These Pecan Shortbread Cookies are every bit delicious as they are gorgeous. Made from light tender shortbread filled with nutty pecans, these delightful cookies are topped with a sweet and fun maple glaze making them the perfect afternoon treat.
These Pecan Shortbread Cookies are seasonal favourites at this time of year and sit firmly in the I love baking cookies basket! Buttery, melt in your mouth shortbread filled with toasted pecans, dipped in a sweet maple glaze creates a taste sensation when you bite down into one.
Using the traditional method of making shortbread, as in my Cranberry Orange Shortbread, you'll find it's made with zero egg or baking powder to create leavening. Made with only butter, sugar, and flour as the core ingredients, with the addition of maple syrup as the flavouring, these incredible shortbread cookies rely on the perfect balance and quality of their ingredients.
If you want to deep dive into how to make simple All-Butter Shortbread Cookies then make sure to check out my How To Make Shortbread guide for lots of useful info.
Why you'll love this recipe
- Basic Ingredients. Using only 5 ingredients for the basic shortbread cookie recipe these are a dream to make and bake.
- Incredible flavour. Maple and toasted pecans within that buttery, crumbly shortbread is an absolute wonder in the flavour department. Nutty, sweet, buttery = perfection.
- Optional Extras. I've recommended maple glaze, candied pecans and candied bacon as extras to the shortbread cookie if you want to elevate the flavours to another level.
- Perfect for gift giving. With the lead up to holiday season nearly here, these Maple Shortbread Cookies make the perfect gifts for family and friends.
Made with only a handful of ingredients, you'll have the majority available in your pantry. Bonus! I recommend the maple glaze and the candied pecans to create the best shortbread cookie flavour combination! The shortbread on its own is stand-alone great though. I've also added instructions to add candied bacon if you're as obsessed with that sweet/salty combination of maple and bacon. Chopped little pieces on top really work. They really do!
- Butter- I recommend unsalted butter as when adding the candied pecans or bacon, the additional salt is enough. Ensure the butter is at room temperature so that it can be creamed with the sugar.
- Sugar - Granulated or caster sugar is used. The recipe states granulated as it's more main stream, but wither can be used.
- Flour - Plain (all-purpose) flour creates the perfect structure for the cookies to maintain their shape.
- Pecans - I recommend toasting the pecans before adding them to the shortbread. This isn't a pre-requisite, but I find the toasty, nutty flavour really shines through.
- Maple syrup - Just enough to add more flavour to the cookies, use proper maple syrup rather than the flavouring. Alternatively, add in vanilla extract.
- Powdered icing sugar- Sift well to remove any lumps
- Maple syrup - For the ultimate maple flavour, quite a bit of maple syrup of used to create a thick maple glaze.
- Butter - Just a small amount of butter added to the glaze creates a lovely gloss to the glaze but also helps the glaze set as the butter solidifies.
Candied Pecans and Bacon (optional)
- Maple syrup- both the bacon and the pecans get coated in maple. I brush it onto the bacon with a pastry brush and then just toss the peacon halves in it.
- Bacon - My preference is to use smokey bacon rashes. (the thin strips as in my image) they go beautifully crispy in about 15 minutes.
- Pecans - No need to tast these pecans as they are going into the oven and the heat, along with the maple syrup will toast and caramelise them all at the same time.
- Flaked sea salt - For the ultimate sweet, salty, nutty combination, sprinkle a small amount onto the caramelised pecans when fresh from the oven. It's the best!
*Be sure to see the recipe card below for the full ingredients list & instructions!*
These really are the best shortbread cookies as they come together so quickly. Made with handheld beaters or a stand mixer, the dough whizzes up in a matter of minutes. Once rolled and the cookies are stamped out, the dough will need refrigerating so that the butter solidifies which helps maintain its shape in the oven
I provide instructions for the recommended maple syrup glaze and candied pecan or chopped bacon, and these can be prepped whilst the cookies are chilling.
1. Cream together the butter, sugar and maple syrup. The butter has to be at room temperature for it to be able to cream properly. The butter basically needs to aerate and you'll see this happening by it turning lighter in colour. The sugar crystals gradually disintegrate during this creaming process. Add the maple syrup in and give it a quick mix together. Make sure to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. (Image 1 & 2).
2. Add in flour and pecans and beat them together. Add the flour and pecans into the creamed butter and on low speed mix them all together until they just combine. The dough will look quite raggedy (Image 3 & 4).
The pecans need to be super finely chopped. Why? Firstly, the smaller pieces you have will disperse more thoroughly throughout the shortbread. Secondly, when it comes to stamping out the shape, large pieces will create uneven edges. Smaller pecan pieces make for more exact shapes.
3. Form a dough and roll out. With your hands, squeeze the cookie dough together making a ball. Press it into a rough disc. Then on a lightly floured surface roll it out. (Image 5 & 6).
