Pecan Shortbread

These pecan shortbread cookies combine butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, and pecans to make one extraordinarily flavorful cookie. Made in 1 bowl without eggs or leavening, this shortbread is soft yet dense with crisp crumbly edges. We’ll use the simple slice and bake method, which helps guarantee thick cookies. No rolling pin required!

pecan shortbread

Welcome to day 8 in Sally’s Cookie Palooza where I’m teaching you how to make buttery pecan shortbread! Let’s back up for a second and talk about shortbread though.

Tell Me About Shortbread!

Traditional shortbread is made from one part sugar, two parts butter, and three parts flour. Shortbread doesn’t contain any eggs or leavening, which gives it that trademark dense/crumbly texture. Butter and sugar add flavor and keep the cookies soft. I have several shortbread variations on my website and some roll-out/cookie cutter shortbread varieties in Sally’s Cookie Addiction cookbook. However, I love using the slice and bake method for this style of cookie. While rolling out and cutting into shapes allows for different designs and decorations, sometimes the dough is just easier to roll into a log and slice like I do with my brown sugar shortbread. Or try baking shortbread in a cake pan and cutting into triangles like my salted chocolate pistachio shortbread.

I also have drop shortbread cookies on my website including cherry almond shortbread cookies and pistachio cookies. Sometimes shortbread cookies can taste dry, so I skip the traditional ratio of ingredients. I like my shortbread cookies extra soft and flavorful!

pecan shortbread


This Pecan Shortbread Is:

  • A 1 bowl cookie recipe
  • Brown sugared & cinnamon spiced
  • Extra soft in the centers
  • Not dry– very buttery
  • Crisp/crumbly on the edges
  • Thick thick thick
  • Coated in toasted pecans and coarse sugar
  • Easy slice-and-bake style

Slice and Bake Cookie Style

If you aren’t already, it’s time to fall in love with the slice and bake cookie.

The cookies are slice-and-bake style, which you know is my favorite. Make the cookie dough, roll into logs, chill the logs, slice the logs, bake the sliced cookies. This isn’t a new concept– I’ve shared a few other variations before including:

  1. Sprinkle Slice & Bake Cookies
  2. Santa’s Whiskers Cookies
  3. Pistachio Chocolate Chunk Slice & Bake Cookies
  4. Chocolate Orange Slice & Bake Cookies
  5. Toasted Hazelnut Slice & Bake Cookies

I even published a chocolate version, a maple walnut version, and a vanilla spice version in Sally’s Cookie Addiction. Some of these flavors include an egg, so they don’t have the same deliciously dense/crumbly texture of today’s shortbread version.


pecan shortbread cookies on a pink cake stand

How to Make Pecan Shortbread

Now that you know the style of cookie, let’s walk through the process.

  1. Make the cookie dough in 1 bowl. Beat butter and sugars together until very creamy. Beat in the vanilla, then add the dry ingredients. Cookie dough will be thick.
  2. Roll into logs. Divide the dough in half on a floured work surface. Do your best to roll each into logs. Why 2 logs? There’s too much dough for 1 log. Plus, two smaller logs chill quicker.
  3. Chill the logs. Wrap each in plastic wrap, then chill for 3-4 hours. All good cookies need to chill out in the refrigerator first!
  4. Roll the logs into chopped pecans. You can actually do this before or after chilling the logs. The pecans on the outer edges become nice and toasty. I actually add a little coarse sugar to the mix, so the edges are crunchy and sweet, too. YES!
  5. Slice & bake. Slice the logs into about 12 cookies, arrange on cookie sheets, and bake.

Here’s a photo of the creamed butter and sugars, as well as a photo of the finely chopped pecans. We want pecan pieces in each bite, so chop them up small.

collage of creamed butter in a bowl and chopped pecans

Cookie dough is thick & buttery.

2 images of pecan slice and bake cookie dough in a bowl and wrapped as logs

Chill the Cookie Dough as Logs

Chilling the dough is key to this pecan shortbread. Divide the cookie dough in half, then roll each half into a log. Chill these logs for at least 3-4 hours. Seems like awhile, but I actually prefer to chill them overnight– so this is a fantastic recipe to make ahead. If you skip the chilling, expect the Great Cookie Spread on your baking sheets. 🙁

2 images of pecan slice and bake cookie dough

sliced pecan shortbread cookie dough on a baking sheet

Only 8 Ingredients in Pecan Shortbread

Have I mentioned you only need 8 basic ingredients? And isn’t it incredible how many different cookie recipes we can make from the same basic ingredients including butter, sugars, vanilla, flour, cinnamon, salt, and nuts?

