Salted Rosemary Shortbread

June  8, 2021
19 Ratings
Photo by Rocky Luten. Food stylist: Samantha Seneviratne. Prop stylist: Brooke Deonarine.
Author Notes

I didn’t grow up in a very "decorated cookie" household. My mom hewed more to the biscotti/gingerbread/shortbread crunchy cookie end of the spectrum, and the year I tried to do festively decorated cookies in my own home, I ended up with royal icing in my hair and sprinkles in my floorboards for a week. I took on this fussy baking project in an attempt to impress at a school holiday party. It was my first time trying to border and flood reindeer-shaped gingerbread cookies with contrasting icing hues and dragée eyes, and also my last.

That said, my mom has been making rosemary shortbread cookies during the holidays for about as long as I can recall. I remember having the cookies in the apartment I grew up in on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and I remember having them after Thanksgiving dinner in the dining room of the apartment where my parents moved after I graduated from college. I know my mom has brought me a box of this shortbread when she's arrived at our annual Christmas Day open house, because she knows my older son loves them.

When I put all these several occasions together, it’s clear we’ve been eating these cookies for at least 25 years. Because they freeze so well, my mom often bakes them off in quadruple batches and sends her Christmas Eve guests home with their own stash to store.

I’ve always loved how savory they are, and in my version of her recipe, I added grapefruit zest, increased the salt in the dough, and topped them with a salt-and-sugar mixture that adds a little crunch. Shortbread is about the least fussy dough a person could have to tackle—for this one you don’t even have to roll out and cut, you just smoosh everything into a baking pan and bake. I still managed to get crumbs on the floor when I took them out of the pan for serving, but that’s maybe just a “me” thing. —lallimusic

Test Kitchen Notes

Featured in: Food52's Holiday Cookie Chronicles —The Editors

  • Prep time 1 hour 25 minutes
  • Cook time 30 minutes
  • Makes 32 cookies
  • 1 1/2 cups (180g) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup (43g) rice flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1 cup (2 sticks, 1/2 pound, or 227g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon (112g) granulated sugar, divided
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated grapefruit zest
  • Flaky sea salt, for topping
In This Recipe
  1. Line a 8 x 8-inch (20 x 20cm) baking pan (preferably glass) with parchment paper, leaving overhang on two sides. Whisk together all-purpose flour, rice flour, rosemary, and salt; set aside.
  2. Combine the butter, 1/2 cup (100g) sugar, and grapefruit zest in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat with paddle attachment on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes, scraping down bowl as needed.
  3. Add reserved flour mixture. Beat on low speed until crumbly, then increase speed to medium and beat until well combined, scraping down bowl as needed, about 2 minutes more. Transfer dough to prepared pan, then use an offset spatula to spread and press dough evenly into pan, smoothing top. Chill until firm, 1 hour.
  4. Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C). Prick shortbread all over with a fork. Sprinkle evenly with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar, then sprinkle flaky salt over. Bake until golden brown around edges and evenly golden on surface, 30 to 35 minutes.
  5. Remove from oven and immediately cut shortbread (still in pan) into four 2”-wide strips lengthwise. Rotate pan 90° and make eight 1-inch (2.5cm)-wide cuts perpendicular to the first ones to make 32 rectangular cookies. Let sit 10 minutes, then run a thin spatula around edges so that cookies don’t adhere to pan as they cool. Let cool completely in pan.
  6. Using parchment, lift cookies out of pan and retrace cut marks if necessary to separate cookies.
  7. A note on making these ahead: Cookies can be baked, cut, and cooled 1 week in advance. Transfer (on parchment) to an airtight container and store at room temperature, or freeze for up to 3 months.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Kyliesachs
  • Louise Kendall
    Louise Kendall
  • Jillian Traskos
    Jillian Traskos
  • jlriddell
  • Ariel Weisman
    Ariel Weisman

