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Sourdough Shortbread Cookies

Shortbread cookies are an under-appreciated cookie but are so delicious and easy to make. My sourdough shortbread cookies strike a perfect balance of sweet and buttery flavors and have a unique sourdough twist. Combined with a delightfully crumbly texture and crisp golden edges, this buttery cookie recipe is sure to be a hit. 

sourdough shortbread cookies stacked on one another on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Why You Will Love these Sourdough Shortbread Cookies

Sourdough shortbread cookies are easy to make. This simple recipe requires only a few pantry staple ingredients you probably already have. These buttery shortbread cookies are a great recipe to have on hand as they can be made into several different variations. I used this base recipe for several of my other sourdough cookie recipes, including my sourdough thumbprint cookies, my maple pecan sourdough shortbread cookies, and my sourdough dark chocolate chocolate orange shortbread cookies (the hint of orange zest flavor in these cookies is so good!). 

How to Use Sourdough Starter in Shortbread Cookies

The key to making good shortbread cookies with sourdough starter is not adding too much liquid. Liquid causes cookies to spread and become puffy, which is not the texture we want to achieve with shortbread cookies. 

This recipe requires no eggs and and the only liquid comes from the starter and the small amount of vanilla extract. The result is delightfully crumbly and buttery cookies you expect from a perfect classic shortbread cookie.

Ingredients and Substitutions

sourdough shortbread cookie ingredients in individual measuring cups and bowls.
  • Butter: This recipe calls for unsalted butter but you can also use salted butter if that is what you have on hand. 
  • Sugar
  • Sourdough starter: Use 100% hydration starter for this recipe. It can be active sourdough starter or sourdough discard straight from the fridge.
  • Vanilla
  • Salt
  • Flour: This recipe uses all purpose flour but you can also use bread flour if desired. 
  • Optional variation: If you want to give these sourdough discard shortbread cookies a little bit of extra flavor, you can add lemon zest (about the zest from 1 lemon) to the recipe. This will brighten the flavors of the cookies and is a great variation for the spring time. 

A Little Bit of Science

You will notice that there is no leavening agent (like baking soda or baking powder) in these cookies. We actually do not want the cookies to rise or spread for the optimal texture so we avoid these ingredients in this recipe. 

How to Make Sourdough Discard Shortbread Cookies

Step 1: Mix the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed. If you do not have a stand mixer you can mix these by hand or use a hand mixer. 

butter and sugar creamed together in a stand mixer bowl with the paddle attachment.

Step 2: Add the salt, sourdough starter and vanilla.

butter and wet ingredients for sourodugh shortbread cookies in bowl of stand mixer with paddle attachment.

Step 4: With the mixer set to low speed, slowly add the flour. 

sourdough discard shortbread cookie dough in bowl of stand mixer.

Step 5: Turn the shortbread dough onto a work surface and shape into an approximate 14 inch log. Roll in sugar.

sourdough shortbread cookie dough rolled into a 13 inch log with sugar on work surface along the long edge of the dough.

Alternative Shaping Options

If you want to make your shortbread cookies more festive, you can roll out the dough until it is 1/3 inch thick and use your favorite cookie cutters to create fun shapes. This is fun and festive around the holidays. You can use a heart-shaped cookie cutter around Valentine’s Day (also check out my sourdough strawberry cinnamon roll recipe) or use Christmas cookie cutters to create a cute Christmas cookie tray or holiday cookie box. 

Step 6: Chill for 1 hour. 

Step 7: Slice into 1/3 inch cookies and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

unbaked sourdough shortbread cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Step 8: Bake for 12-15 minutes. The edges should start to turn golden brown when done. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack. 

baked sourdough shortbread cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

How to Make Ahead

These delicious cookies can easily be made ahead of time. There are two ways to do this: 

  1. You can freeze the baked cookies in a gallon freezer safe bag.
  2. Cut the log of cookie dough in half after you roll it in the sugar. Wrap each half in plastic wrap and place in a gallon freezer bag. Store in the freezer until ready to use. Allow the dough to defrost in the fridge several hours before you are ready to bake so you can easily slice them. 

How to Store 

Store these sourdough cookies in an airtight container such as a gallon ziplock bag, a storage container, or on a plate covered with plastic wrap. These cookies are best enjoyed within 3-4 days but will last up to a week at room temperature. 

If you love sourdough discard recipes and sweet treats, check out these other popular sourdough cookies:

Sourdough Chocolate Chip Cookies 

Sourdough Blueberry Lemon Scones

Sourdough Fudgy Brownies

Sourdough Orange Rolls

sourdough shortbread cookies stacked on one another on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Simple Sourdough Shortbread Cookies

My classic sourdough shortbread cookies are buttery and flavorful and very versatile. They have soft crumbly centers with crisp golden edges and a beautiful rim of crunchy granulated sugar as the final touch.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
Chill Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 22 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 36 cookies
Calories 94 kcal

Ingredients
 
 

  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • cup granulated sugar
  • cup sourdough starter active starter or unfed discard from the fridge
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • cup all purpose flour

For Coating the Shortbread Dough

  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar

Instructions
 

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar on medium speed.
  • Add the sourdough starter, salt and vanilla and continue mix until fully combined.
  • Set the stand mixer to low speed and slowly add the flour. Mix until just fully combined.
  • Transfer the dough to a work surface. Use your hands to shape and roll the dough into an approximate 14 inch log. Try to roll it into a smooth cylinder with few wrinkles or creases.
  • Pour the remaining 3 tablespoons of granulated sugar on the work surface along the long side of the shortbread dough. Roll the dough to completely coat it in the sugar.
  • Cut the dough in half and wrap the pieces in plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour or up to 48 hours for a long ferment.

When Ready to Bake

  • Preheat oven to 375℉.
  • Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
  • Use a sharp kitchen knife to cut the dough into approximate 1/3 inch discs.
  • Place the shortbread cookies on the prepared baking sheet, spacing about 1 inch apart.
  • Bake in preheated oven for 12-15 minutes or until the edges are just starting to turn golden brown.
  • Allow to cool in pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Nutrition

Calories: 94kcalCarbohydrates: 11gProtein: 1gFat: 5gSaturated Fat: 3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.2gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0.2gCholesterol: 14mgSodium: 66mgPotassium: 10mgFiber: 0.2gSugar: 5gVitamin A: 158IUCalcium: 3mgIron: 0.4mg
Keyword Cookies, Egg-free, Sourdough, Sourdough Discard
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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12 Comments

  1. The part of the recipe shown in pictures says to slice 1/2” thick. Later on in the recipe it says 1/2”. Which is it? Thanks

    1. Hi Glennie,
      Sorry about that. I recommend 1/3 inch for cookies with edges that are golden and crispy. I updated the post to reflect that. Thank you for pointing that out!

  2. I used 1/4 C of Almond Flour, and reduced the recommended 2 1/4 C AP Flour by 1/4C. I also added 1/2 t of Almond Flavoring. These were delicious!!! Thanks for the recipe!

    1. Thank you for sharing! I love hearing all the creative ways you mix up these recipes. I am so glad you like them!

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