cookies

I teamed up with Domino® Sugar to bring you today’s cookie recipe. Domino® Sugar is sold where I live, but if it’s not sold near you, look for their sister brand, C&H® Sugar. It’s been my choice for years and that’s not because they are a hop, skip, and jump away– but because it’s pure quality. You can taste the difference in your baking when you use an exceptional sugar. Today, we’re baking with Domino® Brown Sugars.

Brown Sugar is The Best

Brown sugar is my favorite ingredient in the kitchen and hopefully I’ve convinced you by now why (all of my brown sugar recipes here). It’s THE BEST. Brown sugar leaves its alluring moisture wherever it goes, not to mention the home-sweet-home aroma and flavor of sweet molasses. Reminds you of grandma’s baking, doesn’t it? Grandma knows best.

Soft and simple, brown sugar is a best friend to some of life’s greatest treasures: cinnamon, BACON, maple, pumpkin, caramel, oatmeal, peaches, and did I mention bacon? The list goes on. Respect, brown sugar, respect.

brown sugar shortbread cookies

Don’t let simplicity fool you. My favorite traditional shortbread recipe is in Sally’s Cookie Addiction. I took that recipe as my starting point and worked to create a super buttery brown sugar version. Crisp on the edges and tender in the center, this is a simple brown sugar shortbread. But don’t let its humble look fool you. Even though it’s quite modest without the addition of chocolate chips, caramel drizzles, nuts, fudge explosions, candy pieces, etc… it stands up to even the most decadent cookie.

bags of domino light brown sugar and domino dark brown sugar

Brown Sugar Shortbread Ingredients

You only need a few staples to make brown sugar shortbread. That’s the thing about shortbread– it’s awesomely simple using only a handful of basic ingredients, no eggs or leavening agents needed. With so little ingredients, you want to make sure you’re using the right ones– and the best quality ones. Let’s review:

  • Flour: Sturdy all-purpose flour is the base of this shortbread cookie recipe.
  • Salt: We use a little salt to balance out some of the sweetness.
  • Butter: Can’t have buttery shortbread without butter. Make sure it’s at proper room temperature before beginning.
  • Brown Sugar: Brown sugar is the most important ingredient in today’s cookie. We’ll be using both Domino® Light Brown and Dark Brown Sugars in this recipe. Why both? This combination offers a better flavor in your cookie. You can, of course, use only light or only dark, but I highly suggest the combination of the two.
  • Vanilla Extract: A cookie’s best friend! Try using homemade vanilla extract.

2 logs of brown sugar shortbread dough on a white plate rolled into coarse sugar

log of brown sugar shortbread dough cut into slices on a wood cutting board

Slice and Bake Style

We’ll make the cookies slice-and-bake style, my favorite. This isn’t a new concept– I’ve shared a few other variations on Sally’s Baking Addiction before (and 3 more recipes in Sally’s Cookie Addiction):

Chilling the dough is key to baking slice-and-bakes. You’ll divide the buttery dough in half, then roll each half into a log. Chill these logs for at least 4 hours. Seems like awhile, but I actually prefer to chill them overnight– this is a fantastic recipe to make ahead. After the logs are chilled, slice them up and bake.

If you skip the chilling, expect the cookies to massively spread on your baking sheets.

zoomed in image of a stack of brown sugar shortbread cookies

overhead image of brown sugar shortbread cookies on a white plate

For a little extra sparkle, roll the logs into coarse sugar. Totally optional, but you know how I feel about sparkles. PLUS it gives the edges more crunch. Love the added texture, especially paired with the softer centers.

brown sugar shortbread cookies on a white plate

stack of brown sugar shortbread cookies on a white plate

If brown sugar is your weakness, this shortbread is a no-brainer!!

Print
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zoomed in image of a stack of brown sugar shortbread cookies

Brown Sugar Shortbread

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 4 hours, 45 minutes
  • Yield: 2 dozen
  • Category: Cookies
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Chewy, crisp, tender, and EASY brown sugar shortbread!


Ingredients

  • 2 and 1/4 cups (281g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks; 230g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 cup (200g) packed light brown sugar 
  • 1/3 cup (67g) packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • optional: 2/3 cup (135g) coarse sugar, for rolling

Instructions

  1. Whisk the flour and salt together in a medium bowl.
  2. In a large bowl using a handheld mixer or a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter, light brown sugar, and dark brown sugar together on medium-high speed until completely smooth and creamy. Add the vanilla and beat until combined.
  3. On low speed, slowly add the dry ingredients. Turn the mixer up to high speed and beat until the dough comes together.
  4. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and, with floured hands, divide into two. Shape each half into an 8-inch log, about 2.5 inches in diameter. Tightly wrap the logs in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours and up to 5 days. Chilling is mandatory for this cookie dough. I always chill mine overnight.
  5. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. (Always recommended for cookies.) Set aside.
  6. Remove logs from the refrigerator and roll into coarse sugar, if desired. It’s added only for a little crunch! Slice each log into 12 equally thick cookies and place cookies on baking sheets about 2 inches apart. Bake the cookies for 12-14 minutes or until brown around the edges. Allow to cool for 5 minutes on the cookie sheet, then transfer to cooling rack to cool completely.
  7. Cookies will stay fresh covered at room temperature or in the refrigerator for 1 week.

