Shortbread Cookie Crust

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This simple, 5 ingredient Shortbread Cookie Crust is a versatile base for desserts like cheesecakes, cookie bars, pies, and tarts. In just 20 minutes, you can have a buttery, lightly sweet shortbread crust baked and ready to top with custards, fruit, chocolate, and much more.

Shortbread is easily the most prolific type of cookie recipe on my blog. The lightly sweet, buttery cookie is my husband’s favorite, and making them is something I mastered and shared years ago in my 3 ingredient easy shortbread cookie post.

As it turns out, shortbread also makes the best crust for other desserts! When I don’t have the energy for pie dough, I can throw together this quick shortbread cookie crust and top it with whatever I like. It’s sweet, easy, and only takes a handful of ingredients and time to make.

Recipe Highlights

  • Quick! – The prep and cook time are just 20 minutes in total.
  • Versatile – This can replace the bottom crust in many desserts, such as tarts, pies, cookie bars, and cheesecakes.
  • Delicious – The crust delivers that buttery, sweet, soft cookie flavor to any dessert.
  • Adjustable – Double, halve, add spices, or even make it chocolate, and it’ll still work!

Ingredients and Substitutions

The base of any good shortbread cookie, whether it’s spiced shortbread, white chocolate raspberry cookies, or chocolate-dipped espresso shortbread, starts with the same three ingredients. The additions you choose can dramatically change the flavor and texture. Here are my best suggestions for ingredients and their alternatives.

a container of butter, a container of sugar, and a container of flour on a scale.
  • All Purpose Flour – I have not tested this with alternatives, but you can try a 1-1 gluten-free baking blend if needed.
  • Powdered Sugar – This sugar’s fine grain and cornstarch really help make a uniform crust that is less likely to crumble. Granulated or cane sugar can be used instead.
  • Butter – Unsalted regular butter or a non-dairy butter replacement. I prefer Miyoko baking butter for vegan baking.
  • Vanilla – This is optional but adds a big flavor. I use my homemade vanilla extract, but you can switch it to different extracts like lemon or maple to adjust the flavor for whatever you use the crust for.
  • Salt

Step by Step Instructions

The difference between classic shortbread cookies and my recipe for shortbread crust is the butter and type of sugar. Melted butter prevents the crust from rising as much as traditionally creamed butter, and makes prep time much faster.

a pan of raw shortbread cookie crust ready to bake.

Step 1 – Mix the crust dough

Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a mixing bowl. Melt the butter and add the vanilla, then pour that into the dry ingredients. Mix until a soft dough forms.

Step 2 – Press into the pan

Line or lightly grease a baking pan. This recipe makes enough for an 9×13 pan, pie tin, or tart pan. Press the dough into the pan in an even layer. Dock the dough with a fork to ensure it bakes flat and even.

Step 3 – Bake and fill

Bake in a 375°F oven for 12 minutes, or until the crust no longer appears wet or glossy and is firming up at the edges. If filling with a liquid like curd or custard, brush the crust with a thin layer of jam to seal the holes.

Let the crust cool completely, then continue with your recipe of choice. Check out my berry crumble bars or my chocolate version of this crust in my chocolate custard tart!

a pan of shortbread cookie crust ready to fill.

Variation Suggestions

If you’d like to change the flavor of your shortbread crust to match your topping or filling, try any of these suggestions:

  • Flavored Extract – Swap vanilla for maple, lemon, bourbon, mint, almond, or orange. Cut the amount in half since those extracts are stronger than vanilla.
  • Spices – Add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon, a 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg or ginger, or a 1/4 teaspoon of clove or allspice.
  • Zest – Add the zest of 1/2 an orange, 1 lemon, or 1 lime.
  • Chocolate – Replace 2 ounces, or 56 grams, of flour with cocoa powder to make a chocolate crust.


Can I double this recipe?

Yes. You can easily double or triple the recipe to make a crust for a sheet pan dessert or for several tarts.

Do I need to add pie weights to the crust when baking?

No. The melted butter, powdered sugar, and using a fork to dock the crust before baking will make sure it doesn’t rise.

My filling is seeping through the crust, what do I do?

Docking the crust creates vent holes to prevent rising. Those holes can let a liquid through and cause a leaking or soggy bottom. Seal the holes by brushing the surface of the crust with jam while it’s warm.

Can I add a filling or topping to the raw crust?

No, a shortbread cookie crust does not work like pie crust exactly. It will get soggy and heavy if not pre-baked all the way through.

How far in advance can I prepare the crust?

Bake up to 48 hours in advance of adding fillings at most. Keep it covered at room temperature to maintain the freshness.

a shortbread cookie crust in a pan

Shortbread Cookie Crust

Mikayla M.
A simple 5 ingredient shortbread cookie crust that's versatile enough to use for various fillings like cookie bars, pies, cheesecakes, tarts, and more.
No ratings yet
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
Total Time 17 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 8
Calories 424 kcal


  • 360 grams all purpose flour 12 ounces, 2.75 cups
  • 226 grams butter, unsalted 8 ounces, 2 sticks
  • 115 grams powdered sugar 4 ounces, 1 cup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch salt less than 1/4 teaspoon


  • Preheat oven to 375°F.
  • If baking a dessert that you'd like to lift from the pan, line it with parchment paper (like cookie bars). Pies and tarts usually don't need this step.
  • Melt butter and add in the vanilla extract.
  • Combine the sugar, flour, and salt in a bowl. Use a fork or whisk to smooth out any lumps if necessary.
  • Pour the butter and vanilla into the flour and stir gently until a soft dough forms.
  • Press into your pan of choice until flat and even. Dock with a fork.*
  • Bake for 12 minutes, or until crust no longer appears wet on the top and is set at the edges.
  • If adding a liquid filling like custard or curd, brush the warm crust with jam or jelly in a thin layer to seal the crust surface.
  • Allow to cool and continue with your recipe of choice.


*If baking in a pan where the crust comes up the sides, like a tart, chill the dough for 15-30 minutes to prevent it from slipping down the pan as it bakes.
Substitutions: Use any extract of choice to change the flavor. Swap cane or granulated sugar if needed.
Bake up to 48 hours in advance. Let cool, then store in an airtight container or cover at room temperature.
To prevent your filling from seeping out, brush the freshly baked, warm crust with jam or jelly to seal the docking holes.
This recipe makes enough for 1 9×13 pan, 1 pie plate, or 1 tart pan.


Calories: 424kcalCarbohydrates: 49gProtein: 5gFat: 23gSaturated Fat: 15gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 61mgSodium: 183mgPotassium: 56mgFiber: 1gSugar: 14gVitamin A: 706IUCalcium: 14mgIron: 2mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Nutrition information and cooking times are provided as a best estimate. Values may vary based upon ingredients and equipment.

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