With the holiday season upon us, these paleo and gluten free shortbread cookies make the perfect treat to top your cookie platter. Made with an almond and cassava flour blend and sweetened with maple sugar, these cookies contain a distinct buttery taste
We’re mere days from Christmas and hours from Hanukkah (jaw drop), which means the holiday baking frenzy is completely underway at my house. In the past month, I tweaked a snickerdoodle recipe from the archives, perfected a gluten-free cornbread for your holiday table, tweaked an old favorite gluten free cracker toffee recipe, and whipped up an apple galette that’s far easier to make than it appears.
But you know me: can’t stop won’t stop.
I couldn’t shake the feeling that this year’s piece de resistance was a new recipe for gluten-free shortbread cookies. And, about 8 test batches later, here they are, just as perfectly thick, buttery, a little bit crumbly, and melt-in-your-mouth-y as you’d expect – no, demand – of a perfect shortbread.
How to Make Gluten-Free Shortbread Cookies
To start, preheat your oven to 3o0 degrees. Yes, 300 – not 350. We want these thick, yet delicate cookies to cook low and slow so they just cook through without browning or, worse, burning. While your oven is preheating, line a baking sheet with a silicone baking pad or parchment paper, and set aside.
Ingredients for this shortbread cookie recipe
These cookies use a gluten-free flour blend of almond and cassava flour, plus, salt, and maple sugar. That will make up your dry ingredients mixture. The only wet ingredients you’ll need are grass-fed butter (yes, butter! Not ghee!) and vanilla extract.
Since it’s such a simple recipe with limited ingredients, you need to make sure you’re using the best of the best quality ingredients. That means finely ground blanched almond flour, grass-fed butter, and pure vanilla extract.
Equipment for the shortbread recipe
The good news is that these cookies come together entirely in the food processor. The bad news is that if you don’t have a food processor, it might turn you off to this recipe. Don’t let it!
You can also make the dough in stand mixture, but make sure to keep it at low speed and mix until the vanilla and dry ingredients are just combined with the butter and sugar – not a moment longer. You don’t want to incorporate too much air into these cookies! Id you don’t have a food processor OR a stand mixer, you can put this together in a mixing bowl, but be warned: you really need to stir like crazy to cream together the butter and sugar.
Once the dough comes together, it will also be handy to have a rolling pin, bench scraper, and parchment paper for rolling and cutting the cookies into the traditional little “fingers”. Oh, and a fork or toothpick or poking the cookies!
In the bowl of the food processor, combine the butter and maple sugar and blend until the mixture is creamed together. Add the remaining ingredients, and process until the dough comes together in a ball. The dough will look way too dry at first, but let the machine do its work: it will come together.
When the cookie dough comes together, stop the machine immediately, and turn the cookie dough out onto a piece of parchment (or a cutting board dusted with a little extra cassava flour). Cover with another piece of parchment, and roll out into a rectangle about 5-6 inch wides x 12 inches long x 1/2 inch thick.
Use your bench scraper to cut the dough into rectangles about 3/4″ x 2.5″, then to move the cookies to your prepared baking sheet.
Finally, use a fork or toothpick to poke holes on each of your cookies before baking. Technically, these are to let air escape so the cookies don’t bubble, but they’re also the shortbread calling card, so don’t skip this step!
Bake for a total time of 18–20 minutes, or until the edges turn golden brown. When you take your cookies out of the oven DO! NOT! MOVE! THEM!!! This is critically important. The cookies are very soft when they’re fresh from the oven, and require about 20 minutes of cooling time on the cookie sheet to set up.
Once they’re cooled and set, use a spatula, transfer your cookies to a cooling rack. Store in an airtight container on the counter for one week, or up to six months in the freezer.
FAQs and Tips for Gluten-Free Shortbread Success
New around here? Here’s my present to you: I’ve been slowly adding posts on basic tips and essential ingredients for gluten-free baking. Be sure to keep coming back to keep navigating your way around gluten-free recipes.
Where do I find gluten free flours?
Finely ground blanched almond flour is available in grocery stores (look for Bob’s Red Mill brand). Cassava flour is available at Whole Foods and other health food stores, in the baking aisle (I recommend Otto’s). Of course, you can also get everyone on Amazon!
Talk to me about butter.