Notes

  1. Make Ahead Instructions: Baked cookies freeze well for up to 3 months. Cookie dough logs freeze well too, up to 3 months. Allow the logs to thaw overnight in the refrigerator then continue with step 6.
  2. Special Tools: KitchenAid Stand Mixer, Baking Sheet, Silpat Baking Mat, Cooling Rack, and Coarse Sparkling Sugar
  3. Be sure to check out my top 5 cookie baking tips AND these are my 10 must-have cookie baking tools.

46 Comments

  1. Can I roll the logs in regular colorful sprinkles instead of sugar?  

    1. Definitely!

  2. Any issues with this dough to use a cookie scoop approach (just making sure to chill) (vs. slice/bake)?
    Thanks!

    1. Hi Karen! The dough is much too finicky for drop cookies. They will spread quite a bit. You’ll need the dough to chill in a log and slice.

  3. These look delicious. Did you press the cookie with the bottom of a glass after baking to get that extra “rim” around the edges?

    1. I didn’t! The center of the cookies slightly sink (especially if they are slightly underbaked, which is how I like them!).

    2. Can you use a mold for these like a brown bag cookie mold to shape?

  4. Hi Sally! I just made these, and they are AMAZING! They are so light and flaky, and even have sort of a nutty aroma comparable to the brown butter chocolate chip cookies! My only error is they came out so greasy, as if I used too much butter perhaps? I used room temp butter as suggested, so I am wondering what you suggest to take the greasy-ness out? Regardless, they are amazing, and my parents said they will not last all day!

    1. Well I’m happy you still enjoyed them! Do you think they were under-baked at all? Thank you for reporting back! 🙂

  5. Cookie Palooza! My favorite time of the year I Currently have these chilling in the fridge! So excited to make them. Am I able to roll out the dough and use cookie cutters? Or will they crazy spread? Thinking I’m going to slice/bake one log and try to roll out the other and decorate with my daughter. Thank you!

    1. Hey Jasmin! The dough won’t hold up very well to shapes, so I strongly suggest the slice and bake method. But let me know anything you try!

  6. Just finished making these brown sugar shortbread cookies and they are perfect – delicious and beautiful! I also made your no-bake chocolate coconut snowballs which are equally amazing. Thanks for the fantastic cookie recipes this year!

  7. These spread like crazy (very tasty, spread cookies)…and I can’t figure out what I did wrong. I used all light brown sugar because that is what I had on hand, would that have done it? Was my butter too soft when I made the dough? I chilled for 2 days. I even chilled again after rolling in sugar. Any tips would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for all you do!

    1. Hi Carrie! Thank you for reporting back about the brown sugar shortbread. The butter *may* have been too soft when you got started. But if you decide to make the cookies again, you can add 2-3 Tbsp of flour. This should help your next batch.

  8. Hi Sally!
    I am in the process of making these cookies right now. I took my dough out this morning and it’s rock hard so the course sugar isn’t sticking. I’ve let them sit out for almost an hour and it’s still not sticking– maybe there’s too much flour on the outside? Should I have rolled them in sugar before refrigerating? Thanks for your help!

    1. Hi Leah! Can you use a little arm muscle to press the logs into the sugar? If you decide to make the cookies again, you can roll the logs in coarse sugar before chilling.

  9. Hi Sally. I followed the exact measurements and chilled the dough overnight but my dough feels rock hard.

    Is it supposed to be this hard?

    1. Yes. It’s the solidified butter. Are you able to slice the logs? Let them sit out for 10 minutes if they’re too hard to slice through.

  10. Elizabeth Furtado says:

    What happens if I use ALL light brown sugar? Would that be okay?

    1. Hi Elizabeth! Using all light brown sugar is perfectly fine. 🙂

  11. Just pulled these beauties from the oven! Delish! I only had light brown sugar, dark is hard to find in my area. I added a tablespoon of molasses to deepen the flavor. Thanks for a great recipe to add to my repitiore.

  12. I followed the directions and chilled for 24 hours, but my cookies are spreading some are carmelizing on the edges. What did I do wrong? I usually have great success with your recipes.

    1. Hi Amanda! Perfect timing. I just published an entire post about ways to help avoid cookies from over-spreading. You’ll find #7 most helpful about adding another 2 Tbsp flour.

  13. Ok, these cookies are insanely delicious! I had light brown and demerara sugars on hand, no sparkling golden sugar to roll, but they were still fantastic!
    I chilled the dough overnight, and they sliced perfectly and didn’t spread too much.
    My only regret is not doubling the batch 🙁
    Great recipe!

  14. I love shortbread cookies but these have got to be the best! Made half a batch and topped them with dulce de leche and a generous sprinkling of salt. Question though, do you think this could be made with brown butter? Im thinking of browning butter, letting it solidify, and then bring to room temp before baking.

