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!
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!
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:
- Sprinkle Slice & Bake Cookies
- Santa’s Whiskers Cookies
- Pistachio Chocolate Chunk Slice & Bake Cookies
- Chocolate Orange Slice & Bake Cookies
- 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.
How to Make Pecan Shortbread
Now that you know the style of cookie, let’s walk through the process.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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!
- 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.
Cookie dough is thick & buttery.
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. 🙁
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.
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!
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!
- 1 cup (2 sticks; 230g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 3/4 cup (150g) packed light or dark brown sugar
- 1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 2 and 1/4 cups (280g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup (100g) finely chopped pecans
- 1/4 cup (50g) coarse sugar (I prefer this one)
- 1/4 cup (32g) finely chopped pecans
- 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.
- 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.
- Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Set aside.
- 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.
- 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. 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.
- Cookies will stay fresh covered at room temperature for 1 week.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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