It's important to note that if the dough is too soft then it will be impossible to cut out the cookies in the next stage. The air temperature, how soft the butter was to start off with, whether the exact amount of flour was measured all come into play with how soft the dough is at this point. If it's too soft to roll out then pop it in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes to firm up a little (but not too much otherwise the dough will crack when you try to roll it out). Living in the UK, I find in the heat of summer I have to refrigerate the dough at this point, but in Autumn/Winter I can roll it straight out.
4. Cut out cookie shapes and chill. Once the dough is rolled out, we can stamp the cookies. Use your cookie cutter, I have my leaf-shaped one here, and stamp out as many shapes as you can fit in the dough. Lay shortbread cutouts onto a baking tray lined in parchment paper.
Bring together any scraps, re-roll and stamp out more cookies. And then again if needs be. Just be aware that every time you re-form the dough, it will pull in the flour from the benchtop and hence may dry out the dough. Add a couple of drops of water to the dough if this happens. (Image 7 & 8).
Have a shallow bowl filled with flour in it to dunk the cutters into each time you press them into the dough. Doing this will help the shape fall out of the cutter, rather than the dough sticking to the internal edge.
Now refrigerate the shortbread cutouts on the tray for 30 minutes minimum or until the cutouts have hardened. This means the butter has resolidified and gives you the best possible chance of the cookies retaining their shape in the oven.
TIP: Chill the dough
It's so important to chill the dough after cutting out the cookie shapes. The butter up until this point has been fairly soft. Refrigerating it allows the better to re-solidify, but also the flour to hydrate and the gluten to relax.
By doing this, the butter won't melt out when it hits the hot oven and the cookies will retain their shape. The result will be perfectly shaped, buttery cookies.
5. Bake. The cookies are baked until they're just turning golden on the edges. I like my shortbread soft and buttery. But if you'd prefer yours on the crisper side then leave them in the oven for a couple of minutes longer.
Aside from the slightly golden edges, to tell that the shortbread is cooked through, lift one up and look at the bottom. If the cookie still looks wet underneath then they are underdone. Pop them back in for another minute or two to bake right through.
Candied Bacon and Pecans
If you choose to decorate your cookies with candied bacon bits or chopped candied pecans, then prepare them either when the cookie cutouts are chilling before baking, or when the shortbread has been removed from the oven.
I pop the bacon and pecans on two different baking trays, but at the same time in the oven. The bacon takes longer to crispen up, so I just take out the pecans once they are done.
1. Prepare bacon and bake. Brushing the bacon with maple syrup is a genius move by whoever invented that combination. It caramelises the bacon whilst adding the perfect smokey sweetness. Once out of the oven, let the bacon cool and it will go lovely and crispy. Then chop it into little bits. (Image 9 & 10).
2. Prepare pecans and bake. Toss the pecans in any remaining maple syrup and then bake until the pecans are toasted and maple is bubbling. Sprinkle salt onto them straight from the oven and then chop them finely. No need for salt on the chopped bacon as it's salty enough. (Image 11 & 12).
1. Mix ingredients together. The maple glaze is a beautiful addition to the shortbread cookies. Pop all the ingredients into a bowl and stir until smooth and lump-free. It's a thick glaze but you can pop it in the microwave for a maximum of ten seconds to loosen it up a bit. (Image 13 & 14)
2. Dip cookies into glaze and decorate. Dip the top of each shortbread into the icing and very carefully lift it out. Let any excess glaze drip back into the bowl and then sprinkle the candied pecans or bacon onto the cookies as you so wish. You can get creative with the decoration here!! (Image 15 & 16).
My recipe uses the base of a great shortbread recipe (ingredients being butter, sugar and flour) so that you can then customise and create any other recipe you can imagine. Below are some ideas of other flavourings that you can add to the base. Note replace the maple syrup with vanilla extract.
- Nuts: Any and all chopped nuts make a beautiful addition to shortbread. Along with pecan, my favourites are almond, walnut or hazelnuts. Toast and chop them finely too.
- Citrus: The zest of lemon, lime, orange, mandarine or grapefruit would add real zing to the buttery shortbread. Use the juice for a tangy glaze foan extra layer of flavour.
- Dried fruit: Finely chopped dried cranberries, apricots, figs, or dates and add them in for a deliciously sweet, chewy factor.
- Chocolate: Now, I couldn't not add in chocolate into your options, could I!! A chopped chocolate bar, chocolate callets or chocolate chips in white, milk or dark will go down a treat. Drizzle the tops with melted chocolate for a decorative touch ontop of your chocopate chip shortbread.
Shape: You don't need to cut out the shortbread with a special cookie cutter. As you can see in the image below, I used a standard 5cm round cookie cutter to stamp out these ones. Using a cookie cutter this size will increase the yield from this batch of cookie dough.
- Re-roll the dough. Once you've cut out the first round of cookies, make sure to bring the dough back together again with your hand, re-shape it then re-roll and cut out more cookies. I do this twice to get the maximum number of cookies from the dough.
- Flour your cookie cutters. This stops the dough from sticking to them and avoids you having to peel the dough from the cutter, ruining the cookie shape.
- Refrigerate the cookie dough. Unless you what a tray of odd-shaped cookies that have spread all over the place, the dough needs to be chilled.
