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Traditional Scottish Shortbread

A rich, buttery Scottish shortbread from the pages of Nana Ling's handwritten recipe book - dated 1941.
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scottish shortbread

Buttery homemade shortbread is so much better than its mass-produced counterpart. And traditional Scottish Shortbread is the best of all.

This recipe is from my great Nana Ling’s recipe book and dated 18 July 1941.

She’s identified the source of the recipe as “Mrs MacFarlane”. Sounds Scottish enough to me! 

scottish shortbread

Traditional Scottish Shortbread is particularly popular during celebrations such as Christmas and Hogmanay (Scottish New Year).

However, it’s also popular throughout the world at any time of the year.

It’s certainly welcome in my home all year round!

My Scottish connection

While Nana Ling’s background appears to be mostly English, back in 1941 her extended family was becoming a little more Scottish.

Two of her children married McDonalds, with the first McDonald union in 1941.

Then, in 1943, her daughter (my Nan Mac) married my dear Pop Mac, Ronald George McDonald.

I wonder whether she used this recipe to impress her new daughter-in-law and son-in-law?

Perhaps she baked up a batch to celebrate both of their weddings?

Ronald George McDonald

Ronald George McDonald (‘Pop Mac’)

In any event, her son-in-law (my Pop Mac) was extremely proud of his Scottish heritage and I reckon he’d love this Scottish shortbread recipe – it’s a little more textured than store-bought shortbread and definitely on the sweet side.

Pop Mac was known for his sweet tooth, and he always got a giggle out of me each time he declared, “My favourite fruit is chocolate.”

Remembering the Scottish connection

Like my Pop Mac, I’m extremely proud of my Scottish Highlands heritage. I also have Scottish DNA from my Dad’s side of the family, who were originally from Glasgow.

I like to continue the story by taking my kids to Scottish festivals like Brigadoon and Aberdeen Highland Games.

Of course, it’s also an excuse to keep cooking up this wonderful recipe.

scottish festival
Bundanoon, 2018 with the McDonalds

Tips for making traditional Scottish Shortbread

You don’t need much equipment to make this shortbread. In fact, you don’t even need a bowl!

The thing that will make or break your shortbread, though, is the method.

If you do a little research on how to make the perfect shortbread, it can be very confusing.

There are various “rules” about making shortbread, and quite often these rules clash.

It really is a case of experimenting until you find what works for you in your kitchen.

Shortbread troubleshooting

Here are some tips to avoid common problems people encounter when making shortbread: 

  • “My shortbread has cooked unevenly”– try chilling before cooking
  • “My shortbread is chewy or soft” – cook slower and longer
  • “My shortbread is burnt on the edges” – cook slower
  • “My shortbread has spread out too much during cooking” – try chilling before cooking.

Air Fryer method

You can also make up this recipe in an air fryer!

No need to miss out on celebrating new year with Scottish Shortbread because you’re away in the caravan or camping. 

See below for the air fryer directions.

scottish shortbread in air fryer 1

Finally, there’s just one more thing to say. 

Ith gu leòir! (EEch goo looor).

That’s “eat plenty” in Scottish Gaelic.

Nana Ling’s Scottish Shortbread recipe

Keep scrolling for the tested and tweaked version.

traditional scottish shortbread recipe
scottish shortbread

Traditional Scottish Shortbread

A rich, buttery Scottish shortbread from the pages of Nana Ling's handwritten recipe book – dated 1941.
4.89 from 9 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Australian, Scottish
Keyword: scottish shortbread
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Servings: 24 pieces
Calories: 83kcal


  • 120 grams plain flour
  • 60 grams rice flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 120 grams butter
  • 120 grams sugar


  • Put sugar, butter and sifted flours and baking powder in separate piles on a clean surface.
    scottish shortbread ingredients
  • Knead butter and sugar together.
  • Gradually draw in the flour, kneading well.
  • When the mixture is a stiff paste, break into two pieces.
  • Roll out each piece into a circle that's a little over 1 cm (or 1/2 inch) thick. The circles should be about 16cm in diameter.
  • Pinch edges, pierce with a fork in lines and dust with a little extra sugar on top.
    scottish shortbread pinching edges
  • Place in fridge for 15-20 minutes to chill.
  • Bake in a slow oven until golden. (I bake mine in a fan-forced oven at 145 degrees celsius for about 40 minutes.)

Air Fryer Method

  • Using the 3.2L Kmart Air Fryer (or equivalent), cut a circle of baking paper the same size as the bottom of the basket.
  • Use only half of the amount of each ingredient listed above.
  • Follow the instructions above to combine the sugar and butter and then the flours and baking powder.
  • Form the mixture into one ball and place on the baking paper.
    scottish shortbread dough
  • Using a rolling pin, glass or your hands, roll or flatten out the mixture to form a circle about 16cm in diameter. Use your hands to keep the shape circular and smooth out any cracks that appear at the edges.
  • Pinch edges, pierce with a fork in lines and dust with a little extra sugar on top.
  • Place in fridge for 15-20 minutes to chill.
  • Heat air fryer at 180 degrees celsius for 3 minutes before placing shortbread in the air fryer.
  • Carefully place shortbread in the air fryer basket and cook at 140 degrees celsius for 30 minutes.
    scottish shortbread in air fryer 1
  • Allow to cool completely in the basket before removing the shortbread in one piece and then cutting in squares with a sharp knife.
    scottish shortbread squares



Calories: 83kcal | Carbohydrates: 11g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 11mg | Sodium: 36mg | Potassium: 16mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 125IU | Calcium: 6mg | Iron: 1mg
Recipe Rating

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Wendy Robinson

Saturday 5th of June 2021

Scottish shortbread : missing the adding of Baking powder.

Wendy Robinson

Saturday 5th of June 2021

you forgot to add the *Baking powder* in your instruction steps.


Monday 7th of June 2021

Hi Wendy. It's in step 1 of the oven method, you sift it with the flours. Perhaps you were looking at the air fryer method where it is not as clear - I'll edit to clarify this. Thanks for the feedback! Happy cooking :) Libby

Christine Boyle

Friday 13th of April 2018

Hi Libby Just got a doughnut cutter at Spotlight for $2.79 so happy with that and now to test out the recipe !!


Friday 13th of April 2018

Bargain! Well done :) We really loved the doughnuts recipe... hope you feel the same after testing it out.

Christine Boyle

Friday 13th of April 2018

Thanks Libby Will let you know if I can't get one Christine x x

Christine Boyle

Thursday 12th of April 2018

Hi Libby Was wondering where you got the doughnut cutter from as I’m having difficulty finding one . I’m keen to have a go at the doughnuts , I’m guessing Sydney will have them somewhere lol Thanks and I’m really enjoying this recipe blog , you are doing a lovely job of re creating the recipes ! Christine x x


Thursday 12th of April 2018

Hi Christine. So pleased you're enjoying the blog! I found the doughnut cutter at our local shopping centre's kitchenware shop. It was only about $4. Happy to pick one up for you if you can't find one and send it with mum? Libby xx

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