Dairy free shortbread cookies are a fun treat for everyone to enjoy. They’re perfectly sweet, crumbly, “buttery” and delicious! Plus, they only require 3 ingredients and are incredibly simple to make!
This recipe was originally published in December 2018. It has been updated for content and photos.
Do you make shortbread for the holidays?
These vegan shortbread cookies (also known as vegan sugar cookies) are my kiddos favourite treat!
While not the healthiest of choices, it’s the one time of year we can indulge a little without feeling guilty about it, am I right? 😉
Plus, it’s a great way to involve your little ones in the kitchen. My boys very eagerly help make these every year and the excitement it brings them is really priceless.
And don’t miss this collection of amazing Christmas desserts for even more ideas!
Why you’ll love them
- So easy! Just 3 ingredients needed, plus the optional glaze if you decide to glaze them. They taste great both with and without it.
- You can make them well in advance. Since this dairy free shortbread is super freezer friendly, you can plan ahead.
- Fun! Yup, they’re truly fun to make, and to eat! These festive cookies will be the highlight of your dessert table.
All you NEED is butter, flour and sugar for the basic shortbread recipe, but the vanilla does add delicious flavour. So if you have some on hand, I recommend including it.
How to make them
(This is a summary with step by step photos, full recipe measurements and instructions are in the recipe card below.)
Use a hand mixer to beat the margarine or butter in a large mixing bowl until nice and fluffy. (photo 1)
Then add the sugar and vanilla and beat until combined. (photos 2-3)
Add the flour, half at a time and beat until combined. You will have a crumbly texture as shown below. (photos 4-5)
Use your hands to collect the mixture and form a flattened disk shape at the bottom of your bowl Then cover in plastic wrap and freeze for 15-20 minutes. (photo 6)
Place a sheet of parchment paper on your kitchen counter and then roll out your cold dough on top to about ¼ inch in thickness. Use your favourite cookie cutters to make your cookies. (photo 7)
NOTE: The parchment prevents the dough from sticking to your countertop.
Carefully transfer the shortbread cookies to a parchment-lined tray and bake until the edges are lightly golden. (photo 8)
Once the cookies cooled prepare your glaze by combining the sugar, water and food colouring (if using). Then brush the cookies with the glaze and sprinkle them with your choice of candies. (photos 9-10)
NOTE: Cookies must be completely cool before glazing or the glaze may run off the edges of the cookies and the candies will melt.
Let the glaze dry for a few minutes and then enjoy!
PS. These make GREAT DIY gifts that are perfectly appropriate for a plant based Christmas, or anyone with a dairy allergy.
Just tie a ribbon around a stack of them, and how cute is that?? 😉
These dairy free shortbread cookies keep at room temperature for 3-4 days in an airtight container, or you may refrigerate them for 1 week.
You may also freeze them for up to 2 months. Use a large freezer-safe container and separate the layers of cookies with parchment paper so they don’t stick to one another.
PS. Since these vegan shortbread cookies freeze so well, you may want to consider a double batch!
I made these dairy free shortbread cookies Christmas or winter themed but you can switch up your cookie cutters, icing and sprinkles to suit any time of year.
- Make a Halloween version using orange/red food colouring for the icing, black and orange sprinkles and pumpkin shaped cutters.
- Cut them into circles and keep the icing clear/white to enjoy all year long!
I have not tested a gluten free version yet, so for now, I do not have recommendations on using another type of flour.
- Use cookie cutters with less detail for ease. Cutters with more grooves intricate patterns will be tougher to hold together when transfering to your baking sheet. Simple shapes like circles, hearts, or stars are less likely to break.
- Grease your rolling pin so it doesn’t stick to your dough. This will make smoother cookies, but don’t aim for perfection. The glaze and sprinkles will cover the tops of your cookies anyhow.
- If your rolling pin is still sticking to your dough, add a sheet of parchment paper on top and roll on top of the parchment.
- Use care when transferring your shortbread cookies to your baking sheet. The dough is soft, and the cookies can break if using too much force. I like to use a large fork or pie knife to scrape under the cookie first (to “unstick” them from the parchment), then slowly lift and transfer.
- But if any cookies break, don’t worry! You can gently press the piece back together with greased fingers. If it’s not salvageable, just add it to your discard pile for re-rolling for the next round.
