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!!

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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


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


  • 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


  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.


  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.


  1. These are (or should I say were, since they’re practically gone) delicious! I love shortbread and brown sugar, so this was the perfect combination! The texture was just like shortbread but even better! They were soft in the center and had a nice crisp edge and the sugar was a nice touch! My family LOVED them! I’ll have to try cinnamon next time too! 

    1. Hi Ellen! Thank you so much for reporting back about the shortbread. So happy you all enjoyed it!!

  2. Hi Sally, it’s  me again about those brown sugar shortbread cookies. I sent a picture to your Facebook  page, so you can see what they look like.
    The texture was soft and felt a little doughy. The size of the spread  was ok, just on the thin side
    When I took the cookies off the sheet to put on the rack the parchment paper looked greasy.
    Butter was at room temp. I hr. Did not use Domino sugars.
    Do you slice the dough straight from the fridge after chilling overnight. Hope you can help me.
    Thanks Sally, it is a wonderful recipe and I want to make some more. A definite keeper!

  3. Hi sally can i use this recipe to make cut out cookies ?

    1. Hi Claudia! 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!

  4. 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!

  5. Just made the dough last night. And because I’m a bad person (I usually take baking to an extreme level, without any restraint or forethought whatsoever), I mixed in Nescafe instant granules for a touch of espresso. Before sliding them into the oven a few minutes ago, I prinkled the tops with a bit of extra coarse sugar to go with the rims, and centered a tiny dark chocolate chip on each. Just because I’m like that.

  6. Would this recipe work in the stoneware shortbread pans I use for regular shortbread?  Love the idea of shortbread and brown sugar combo!!

    1. I can’t see why not!

  7. Can you freeze this cookie dough for later?

    1. Yep! See my make ahead tip.

  8. Hi Sally! My family Loves shortbread cookies & I’m so excited to give these a shot, as I too love brown sugars. My question is……can I simply scoop these w/ my ice cream scoop i use for all my cookies & then flatten them prior to baking?  I have no patience for rolling them. Lol. Thank you in advance for your opinion. I’ve enjoyed your recipes & I’m sure these will be no exception.  

    1. Hi Amy! It would probably take you longer to scoop and flatten than it is to roll the dough into 2 logs and slice! And I fear the cookies will spread too much if they are not slice and bake style.

  9. Randy Bennett says:

    Hi Sally, our dough turned out to be too dry. Is it possible the butter was not melted enough? 

    1. Are the cookies dry? Or just the dough?

  10. 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.

  11. Hi Sally! I love your shortbread cookies. I made the hazelnut chocolate ones last year and they were a huge hit with my family. I tried this recipe and they were very tasty but not quite right and I’m wondering where I went wrong.  I chilled the dough but it ended up being really dry and crumbly when I cut the cookies. I was able to bake many of the cookies anyway but they came out sort of oily. Could my butter have been too soft? I live in Southern California and room temperature can often be quite warm. Or were they not wrapped up tightly enough in the fridge? Any tips would be helpful! Thanks!

    1. Hi Emma! The butter *may* have been too soft when you got started. If you decide to make the cookies again, you can add 2-3 Tbsp of flour. This should help your next batch be a little less oily.

  12. Laura | Tutti Dolci says:

    I *love* shortbread and I can only imagine how incredible this brown sugar version is! Can’t wait to try them!

  13. I can’t believe you left out meatloaf in your list of town sugar awesomeness. Put a quarter cup on top instead of horrible ketchup. You’re welcome.

  14. Love your recipes Sally! On this one, my insulated cookie sheet destroyed the cookies, they spread out to a mushy layer and hardened into a candy-like texture! The small batch I did on my regular baking sheet came out fine though. Just wanted to mention that!

    1. Good to know! Thanks Elizabeth, this will help other readers.

  15. Not sure if I’m going wrong here but I chilled them over night and they’re literally bricks, is it supposed to do that or should I leave them to warm to room temperature before baking?

    1. Yep, they’ll be quite hard when slicing. You want a very firm dough.

      1. I went with it and they were great, I will definitely be keeping this recipe. Thank you

  16. While these cookies were delicious, mine spread out a lot & didn’t look anything like yours. I kept the slices chilled until they were ready to go in the oven, but I still ended up with flat cookies. Any suggestions?

  17. Hey Sally. I just turned 13 and am a big fan of your stuff. The air is so dry here. The recipe was going well, but after we added the flour, the dough was crumbly and we had to add a tablespoon of water. Other than that, they’re looking good. My mom wanted to know if we could roll the dough out, cut them into shapes with cookie cutters, chill them, and then bake them. Could we do that? It rolled out well when we tried it. We haven’t cut them yet. Thanks.

    1. Hi Justin! Thank you so much for saying hi 🙂 This cookie dough isn’t ideal for rolling/shaping– they will spread too much. It’s best to use this slice and bake method.

      1. Good morning Sally! I’m Justin’s mom. The cookies worked beautifully rolled and cut out, but I think only because we cut them out, and then chilled them on th e baking sheet for 5-6 hours in the very cold garage. No spreading at all, and they taste wonderfully amazing.

  18. 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.

      1. I tried my best to brute force the sugar on (a sentence I never thought I’d say) but I think the dough was just too dry. Next time I’ll roll in sugar before refrigerating! Needless to say, even the partially sugared cookies were deelish!

  19. Did you use a glass to make an indentation in the cookie dough before baking?

    1. Hi Fran! No I do not.

  20. 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.

  21. 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. 🙂

  22. recipe great… the dough will be hard after sitting in fridge all night or longer… just let it get room temp and then handle it.. (side note: its to many ads on this site..they pop up at bottom and slow page loading and then cause it to stall…hopefully soon you’ll be able to get rid of a few of them…. anywho…. I do love this Blog

  23. Plucky Charms says:

    I’ve made these 2 or 3 times and have made just a few alterations: I used salted butter (because I am nuts for salty-sweet desserts), added a little cinnamon to the dough, and rolled the log in granulated sugar and cinnamon before baking. For me they are like crack—crispy, buttery, slightly salty and with delicious warm flavour. They received unanimous race reviews each time. Thank you, Sally!

    1. I bet they are delish with some cinnamon. You described the texture perfectly! 🙂

  24. 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.

    1. I’m so glad you liked these!

  25. Susan Armstrong says:

    Dough came together nicely and was easy to handle. After reading the comments, I tried to roll the dough in sugar before chilling.

  26. Harini Padmanabhan says:

    I love your recipes and I can’t wait to try this one! Can I use a little royal icing to make it a little more festive and colourful or is that not recommended due to the soft centers?

    1. Yes, absolutely! Royal icing would be fantastic on these.

  27. Hey Sally! Can I add food colour to this dough or will it affect the consistency of the dough? If yes, would gel colour be better or some other kind?

    1. Hi Bushra! I recommend gel food coloring. It’s more potent, so you don’t need as much. (Too much may change the texture of the cookies.)

  28. 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.

  29. 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!

  30. Hey Sally! I discovered your blog about 7 years ago and I have been hooked ever since. Your blog is what sparked my interest and passion for baking! So many of your recipes have become staples and traditions in our home <3
    It I would absolutely love a KitchenAid in Matte Pearl White (Meringue)! xx

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I’m Sally, a cookbook author, photographer, and blogger. My goal is to give you the confidence and knowledge to cook and bake from scratch while providing quality recipes and plenty of pictures. Grab a cookie, take a seat, and have fun exploring! more about Sally