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Rich buttery, crisp shortbread is transformed into beautiful Christmas shortbread cookies with the addition of pistachios, dried cranberries, orange zest, and white chocolate in this festive recipe.

hand picking up christmas shortbread cookie from plate

Shortbread is one of those special Christmas traditions that I look forward to every year. Normally I make classic shortbread, which is rich and buttery with a flaky, crisp, melt-in-your-mouth crumb.

This year I came up with a special shortbread recipe that’s full of Christmasy flavor. Nutty pistachios, sweet/tart dried cranberries, and fresh citrusy orange zest is a combination that’s perfect for holiday baking. With green pistachios, red cranberries, a white chocolate drizzle, and sprinkles on top, these cookies are as festive looking as they are delicious!

And instead of pressing the shortbread dough into a pan to bake it, I roll the dough into a log, wrap it in plastic wrap, and chill it. After that, all you have to do is slice and bake it.

One of the best things about this Christmas shortbread cookies recipe is that you can make it ahead of time! Keep a tin of these cookies stashed in your pantry during the Christmas season because they’re perfect for a mid-afternoon holiday tea break.

Christmas shortbread cookies are a beautiful addition to a holiday cookie tray. Or bring them to a cookie exchange!

stack of shortbread christmas cookies on wooden table with bokeh

10 Easy Christmas Cookie Recipes Ebook

I am thrilled to share this recipe with you because it was part of a fun holiday project I worked on with my fiancé! Together we made an ebook called 10 Easy Christmas Cookie Recipes Made From 1 Base Dough.

10 easy christmas cookie recipes ebook cover on sale now

You can read more about what’s in the ebook here on my easy Christmas cookies recipes page, and you can buy it here on Amazon.

I’ve been wanting to make a Christmas cookie box for years, and I finally did it! I used all 10 of the recipes in this ebook.

christmas cookie box
This Christmas cookie box shows all 10 of the easy cookie recipes in this Christmas cookie recipe ebook.

They’re a fun mix of traditional Christmas cookies that you’ll be shocked that you can make from 1 base dough. The recipes are simplified (for our busy schedules!) but still true to the classics.

Shortbread Christmas Cookies Ingredients and Substitutions

christmas shortbread cookies ingredients

Ingredients Explained

In this section I explain the ingredients and give substitution ideas where applicable. For the full recipe (including the ingredient amounts), see the recipe card below.

  • Sugar – we use regular granulated white sugar here
  • Unsalted butter – or you can use salted butter and omit the added salt; make sure it’s at room temperature
  • Vanilla extract – for flavor and aroma
  • Salt – to pull out the flavor of everything else
  • Flour – regular all-purpose flour
  • Dried cranberries, pistachios, and fresh orange zest – this flavor combination is delicious and looks festive
  • White chocolate – to melt and drizzle decoratively on top; this is how we get sprinkles to stick to our Christmas shortbread
  • White sanding sugar – this is to sprinkle on top; you can use any type of sprinkles you like

How to Make Slice and Bake Shortbread Cookies

Make the Shortbread Dough

how to make christmas shortbread cookie dough
  1. Add the sugar and butter to a large bowl, and use a handheld electric mixer to cream them together. Beat in the vanilla, salt, and then the flour.
  2. This is how the dough looks about 1 minute after mixing; keep going!
  3. After about 5 minutes of beating with a hand-held electric mixer, the dough will look like large, wet crumbs. This is perfect!
  4. Stir in the cranberries, pistachios, and orange zest. The dough will be crumbly; press it together with your fingertips a bit, and it will come together to form dough.

Chill, Slice, and Bake the Shortbread Cookies

how to bake and decorate slice and bake christmas cookies
  1. Shape the dough into a log, wrap it in plastic wrap, and chill for at least 1 hour in the fridge (or overnight).
  2. Slice the dough log into 12 equal slices and arrange them on the prepared baking tray.
  3. Bake in a preheated 350F oven until the cookies are light golden on the bottom. If you only chilled the dough for 1 hour, this will take about 12 to 14 minutes. If you chilled the dough overnight, this will take about 14 to 16 minutes.
  4. Let the cookies cool to room temperature. Drizzle the melted white chocolate decoratively on top, and immediately sprinkle on the sanding sugar. Allow the chocolate to set before serving or storing.

Pro Tip: Help, I Think My Shortbread Dough is Too Dry!

an edible mosaic stamp logo 1200 square

There will come a point when you’re beating this mixture that you’ll think something must be wrong because it’s way too dry and there’s no way it’ll come together as dough. Rest assured, it  will! After about 5 minutes of beating with a hand-held electric mixer, the texture will change. Instead of small, dry crumbs, it’ll form large, wet crumbs that hold together as dough when you squeeze it. This is exactly what we want.

Variations

You can add up to 3/4 cup of just about any type of nuts, dried fruit, or chocolate chips you like to this Christmas shortbread cookies recipe. Also, feel free to play around with the extracts and spices. Here are a few other flavor combinations to try:

  • Chocolate coffee – Omit the pistachios, dried cranberries, and orange zest. Add up to 3/4 cup of chocolate chips and 3/4 teaspoon instant espresso powder.
  • Cinnamon walnut baklava – Omit the pistachios, dried cranberries, and orange zest. Add up to 3/4 cup of chopped walnuts (or use pistachios!) and 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon.
  • Almond coconut chocolate – Omit the pistachios, dried cranberries, and orange zest. Add 1/2 cup of chopped almonds, 1/4 cup of shredded coconut (unsweetened or sweetened will work), and 1/4 teaspoon almond extract. Decorate the tops with a drizzle of dark chocolate instead of white chocolate.
easy shortbread christmas cookies on white plate on rustic dark wooden table

Storage

You can layer these shortbread cookies in an airtight container between pieces of parchment paper and store them at room temperature for up to 2 weeks, in the fridge for up to 2 months, or in the freezer for up to 6 months.

overhead view of plate of holiday shortbread cookies with espresso and christmas presents

Christmas Shortbread Cookies FAQs

What is the Secret to Making Good Shortbread Cookies?

