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Pecan Shortbread Cookies

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Rolled in coarse sugar, these sophisticated pecan shortbread cookies are long on buttery, nutty flavor.

pecan shortbread on baking sheet.

These buttery, sugar-crusted pecan shortbread cookies come from my friend Lisa Kolb Ruland, a self-described recovering lawyer turned CIA-trained pastry chef. Lisa has worked in some of New York City’s top bakeshops, and she is also the voice behind the lovely blog Unpeeled, where she shares trusted recipes. Lisa describes these  cookies as “sweet but not cloying, hearty and nutty but still delicate…a standout.” I have to agree—they are one of the most delicious cookies I have ever made. If you’re looking for something sophisticated to nibble on with coffee or tea, a gift-worthy baked good to share with friends or neighbors, or just a fun baking project, these cookies fit the bill.

What You’ll Need To Make Pecan Shortbread Cookies

ingredients for pecan shortbread cookies

How To Make Pecan Shortbread Cookies

Begin by toasting the pecans in a 350°F-oven for about five minutes to bring out their flavor. Let the pecans cool on the baking sheet while you prepare the cookie dough.

toasting the pecans

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and salt.

butter, sugar, and vanilla in mixer

Beat until smooth and lightened a bit, two to three minutes.

creamed butter and sugar mixture

Scrape the bowl with a spatula and add the flour.

adding flour

Mix on low speed until just combined.

mixed pecan shortbread cookie dough

Add the toasted pecans.

adding the toasted pecans to the dough

Mix on low speed until evenly incorporated.

pecan shortbread cookie dough in mixer

Turn the dough onto a clean countertop lightly dusted with flour. Dust the dough with a little flour as well.

pecan shortbread cookie dough on flour-dusted counterShape and roll into a squared log between 1-1/2 to 2 inches wide and 1-1/2 to 2 inches high, dusting with more flour as necessary. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap or parchment paper and chill for at least one hour or overnight, until the dough has gotten very firm.

forming the dough log

Once chilled, slice the chilled log into two halves. Brush the log with a beaten egg yolk.

beaten egg yolk, cookie dough logs, and turbinado sugar on counter

Roll the logs in demerara sugar, pressing as necessary, until fully coated. If there are any areas of the log that are bare, sprinkle with the demerara sugar to cover.

rolling the dough logs in turbinado sugarUse a serrated knife to slice each log into about 12 individual cookies, each about 1/2-inch thick. Place the cookie slices onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches of space between each.

sliced shortbread cookies on baking sheet ready to bakeBake until lightly golden, 18 to 20 minutes.

baked shortbread cookies on baking sheet

Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for a few minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.

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Pecan Shortbread Cookies

Rolled in coarse sugar, these sophisticated pecan shortbread cookies are long on buttery, nutty flavor.

Servings: 24 cookies
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Cook Time: 20 Minutes
Total Time: 35 Minutes, plus 1 hour to chill the dough

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup chopped pecans
  • 10 tablespoons (1¼ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup confectioners' sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Scant ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour, spooned into measuring cup and leveled-off with a knife, plus more for dusting
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten
  • ¼ cup demerara or turbinado sugar (Note: You'll use less than this, but you need extra to roll the dough in.)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and set an oven rack in the middle position.
  2. Place the pecans on a baking sheet and toast for around five minutes, until fragrant. Cool on the baking sheet. (The nuts can be toasted and stored at room temperature.)
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, confectioners' sugar, vanilla, and salt until smooth and lightened a bit, two to three minutes. Scrape the bowl with a spatula. Add the flour and mix on low just until fully combined. Add the pecans and mix until evenly combined.
  4. Turn the dough onto a clean countertop lightly dusted with flour. Dust the dough with a little flour. Shape and roll into a squared log between 1½ to 2 inches wide and 1½ to 2 inches high, dusting with more flour as necessary. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap or parchment paper and chill for at least one hour or overnight, until the dough has gotten very firm.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350°F and set two oven racks in the centermost positions. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  6. Lightly beat the egg yolk and ½ teaspoon of water in a small bowl and set aside. Pour the demerara sugar into a rimmed baking sheet or shallow casserole pan. Slice the chilled log in half to make it more manageable. Working with one log at a time, brush all sides of the log with the egg yolk mixture, then roll in the demerara sugar, pressing as necessary, until fully coated. If there are any areas of the log that are bare, sprinkle with the demerara sugar to cover.
  7. Use a serrated knife to slice each log into about 12 individual cookies, each about ½-inch thick. Place the cookie slices onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches of space between each. Bake, rotating from top to bottom and front to back halfway through, until lightly golden, 18 to 20 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for a few minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool completely. The cookies will keep in a covered container at room temperature for up to a week.
  8. Freezer-Friendly Instructions: Let the cookies cool completely and store in an airtight container separating layers with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Before serving, remove the cookies from the container and let them come to room temperature. If you'd like to freeze the dough before baking, shape it into a squared log, then wrap it securely in plastic wrap and then a layer of foil; freeze for up to 3 months. When ready to bake, remove the log from the freezer, thaw it until pliable, and then proceed with recipe.

