Gluten-Free Orange-Vanilla Shortbread: lots of cookie without the crumble.


I could sense some doubt when I mentioned making a gluten-free shortbread.

I heard, “You can’t do that, it just won’t work” enough times to almost start believing it myself. I was like the kid who was discouraged from doing something dangerously daring and just wanted to do it anyway to prove everyone wrong.

Armed only with a gluten-free butter cookie that crumbled like a dry sandcastle when touched, I was ready for some structure science. This drop cookie was great for a trifle maybe, but not-so-impressive for solo presentation.

True shortbread should be strong enough to be cut in to wedges or squares, but still tender enough to melt in your mouth.

Unable to settle for a drop cookie, I vowed to play with my ingredients and search for the missing link as if to solve an algebraic equation.

So with a number of changes to the butter cookie formula (and a few choice curse words), I was able to strengthen the outcome and still achieve a sturdy, yet tender cookie.

This shortbread recipe is a perfect blank canvas, plain and simple, or can be made with any variety of flavorings. Let’s make a batch!

Preheat your oven to 350°F and lightly grease two 9″ x 9″ square baking pans.

Start with 1 1/2 cups of softened butter and 3/4 cup granulated sugar in your mixing bowl.

Beat until light and fluffy.

Add to that mixture the grated rind (zest) of 2 oranges; 1 teaspoon of Fiori Di Sicilia or 1/2 teaspoon orange oil

…and 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste. Stir until blended.

Beat in 3 large egg yolks (medium-low speed) until emulsified. Scrape the bowl thoroughly, and stir again briefly.

In a separate bowl, combine the 3 cups gluten-free multi-purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum, and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and stir into the butter mixture just until blended.

Scrape the bowl well to be sure all dry ingredients are thoroughly incorporated.

Divide the mixture evenly between the prepared pans.

Bake at 350°F for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the edges are nicely browned. The recipe also works well cut in half, so if you don’t have a lot of holiday baskets to fill or just want to keep em’ all for yourself, make one pan instead of two. I won’t tell!

Wait about 10 minutes before turning the shortbread out of the pan gently. You can line the pans with parchment to ensure a cleaner release, but I liked the imprint from the pan ridges and had no difficulties turning out the shortbread.

I tested this batch with chocolate chips, knowing that if I could get it to stay together with pieces of nuts or chocolate, I had a true winner.

Cut immediately into squares, wedges, octagons – whatever pleases you – while the shortbread is still warm.

Wait too long and you’ll have a major cookie-cutting fight on your hands – one that will quickly crush your holiday spirits.

The shortbread passed both the knife AND taste tests. I was happy to finally rest and put this one behind me so it could go in FRONT of you!

Joyful holiday gluten-free cookie baking everyone!

Please read, bake, and review our recipe for Gluten-Free Orange-Vanilla Shortbread Cookies.

Print just the recipe.

Amy Trage

Amy Trage is a native of Vermont where she spent much of her childhood skiing and training for the equestrian event circuit. With a strong desire to pursue food writing, Amy took her English degree from Saint Anselm College to the New England Culinary Institute ...


  1. "Paul from Ohio"

    I’ll be printing this for my GF next door neighbor. I don’t really know how many cookies, holiday or otherwise she makes, but hey hey hey, look at you lady, climbing the crumbly summit and winning!!!!!

  2. lynn-ski

    OOOH! Can’t wait to try! Can regular vanilla extract be used, or will it disrupt the texture? Like I said – can’t wait!!
    Yes, please feel free to use any flavorings of your choice! Regular vanilla extract will certainly do the trick! ~Amy

  3. justplainbeth

    If I wanted to make this, and only have vanilla extract, (plus the orange oil and Fiora Di Sicillia aren’t g.f.).. how could I modify it? Plus, how many chocolate chips did you add??
    The orange oil is indeed gluten free, so don’t be shy! The Fiori is not a certified GF item, however. Thank you for clarifying. I added about a cup of chocolate chips to the recipe. Enjoy! ~Amy

  4. justplainbeth

    Amy thank you for your answer. The orange oil ingredients are gluten free, but it’s manufactured in a plant that also manufactures wheat. For some of us, that is a problem. :)

    You are exactly right, it does say that right on the label itself. However if you wanted a completely gluten free alternative, our Nielsen-Massey Orange Extract is certified gluten free!-Jon

  5. Mary

    Can I use the celtic shortbread pan that you have on your website?

    Sounds delightfully pretty and seasonal! Happy Baking! Irene @ KAF

  6. helwa

    I would like to bake gluten-free pecan pie bars. Can I use the gluten-free vanilla-orange shortbread recipe (without the orange zest and fiori di sicilia) as the base for the pie bars? Also do you think it will be OK to use the filling of the old traditional pecan pie without corn syrup) for the topping of the bars?
    If this is OK…what temperature should I bake them and for how long.? Appreciate your help.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      This should be okay to do! Bake the shortbread crust in a preheated 350°F oven for 20 minutes, until the edges start to turn golden. Remove from the oven. Pour the topping over the crust. Return the bars to the oven and bake them for (same temp) 40–45 minutes, until their edges are firm, and the center just barely jiggles when you shake the pan. Jon@KAF

  7. Gretchen

    I made these today, and after I turned them out of the pans to cut them, they completely fell apart. When I eat them, it’s just mush in my mouth. Any suggestions?

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      I am sorry to hear this recipe did not work out for you Gretchen. Be sure no substitutions were made and/or ingredients omitted. Plus using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment is necessary for the proper aeration. We would love to speak with you in more detail so call our Bakers Hotline, 1-855-371-BAKE. Elisabeth@KAF

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