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Soft Cornmeal Shortbread Cookies

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In which being corny and plain is a good thing.

cornmeal cookies with white plate pink tablecloth

These simple and soft cornmeal shortbread cookies are a cinch to whip up, and taste sweet and satisfying. Sugary, but not overly so, these chewy little butter buttons make a perfect accompaniment to a hot cup of tea or anytime treat.

This recipe takes inspiration from Nancy Baggett’s International Cookie Cookbook, a fantastic and now sadly out-of-print cookie tome from the late 1980s. I have swapped regular yellow cornmeal in for her recommended white because it is easier to source, and because I like the homey yellow color. I also added a pinch of salt to make things a little more interesting.

As with all shortbread cookies, there is no leavening from baking soda or baking powder. They do not spread when baked. The flat shape comes from rolling small scoops of cookie dough into rounds, then pressing them slightly with the flat bottom of a glass. Bonus points for rolling the balls of dough in sugar first as an extra treat.

You may also enjoy: Pecan Sugar Shortbread Cookies and The Ultimate Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies

baking ingredients flour butter sugar eggs on tray

A couple of notes on the recipe for Soft Cornmeal Shortbread Cookies

  • These bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 15 minutes. They will still be light on top, but should be light golden brown on the bottom.
  • The dough should be crumbly, but stick together when pressed. Cornmeal can be drying in a recipe, so if it is still crumbling and not holding together when you try to scoop the balls of cookie dough, add a bit of milk, let’s say one tablespoon, then stir and try again.
  • Though these cookies will not spread, it is still a good idea — as with all cookies — not to crowd the cookie sheet. It is important that ample air circulates around each cookie to let it bake properly. I recommend two cookie sheets for this recipe, which yields around 30 cookies. (Depending on how much cookie dough you eat, of course.)

raw soft cornmeal cookie dough on tray

raw vanilla cornmeal cookie dough on tray

Soft Cornmeal Shortbread Cookies

These sweet and soft cornmeal shortbread cookie that bakes up light golden brown, with just the right amount of flavor and homey grit from cornmeal.
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time15 minutes
Course: Dessert
Keywords:: butter cookie, cookies, cornmeal, shortbread
Servings: 30 or so cookies
Print

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 pinch kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal, white or yellow
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (I use unbleached)

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line with parchment or lightly grease two cookie sheets or half-sheet pans and set aside.
  • Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Scrape the bowl. Add the egg yolks, salt, and vanilla. Beat until combined and fluffy. Scrape the bowl to make sure everything is mixed well.
  • Add the flour and cornmeal and mix gently until everything is fully combined. Let the dough stand for about 5 minutes; the cornmeal will absorb some of the moisture from the butter and egg. Meanwhile, fill a shallow bowl with a layer of sugar.
  • After 5 minutes, check the consistency of the dough. The dough should be soft but firm enough to hold together and shape with your hands. If it is spreading, add a little more flour (up to 1/4 cup, but probably not even that much) and combine.
  • Using a spoon or small cookie scoop, roll pieces of cookie dough into 1" balls. Roll them in sugar, and place them on a lined cookie sheet, leaving about 2" of space between each
  • Using the flat bottom of a clean glass or the palm of your hand, lightly press the cookies to form thick disks.
    TIP: I prefer using a glass because I find it makes a more even, flat shape.
  • Bake on the center rack for about 15 minutes, rotating half way. The cookies should be pale gold and lightly brown on the bottom. Let cool on the cookie sheets for a few minutes to set before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely.
    These will keep in an airtight container for a week or a little longer, and freeze well.

5 comments

  • 5 stars
    Hi Lisa,
    I’m addicted to these cookies!
    As do my family & friends.

    I have a quick question. Could I make these cookies like a “thumbprint cookie” and use apricot & raspberry jam?

    Or could I add a little of either jam,and just do a quick swirl through the batter before baking?

    Thanks!
    Lisa

    • Unpeeled

      Aren’t they great little cookies? I think that would work fine! I’d do them as thumbprints as opposed to swirls because I worry the jam may do something funky and spread or melt out while baking. Then again, maybe experiment with some both ways and see what happens? Jam’s a great idea!!

  • 5 stars
    Sweet and simple for sure. I love these with a cup of tea.

  • 5 stars
    I am so glad to have the recipe now!! I got spoiled from you baking them for us 🙂

  • Michelle M.

    5 stars
    Simple but somehow these are very addictive!!

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