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Serving size: 1 cookie
  • Calories: 112
  • Fat: 7g
  • Saturated fat: 3 g
  • Carbohydrates: 10 g
  • Sugar: 4 g
  • Fiber: 1 g
  • Protein: 1 g
  • Sodium: 51 mg
  • Cholesterol: 19 mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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Comments

  • Jenn, I don’t usually have a problem with your recipes, but with this one I did. I made the dough exactly following the directions, measured exactly, spooned and leveled. Got the dough shaped into a log, refrigerated it overnight. Next day, I removed the dough from the fridge, mixed the egg yolk and water, measured out the sugar and rolled the dough in the sugar. Started slicing the dough with a serrated knife; and when I went to pick up the slice(s) to place on the cookie sheet, they all crumbled. I never even got to bake the cookies; I threw the entire mess out. This is definitely not a keeper for me.

    • — Diane on December 8, 2022
    • Reply
    • I had the same problem. I could hardly even shape it into a log so I added more butter. It almost seems like it needed something wet, like an egg in the dough to help keep it together. I really wanted to love this recipe.

      • — Marsha on December 13, 2022
      • Reply
    • I found it slices better with a sharp paring knife. I’ve made this recipe several times and this last time I had the same problem. I live in a very dry climate and think that may have been the problem. I’m adding a little extra (1 1/2 TBS) butter next time as someone else suggested.

      • — KB on December 31, 2023
      • Reply
  • These cookies are absolutely delicious. I was wondering if you could freeze the dough for a later time then thaw and bake the cookies?? Thank you Melissa

    • — Melissa lussier on December 7, 2022
    • Reply
    • Glad you like them! And yes, you can definitely freeze the dough — see the bottom of the recipe for freezer-friendly instructions.

      • — Jenn on December 8, 2022
      • Reply
  • This might be my new favorite cookie, I had to quickly deliver half the batch to family to avoid eating them all. It was a little crumbly after adding the flour, so I added a smidge more butter mixed in by hand and they turned out great. These will be a new holiday staple, thank you!

    • — Lola on December 7, 2022
    • Reply
  • Hello
    I’m a little confused because after baking only one side is golden. Are you supposed to flip the cookies also when rotating pans?
    Thank you

    • — Mary on December 3, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Mary, there’s no need to flip them. I’d just serve the cookies with the golden side up.

      • — Jenn on December 5, 2022
      • Reply
  • Crunchy, buttery deliciousness! Absolutely one of my fav cookie recipes that I have shared with many friends that equally love these cookies. Wouldn’t change a thing! (personal exception: bake 2 minutes longer for a slightly darker cookie.)
    Thank you!

    • — Alison on September 27, 2022
    • Reply
  • I tried these for my boys and they loved it! I was just wondering if you have any tips on making these with gluten free flour (other recipes tend to taste different with gluten free flour). If not, it’s okay and I love your recipes!

    • — June on September 5, 2022
    • Reply
    • Glad your boys enjoyed them and that you like the recipes!! I haven’t tried these with gluten-free flour. Oftentimes, readers will have commented if they’ve tried a recipe with gluten-free flour and have been successful but it doesn’t look like anyone has mentioned that in the comments so far, so you may be the guinea pig. 🙂 That said, I think you can get away with it. My many readers have commented that they have great luck with King Arthur gluten-free flour if you want to give that a try. Please LMK how these turn out if you try them this way!