- The thickness of your dough will determine the cooking time. If you roll your dough thinner, the cookies will bake faster, but if you roll the dough thicker, they will need a little longer in the oven. Start checking on them around the 10 minute mark to ensure they don’t burn.
- Allow your shortbread cookies to cool completely before glazing. If the cookies are too hot, the glaze will drip and run and the candies will melt.
- Once glazed, sprinkle the candies immediately, before the glaze sets, or they will not stick.
More Christmas desserts
If you tried this recipe, please let me know about it in the comments below. I always love hearing from you! Don’t forget to Subscribe to This Healthy Kitchen to be among the first to get my new recipes! You can also FOLLOW ME on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter to see more delicious food and get all the latest updates.
- 1 cup vegan margarine or softened butter
- ½ cup icing sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract optional
- 1 ¾ cup all purpose flour unbleached
- 1 cup icing sugar
- 2-3 tablespoons water
- 1 drop blue food colouring make sure to use a vegan brand if preferred, or skip and keep the glaze white
- candy sprinkles of choice make sure to use a vegan brand if preferred
- In a large bowl, beat the margarine with a hand mixer for 1-2 minutes, until fluffy. Then add the sugar and vanilla and keep mixing until combined.
- Add the flour half at a time and mix until combined. You will have a mixture that doesn't appear to hold together, but it will. Use your hands to shape the dough into a flattened ball at the bottom of your bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2-3 hours or freeze for 15-20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, line a large baking tray with parchment paper and preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
- Place a sheet of parchment paper on your countertop and the cold dough on top. Flatten and stretch the dough using a greased rolling pin to approx ¼" thick. Then use cookie cutters to make your cookies. Carefully transfer the cookies to your baking sheet. Then re-roll the leftover dough, flatten again, and continue making cookies. Repeat until all the dough is consumed.
- Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until the edges are slightly golden. Remove from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack. Let them cool completely before glazing.
- Combine the icing sugar with 2 tablespoons of water in a small bowl and mix well. If the glaze is too thick, add one more tablespoon and mix again. Then add a drop of food colouring, if using and mix to combine.
- Use a silicone brush to glaze the cookies and then sprinkle them with your candy. Make sure to add the sprinkles immediately after glazing while the glaze is wet so they stick. Set aside and let dry.
I make the same recipe but gluten free. I use King Arthur’s Measure for Measure. Works great! I made them with my dairy free/gluten free grandchildren and they loved them.
Thanks so much for sharing Frances! So great to know this recipe works well with gluten free flour. 🙂
Made these yesterday with my kids and they came out soooo yummy!! One of them is allergic to dairy and it’s hard to find dairy free dessert recipes that taste so good. We ate a handful of them and froze the rest to enjoy on Christmas. Thank you for this easy shortbread recipe! Would definitely make again.
So glad you all enjoyed Amanda. Thanks so much for the review. 🙂
Donna & Jamie Harper
My kids and I are now DF so finding good cookie recipes like yours is wonderful! I wonder if I can make the dough and freeze it ahead of time. I’d like to be all set before family comes for the holidays so we can cut them out and all decorate together.
Thanks for your feedback,
Hi Donna, I didn’t try that, but it should work fine. Make sure to thaw in the fridge and not at room temperature because the dough is easiest to work with when cold. 🙂
I always find it tricky to make a good cookie that’s dairy free, but this one did not disappoint!! They’re cute, delicious and lovely for the holidays!
Thanks so much Valentina! Thrilled you enjoyed.
I have a nephew who is dairy free and made some for him. So yummy, can’t even tell the difference. Thanks so much for this! 🙂
You’re so welcome Tina. So glad he enjoyed. 🙂
This recipe will come in handy with so many people I know! It’s hard to make dairy free things and truly do the recipe justice, but this one does!
I haven’t worked with vegan butter before! Do you bring it to room temperature before you mix? Thank you 🙂
Hi Morgan, if you’re using vegan margarine, no need to bring to room temp. For vegan butter you may leave at room temp for an hour or so, but not too long or it will become liquid. You want a thicker, creamy texture, as opposed to liquid/oil like texture. Hope you enjoy the cookies!
Can these be made with caster sugar rather than icing sugar?
I don’t believe caster sugar can be subbed here. Icing, powdered or confectioners sugar is needed for these.
These were great, thanks!