29 Reviews

smpisano January 16, 2021
This isn’t shortbread, it’s crack. Both family and friends are hooked. Only suggestion is that you double the recipe.
Robin A. January 16, 2021
Agreed. It's crack.
Donna L. December 27, 2020
I only have "sweet" rice flour in my pantry so I'm going to try to make this recipe with the sweet rice flour and see if it makes a huge difference in texture and how the cookie binds together. If anyone has tried it with sweet rice flour instead of plain rice flour, please let me know how it turns out.
Donna L. December 27, 2020
In addition, I'm also going to mixing the sweet rice flour with GF baking flour so this is going to be an experiment.
Robin A. December 26, 2020
I made a double batch and froze it, pulled it out two weeks later and baked it. They came out beautifully and were perfect to put in the treat boxes I mailed my friends for christmas. These are massively addictive and rich. Cut them into very small squares or you will eat them all.
Tessi February 20, 2021
While I have not yet made this shortbread, I can state clearly that cutting them into smaller pieces would NOT deter me! :-)
Katienotnora December 21, 2020
So Good! Made my own rice flour because I couldn't find any at the market. Nice crunch, so buttery and savory. I think I will double the grapefruit next time as it is barely noticeable. I used high quality butter. Definitely a keeper.
PF January 3, 2020
Such a great recipe! I've been making something similar for about twenty years, inspired by a cookie I had at the coffee bar Abraco (on East Seventh Street in the East Village.) A shortbread with veins of orange zest and chopped cured black olives and thyme, it's the perfect sweet/savory mate for a cocktail or a glass of something bubbly.

Basically the same as Ms Music's recipe, but save the olives for last. After the dough is in the pan, press the chopped olives deep into the dough so they don't stain the pastry black. Unlike her, I use a straight-sided Ateco 8x8 pan, lined in both directions with parchment. This isn't a pitch for Ateco, but this pan is my go-to for brownies, blondies or anything I want in a square format.
Happygoin December 19, 2020
I have a pan of the rosemary and grapefruit shortbread in the oven as I type. The next batch will be with black olives and (I think) orange zest. Great suggestion, thanks and happy holidays!
SDL December 27, 2019
Made these with all ap and just a bit too much rosemary - I had some execution errors likely moving too quickly with holiday prep. Result was “ interesting” flavor profile but I can tell this will be a winner once I slow down and do it properly. Biggest takeaway? It reminded me instantly of a similar orange-zest drop cookie my grandmother made. So now I’m on the hunt for a similar recipe and have 2 cookie recipes to add to my routine!
Steve D. December 22, 2019
Added a little more salt and half again the zest (used orange, but I can’t imagine it matters). Literally the best cookies I’ve ever had. Thank you.
jen D. December 21, 2019
This is the new star of my cookie platter - everyone wants the recipe. Simple and delicious.
Kyliesachs December 19, 2019
So good - and interestingly addictive. The rosemary is strong JJ the grapefruit zest subtly makes it. Used all APF as that’s what I had. Fabulous recipe to take as a host gift.
Louise K. December 18, 2019
Fantastic- followed recipe (except for clementine zest in place of grapefruit) easy, and possibly the best shortbread I’ve ever had!
adriasmith December 18, 2019
I have a question - does the pan need to be 8x8? I have an 8.5x7 glass pyrex or a large 14x9...would either of those work?
Author Comment
lallimusic December 19, 2019
the 8.5 x 7 should work, the cookies will be slightly taller and cook time might be a minute or 2 longer
Jillian T. December 15, 2019
Followed the recipe exactly - shared with friends for tea in the afternoon, cocktails in the evening, and they paired well and were a hit with both!
Megan December 14, 2019
Made recipe, only subbing clementine zest for grapefruit as that's what I had on hand. Nice gentle hint of rosemary and zest. A beautiful gift on it's own or addition to a cheese plate!
jlriddell December 13, 2019
These have great flavor, but they seem a little too saturated by the butter. Almost to the point they seem uncooked although they are cooked. They do not have the dry texture that I would associate with shortbread. Maybe it’s more like shortbread focaccia.
Alyson C. December 12, 2019
Absolutely one of the best cookies I’ve made! Love them!
Jeremy D. December 8, 2019
If you cut these according to the recipe, you end up with 32 cookies, not 16. They would need to be 2” x 2” in order to get 16.
Author Comment
lallimusic December 8, 2019
That is true!! The original version of the recipe made 16 by cutting shortbread in half in pan, then rotating and making 8 perpendicular cuts, so the cookies were 2x4" rather than 2x2. Dealer's choice.
Nan December 7, 2019
Very tasty should they be crumbly
Ariel W. December 7, 2019
Do you need to use the rice flour for this recipe, or could a classic shortbread recipe work as well?
Author Comment
lallimusic December 7, 2019
The rice flour lends nice snap and a (not unpleasant) sandy texture. To omit, I'd replace with 1/4 cup AP flour (not 1/3).
Nan December 7, 2019
I just made these really delicious, my question is should they be a little crumbly
allison December 6, 2019
I might just be missing it, but is there a glitch in the amount of sugar called for? There seems to be a half cup extra that does't get used.
Brinda A. December 6, 2019
Thanks so much for pointing this out, Allison! The right amount of sugar is 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon—looks like there was a typo in the ingredients list.
allison December 6, 2019
Glad to know I wasn't seeing things! I've got a batch chilling in the fridge now...