      • — Jenn on September 6, 2022
      • Reply
  • Delish! I cut them 1/4” thick instead of 1/2” thick, and baked them for 16 minutes – instead of 18 to 20 minutes – and got twice as many cookies, and in less time! I also didn’t have the Demerara sugar so I substituted Sparkling sugar and they look and taste great! I’m going to try the Crispy Ginger Cookies this afternoon! I know my husband will love these too! Thanks! Annie

    • — Ann on August 24, 2022
    • Reply
  • worse cookies i ever ate

    • — mj on August 15, 2022
    • Reply
  • I made these today. I read several comments and I’m not sure why one person mentioned the salt. I did use salted butter and I added the salt and there was no issue with being too salty.
    In my opinion, this is a great recipe! I will make them again. I followed the recipe exactly but baked one tray at a time.

    • — Martha on July 31, 2022
    • Reply
  • Do you think this recipe would work the same if I added some finely diced dried apricots? Thanks!

    • — Lisa on June 21, 2022
    • Reply
    • Sure – hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on June 22, 2022
      • Reply
  • These! OMG! These are the most decadent shortbread cookies I’ve ever made! I recently went on a mountain spa trip with my girlfriends and made these to take along. They all raved. The demerara sugar is what kicks these up a notch (IMO). These are just WOW!!

    • — Stacy McGarry on April 2, 2022
    • Reply
  • Superfantastic! Better than the “Pecan Sandies” I loved as a kid (half a century ago). Will definitely be trying more of your recipes!

  • Excellent and EASY to make. Just found your site and am trying Many new recipes – especially Asian. The way you present information is perfect for both right and left brain learners (few sites can make this claim), and has terrific visual appeal. The still photos make it easy for us speed demons to quickly zip through the information.

    TEXTURE from the coarse sugar is so important in recipes. I would advise people to not make substitutions. After caring for my mother at end of life when ALL her meals were run through a blender, I realized the importance of texture in a way I had never before. I will never consume anything from a blender until I have no teeth! Take that extra step and follow the recipe for best results. Live life to the fullest while you can.

  • The dough was really crumbly and would just not hold together. I put it back in the mixer with a other 1/4 cup butter, cut in small pieces, and mixed it all well. Made the cookies and they turned out great!

  • I will definitely make these again!
    They were really delicious. I made a few new types of shortbread this year but hands down this was my favourite. The sugar around the outside makes it ( so does toasting the nuts) and they look really nice on the plate. Another great recipe from your site!

  • I’ve made these twice , the first time for my Mothers Birthday, because she always loved store bought Pecan Sandies , they are such a delicious cookie ,the roasted pecans and buttery dough, one of the best cookies I’ve ever tasted.

  • Good to see another baker had some issues with this recipe. I only had salted butter on hand, so reduced the overall amount of salt needed. Mine turned out a bit too salty with overly browned bottoms. 18 minutes was also too long in my oven. When I baked the second tray, they looked nicer as I reduced the time to 15 mins, but you really need to use unsalted butter. Oh well, this baker has certainly learned from her mistake.

    • As a follow-up to my first attempt of this recipe which didn’t turn out well, this time around, it was successful. I used unsalted butter, added some lemon zest & cardamom (simply because I love those 2 flavors together), skipped rolling in demerara sugar before baking. After they were baked & still warm , I rolled the tops in a mixture of white sugar & cinnamon. What a fun recipe to play with.

  • I made these as directed the first time but felt the sugar coating was unnecessary. I’ve made them many times since just as a simply delicious square pecan shortbread cookie! Always get rave reviews when I serve them.

    • Yes! I agree they are a delicious simple scrumptious shortbread cookie, no need for the extra sugar!

      • — Patricia on April 19, 2022
      • Reply
  • Hi Jen!
    Your recipes are all amazing! I only use your site now for my cooking. Thank you so much! I’m looking to make these for Christmas. I have Sea salt not Kosher salt. Is there a difference in measurements? Thank you! Merry Christmas!

