Shortbread crust is a buttery, crisp crust used in pies, tarts, cookie bars, and more. It is easy to make with only four ingredients needed. Learn how to make it with this super easy recipe!
I love shortbread crust because it is so much easier to make than most other types of crusts for desserts. Even compared to graham cracker crust. It may be delicious, but turning graham crackers into crumbs can sometimes just be one step too many.
This easy crust recipe doesn't need anything beyond mixing and it holds up well when pressed into your baking pans ensuring you get an even layer that is beyond delicious.
What is shortbread crust
This type of crust is a buttery, crisp crust that can often replace a traditional pie crust, graham cracker crust, or cookie crust. It is pressed directly into your pan as opposed to rolled out and laid into your pan.
You may also hear it referred to as a sablé breton, which is simply the French name for this type of crust. It gets its name because of the high butter content in the recipe that keeps the flour from forming gluten, which would end up leaving you with a chewy crust instead of the crisp, slightly crumbly crust we know and love.
- Flour - This is what binds the crust and creates the bulk of the structure of the crust. It is as important as the butter. You should use all-purpose flour, but you may substitute it with some bread flour, or whole wheat flour. Cake flour will typically be too tender to use for a crust.
- Butter - Not only is the butter critical for that signature shortbread flavor, but it also acts like the glue keeping the ingredients together. It also prevents the flour from forming too much gluten which would make the crust chewy instead of crisp.
- Sugar - Sugar is used to sweeten the crust as well as enhance the flavor of the butter and the ingredients used for your filling.
- Salt - The primary reason we use salt is to bring out the flavors in the other ingredients to really make them pop. The same is true with this recipe.
- Vanilla (optional) - I do not usually use vanilla in my shortbread crust, but it is a popular additional ingredient, so I wanted to mention it. Paired with the sugar and salt, it adds more dimension to the crust. You can also substitute the vanilla with other ingredients such as finely grated and chopped lemon zest, lavender, or herbs.
How to make
The best part about this recipe is how easy it is to make. You can use a food processor, but I usually find it is more pleasurable to make it by hand.
- Mix together the flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl.
- Cut the butter into cubes and add to the flour.
- Cut the butter using a pastry cutter, or use your hands and rub the butter into the flour mixture.
- Continue until the mixture resembles crumbs. It will look dry, but will stick together when pressed.
- Press the mixture into your pan, making sure it is pressed firmly into the sides and edges.
- Bake. If you are baking your filling, you will only need to bake partially. If your filling will not be baked, bake the crust through.
When to use
You can use shortbread crust for a number of recipes. I think it works especially well as a crust for tarts, but it also works incredibly well with creamy or citrusy pies. It is also popular to use with cookie bars and cheesecake bars. If you would like to try it in one of my recipes, I think you would love it in this blueberry mascarpone tart.
Shortbread Crust (Sablé Breton)
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter cut in cubes
- Preheat the oven to 350 °F. Line a 9 x 13 baking pan with parchment paper.
- Mix the flour, sugar, and salt together until combined.
- Add in your cubed butter and cut into the flour. You can do this by pulsing the ingredients in a food processor 4 - 5 times, using a pastry cutter, or rubbing the butter into the flour by hand.
- Pour the mixture into the baking pan and press down firmly.
- Bake for 25 minutes if you also need to bake the filling. If you do not need to bake the filling, continue baking until the crust is a light golden brown - about an additional 15 minutes.
- You can add in extracts, zests, herbs or spices to flavor the shortbread crust. About 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract will work for this recipe and 1 - 2 teaspoons of an herb or spice, depending on its potency.
- The recipe can be halved to fit an 8 x 8 or 9 x 9 baking pan. The halved recipe should also work well for most tart pans.