- Keep an eye on the bake time. Everyone's oven runs at a slightly different temperature. With such a short bake time, a minute or two either way will make a difference.
Frequently asked questions
The main difference is in the ingredients list. Sugar cookies have baking powder in them acting as a leavener making them lighter in texture. Shortbread doesn't have this making them more crumbly and denser.
It's all in the quality of the ingredients. With such a short ingredients list, the quality makes a big difference. The perfect shortbread cookie should be crumbly, but not dry, buttery, butter not greasy and sweet but not sickly.
Absolutely not! That's why I've included it as an option to the recipe. I adore the combination of maple with the bacon and felt that the bacon worked SO well on the top of these cookies. But I understand if meat isn't your thing, or you don't have time for this extra step. You do you here, that's the joy of these cookies- you can really create your own adventure with them.
How to store
To store: Glazed Pecan Shortbread Cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to one week. Any cookies decorated with candied bacon will have to be stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
To freeze: Undecorated shortbread can be stored in a freezer-safe container and frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight at room temperature.
Tools you’ll need
- Stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachement: The quickest and easiest way to make the dough. Electric hand-held beaters will were perfectly well also.
- Rolling Pin: To roll the dough and be able to create those cookie shapes.
- Baking sheet: Depending on how large the cookies are, you may need one or two sheets.
- Almond biscotti
- Double Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies
- French Madeleines in varying flavours: Triple chocolate, Lemon Poppy Seed, Classic Orange or Brown Butter.
If you tried this Pecan Shortbread Cookie Recipe or any other recipe on my website, please let me know how you go in the comments below. I love hearing from you. Also, please leave a star rating whilst you're there!
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Pecan Shortbread with Maple Glaze Recipe
- 125 g unsalted butter, room temperature
- 180 g plain flour (all-purpose)
- 60 g caster sugar
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup
- 40 g pecans, toasted (recommended) and finely chopped
Candied bacon and pecans (optional)
- 4 bacon rashes
- 40 g pecans, ¼ cup
- 2 tablespoon maple syrup
- ¼ teaspoon flaked sea salt
- 110 g powdered icing sugar (confectioners' sugar)
- 120 ml maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon unsalted butter, melted
- Cream together the butter, sugar and maple syrup. Line one or two baking trays with parchment paper. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the butter and sugar and cream on medium speed until pale and light. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add in the maple syrup and mix again.
- Add in flour and pecans and beat them together. Add the flour and pecans into the creamed butter, and, at low speed, mix them all on low speed until they are combined. The dough will look quite raggedy.
- Form a dough and roll out. With your hands, squeeze the cookie dough together making a ball. Press it into a rough disc. Then on a lightly floured surface roll it out to a ½ cm thick. Note: if the dough is too soft at this point then wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 10-15 minutes or longer until it firms up slightly and makes it easier to roll out. Keep an eye on it as if the dough is too hard, it will crack when you try to roll it out.
- Cut out cookie shapes and chill. Once the dough is rolled out, use a cookie cutter (I used a leaf shape) to stamp out the cookies. Lay them onto the prepared baking tray. Bring together any scraps, re-roll and stamp out more cookies. And then, do it again if needs be. Just be aware that every time you re-form the dough, it will pull in the flour from the benchtop and hence may dry out the dough. Add a couple of drops of water to the dough if this happens.Now refrigerate the stamped cookies for 30 minutes minimum or until the cutouts have hardened. This means the butter has resolidified and will give you the best possible chance of the cookies retaining their shape in the oven.
- Bake. Preheat the oven to 170°C (335°F). Remove the cookies from the fridge, then bake for 10-12 mins or until golden around the edges. Cool on the tray for ten minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely. Keep the oven on and turn it up to 180°C (350°F), ready for the next step.
Candied bacon and pecans (optional)
- Prepare bacon and bake. Brush the bacon rashes with maple syrup then lay them on a lined baking tray. Place in the oven and bake for 15 minutes before turning and baking for a further 5 or so minutes until golden and crispy. Remove from the oven and lay on paper towel until cool, chop into fine bits.
- Prepare pecans and bake. In a bowl toss your pecans in maple syrup then lay out the pecans on a lined baking tray. Place in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the baking tray. Chop into small pieces and toss through a pinch of flaked sea salt.
- Mix ingredients together. Add the butter, maple syrup, and icing sugar to a medium-sized bowl and whisk until thoroughly combined and smooth. If the glaze is too thin, then add a tablespoon at a time of icing sugar until it reaches the right consistency. If it’s too thick, add a teaspoon of maple syrup until the correct consistency is reached.
- Dip cookies into glaze and decorate. Dip the face of the cookies into the glaze and gently lift, letting the excess glaze drip off and place on a wire rack.Sprinkle with candied bacon or candied pecan and leave to set for 15 minutes. Or enjoy straight away!
All recipes are developed and tested in Metric grams. I strongly recommend that you bake using digital scales for a more accurate result. I have provided a conversion to US customary in the recipe but please note that I haven’t tested using this method.