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Buttery Pecan Shortbread Cookies

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An elegant pecan shortbread long on buttery flavor.

Perhaps my favorite cookie recipe of all is this lovely pecan shortbread cookie recipe. Buttery, nutty, and fun to make, these slice-and-bake butter cookies are everything your cookie platter’s been missing. 

Pecan Shortbread Cookie Recipe

Meet These Buttery Pecan Shortbread Cookies

This recipe for pecan shortbread cookies is one of my favorites of all the cookies I like to bake. The combination of buttery shortbread dough (with just the barest hint of salt) coupled with toasted pecans — did I mention the outer rim of sparkling turbinado sugar? — will wow everyone.

Best of all? The dough can be made several days in advance.

shortbread pecan cookie dough on in bowl with wooden spoon

Adapting These Slice-and-Bake Pecan Butter Cookies

One of my all-time favorite pastry cookbooks is The Craft of Baking by award-winning New York City pastry chef Karen DeMasco. Karen DeMasco is a restaurant pastry chef’s pastry chef, having worked at some of New York City’s most sophisticated restaurants (Craft, Locanda Verde, Gramercy Tavern, ABC). But her cookbook accomplishes a tricky task: She fills its pages with recipes tailored to home bakers — but the recipes are sophisticated and a little special. Never dumbed down.

This recipe for pecan shortbread cookies is a perfect example. Sweet but not cloying, hearty and nutty but still delicate, I promise that these cookies stand out amid a sea of holiday baked goods.

I made a couple of tweaks to her recipe.

  • Vanilla extract subs in for vanilla bean because vanilla beans are very pricey.
  • The salt has been slightly upped slightly because that is how I like shortbread, especially when paired against the sweetness of the sugar on the outside.

pecan shortbread dough log on marble pecan shortbread dough log with sugar and egg wash on marble

Pecan Shortbread Cookies: Recipe Steps and Tips

Because this recipe for pecan shortbread cookies, like all shortbreads, has so few ingredients, good-quality ingredients make all the difference. I prefer a higher fat, European butter (such as Plugra) for the most tender and rich cookie crumble. Toasting the pecans makes a real difference in flavor, and takes all of five minutes. Do it!

A few other recipe notes:

  • After rolling the dough into a log, wrap it and chill it well. Once fully chilled, the dough logs will be easy to roll in sugar, slice, and bake.
  • The pecan sugar shortbread cookie dough can be made a day ahead. The finished cookies will keep for at least a week in an airtight container.

Butter Pecan Shortbread Cookie Recipe makes the best holiday cookie slice and bake shortbread cookies

Love these buttery pecan shortbread cookies? You will also enjoy:

Butter Pecan Shortbread Cookie Recipe makes the best holiday cookie slice and bake shortbread cookies

Pecan Shortbread Cookies

A buttery, sophisticated pecan shortbread cookie recipe that's loaded with toasted pecans, rolled in sparkling sugar, and baked golden brown.
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time20 minutes
Chilling time1 hour
Total Time1 hour 40 minutes
Course: Dessert
Keywords:: buttercream, cookies, pecans, shortbread
Servings: 24 cookies
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Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten
  • 1/8 cup demerara sugar (Note: You'll use less than this, but you need extra to roll the dough in.)

Instructions

Toasted Pecans

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the pecans on a baking sheet and toast for around five minutes, until fragrant. Cool on the baking sheet. (This can be done in advance. Store at room temperature.)

For the Cookie Dough

  • In the bowl of an electric mixer, use the paddle attachment to cream the butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, and salt until smooth and lightened a bit, around 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 combined. Scrape the bowl and make sure everything is evenly distributed and no visible flour remains.
  • Turn the dough onto a clean countertop lightly dusted with flour. Shape and roll into a squared log around 1 1/2 to 2 inches wide. Dust the dough with a little flour as necessary. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap or parchment and chill at least one hour or overnight, until the dough has fully hardened.
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  • Lightly beat an egg yolk in a small bowl and set aside. Pour the demerara sugar into a small, rimmed baking sheet or shallow casserole pan. (The key is to have a flat bottom with sides.)
  • Divide the chilled log into two halves. Working with one log at a time, brush all sides of the log with egg yolk, then roll in the sugar, pressing as necessary, until fully coated.
  • Use a serrated knife to slice each log into about 12 individual cookies, each about 1/2" thick. Place the cookie slices onto lined baking sheets, leaving a little space between each.
  • Bake, rotating halfway, until lightly golden, around 20 minutes. Cool fully. (These freeze well and will keep at room temperature for at least a week.)

18 comments

  • 5 stars
    Thank you this is a great recipe. Shortbreads are my go to holiday cookie and they are perfect for occasions that I need a cookie gift because they do stay well and look great!. This recipe is so perfect that I made a few different kinds – toasted pecan and some walnut, dried cherry and big chocolate chunks, and just plain with the sugar on the edge were perfection as well because not everyone in the family is a nut lover. I also bought “The Craft of Baking” book mentioned here – great reviews on amazon

    • Unpeeled

      I’m so excited that you got the cookbook and loved the cookies! They are both among my all-time favorite things. Enjoy.

  • 5 stars
    They have quickly become my favorite cookie!

  • My favorite cookies are Deb Perelman’s salted chocolate chunk shortbread…somewhat similar to this recipe, which I plan to try!

    • Unpeeled

      I LOVE that recipe (and Deb in general), too! Let me know how it goes!

  • Valerie

    Would love to make this but I only have pistachios & almond nuts at home. Do you think these will work? Given the current COVID situation, I would like to play my part and stay home. Thanks.

    • Unpeeled

      Hi, Valerie. Smart move, and thanks for the great question. Substituting different nuts will absolutely work. I especially like the idea of pistachios. I think the green would look really sharp, and they taste fabulous. Almonds would be great as well. I would just say to make sure that they are the same size or so as the pecan pieces, so that they slice easily. I’d love to hear how they turn out!

      • Valerie

        So happy to share that I found success replacing the pecans with pistachios. Pretty and delicious they were! I am now thinking of adding dried cranberries too for Xmas. Thanks for the lovely recipe. Keep well and safe!

        • Unpeeled

          Fantastic! I am so glad. They must have looked so pretty. Keep me posted if you do a holiday version with cranberries and pistachios. I may have to make those, too 🙂

      • Valerie

        So happy to report that I found success replacing the pecans with pistachios. So pretty & delicious they were! Unfortunately I forgot to take a pic. I am already thinking of adding dried cranberries too for Xmas. Thanks for the recipe!

  • Candace Caddell

    My husband and I both love pecans. I love shortbread, so I will definitely be making these cookies. And as far as my favorite cookie? Besides chocolate chip, I’d have to say Mint Milano which I want to learn to make myself!

    • Unpeeled

      Thanks, Candace! Let us know how they turn out. Shortbread are my favorite, too. (You’ll actually see another shortbread recipe on the homepage right now!) Mmm…mint milanos. Good call.

  • 5 stars
    My family LOVED these cookies. Thank you, Lisa!

    • Unpeeled

      Thanks for baking these, Jenn! I am so glad to hear it!! You’re the best.

  • Marianne Porter

    5 stars
    I second the comment Susan A. left…these are delish!! I used regular sugar around the rim and it was fine.

  • Susan A.

    5 stars
    OMG these may be the best cookies I have ever made. They are amazing. I toasted the pecans and I think it definitely made a difference. So buttery and good. I love these.

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