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This recipe for basic butter cookies is so versatile. It can be scooped, rolled, sliced, pressed, or cut out with cookie cutters!

overhead view of basic butter cookies scattered on white parchment paper

Butter cookies are one of those classic recipes that show up every holiday season along with peanut butter blossoms and cardamom cookies. I remember getting them in a blue tin and each cookie was shaped slightly different.

Did you get those too? Some had sparkling sugar sprinkled over them. Some were piped and some were cut out.

The cookies were buttery, crisp, and melted in your mouth. They were my favorite cookies and I looked forward to them every year.

Today, I’m finally sharing with you my favorite recipe for these delectable cookies. And the best thing about this recipe is it can be used in a multitude of ways.

The dough is soft and can be scooped and dropped, rolled into balls, or used in a cookie press. It can also be rolled into a log then chilled and sliced. Or you can roll the dough out and use cookie cutters to cut out shapes.

Whichever way you decide to use it, I’m sure you are going to be smitten with this buttery rich cookie!

side view of a stack of basic butter cookies

Are butter cookies and shortbread cookies the same?

Butter cookies are actually better than shortbread cookies! The main difference between the two is the amount of sugar and the baking temperature.

Butter cookies have more sugar and bake at a higher temperature than shortbread cookies. They don’t crumble and the dough is extremely versatile.


How to make butter cookies?

Step 1: Make the dough

This is my favorite cookie dough! It’s soft and so buttery.

It starts by creaming the butter and sugar together. Don’t cream it as long as you would for a cake but do make sure it’s well mixed together and looks creamy.

Then you’ll add the vanilla, salt, and egg yolk. They can all go in at the same time and just mix until everything is combined.

Add the flour then mix it in just until you see no visible streaks of dry flour in the batter.

The dough needs to be chilled for 1 to 2 hours then it’s ready to use for piped cookies, cookie press cookies, or scooped and dropped cookies.

If you want slice and bake cookies, you’ll need to shape the dough into a log and wrap in plastic wrap before chilling.

I’ll leave instructions for each in the notes of the recipe down below!

basic butter cookie dough in a glass bowl

Step 2: Cut out the dough

Roll the dough between two sheets of parchment paper. Aim for ⅛-inch thickness. Use 2 to 3-inch cookie cutters to cut out shapes.

I find it best to dip the cookie cutters in flour so they don’t stick to the dough.

basic butter cookie dough being cut out with round cookie cutter

Step 3: Bake the cookies

Before baking the cookies I like to sprinkle coarse sugar over the top. You can also use colored sugar to make them festive for any occasion.

Bake them just until they are beginning to turn golden brown around the edges then let them rest on the baking sheet for 5 minutes.

The cookies will continue cooking for those few minutes and they’ll set up enough for you to slide a spatula underneath to move them to a wire rack.

Let them cool completely before serving or storing.

overhead view of unbaked basic butter cookies on a baking sheet
overhead view of basic butter cookies on a baking sheet

These butter cookies were a huge hit with my taste testers. The first thing they thought of was the holiday cookies I mentioned above.

They are crisp and tender with rich butter flavor. The coarse sugar caramelized on the top resulting in a wonderful crunchy texture.

This is my go-to Christmas cookie and I’m sure it will become yours too!

closeup of basic butter cookies

Tips for making butter cookies

  • Make sure you measure the flour correctly. Using too much flour will have a negative effect on the cookie’s texture.
  • I highly recommend using a high-quality butter. The buttery flavor really shines through in this recipe so the better the butter, the better the flavor.
  • Also, use high-quality vanilla and be sure it’s pure vanilla. The imitation stuff just isn’t the same when it comes to flavor.

More cookie recipes you’ll love

  1. Classic Sugar Cookies
  2. Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies
  3. White Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

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overhead view of basic butter cookies scattered on white parchment paper

Basic Butter Cookies

Yield: 26 cookies
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes
Chill Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 37 minutes

This recipe for basic butter cookies is so versatile. It can be scooped, rolled, sliced, pressed, or cut out with cookie cutters!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (227 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ¾ cup (177 g) granulated sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg yolk, room temperature
  • 2 ¼ cups (292 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons turbinado sugar

Instructions

  1. Beat the butter, sugar, together until creamy.
  2. Mix in the salt and vanilla followed by the egg yolk. Stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  3. Add the flour and mix just until incorporated.
  4. Divide the dough in half and shape each half into a disk. Wrap each half tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1-2 hours, until firm.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350°F and line 3 baking sheets with parchment.
  6. Between 2 pieces of parchment paper, roll 1 piece of dough to ⅛-inch thickness. With floured 2 to 3-inch cookie cutters, cut the dough into as many cookies as possible. Wrap and refrigerate the leftover trimmings.
  7. Place the cookies 1-inch apart on the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle the top of each cookie with turbinado sugar or colored sugar. 
  8. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until just beginning to turn golden around the edges.
  9. Cool on the pan for 5 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Notes

The recipe can be used in a variety of ways:

1) Shape the dough into a log and refrigerate for 2 hours. Slice into ¼-inch thickness. 