    Denise

    • — Denise Ksen Smith
    • Reply
    • So glad you like the recipes, Denise! The measurements will be the same for sea salt. Hope you enjoy the cookies!

  • Just mixed up ANOTHER batch of these last night. This will be the fourth or fifth time I’ve made them and I always get rave reviews from those who get the ‘privilege’ of sampling some. Don’t change a thing on the recipe; they are beyond perfect just as they are! They have now become one of my Christmas cookie additions. They’re just that good!

    • — Denise Zagrocki
    • Reply
  • I want to make these for a cookie exchange can I use the colored red or green sugar sprinkles?

  • Hi Jenn, I am so tempted to make these after reading the comments. One question though, I don’t want to go out buying demerera sugar just for one recipe. I have soft brown sugar at home, do you think that would work for rolling at the outer edges instead of demerera? Although I note that soft brown sugar is smaller granules than coarse sugar or demerera. Appreciate urgent response as I am keen to make these now…..too tempting

    • Hi Komal, You really need the coarse sugar for these. Do you have a coffee shop nearby? They often have packets of raw sugar.

  • I made these cookies but I added 1/4 cup cornstarch. They are delicious!

    • What does the cornstarch do?

  • Could oil be used in this recipe?

    • Hi Chris, the only oil that would work in this recipe would be (solidified) coconut oil. Please LMK how they turn out if you try it!

      • Can you press this into a 9×13 pan and bake them with the sugar on top?

        • Hi Mike, Theoretically it should work, but I’m not sure if they’ll be really crumbly when you cut them. Please LMK how they turn out if you try it!

  • Jenn – every one of your recipes are amazing!! You are my go-to chef. I have shared your recipes with many and as a result they have purchased your cookbook. (i must say, I hesitated to share your recipes, b/c i went from being a terrific cook to now they too are excellent cooks.) These cookies are the bomb! The tenderness of the shortbread along with the buttery taste of pecans and sweetness and crunch of the sugar make for the perfect cookie with a cup of coffee.

    • So glad you like the recipes (and your comment made me laugh)! 🙂

  • These cookies are sooooo good. I might add a 1/4 cup rice floor. Best shortbread had rice flour. Reduce white flour by that amount. They are yummy.

  • Simply Scrumptious!!!

  • Can you use regular sugar? I’m on a time crunch and my local market is closed.

    • Hi Jill, do you want to use granulated in place of the confectioners’ sugar or demerara sugar? Granulated sugar won’t work in place confectioners’ sugar. If you’re referring to the demerara sugar, that should be fine though the coarser grain of the demerara sugar adds a nice texture. Hope that helps!

      • Thanks. So delicious.

  • These are so good! Make them make them make them 🙂

  • This is now my favorite shortbread recipe. Delicious, easy to make and they look so pretty.

  • By far the best shortbread cookies I’ve ever made, or ever eaten! They are not too sweet, melt in your mouth, and the Kosher salt is a perfect addition! My friends all think I am a cookie queen – but it’s really Jen’s recipes that rule!

    • — Patricia M Langer
    • Reply
  • Hi Jen, can I substitute almond flour and monk fruit sugar instead of turbinado sugar and conf. Sugar?

    • Hi Sheila, It’s hard to say without trying them that way. For the best results, I’d stick with the recipe. Sorry!

  • What could I use instead of the egg wash to keep the recipe egg free?

    • Hi SHAD, You could use milk or cream in place of the egg. Enjoy!

  • These are dangerously good! They are so so good and everyone always raves about them. The only thing I do differently is I bake each half-log by itself. When I made this the first time, I felt like my oven wasn’t baking both pans evenly… even with the rotation instructions. Now I cut the log in half, put one half back in the fridge, and work with just one at a time. Of course, it takes me longer to bake them, but I don’t mind. I like mine a little less browned, so I’m closer to the 18-minute mark (rotating front-to-back at 9 minutes).

    • Nice recipe EXCEPT way too salty. I made a double batch, but cut salt to 1tsp total and still found them noticeably salty. (Yes, my butter was unsalted). Brown sugar crust burnt on the bottom pan, despite rotation. I’d cut the salt way down and do one pan at a time if I used the recipe again.