Just another reason why it’s ok to shout “I LOVE BAKING” from the rooftops.

I love how the cinnamon, brown sugar, vanilla, and pecan flavors combine in 1 cookie. Sort of like my maple pecan sticky buns and maple brown sugar cookies, only without the maple. (But trust me, these flavorful cookies aren’t lacking anything!) They actually remind me of my snowball cookies.

pecan shortbread cookies

stack of pecan shortbread cookies

So simple, right? And if you’re feeling decadent, you can dip the cooled cookies into a little melted chocolate like I do with my toasted hazelnut slice and bake cookies!

What is Sally's Cookie Palooza?

Sally’s Cookie Palooza is my annual Christmas cookie countdown tradition. First starting in 2013, every December we countdown to Christmas with 10 new cookie recipes in a row. Over the next two weeks, I’m publishing 10 new cookie recipes. This is the biggest, most delicious event of the year! Sign up for instant updates and you’ll receive a free email alert whenever I publish a new recipe. 🙂

Click to see Sally’s Cookie Palooza over the years!

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pecan shortbread

Pecan Shortbread

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 3 hours, 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 14 minutes
  • Total Time: 4 hours
  • Yield: 2 dozen
  • Category: Desserts
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Made in 1 bowl without eggs or leavening, this pecan shortbread is soft yet dense with crisp crumbly edges. We’ll use the simple slice and bake method, which helps guarantee thick cookies. No rolling pin required!


Ingredients

  • 1 cup (2 sticks; 230g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (100g) packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 and 1/4 cups (281g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup (100g) finely chopped pecans

Rolling

  • 1/4 cup (50g) coarse sugar (I prefer this one)
  • 1/4 cup (32g) finely chopped pecans

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl using a hand-held mixer or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar together on medium-high speed until combined and creamy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the vanilla extract on high speed. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Add the flour, cinnamon, and salt, then beat on low speed until combined. Beat in the chopped pecans. The cookie dough may look like it won’t come together, but keep beating– I promise, it will! The cookie dough will be thick.
  2. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and, with floured hands, divide or cut into two. Shape each half into an 8-inch log, about 2.5 inches in diameter. The measurements don’t have to be exact. Tightly wrap the logs in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 3-4 hours and up to 5 days. Chilling is mandatory for this cookie dough. I prefer to chill mine for 4 hours or even overnight– the colder the dough, the thicker the cookies.
  3. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Set aside.
  4. For Rolling: You can actually roll the logs before or after chilling them. Mix the coarse sugar and chopped pecans together on a large plate. One at a time, roll the log into the mixture. Press it down so the nuts and sugar stick to all sides.
  5. Slice each log into 12 equally thick cookies and place cookies on baking sheets about 2 inches apart.
  6. Bake the cookies for 12-14 minutes or until brown around the edges. Remove from the oven and allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
  7. Cookies will stay fresh covered at room temperature for 1 week.

Notes

  1. Make Ahead Instructions: Baked cookies freeze well up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature, if desired, before serving. You can make/assemble the cookie dough logs and chill in the refrigerator for up to 5 days (see step 2). Cookie dough logs freeze well too, up to 3 months. Allow the logs to thaw overnight in the refrigerator then continue with step 3.
  2. Pecans: I always use unsalted raw pecans. If you love salty sweet cookies, you can use salted/roasted pecans. Whichever you use, chop the pecans into very fine pieces. The smaller the pecan pieces, the more that can squeeze into each cookie and around the edges. It will be impossible to roll the logs into large chunks of pecans.
  3. Be sure to check out my top 5 cookie baking tips AND these are my 10 must-have cookie baking tools.

Keywords: shortbread, pecans, egg free, Christmas cookies

85 Comments

  1. These taste nice but are not shortbread. Short bread should be thick, buttery and a bit crumbly (I’m from the UK) . I followed the recipe exactly, my butter was room temperature, pecans were finely chopped, logs were chilled for 4 hours. They came out more like cookies with a slightly soft centre. They are extremely sweet too, the granulated sugar is not needed, the brown sugar is enough.
    P. S. Big fan of some of your other recipes!

  2. Hi Sally!
    I’ve baked things from your blog before, but after yet another success I thought I had to leave a comment now!
    These cookies are absolutely delicious and a dream to make! So easy, such great results! Will be making these again for sure! Thank you for your amazing recipes!
    Margot (from Belgium)

  3. Catherine Notley says:

    These cookies were really not good in spite of following the recipe exactly. They spread way too much. They were too hard, too sweet and nothing like at all shortbread. A real fail and a disappointment.

