We’re Smitten with Deb Perelman’s Olive Oil Shortbread

March 15, 2018

Think of shortbread cookies and your first thought is likely of butter—and lots of it. But you won’t find any in Deb Perelman’s version, from Smitten Kitchen Every Day, our Cookbook Club’s book of the month. Perelman acknowledges that “the landscape of butter-free cookies is usually filled with stories of compromise,” but notes that when she set out to make a butterless shortbread, she “wanted it to be a shortbread that might taste even better because it celebrated its fat, rather than apologizing for it.”

Betcha can’t eat just one. Photo by Deb Perelman

Luckily for all of us, she definitely accomplished that goal. Her Olive Oil Shortbread with Rosemary & Chocolate Chunks have been so popular in the Club that they’ve almost taken over the Facebook page.

This is the good kind of peer pressure.

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Here are just a few of the many (many!) enthusiastic reviews:

  • Club member Deborah Elliott exclaims, “I couldn’t wait to make these after all the buzz they generated.”
  • Cassie Ducharme says, “I skipped over this recipe thinking there was no way I would like it. Then I saw all the posts and had to. I love it!”
  • After sharing her photo of the shortbread, Darian Kimball Record says she’s “lacing up my Nikes to take my pup for a walk. I can’t be anywhere near these cookies, they are THAT good.”
  • Kirsten Svenson King says, “Well, I’ve found my go-to cookie.”
Taking Deb's shortbread in new directions. Photo by Deborah Elliot, Sheila Scully

We’re only halfway through the month, but the cookies have already almost taken on a life of their own, with a number of Club members putting their own twists on the recipe. Sheila Scully was inspired by an artisan chocolate she had in France and added the zest of an orange and some chopped, slivered almonds. The substitutions were a success, she says: “I think I like these shortbreads almost better than the chocolates!”

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Top Comment:
“It’s so quick and easy to make and in my opinion the nicest shortbread I have ever made. Absolutely delicious. I didn’t gift it in the end it was so good. I’ve let people have a ‘small’ piece. Thank you. ”
— Shona

And she’s not the only one who’s had fun making the recipe their own. Club member Chris Hoelck has made multiple batches of shortbread, saying: “I could make these every day.” He tweaked his second batch, swapping a combination of toasted sesame oil and canola oil for the olive oil and five-spice powder for the rosemary, and he loved the toasty, nutty result. Members shared additional ideas for playing around with the ingredients, too:

  • Orange zest and cardamom
  • Matcha and chocolate
  • Blood orange and pistachio
  • Raisins plumped in balsamic vinegar
  • Cured black olives
  • Lemon zest and poppy seeds
  • Lavender and lemon zest
  • Lemon zest and black pepper (are you picking up on a theme?)

Naturally, we begged asked Perelman to be able to share the recipe with everyone, and she kindly obliged.

Planning on playing with the flavors, or are you going to stick with what’s written? Let us know in the comments!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Shona
  • RachelJ
  • Julie
  • Joy Huang | The Cooking of Joy
    Joy Huang | The Cooking of Joy
  • Caitlin Hoffer
    Caitlin Hoffer
I like esoteric facts about vegetables. Author of the IACP Award-nominated cookbook, Cooking with Scraps.


Shona December 26, 2019
Merry Christmas! I doubled the recipe so that I could share it out. Oh my goodness it tastes of Christmas. It’s so quick and easy to make and in my opinion the nicest shortbread I have ever made. Absolutely delicious. I didn’t gift it in the end it was so good. I’ve let people have a ‘small’ piece. Thank you.
RachelJ May 4, 2019
The first few times I made this it came out perfectly. The last two it hasn't been holding together AT ALL, both as a dough and as a baked cookie (and this goes beyond the crumbly nature of shortbread). I've used different olive oil the last two times - could that be it? Or have I lost my touch? Been placed under a baking curse? Help!
Julie March 15, 2018
Do you think I would be able to also sub out the flour for rice flour? I have a dairy-free, gluten-free friend, and I love to make these for her.
Julie March 15, 2018
*I'd love to make these for her
Haven't made them yet!
Caitlin H. July 9, 2019
I was wondering the same thing! I think it's time I tried some experimenting!
Joy H. March 15, 2018
I've been wanting to make these and after reading this article, I whipped up a batch. I didn't realize how quick and easy it'd be! Just waiting for them to come out of the oven now....