  • This is my favorite shortbread recipe! It’s much more interesting & flavorful than the usual shortbread because of the nutty flavor that the pecans impart. You use much less butter & sugar than a typical shortbread recipe so they’re not overly rich or greasy or sweet like most shortbreads. However, I use more than the recommended 1/4 c of demerara sugar to roll them in so that the rim of the cookies are very coated. It gives great flavor and texture to the cookie. I love the convenience of refrigerating them overnight. They also freeze well so that you can make them & enjoy them all year round.

  • These pecan shortbread cookies are probably one of my favorite cookies – I love how nutty they are, and they melt in your mouth. Rolling the log in demerara sugar and pressing it in the dough is brilliant. It makes them extra pretty once baked.

    • — Jacqueline Mensinger
    • Reply
  • This is bang on a great recipie we all loved it

  • This has become my favorite cookie recipe. So delicious and easy to make! Family loves them!

  • These cookies are sooo yummy! I’ve never made anything like this so it was fun to do something different. They are great with coffee.

  • These are just the best! I made them for the first time this past Christmas. Followed the recipe to the letter. Melt in your mouth cookies! Had to make more. I would suggest these anytime really. Don’t wait for Christmas! Great with a cup of tea.

    • — Calley OHenley
    • Reply
  • I followed the recipe to a T except for one thing: I substituted Turbinado sugar for the Damarara sugar. They were terrific and simple to make. Use a wire cheese slicer to slice the dough into cookies; works like a charm.

  • These were excellent. Shortbread has been a seasonal treat for us ,usually St. Patrick’s day, but with these delicious cookies I believe they will be enjoyed the year around. Everyone in our family enjoyed them. I will have to make a double batch the next time.

    • — Paulette Horger
    • Reply
  • The BEST! As usual for Jenn. I have become a devotee of Jenn’s website and cookbooks because they are literally no fail, 10/10 every time.
    These cookies are a dream to make because you can freeze the dough in a log and simply slice and bake later. I like my cookies a little “caramelized”, so I slice mine thinner to get them a little golden brown and toast the pecans a little more. I know it’s not what you’re supposed to do with shortbread, but it’s how I like it! These are now my most requested cookie! Thanks for another winner, Jenn!

  • I made these cookies for Christmas and they were amazing. I added dried apricots. Definitely one of my favorites! A nice cookie to add to Christmas cookie trays.

    • Thanks for this. I wanted to add apricots or cranberries, then dip in chocolate instead of roll in sugar. 😍

  • I made these for the first time at Christmas this year, and they will be added to the permanent holiday bake. These were the first cookies to be eaten up and everyone loved them. I did not coat the outside of the log with the sugar and they were fine. The dough was a little dry to work with and form; I made a note to be sure the butter is thoroughly softened. Thank you, Jen for another terrific recipe!

  • These little bites of heaven are so perfect if you just want a little something – not too sweet, crunchy and nutty. I especially like the raw sugar edge… adds a great texture.

  • Best cookies ever and I was not a big shortbread cookie fan. These cookies converted me into one. Wish I wasn’t perpetually dieting; otherwise, I would have these around all the time. Delicious!

  • I have stayed away from making shortbread cookies because I thought they were hard to make. Well, no more. This recipe was easy, quick, and turned out great! The first time I made them, I covered the outside with white crystal cake decorating sugar, and they looked so festive. I did the brown sugar coating on the second batch, but I liked the decorating sugar better than the brown sugar coating. I will make this recipe again and again.

  • I’ve made these cookies several times and they always turn out great. Very popular with family and friends. My friends dad brings me pecans from Texas so I am always looking for new recipes to use them. I live in Colorado with a dry climate and we have our wood burning fireplace going all day this time of year. I did reduce the flour by a couple of ounces for the last couple of batches and they still turned out perfectly. I don’t even like cookies that much and I love them. My husband, the cookie monster loves all your cookie recipes. Also made your cheesecake recipe for Christmas dessert and he practically at the whole thing. I was able to save my father one slice. Goodness.

  • These are amazing! Made them for the first time for Christmas but a definite all year round recipe!

    • — Bethany Durkin
    • Reply

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