  4. I made these and they are delicious! I wanted to leave a comment to counteract some of the mixed reviews. I followed the recipe as written, aside from toasting the pecans before mixing them into the dough. I also dipped them in chocolate, as you suggested. Delightful!

  5. These cookies are amazing. Followed directions, refrigerated overnight, rolled in chopped pecans and turbinado sugar. Had to bake a bit longer, but I think that’s my oven. They came out just like your pics! Thanks for a great recipe!

  6. Wow, these cookies are fabulous – so good that they’ve quickly moved to the top of my husband’s favorite list! Made as directed, but next time will roll the logs into chopped pecans before chilling as it was harder for nuts to adhere with logs fresh out of the fridge. Will be making these again soon!

  7. Hi Sally,

    I am planning to make this recipe as part of my hamper gifts for my friends. I live in the UK and we don’t really have any coarse sugar. What would you suggest using instead ?

    Thank you:)

  8. Hi Sally,

    One of my friends has stopped using sugar and I thought I would substitute it with date paste. Do you think that would work in this recipe?

    Thank you so much

    1. Hi Zita, unfortunately that wouldn’t be ideal in a shortbread/slice and bake style cookie recipe unless the recipe is specifically formulated for its addition.

  9. Hi Sally, I’m just getting ready to try this recipe and I’m very excited. My question is, have you tested it with gluten free one to one flour?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Amy, we haven’t tested this recipe with a gluten free 1:1 flour, but let us know if you do!

  10. Soooo delicious! Thanks for the recipe Sally! If anyone wants to try these gluten free I can tell you they taste amazing, as I make everything gluten free, and they were a huge hit!

  11. Chaitali Patel says:

    Sally, thanks so much for putting this together – we loved it!

  12. These cookies were really, really good. We typically make the same several types of cookies every year and try out a couple of new types as well. I think these ones will make it into the regular mix! I thought the pecans were such a nice addition to a Christmas shortbread. The perfect mix of sweet and nutty! Loved by everyone!

  13. These came out delicious. I didn’t have pecans so used almonds instead. Just wondering whether these can be chilled in the freezer to save time? if so how long would you recommend?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Lorraine, so happy you loved them! Chilling in the freezer will chill the dough unevenly, we suggest sticking with the refrigerator for best results.

    2. I chilled in the freezer for 1hr and they turned out amazing

  14. Lorraine Carlile says:

    Hi Trina, I was in a hurry so I did put the dough in the freezer before I got your reply but only for 30 mins and then 30 mins in the fridge. The cookies weren’t perfect (they spread a bit) but they tasted just as good. Thanks for your reply.

  15. These sound absolutely incredible! I recently purchased some ground pecans (pecan flour) and I was curious if I could perhaps substitute this for some of the regular flour for a grainer texture (and perhaps even tastier) cookie? Would love to hear what you think before I make them this weekend 🙂

    Thanks!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Ashley! That sounds delicious. It wouldn’t be a 1:1 swap because the pecan flour will contain fats and be much more heavy. We can’t say for certain since we haven’t tested it, but would love to hear what you end up trying.

  16. Cynthia Campinell says:

    Hi Sally. What is your opinion of confectionary vs granulated sugar for shortbread? I have seen recipes for both. Thanks

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Cynthia. We use granulated as it provides structure to the shortbread.

  17. Madeleine Cogbill says:

    Hi I have a problem. I have made these cookies twice. The first time, they spread in the oven. The second time I weighed my flour, and not only did the spread, but they came out bubbly. Any idea what the problem is?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Madeleine, is it possible your butter was a bit warmer than room temperature? That’s usually the culprit for spreading cookies — if you’re interested, we share more on what room temperature butter really means here. You might also try extending the chill time for your dough or placing the sliced cookies back in the fridge for a few minutes before putting them in the oven. Cold cookie dough is key to preventing spread. Hope these tips are helpful for next time!

  18. I made an almond version of these, and they are delicious! We love your recipes, Sally! Thank you.

  19. hi sally! rather than making into a log and slicing, would forming into balls and slightly flattening work, while still giving it it’s fridge time as you stated(and rolling in pecans) ? thanks 😉

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Sonny, That should be fine. Let us know if you give this recipe a try!

      1. they worked and came out fabulous! my husband LOVED them, definitely one of his top 3 favorites!!!

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