Ah, yes. We don’t see a lot of butter around here, do we? When you use butter in baking, always make sure it is unsalted butter, because salted butter contains an inconsistent amount of salt, which makes it difficult to control how salty the recipe turns out. No one likes a salty cookie. ?
Additionally, as I said above, make sure you’re investing in high quality butter, since the buttery flavor is so critical to good shortbread. I strongly recommend Kerrygold unsalted grass-fed butter, which you can find at the grocery or natural foods store when you go to grab your flours.
Can I substitute the maple sugar for a different sweetener?
Yes, kind of. If you’re looking to substitute because you can’t find maple sugar, don’t stress. You can always get it online. If you don’t want to invest in maple sugar, you can use coconut sugar, which substitutes 1:1 for maple sugar, but will change the taste slightly, and will speckle your cookies with brown flecks. Not deal breakers, though.
If you want to make these low carb, I wouldn’t recommend substituting low-carb sweeteners. Instead, use this recipe, which is designed to be low carb and keto, in addition to gluten free and paleo, using coconut flour instead of cassava, and granulated monk fruit instead of maple sugar.
I have not tried this using granulated sugar or brown (cane) sugar, but I imagine it would probably work.
Can I make this recipe dairy free and vegan?
You could, fairly easily, actually; the recipe is already egg-free. . Since this recipe doesn’t require eggs to bind the cookies together, all you need to worry about is the butter. The best replacement would be palm shortening, but coconut oil would also work fine. It would lend a pretty strong coconut flavor, instead of the distinct buttery flavor.
Do I need xanthan gum for this recipe?
Nope! I try to stay away from it since I don’t tolerate it very well – and I know I’m not alone.
Why do you separate the cookies on the baking pan?
Shortbread is usually cut, then cooked (without separating the log of cut cookies), then cut again to separate the baked cookies. I tried it and it ended up increasing the baking time substantially and producing a less-pleasant texture (more cakey). Neither was ideal. I found that the non-traditional baking method works best, which makes sense, since we’re using non-traditional flours!
Why do you prick them?
Traditionally, shortbread cookies are poked with a toothpick or similar instrument in two rows down the length of the cookie to allow air to escape and prevent the cookie from rising or bubbling. Since you’re using grain free flours here, that is not as much of a concern, so I used a fork to prick them for aesthetics only.
How can I jazz these up a little?
Well you know me: I’ve never met a chocolate dunk I didn’t love. I’ve included instriuctions for melting chopped chocolate or chocolate chips with coconut oil for dipping. Just dunk, shake off the excess, and place cookies on a wire rack for an hour or two until the chocolate sets.
You could also frost them and top them with sprinkles to make Christmas cookies — excuse me, Christmas trees — or simply sprinkle them with a dash of sea salt. And don’t be afraid to cut them out into different shapes to inspire your decorating!
Enjoy These Gluten-Free Shortbread Cookies this Holiday Season
Or birthdays. Or anniversaries. Or keep them in the freezer and enjoy one whenever you get the cravings.
Speaking of holiday baking, I highly encourage you to visit the holiday archives section on the blog. There are plenty of gluten-free and paleo treats perfect for Christmas and Hanukkah. Enjoy!
Paleo Gluten Free Shortbread
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted grass-fed butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup maple sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups blanched almond flour
- 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon cassava flour
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 3/4 cup chopped dark chocolate or chocolate chips (optional)
- 1 teaspoon coconut oil (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 300°F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone pad or piece of parchment paper and set aside.
- In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the "s" blade, blend the butter and maple sugar until well combined. The butter should be broken down into pieces no bigger than a dime.
- Add the remaining ingredients and process until the dough forms a ball. It will look like it's too dry for a minute or two, but keep processing and do not add more liquid. It will come together.
- Turn the dough out onto a piece of parchment paper on your countertop. Gather into a ball, then top with another piece of parchment and roll out into a rectangle about 5-6 inches wide x 12 inches long x 1/2 inch thick.
- Use your bench scraper to cut the dough into rectangles about 3/4" x 2.5", then to move the cookies to your prepared baking sheet, about 2" apart.
- Finally, use a fork or toothpick to poke holes on each of your cookies before baking.
- Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the edges *just* begin to turn golden brown.
- Remove from the oven, then cool completely on the baking sheet (at least 20 minutes), during which time the cookies will set.
- Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Once fully cooled, if you plan to dip in chocolate, melt the chocolate and coconut oil in a double boiler (a heatproof bowl placed over a pot with an inch or two of simmering water. The bowl should not be touching the water.), stirring continuously until smooth. Then dip the cookies in the melted chocolate, shakeoff excess, and place back on wire rack until the chocolate sets.
- You can also make the dough in stand mixture, but make sure to keep it at low speed and mix until the vanilla and dry ingredients are just combined with the butter and sugar - not a moment longer. You don't want to incorporate too much air into these cookies! Id you don't have a food processor OR a stand mixer, you can put this together in a mixing bowl, but be warned: you really need to stir like crazy to cream together the butter and sugar.
- Store in an airtight container on the counter for one week, or up to six months in the freezer. Do not store them with other cookies, because they will absorb the moisture and soften up.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 30 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 84Total Fat: 6gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 1mgSodium: 23mgCarbohydrates: 8gFiber: 1gSugar: 6gProtein: 2g
I came across your Grain free sandwich bread (Gluten free, Yeast free, and Paleo) recipe by accident. I had devised my own recipe which is very similar to yours but mine has xanthum gum. I was wondering why I was still getting tummy trouble even though I could tolerate all the ingredients or so I thought. It was a real puzzle until I realized that xanthum gum could be the culprit. Hopefully by eliminating it, your recipe may the solution I’ve been looking for. So here’s cheers to your recipe which I hope to use next week when I run out of my existing bread. Yay!
Can’t wait. Dee
Nora (A Clean Bake) says
I hope you love it, Dee!
Anna Sehati says
Wow! I CANNOT stop hyping over these cookies. SO buttery, crumby, and smooth! I used coconut sugar instead of maple, and they still tasted great! This recipe tastes exactly like a real shortbread cookie! Everything was so on point! Thank you so much for sharing this recipe enough! We will probably finish these delicious cookies all in one day!
Nora (A Clean Bake) says
That is SO wonderful to hear! Thank you so much!!
I made these using this recipe as a guide and kept the same proportions, but I did not have enough almond flour and I did not have maple sugar, so I used a blend of almond flour and regular gluten-free flour (no gums added), as well as the cassava flour as called for, and I used maple syrup for the sweetener. I skimped on the maple syrup because I didn’t want them to be too sweet, and they turned out fantastic! Not very sweet at all, and absolutely perfect with a cup of tea! I made a matcha glaze for part of the batch. I also made a second batch and added food-grade dried lavender, which I crushed before adding to the dough. All of the varieties worked very well. Thank you! I will try it just as written when I have the right supplies, but even with my modifications it was delicious!
OMG!!! These are A-MAZING!!! I am a true shortbread cookie snob. My faves come from Brittany France, and few bakeries throughout the world. I am on my second 100-day candida cleanse this year, so absolutely no sugar except stevia, monkfruit and xylitol in minimal moderation. No sweets for this gourmet sweet-tooth girl, which is fine. But today… I wanted a shortbread cookie. B.A.D.L.Y. I found many recipes, but as an experienced baker, this one really called to me. It was better than I even imagined. I substituted 1/2 c. granulated xylitol + 1/4 tsp powdered stevia for the maple sugar. I also hand-blended with a pastry blender (so added the vanilla at the end). The dough came together perfectly just as you said. I just took the first batch out of the oven and let them cool. Tasted one. A PERFECT SHORTBREAD COOKIE–no grain, no sugar. Voila! [Will dip in dark chocolate w/ xylitol] Thank you!
Nora (A Clean Bake) says
Thank you!! That is an AMAZING compliment and I so appreciate it.
I’m not sure what happened. I don’t have a big enough processor with an s-blade so I used a vitamix and it actually overheated and stopped working. I think then I got too much air in it. Anyway, the dough is falling apart and crumbling. Maybe my butter was too warm? Will try again. I did sub a gluten free baking mix for the almond flour and 1/4 cup maple syrup for the maple sugar as well. Haha, who knows where I could have gone wrong, almost a completely diff recipe at that point I guess.
Nora (A Clean Bake) says
Oh dear, the dough is way too thick for a blender. I hope you were able to get it to work again.
Shortbread dough should be very dry, and will look dry and crumbly but will hold together when pressed into a ball. But this is also a recipe with very few ingredients, so each one does a lot of heavy lifting and the substitutions you made will definitely throw off the moisture balance. Using grain flour would make this much, much drier. I hope you get a chance to try it again as written, and enjoy it if you do!