2) Scoop the dough with a 1 and ½ to 2-tablespoon sized cookie scoop and drop it onto the baking sheet.

3) Roll the dough into 1 and ½ to 2-tablespoon sized balls.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 26 Serving Size: 1 cookie
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 131Saturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 26mgSodium: 24mgCarbohydrates: 15gSugar: 6gProtein: 1g

The nutrition information provided is for convenience and as a courtesy only. It is not guaranteed to be accurate because nutrition information can vary for a variety of reasons. For precise nutritional data use your preferred nutrition calculator and input the exact ingredients you used in the recipe.

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40 Comments

  1. I lost my husband’s family recipe
    for shortbread cookies. It was a longtime recipe handed down. My husband died, I lost 😞 the recipe, but I do remember that it had 4 cups of flour,1 cup of icing sugar and 1 pound of soft butter.
    I used latex gloves and mixed it on the counter and then put it in the fridge to firm up. I can’t remember the temperature or how many minutes to bake them for. Can you please help me?

  2. Elsie Patton says:

    I just make these and they are amazing. So delicious. I made the dough into a log and sliced it into rounds. Then, after the cookies baked and cooled, I made them into sandwich cookies by putting strawberry jam between two. Best cookies I’ve ever made. Side note: what a cranky bunch of reviewers you have! So many complainers who didn’t follow the directions in the first place. Yikes.

  3. You say to use high-quality butter and sugar but I’m a beginner so I don’t know what that means.

    1. Avoid using cheap, generic store brands. Instead, look for high-end European-style butter. For sugar, look for well-known brand names like Domino.

  4. Kennedy Helmkamp says:

    Hi I was wondering if I could substitute the turbinado sugar for brown sugar

    1. I’ve never tried that but I imagine it would be okay to do. Since brown sugar is finer and contains moisture from the molasses, it may melt slightly during baking.

  5. The recipe lists 1 egg yolk but the video shows 3 yolks being added- should I use 1 or 3 yolks?
    Thank you! These look delicious and I want to try the recipe but want to know which number of yolks is correct.

    1. The video only shows one egg yolk, I’m not sure where you saw three. But, use one as stated in the recipe.

    2. I’d like to use this recipe as a foundation for Princess bars.
      Given the baking time is max. 12 min, will increasing to 35 minutes be an issue? My Princess bars have a meringue,rice krispie top layer.Any suggestions on how I can adjust, I would greatly appreciate!

      1. I’ve never baked this dough in a large pan so I’m unsure how long it would take for it to cook through. This is something you’d have to experiment with and watch closely to prevent burning.

  6. Melissa A. Myers says:

    Is the turbinado sugar for topping only? Thank you.

  7. I had to throw away the first round as you have listed the measurements incorrectly. If 1 cup is 272 g then how is 2 1/4 cup 292 g.? It should be 1 1/4 cup of flour. Everything is based on correct measurements. Please proof read before posting

    1. I’m sorry you had to throw out the first round, but you are mistaken with the measurements. 1 cup of all-purpose flour does not weigh 272g; it weighs 130g. 130 times 2 1/4 is 292g. The measurements in this recipe are correct.

  8. LaChanda Boyd says:

    Hello, I wanted to ask if you didn’t have unsalted butter at the time, will it hurt to use salted butter?, also I wanna try cake flour. ? Thank you!

    1. The thing with salted butter is you have no idea how much salt is in it. Unsalted butter allows you to control how much salt goes into a recipe.

  9. Christine says:

    Best cookie ever. The butter flavor and texture are spot on. Have made this recipe several times. Some variations. Added one tablespoon cardamom to one batch. Another time added 2 tablespoons lemon juice and 3 tablespoons zest.

  10. Jacki Samolsky says:

    So yummy! So simple! So elegant! My second time making them & it won’t be the last!

    1. I was wondering if these are the crisp but not hard cookies that take all the moisture… in a good way out of your mouth. I am trying to make a Key Lime Butter Cooker to replicate or make better one’s my husband gets me in Key West. They are basically cut into small logs and powder sugared … the one I get are many times in pieces but I’ll take them.

      1. These cookies are very buttery. They are not too dry but are crisp on the outside.