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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

Tell Me About Shortbread!

Traditional shortbread is made from one part sugar, two parts butter, and three parts flour. Eggs and leavening are typically absent, so you enjoy 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 wedge-shaped shortbread cookies and salted chocolate pistachio shortbread.

I also have drop shortbread cookies on my website including cherry almond shortbread cookies and pistachio cookies.

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. Or brown sugar cookies with added pecans. (But trust me, these flavorful cookies aren’t lacking anything!) They actually remind me of snowball cookies.

pecan shortbread cookies
stack of pecan shortbread cookies

So simple, right?

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 1x
  • 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

Scale
  • 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

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. Do you think I could safely add about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of toffee bits to this cookie dough?

    1. Sammi – I wish I’d read your review sooner. I’m going to have to make these again and try adding toffee bits. That sounds amazing.

  2. This looks amazing. Love egg free recipes due to my daughter’s food allergies. Do you think you can use ground almond meal instead? My daughter has a pecan allergy also.

    1. Hi Nili, What about chopping whole almonds so they have a bit more texture than ground almond meal?

    2. Hi Nili, I usually stock up on pre-sliced and peeled almonds from my local Costco, and you might be able to find some in your’s or another local grocery. I thought those might work here!

  3. These cookies look SO holiday yummy!!! Sally, what is your preference in these cookies, light or dark brown sugar?

  4. Sally, these are gorgeous! I’m loving these already 🙂 I adore shortbread, but my family doesn’t share my enthusiasm unless I add a flavor twist to the traditional recipe! So thank you for the perfect recipe to make them happy ♡♡♡

    Also, a question, could I roll the logs in cinnamon sugar as well as chopped pecans for some sparkle and extra flavor, or would it be better to roll the pecans themselves in cinnasugar? (Sorry for the abbreviation :))

    Thanks ♡

    1. Hi Sarah! Adding some cinnamon to the rolling ingredients would be so good! Just mix some cinnamon in with the sugar and pecans for rolling.

  5. These look delicious, Sally 🙂 My mom loves nuts, and with baked goods her top choice is always nuts and chocolate. So I think she would really enjoy these, especially when dipped in melted chocolate! I also think they would look pretty with chocolate drizzled overtop instead. I was wondering whether I could add some cinnamon to the dough itself? I love cinnamon with nuts and shortbread-like cookies, so I feel like it would be a tasty addition to these 🙂 Thoughts?

    1. Hi Erin! These are VERY good with a little chocolate. There’s already cinnamon in the dough, but you can increase it to 1 teaspoon for even more cinnamon flavor!

  6. Hi sally!

    These look absolutely delicious but my son has severe nut allergies would I be able to eliminate the pecans? Would i have to add something else like more flour in their place?

  7. What do you think about doing these with brown butter that has been left to solidify?

    1. Solidified brown butter that’s been brought back down to room temperature would be perfect!

  8. Hi Sally,
    These look amazing! I was wondering if I could substitute some of the butter with cream cheese for this recipe?
    Thanks,
    Laurie

  9. I had a very hard time with this dough. Like it had too much flour? Maybe my ‘room temp butter’ was too hard yet? I keep a cool house. Couldnt roll in the chopped nuts. They just kept falling off

    1. Hi Helen! Let the logs sit at room temperature for 20 minutes, then try rolling again. They likely just need to warm up a bit.

  10. Made these for my coworkers and everyone went wild! Lots of people saying how they couldn’t stop eating after just one (or two or three ). Thanks for always making me seem like an A+ baker with your recipes. Loved the prep, roll, and slice – I’ll have to try your other recipes like that.

  11. Hi Sally,

    I gave these a go today and they are baking now! I tried rolling them in the finely chopped pecans and coarse sugar before baking but the rolls were very dry and nothing would stick to them… they cut very nicely and were not crumby which I was worried about. What are your thoughts on the dryness? Should they have been more sticky prior to baking ?

    1. Hi Katherine! You really have to press those logs down hard into the pecans/sugar for rolling. Or let the logs sit at room temperature for 20 minutes, then try rolling again. They likely just need to warm up a bit.

  12. These cookies are delicious! However, I’m having a hard time with them spreading out as they bake. I did chill the dough for several hours. Any tips?

  13. Hey, I followed the recipe exactly as written, however, during baking the cookies completely flattened out like a Tate’s chocolate chip cookie… any ideas??

  14. These cookies are so good! I love the texture. I skipped the coarse sugar on the edges and they were still great! I want to try your chocolate orange version next. Thanks Sally!

  15. I made these this week and they taste absolutely delicious. My 87-year-old Dad loves nuts and had ordered a 5# box from Texas. Gulp! I made them for him and he is happy. I had great difficulty rolling the chilled log in pecans even though the logs sat out an hour while we ate dinner. Also, I found the baked cookies very tough to bite. I’m wondering if it’s the mixing method–the extra time waiting for it to “come together” in the mixing bowl.

  16. I couldn’t seem to get the dough to come together and I followed the recipe exactly…. I threw 1 egg in after mixing and mixing in my stand mixer… and that made the dough finally all come together. & the cookies taste great. Not quite sure how long I was supposed to wait for the dough to come together mixing…. either way it worked out for me.

  17. This was my first time making cookies and they were delicious. They tasted like mexican sugar cookies to us. Also for me the cook time was 20-25 minutes. I will for sure make these again

  18. Hello Sally, I am sorry to tell you this, but I made loads of things/cookies this December and the only ones that were a fail were yours :/ I am a semi-pro baker and I find very odd that even knowing all the tips and tricks, I just had one out of five of your recipes (to give a ratio) that worked pretty well…I know I may have done something wrong, but if I tell you this it’s because I think a regular baker should be able to ace a recipe with all your tips and not have too much trouble. It should have a little margin of error (we don’t have the same oven etc.). I don’t know maybe I’m wrong but I am very surprised by all these fails. I hope that it is a constructive feedback, I know this kind of comment is not the one you must love but, just saying. Thank you Sally.

    1. Hi Brian, sorry for the trouble with recipes. I know that’s frustrating. Is this the recipe that didn’t work? Or another? Could you tell me what was wrong so I can help troubleshoot? Thanks so much!

      1. Hello Sally, thanks for getting back to me. Yes it was with this recipe but with other recipes also :/. For this one, I chilled overnight, cut it and place them on a super cool baking sheet on a cool cooling rack, and I have an oven thermometer…The coconut cookies from your book didn’t come together at all (I could see even before the oven) so I added some extra egg white but that didn’t work. I noticed you changed the conversions on your recipes between the book and your website, 5 to 30 grams, and that can make a huge difference as you know. Do you make your recipes with the scale for perfect accuracy? Because I think that might be the problem (I work with metrics). Thank you for your feedback

  19. I just made these and they spread like crazy. I followed the recipe to the letter and cannot figure out why so much spread. I left them in the fridge for 5 hours. Both ovens have thermometers to ensure the baking temperature is correct. Any thoughts?
    (Taste is exception though.)

  20. 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. 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!

    1. 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!

  21. 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.

    1. My first try at shortbread and was as easy as you said and delicious. I did bake a couple of minutes longer and next time will roll in nuts and sugar before refrigerating as the log got quite hard in fridge making it almost impossible for the nuts to stick.
      Thanks again

  22. 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!

  23. 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.

    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.

  24. 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

  25. 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!

  26. 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.

  27. 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!

  28. 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. 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.

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