Here are the best tips for making the best shortbread cookies:

  1. Use good-quality butter. There are a lot of recipes where this doesn’t make a difference, but this recipe isn’t one of them. Butter adds a ton of flavor to shortbread cookies, so you will definitely be able to taste it and it makes a big difference. (My favorite butter for shortbread is Kerrygold.)
  2. Mix with care. The interesting thing about shortbread is that when you’re mixing it, I can almost guarantee that there will come a time when you think something must be wrong and there’s just no way it’ll come together as dough. This is normal, and it will come together. If you use a handheld electric mixer, it will take about 5 minutes of beating the dough for it to form large, wet crumbs that hold together when squeezed. Once it reaches this point, don’t over-beat it!
  3. Chill the dough before baking. This is crucial. The butter in the dough needs to be chilled for the most flaky, crumbly, short shortbread. And also, because we’re making slice-and-bake cookies (and not pressing the shortbread dough into a pan to bake), chilling the dough before baking will help make sure the cookies don’t spread too much.
hand picking festive holiday shortbread cookie up off of stack of cookies

Is Shortbread a Christmas Tradition?

Shortbread is a Christmas tradition in Scotland.

According to Historic UK, shortbread as we know it today developed from what was called medieval “biscuit bread”. Leftover dough was dried until hard in a low oven; it formed a type of rusk or biscuit. (The word biscuit means “twice cooked”, which is why in the UK they call crisp cookies biscuits.) Over time, yeast in the bread was replaced with butter and shortbread developed.

Shortbread was an expensive luxury item, and so for ordinary people it was reserved for special occasions. This is how shortbread became affiliated with weddings, Christmas and New Year’s Eve (aka Hogmanay in Scotland).

plate of christmas shortbread cookies with sprinkles with gifts around

What Does Shortbread Taste Like?

Shortbread has a rich buttery flavor, which is accentuated perfectly by a subtle sweetness and a hint of salt. Shortbread’s texture is crisp and crumbly, and should be tender enough to melt in your mouth.

This shortbread Christmas cookies recipe has the same rich buttery flavor and short texture, but it’s enhanced with pistachio, cranberry, and orange.

More Easy Christmas Cookie Recipes to Make

festive shortbread with sprinkles

Let’s Connect

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Did you make this recipe? Please rate it and leave a comment below. You can also tag @anediblemosaic on social media.

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Pistachio Orange Cranberry Shortbread Cookies Recipe

Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time15 minutes
Other Time15 minutes
Yields: 12 cookies
Rich buttery, crisp shortbread is transformed into beautiful Christmas shortbread cookies with the addition of pistachios, dried cranberries, orange zest, and white chocolate in this festive recipe.

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Ingredients
 

Instructions
 

  • Add the sugar and butter to a large bowl, and use a handheld electric mixer to cream them together. Beat in the vanilla, salt, and then the flour. Stir in the cranberries, pistachios, and orange zest.
  • The dough will be crumbly; press it together with your fingertips a bit, and it will come together to form dough.
  • Shape the dough into a log, wrap it in plastic wrap, and chill for at least 1 hour in the fridge (or overnight).
  • Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a large baking tray with parchment paper.
  • Slice the dough log into 12 equal slices and arrange them on the prepared baking tray.
  • Bake until the cookies are light golden on the bottom. If you only chilled the dough for 1 hour, this will take about 12 to 14 minutes. If you chilled the dough overnight, this will take about 14 to 16 minutes.
  • Let the cookies cool to room temperature. Drizzle the melted white chocolate decoratively on top, and immediately sprinkle on the sanding sugar.
  • Allow the chocolate to set before serving or storing.

Notes

  • Storage: You can layer these shortbread cookies in an airtight container between pieces of parchment paper and store them at room temperature for up to 2 weeks, in the fridge for up to 2 months, or in the freezer for up to 6 months.

Nutrition

Serving: 1cookie | Calories: 188kcal | Carbohydrates: 23g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Trans Fat: 0.3g | Cholesterol: 21mg | Sodium: 53mg | Potassium: 56mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 11g | Vitamin A: 245IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 14mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutritional information is automatically calculated and should be used as an approximate.

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Scottish
Keyword: Christmas Shortbread, Christmas Shortbread Cookies, Christmas Shortbread Cookies Recipe, Holiday Shortbread Cookies, Shortbread Christmas Biscuits, Shortbread Christmas Cookies, Shortbread Christmas Cookies Recipe

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Faith, author of An Edible Mosaic.
About Faith

I’m the writer, recipe developer, photographer, and food stylist behind this blog. I love finding the human connection through something we all do every day: eat! Food is a common ground that we can all relate to, and our tables tell a story. It’s my goal to inspire you to get in the kitchen, try something new, and find a favorite you didn’t know you had.

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