Buttery homemade shortbread is so much better than its mass-produced counterpart. So put in a little effort and master this Scottish Shortbread recipe – your family, friends and taste buds will thank you!

This Traditional Scottish Shortbread recipe is from my great Nana Ling’s recipe book and dated 18 July 1941.

She’s identified the source of the recipe as “Mrs MacFarlane.” 

Scottish Shortbread

Traditional Scottish Shortbread is particularly popular during celebrations such as Christmas and Hogmanay (Scottish New Year), but it’s also popular throughout the world at any time of the year. It’s certainly welcome in my home all year round!

My Scottish connection

While Nana Ling’s background appears to be mostly English, back in 1941 her extended family was becoming a little more Scottish.

Two of her children married McDonalds, with the first McDonald union in 1941. Then, in 1943, her daughter (my Nan Mac) married my dear Pop Mac, Ronald George McDonald.

I wonder whether she used this recipe to impress her new daughter-in-law and son-in-law? Perhaps she baked up a batch to celebrate their weddings?

In any event, her son-in-law (my Pop Mac) was extremely proud of his Scottish heritage and I reckon he’d love this Scottish shortbread recipe – it’s a little more textured than store-bought shortbread and definitely on the sweet side. Pop Mac was known for his sweet tooth, and he always got a giggle out of me each time he declared, “My favourite fruit is chocolate.”

Ronald George McDonald (‘Pop Mac’)

Remembering the Scottish connection

Like Pop, I’m extremely proud of my Scottish heritage and indeed have Scottish DNA from my Dad’s side of the family as well.

I like to continue the story by taking my kids to Scottish festivals like Brigadoon and, of course, cooking up this wonderful Scottish Shortbread (which the kids love –though they treat to eat the mixture raw before I can even cook it!)

Tips for making traditional Scottish Shortbread

I’ve found that practice makes perfect when it comes to shortbread, and a little experimentation with recipes and methods is required.

The thing that will make or break your shortbread, though, is the method. If you do a little research on how to make the perfect shortbread, it can be very confusing. There are various “rules” about making shortbread, and quite often these rules clash. It really is a case of experimenting until you find what works for you in your kitchen.

I’ve put together a short how-to video to help you master this particular recipe. It runs you through the steps to make shortbread in the petticoat tails shape (as pictured above):

I’m keen to try making shortbread using one of these lovely Scottish Shortbread moulds which are available for purchase on Etsy.

Shortbread troubleshooting

Here are some tips to avoid common problems:

  • “My shortbread has cooked unevenly” – try chilling before cooking
  • “My shortbread is chewy or soft” – cook slower and longer
  • “My shortbread is burnt on the edges” – cook slower
  • “My shortbread has spread out too much during cooking” – try chilling before cooking



Okay, so there’s just one final thing to remember before you start:

Ith gu leòir! (which means “eat plenty” in Scottish Gaelic)

Nana Ling’s Scottish Shortbread recipe

Keep scrolling for the tested and tweaked version.

scottish shortbread
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Traditional Scottish Shortbread


  • 120 grams flour
  • 60 grams rice flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 120 grams butter
  • 120 grams sugar


  • Put sugar, butter and sifted flours and baking powder in separate piles on a clean surface.
  • Knead butter and sugar together.
  • Gradually draw in the flour, kneading well.
  • When the mixture is a stiff paste, break into two pieces.
  • Roll out each piece into a circle that's a little over 1 cm (or 1/2 inch) thick.
  • Pinch edges and dust with a little extra sugar on top.
  • Bake in a slow oven until golden. (I bake mine in a fan-forced oven at 140 degrees celsius for about 35 minutes.)


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