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!

Print
clock clock icon cutlery cutlery icon flag flag icon folder folder icon instagram instagram icon pinterest pinterest icon print print icon squares squares icon
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 (280gall-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

90 Comments

  1. Susan M Torres says:

    Hi Sally
    I made my first batch however, the center of the cookie is real soft and edges are not brown do I put them in for a few minutes longer. Thoughts??

    Merry Christmas!
    Susan

    1. Susan M Torres says:

      Okay the extra 3 minutes worked! They look delicious!!

      1. My dough was rather crumbly and dry, refused to pick up my very finely chopped pecans so i ended up pressing them in.
        I measured carefully and can’t see how it went wrong dryness- wise.
        It then spread out more than id like – probably it warmed up from me fiddling with the pecans. The flavour of the end result was also rather sweet and not particularly short bread like to my scottish sensibilities.
        A fan of your other recipes though!

    2. Hi, Susan – yes, you can certainly put them in for a few minutes longer. Oven times / temperatures may vary by oven. Just keep a close eye on them. Hope you enjoyed this recipe!

  2. Wow! These are going to be a regular for me! The flavor was amazing and the touch of cinnamon was just right. I did end up doing the final mixing with my hands at the end because it wasn’t coming together and I didn’t want to over mix them.

  3. I want to preface this with the fact that I’m an avid follower of your work and have had many great successes using your recipes. That said, I was SO disappointed by this recipe. I was extremely excited to try it—these cookies looked and sounded so good! Like one of the previous commenters, I followed all directions down to the last detail, but this still was a total flop. The cookies spread till they were flat, and they fell apart like granola—the opposite of shortbread! I used my kitchen scale to measure everything. All ingredients were at room temp and combined in the recommended order. I chopped my pecans very finely. One half of the batch I refrigerated for several hours before baking, and another batch I even FROZE before baking. Didn’t matter. They were awful. I just can’t stop wondering how you got yours to turn out right. Such a puzzle.

    1. Hi Tracy! I am just seeing your comment now. I would love to help. I’m so sorry these pecan shortbread cookies were a flop for you. I have a couple suggestions if you want to try the recipe again. First, the finely chopped pecans act as a dry ingredient here. The pecans may not have been crushed finely enough, so they acted more like an add-in in your cookie dough. Make sure they’re chopped very fine. I also fear your butter may have been too warm. That’s always the likely culprit behind cookies over-spreading. If it’s helpful, browse my Room Temperature Butter post to learn more. Room temperature butter is actually cool to touch. And, finally, you may find my 10 Guaranteed Tips to Prevent Cookies from Spreading helpful too.

      Thank you so much for the feedback!

  4. This recipe is so easy. It’s all done in one bowl and it’s the slice and bake method instead of rolling out the dough. I followed the recipe exactly. The cookies came out nice and thick and chewy on the inside. So little effort to make such a classy and tasty cookie! I will definitely make this again.

  5. Can I use coconut oil as a substitute for the butter?
    Thanks, AJ

    1. I would not recommend it. I fear it would not cream well with the sugars, and butter helps to give shortbreads their traditional dense, crumbly texture.

  6. I’ve always loved the store-bought kind, but this recipe just blew my family and me away! I’m pretty sure we ate all of these within 2 days.

    With all my bad experiences with cookies, I wasn’t sure about trying another cookie recipe, especially not shortbread (it was terribly crumbly and flavorless), but I’m glad I tried this one! I didn’t know that slice-and-bake cookies could be so easy!

    I did end up using raw sugar instead of coarse sugar on the outside, but I think I’ll leave that out next time as it was a bit too sweet.

    1. This is a very tasty cookie but it did not turn out much like shortbread. It was more chewy and delicious almost like an oatmeal cookie…without the oatmeal haha. Still worth making but not a pecan sandie substitution

  7. I would really like to make these into *bourbon* pecan shortbread, however there are not wet ingredients I could easily swap out for a little dash of bourbon. Is there a way to do it without altering the recipe overly much?

    1. Hi Robyn! Unfortunately adding liquid to this cookie dough would require additional testing, so I can’t confidently give any advice (and would hate to steer you wrong!). Let me know if you try anything!

  8. Thought this had good flavor and smelled amazing in the oven. However, my cookies turned a beautiful color but were crispy and hard rather than dense and crumbly (almost soft). Maybe I overbaked? But then they would look quite pale and not like the image… Not sure what happened, but I would try again and see if it fixes.

    1. Hi Shae, it sounds like the cookies were over-baked, which is an easy fix if you decide to try the recipe again.

  9. Theresa Douglas says:

    I ended up doing these all in the food processor and they were so easy! I refrigerated them for three days (forgot about them!) 😀 and then sliced and baked. I took them out a tiny bit early as not to overcook them. Man-o-man, are they delicious!

  10. Hi, i recently stumbled upon when looking for egg free, make ahead cookies. You have an awesome collection of recipes that i instantly fell in love with

    Can you please tell me if i can roll the logs in peacan and then freeze them? If yes how long can they be frozen. I have 2 girls who love cookies and no time to make fresh often, hence looking for options.

    Thanks

    1. Hilari @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Anitha, thanks so much for your kind words! See recipe note #1 about make ahead instructions. When rolling the logs into the pecan coating, really press down so the nuts and sugar stick to all sides.

  11. 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!

  12. 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)

  13. Hi Sally! Pecans are a bit pricey in my area. Do you think it will work if i swap it with walnuts?

    1. Absolutely!

  14. Given this is a pecan cookie my question may seem odd, however, can these be made without pecans or by substituting a non-nut ingredient? My son has a severe nut allergy. We love shortbread and the recipe looks great, just not sure how to make this one nut free.

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Terrilyn, You can leave the pecans out without making any other changes. You may also enjoy this Brown Sugar Shortbread!

  15. 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.

1 2

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

With kitchen-tested quality recipes and step-by-step tutorials, my goal is to give you the confidence to bake and cook from scratch.

Sally's signature

Recipes You’ll Love

Archives

Categories

Join the community on the 1st of every month as we tackle a new challenge recipe.Review Sally's Baking Challenge FAQ page if you have any questions.

View More

A tradition since 2013, every December we countdown to Christmas with 10 new cookie recipes in a row!

View More

The first week of every November is all about Thanksgiving Pies.

View More

My Cookbooks

Sally's Cookbooks

About Sally

Welcome to my Kitchen!

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

×