    1. I’m thrilled you enjoyed them so much! And yes – please try them with brown butter and then let me know how they turn out! I bet they would be amazing!

  15. This recipe is amazing! I substitute a mixture of gluten free flours, and it’s fantastic. Sometimes a light dusting of flaked salt on top of each. Wow!!

  16. Can this recipe be made into bars? I want to use it for the base of billionaire bars.

    1. Hi Robin, I haven’t tested it but I don’t see why not. I’m unsure of the bake time needed.

      1. Robyn Plue Horn says:

        Worked great! 17-20 minutes.

  17. While the recipe looks great, and I loved the brown sugar cookie recipe, and am looking to use the rest of a bag of brown sugar (it’s dry here, and I hate owning a brown rock in my cabinet), I wanted to bring up something that’s bugging me a little in the post.

    The only difference between light and dark brown sugar is the amount of molasses added. Saying that using two different sugars results in a more complex flavor isn’t accurate. There’s no difference other than molasses level. Now, if you’d used different KINDS of sugars, like coconut or date sugar, that might actually be more complex.

    I feel like what you’re trying to say is that the combination gives them a more balanced flavor. From a read of the recipe, it seems like the dark brown sugar gives just a little more depth, but not so much that it starts getting into molasses cookie territory. Sorry for the nitpick, it just made my chef brain tweak a bit. I love your recipes, and have made several over the years. They never fail and flavor’s always on point. (Which I love, because I cannot tell you how many blog-recipe travesties I’ve had. I can tell you test these, unlike a lot of people, who seem to crank out spurious posts for clicks.) You’ve been at this long enough that you might consider some basic cooking classes, just to open up your vocabulary and immerse in with professionals to absorb the lingo. You clearly have “it”- a naturally good palette at the very least- and being able to talk the talk would only enable you to make even better content. And it’s already great, so just imagine, eh? 🙂

  18. Adriana Allegri says:

    This is a wonderful recipe. I like less sweetness, so I used 1 cup of dark brown sugar only, then added a little more flour to get the right stiffness. No issues.

    Also…I flavored the last two batches. First one has grated lemon rind. Second has grated orange rind and a little cinnamon.

    Also, amazing to drizzle melted chocolate over once cool. Extra special.

    Fantastic cookie!

  19. This is officially my new favorite cookie. Crispy, chewy, delicious carmel-y brown sugar flavor… not only the best cookie I made this year but the easiest! Sally, you never lead me wrong!

  20. Hi Sally – I just made these cookies and they are excellent! I love brown sugar, but am not a huge cookie fan. However, I just ate more of these than I care to admit! Thank you for posting consistently good recipes.

  21. Hi Sally, I made these cookies and they were amazing and a definite hit with those who received them in my cookie boxes.

    My question is, is it okay if after the logs are chilled for the 4 hours, I can slice them and then freeze in ready to go rounds? Or would it be better for them to chill for half the time, then slice and freeze? I would love to have these ready to go when the craving for them strikes!

    Looking forward to your response!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Rox, we don’t see why it wouldn’t work to slice then freeze them! You can slice after chilling the dough for a couple hours to harden it up a bit for clean slices.

  22. How long will this dough hold in the refrigerator? I added home made toffee bits and am anxious to see home they come out. The dough looks really nice.

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Sue, Dough can be tightly wrapped and chilled for up to 5 days. Hope you love them!

      1. Hi Trina thanks for the info. I baked them yesterday and they are amazing!
        I added homemade toffee chips to them and really love the extra flavor. Bringing them to my friends today I’m sure they will love them!

  23. Great cookie when you are trying to avoid white sugar!! I went a step further and added roasted pecans to the dough & it gave it a great nutty flavor.

  24. I have my first batch of these cookies in the oven. I sliced the first log right out of the refrigerator and the slices tried to crumble and fall apart. Do I need to warm them up a little?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Kate, you can certainly try letting the dough warm up for a few minutes before slicing. It’s also possible that there was too much flour in the dough, causing it to crumble when sliced. Did you use the spoon and level method to measure? Let us know how they turn out for you!

      1. I used the ingredient weights in the recipe–I generally weigh all my ingredients. I let the 2nd roll sit on the counter for about 20 minutes before slicing and took great care, so none of those slices fell apart. The cookies aren’t as uniform as yours because of the difficulty slicing, but they were certainly worth the effort. They taste great!

  25. I love this recipe, and have made it successfully before, but lately the cookies melt in the oven *every time*.
    I’ve tried baking it at higher/lower temperatures. Made sure my dough is cold before baking. Added more flour to the recipe, but nothing seems to work. What could I be doing wrong?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Lache, assuming you are using the same ingredients each time the culprit could be the butter. It sounds like perhaps your butter was left out to soften a bit too long (heres more on what room temperature butter really means). Also be sure that when you bake them you are placing them on cool cookie sheets – and not hot pans that have just come out of the oven. It might also be helpful to review this post on how to prevent cookies from spreading for next time. Hope this is helpful!

  26. These are really good! It’s probably the best shortbread I’ve ever had!

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