Chai Tea Shortbread Cookies are crisp, buttery, richly spiced, and laced with vanilla bean; they’re the perfect fall treat with a cup of tea!
One of my favorite memories of fall while I was growing up in Western New York is driving out to the country for a trip to a pumpkin patch.
We’d walk around the patch looking for what we thought was the best pumpkin. Which basically meant the biggest pumpkin we could find that was perfectly Jack-O-Lantern-shaped!
After that, we’d head home and continue the festivities with hot tea and cookies and pumpkin carving.
During festive activities, fresh-baked cookies were a fall must for us. Especially warmly-spiced cookies like Molasses Crinkles, Snickerdoodles, and Cinnamon and Nutmeg Oatmeal Raisin. There’s just something about sweetly spiced cookies baking that smells like autumn.
I’ve been making shortbread cookies for years now, usually during fall and the holidays, because they just feel festive to me. They’re one of my favorite cookies to play with in terms of switching up the flavor profile (check out my Slice and Bake Butter Toffee Shortbread Cookies!).
For this batch of shortbread, I took inspiration from the flavors going on in masala chai tea. Cardamom is the primary spice because I find it to be integral in getting the perfect chai flavor. For this recipe I like to keep the grind a little bit more coarse than normal because I like the bold flavor it gives the cookies. And it looks pretty too!
The Best Chai Tea Shortbread Cookies Recipe
Ingredients in Chai Spiced Shortbread Cookies
- Unsalted butter
- Vanilla bean paste
- All-purpose flour
- Black pepper
How to Make Chai Tea Cookies
- Make the dough. Cream together the butter and sugar in a large bowl. Beat in the vanilla. Stir in the flour, salt, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and black pepper.
- Chill the dough. Roll the dough into a log about 16-inches long, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until chilled (about 2 hours in the fridge or 20 minutes in the freezer).
- Bake the cookies. Preheat the oven to 325F and line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or silpat liners. Slice the dough into slices about 1/2-inch thick and arrange them on the prepared baking sheets. Bake until the cookies are sandy colored along the outside but not browned, about 20 to 25 minutes. Cool completely on the trays before removing.
Above: Shortbread dough should be crumbly, but hold together when you squeeze it, very similar to pastry crust.
How to Store Chai Shortbread Cookies
Like other types of shortbread cookies, you can store Chai Tea Shortbread Cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week. After that, transfer the container to the fridge for up to 1 week more.
Tips for Making Chai Shortbread Cookies
- Play with the spices. Feel free to adjust the spices to suit your personal tastes.
- Make ahead. You can make this dough ahead of time and store it wrapped in the fridge for up to 2 weeks or wrapped in the freezer for up to 3 months. If freezing the dough, let it thaw overnight in the fridge before baking.
- Keep them fresh. Let the cookies cool completely before you put them in an airtight container. And make sure you don’t store soft cookies in the same container because they’ll soften the shortbread.
Shortbread Cookies FAQs
What Does Chai Taste Like?
Hailing from India, chai means “tea” in Hindi. Here in the U.S., masala chai is typically what we’re referring to when we say chai tea. Masala chai is a mixture of black tea steeped with spices that’s typically served with milk and sugar.
Chai has a sweet creamy flavor with spicy notes. Cardamom in particular stands out as a predominant spice, and so does cinnamon.
Does Shortbread Dough Need to be Refrigerated?
This will differ based on the shortbread recipe you’re using. The dough for these Chai Tea Shortbread Cookies needs to be refrigerated.
Refrigerating shortbread dough before baking helps chill the butter so the cookies hold their shape better. Additionally, the resulting cookies are lighter and flakier.
Is Shortbread Supposed to be Crumbly?
Yes! Shortbread is a dry and crumbly cookie, similar to a short pie crust.
How Do You Know When Shortbread Cookies Are Done?
Shortbread is finished cooking when it turns a sandy color along the outside and on the bottom. But watch it diligently because shortbread shouldn’t be brown.
Once they’re out of the oven, shortbread cookies will stiffen as they cool.
Can You Freeze Homemade Shortbread?
Yes, shortbread freezes very well.
To freeze shortbread cookies, layer them in an airtight container between pieces of parchment paper for up to 3 months.
More Shortbread and Similar Cookies to Make
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Chai Tea Shortbread Cookies
- 1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- Cream together the butter and sugar in a large bowl. Beat in the vanilla. Stir in the flour, salt, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and black pepper.
- Roll the dough into a log about 16-inches long, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until chilled (about 2 hours in the fridge or 20 minutes in the freezer).
- Preheat the oven to 325F and line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or silpat liners.
- Slice the dough into slices about 1/2-inch thick and arrange them on the prepared baking sheets. Bake until the cookies are sandy colored along the outside but not browned, about 20 to 25 minutes.
- Cool completely on the trays before removing.
- Make-Ahead: You can make this dough ahead of time and store it wrapped in the fridge for up to 2 weeks or wrapped in the freezer for up to 3 months (if freezing the dough, let it thaw overnight in the fridge before baking).
- Decorating Idea: Once the cookies are cooled, drizzle on a little melted white chocolate, and before the chocolate sets, sprinkle on a little finely chopped pecans. Let the chocolate set before serving.
This post was first published on An Edible Mosaic on October 13, 2017. I updated it with more information on November 18, 2021.
I love the spicy spirit of the recipe, but I found that the dough barely held together. I formed it on a bit of plastic wrap and used the wrap to force the dough into a shape. Similarly, when it was taken out of the fridge I had to use my might to keep it together. I realize that a shortbread dough should be short, but did I do something wrong? FYI, I used Lurpak butter, which is 80%+ fat.
Tina, Thank you so much for trying this recipe! Yes, these are definitely very short; I find that the dough holds together when squeezed into a log and then I’m able to slice the dough into cookies once it’s chilled. Did your photo of the dough look like mine? Yes, maybe the type of butter used was the issue (if there was less liquid in it than regular butter). Also, if the butter isn’t at room temperature (if it’s cooler), that can have an impact as well. I hope this helps!
Courtney Buteau says
I just love the taste of shortbread and totally agree that they do taste like the holidays. What a fun twist on a classic. I would love to munch on these with a hot cup of tea! :) #client