Salted Rosemary Shortbread Recipe on Food52 (2024)


by: lallimusic



42 Ratings

  • Prep time 1 hour 25 minutes
  • Cook time 30 minutes
  • Makes 32 cookies

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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

  • Test Kitchen-Approved

What You'll Need

  • 1 1/2 cups(180g) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup(43g) rice flour
  • 1/2 teaspoonkosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 2 tablespoonsfresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1 cup(2 sticks, 1/2 pound, or 227g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cupplus 1 tablespoon (112g) granulated sugar, divided
  • 2 teaspoonsfinely grated grapefruit zest
  • Flaky sea salt, for topping
  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.


  • Cookie
  • American
  • Holiday
  • Christmas
  • Dessert

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Taylor Stanton

  • SophieL

  • Leil

  • Sabine Gagnon

  • EmilyC

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44 Reviews

I just made this shortbread and WOW. This is truly my ideal sweet treat (aside from the fact that I can't stop eating it.) Buttery, crisp, salty, sufficiently sweet, and bright with the hint of grapefruit zest! The recipe is simply and easy (though I did sustain a zesting injury. Be careful out there with those box graters!). The only kinda pain is pressing the dough into the pan. I found using my hands easier than a spatula. I am stoked to have come upon this recipe and am currently making multiple batches to include in cookies gifts this year. Thanks for the great recipe!

Paula A. October 20, 2023

This recipe is one of my favorites for holiday baking. Only problem is they never made it to the holiday platter! They became my personal stash for a while:)

sreagan82 December 23, 2022

I love these so much that I am making several batches for my wedding reception. Everyone I have made them for has simply said WOW! I am not crazy enough to cook all the food for my reception, but since I do love to bake and cook, I wanted to have some little representation of me in the food for our big day. A big thank you to the recipe author… I love the story of you eating these throughout your childhood and into adulthood. Good recipes like these are a family legacy.

Taylor S. December 20, 2022

I made this as part of my holiday cookie and candy assortment (11 kinds). These are absolutely STUNNING shortbread (taste-wise). I ended up making another batch the next day because I ate too many of the cookies myself. The rice flour gives it such a dreamy, tender, and perfectly crumbly mouthfeel. I added maybe twice the amount of zest? I imagine this would be good with a myriad of other flavors too... lemon or lime zest, oregano, thyme, basil, etc.

Marisav December 19, 2022

I’m guessing I was supposed to press really hard before putting them in the fridge? I pressed them to create a uniform thickness and smooth them but perhaps I didn’t put enough muscle in as they are not holding together. You may want to mention the importance of pressing hard if that is likely the cause of my issue. I will say though that it could be that I substituted with GF flour (bob’s red mill)?

Marisav December 20, 2022

Update: the shortbread is holding together better after cooling them down and refrigerating them.

Kathy December 20, 2023

How was it with GF flour?

REDJIMSGIRL December 6, 2022

I’ve made this over a dozen time and given it for gifts
It is DELICIOUS and so easy and I love the crispness
Hardest part it getting it packaged before I eat it all

REDJIMSGIRL December 19, 2022

Wondering if anyone has added more flour/rice flour to make the cut out capable? If so, how much?

Awesome cookies! My first time using rice flour, and I love the sandy texture, yet still very tender. I doubled the grapefruit zest, as a reviewer suggested. And I used a new product from Burlap & Barrel called Balsam Fir Salt for the flaky salt topping; this really complemented the rosemary. So good, so different. Definitely a keeper.

Leil January 19, 2022

These were delicious. Maybe a bit much rosemary for me. However very easy to make. I will try again, maybe with different flavorings.

Sabine G. December 18, 2021

These were incredible. Easy and so flavorful. After reading the reviews- I decided to double the batch and I’m glad I did! They would have went much too quickly!

EmilyC December 17, 2021

These are very, very good. The texture is delightful. Made them as gifts but now I need to make another batch for myself! : )

Melissa B. December 17, 2021

These are divine.
Took like two minutes to mix in my food processor.
So good. Gonna need to make another batch as I can’t stop eating these.

Sophia 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.

Jplain December 13, 2022

How did they turn out using the sweet rice flour?

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 co*cktail 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.

Salted Rosemary Shortbread  Recipe on Food52 (2024)
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