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Easy Brown Sugar Shortbread Cookies Recipe


This Easy Brown Sugar Shortbread Cookies Recipe is a slight twist on a classic. Traditional shortbread recipes use granulated sugar but I find that using brown sugar makes all of the difference in creating the most wonderful taste and texture. The brown sugar in this recipe gives the shortbread cookie an almost nutty flavor without the addition of any nuts. It also gives the shortbread a little more golden color which I love. It is the roll in sanding sugar however, that takes these cookies over the top. The texture that this one step adds will surprise you in the very best of ways.

5 brown sugar shortbread cookies stacked on each other.

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The Best Brown Sugar Shortbread Cookies

There are so many reasons to love this Brown Sugar Shortbread Cookies recipe. First of all…you only need 4 ingredients to make them.

Brown sugar is also one of my very favorite ingredients EVER! There is something so rich and flavorful about it. Maybe it is the addition of molasses to the sugar? Maybe it is the fact that you can choose between light and dark versions. Either way, brown sugar is the very best thing about these shortbread cookies!

What goes into this recipe

  • Butter: I always prefer the salted variety and in this recipe you will want it softened. A good quality butter is important in this shortbread recipe because it is one of the main ingredients.
  • Brown Sugar: I love to use dark brown sugar because it gives these cookies an even richer flavor but you can decide. Use what you have on hand.
  • All Purpose Flour: The butter to flour ratio in shortbread cookies is so important! Be sure you are measuring and getting every last drop mixed into the dough.
  • Salt: I prefer a bit of a salty cookie and so adding some to the dough, as well as having some in the butter is the perfect amount. If you use unsalted butter I would bump up the amount of salt to 1/2 teaspoon.
  • Sanding Sugar: Found in the sprinkles section of the grocery store and not the sugar section, sanding sugar is what gives the outside of these cookies such a great texture.

See recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities.

Recipe Variations


Of course we are using brown sugar in this shortbread cookie dough but a granulated sugar can also be used. You could also add some mini chocolate chips or chopped nuts into the cookie dough for added texture and flavor.

Outside Coating-

There are so many things you can roll this Brown Sugar Shortbread Cookie dough in. Sanding sugar is nice because it doesn’t add a ton of sweetness but it does add some great crunch.

Other options for rolling this cookie dough in would be-other types of sprinkles, finely chopped nuts or even cookie crumbs.

How to Make brown sugar shortbread cookies

1. Combine the softened butter and brown sugar in a bowl. Cream together using a handheld {or stand} mixer until light and fluffy. This might take a couple of minutes. Add the flour and sugar. Continue to combine until incorporated. The dough might be crumbly but use your hands to bring it together. It should come together into a ball nicely.

2. Roll the dough into a long log that is about 2″ in diameter and 12 inches long. Sprinkle the sanding sugar out onto a baking sheet.

Steps 1 and 2 of making brown sugar shortbread. 1, make the dough. 2, roll dough into a log.

3. Roll the log of cookie dough in the sanding sugar. Continue to roll {using a little pressure} until the log is coated in as much of the sanding sugar as you desire. Cover the cookie dough log in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.

4. After the cookie dough has been refrigerated, remove it and cut the dough into 24 {you might get more}, quarter inch slices.

Steps 3 and 4 of making brown sugar shortbread. 3, roll log in sanding sugar and refrigerate. 4, cut into rounds.

5. Place the cookie dough slices onto a baking sheet that has been lined with a silicone mat {or parchment paper}. Bake in a 300 degree oven for 18-22 minutes or until the cookies begin to turn golden brown.

6. Remove the cookies from the oven and allow them to cool completely on the baking sheet.

Steps 5 and 6 of making brown sugar shortbread. 5, add cookie rounds to baking sheet. 6, bake cookies.

Expert Tips

  • Roll the outside of the cookie dough in something. Whether that is sanding sugar or another kind of ingredient, it is such a great way to add crunch and flavor to the cookies.
  • Don’t skip the refrigeration of the dough. This is what allows you to cut the cookies easily into rounds. Even just one hour in the refrigerator can make a huge difference in how the cookies turn out.
  • Don’t put the cookies too close together on the baking sheet. Depending on the dough, cookies can expand during baking. Giving them room to grow in the oven will allow you to have individual cookies instead of one giant cookie.
  • Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet. This will give the cookies a great crisp texture on the outside which is one of the reasons that we love to slice and bake cookies.

Storage and Freezing

Store- The cookies store well in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days.

Freeze- Brown sugar shortbread cookies will freeze well in an airtight container for up to 3 months.

A dozen brown sugar shortbread cookies on a black cake stand.

Do you love classic cookies? Try these recipes…

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5 brown sugar shortbread cookies stacked on each other.

Easy Brown Sugar Shortbread Cookies

Brown sugar is used to sweeten these perfectly crisp 4 ingredient cookies that are perfect for any occasion.
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 22 minutes
Total Time: 32 minutes
Servings: 24 cookies
Calories: 142kcal
4.30 from 17 votes
Pin Print


  • 1 cup butter {softened}
  • ½ cup brown sugar {packed}
  • 2 ¼ cups all purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup sanding sugar {optional}


  • Combine the butter and brown sugar in a mixing bowl. Using a hand held {or stand} mixer, cream together the ingredients until they are light and fluffy {this will take about 2 minutes}.
  • Add the flour and salt to the butter and sugar mixture. Continue to mix until the mixture starts to come together. Note: The dough will be a bit crumbly. I suggest using your hands to knead the dough together into a ball.
  • Shape the dough into a long cylinder and place onto a silicone {or parchment} lined mat that is covered in sanding sugar. Roll the cylinder of dough in the sanding sugar to coat the outside of the dough. Wrap the sugar coated dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  • Preheat oven to 300°. After the dough has chilled, cut the log into rounds and place them onto two silicone mat {or parchment} lined baking sheets. Bake for 18-22 minutes or until the cookies just start to begin turning light brown.
  • Remove from the oven and allow the cookies to cool completely on the baking sheet. Store in an air tight container for up to a week or freeze for up to 3 months.


Serving: 1cookie | Calories: 142kcal | Carbohydrates: 17g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 20mg | Sodium: 87mg | Potassium: 21mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 236IU | Calcium: 8mg | Iron: 1mg
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