This basic recipe for gluten free shortbread cookies easily makes 5 varieties: plain, glazed lemon, mocha, toffee caramel and berry chip!
For each of these 5 recipes, we start off the same—with a gluten free shortbread cookies mix. And since shortbread cookies are pretty much the absolute simplest cookies around, that mix is dead simple: some flours, sugar, and salt.
The “plain” recipe below is really the only one you need. Use the proportions for each variety to make them your own—for each recipe of shortbread cookie dry mix, you’ll need 8 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
Beyond that, add 1/3 cup of mix-ins (like chopped dried fruit, mini chocolate chips, toffee bits or any other tiny mix-ins). Drizzle with chocolate, top with cinnamon sugar, sugar-in-the-raw, or mocha sugar. You get the idea!
Gluten free shortbread cookies: the basic method
The basic recipe can be used with the simple addition of unsalted butter and a little water, as needed, to make plain shortbread cookies. Just mix everything together, knead and shape the cookie dough into a rectangle about 1 1/2-inches thick, wrap it tightly and refrigerate until firm.
Then, slice the cookies by cross-section, place on a baking sheet, and bake for less than 10 minutes. You can even make and shape the raw cookie dough and store it for weeks in the refrigerator before slicing and baking.
If you refrigerate the dough for longer like that, it will become too stiff to slice. Just allow it to sit at room temperature until you can slice it easily, and proceed with the recipe as written.
Tip for Making Multiple Varieties
If you plan to make all 5 kinds of shortbread cookies, multiply all the shortbread cookie mix ingredients by 5, and whisk to combine well. You can also multiply the basic plain mix by 2.5 (for a total of 863 grams), and make 1/2 recipe for each variety.
If you’re making a full recipe of any variety, measure out 345 grams of the well-combined dry mix for each recipe. If you’re making a half recipe, measure out 173 grams.
Then, proceed with the instructions as written for each, dividing all the remaining ingredients by half if you’re making a half recipe of each (or any) variety. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you can make a bunch of cookie flavors. Talk about impressive!
Mocha cookies are made with the addition of some cocoa powder and instant espresso powder to the basic shortbread dough. The real magic happens when you dip each slice of cookie dough in a coating of cocoa powder and granulated sugar.
Berry Chip Cookies
For the berry chocolate chip cookies, just add dried berries and mini chocolate chips to the dry mix. I like dried cranberries and miniature chocolate chips, but you could add all mini chips and make them chocolate chip.
You could also try chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans, or pistachios are all great soft nuts) in place of dried berries. The chocolate drizzle adds a bit of extra chocolate flavor and lots of charm, but isn’t strictly necessary.
Toffee Caramel Cookies
Toffee caramel cookies are by far the fanciest, since they are made with toffee bits mixed into the basic dough, then dipped in chocolate and drizzled with caramel.
Glazed Lemon Cookies
Glazed lemon cookies are made fresh and lemony with lemon juice lemon zest, then topped with a simple lemon glaze. I used to add a bit of “True Lemon,” which is a granulated lemon “seasoning blend.” I’ve swapped that out for lemon juice, instead.
Not everyone has or can find True Lemon, but if you do have it, try adding about a teaspoonful to the recipe as written for a ton of lemon flavor. There are other True flavors, and they’re all worth trying!
Ingredients and substitutions
The two main additional allergens in the basic gluten free shortbread cookie recipe are dairy and cornstarch. For the mix-ins, if you’re avoiding other allergens, use your best judgment.
In place of butter, try using vegan butter. Melt and Miyoko’s Kitchen brand are my favorites. Avoid Earth Balance, which has too much moisture, since the cookies won’t hold their shape.
In place of cornstarch, try using arrowroot. If you’re already using a higher starch flour blend, like Cup4Cup or my mock Cup4Cup blend, omit the cornstarch and use another 1/4 cup (35 g) Cup4Cup in addition to the original 1 1/2 cups (210 g).
I must stress that, as always, the all purpose gluten free flour blend that you use matters—a lot. It always matters and it matters even more in an incredibly simple recipe like this.
Each time a blog recipe calls for an all purpose gluten free flour, I link to the page on the blog that has all the details about which blends I caution against, and which are appropriate. If you only have a blend like Bob’s Red Mill, which I warn against strongly, or Namaste, which I also caution against, I cannot promise results.
In fact, if you have success with something like Bob’s Red Mill flour blend, I can’t promise repeat results. The blend is inconsistent, which is a large part of my concerns with it.
Using a poorly balanced flour blend or one that has gritty rice flour, then promising that you followed the recipe “to a T” and blaming the recipe for the failure is like using someone else’s recipe and looking to this site to fix it.