Brown Sugar-Pecan Shortbread Cookies Recipe (2024)

Recipe from Dorie Greenspan

Adapted by The New York Times

Brown Sugar-Pecan Shortbread Cookies Recipe (1)

Total Time
45 minutes, plus 2 days' refrigeration
Read community notes

Lovers of pecan sandies will adore these crisp, buttery treats that are a cinch to put together. The recipe is an adaptation of one developed by Dorie Greenspan for her book, “Baking: From My Home to Yours.” Not fond of pecans? Try hazelnuts or almonds instead. —The New York Times

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Yield:Makes 42 cookies

  • cups flour
  • ¼cup cornstarch
  • ¼teaspoon salt
  • Pinch of ground clove
  • 2sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¾cup packed light brown sugar
  • ½cup finely ground pecans
  • Confectioners' sugar (optional)

Ingredient Substitution Guide

Nutritional analysis per serving (42 servings)

82 calories; 5 grams fat; 3 grams saturated fat; 0 grams trans fat; 2 grams monounsaturated fat; 0 grams polyunsaturated fat; 8 grams carbohydrates; 0 grams dietary fiber; 4 grams sugars; 1 gram protein; 16 milligrams sodium

Note: The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

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Brown Sugar-Pecan Shortbread Cookies Recipe (2)


  1. Step


    Sift together the flour, cornstarch, salt and clove.

  2. Step


    Using a mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. Stop the mixer to scrape down the sides. Add the dry ingredients and mix on low speed just until incorporated. Add the pecans and mix just until combined.

  3. Step


    Place the dough on a sheet of plastic wrap. Cover with another sheet of plastic and shape into a square. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Roll the dough between the plastic to ¼-inch thick, and into a 9½ x 11-inch rectangle. Refrigerate for at least 1½ hours, or up to 2 days.

  4. Step


    Position two oven racks so they divide the oven into thirds. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Discard the plastic sheets from the dough. Trim the edges to form a 9 x 10.5/2-inch rectangle, then cut the dough into 1½-inch squares. Place the squares on the baking sheets, then, with a fork, pierce each cookie twice all the way through. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back after 9 minutes. If desired, dust the cookies with confectioners' sugar while still hot. Transfer to a rack to cool.



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Cooking Notes


I toasted the pecans before grinding and added a teaspoon of vanilla in place of the cloves. The results were delicious. These cookies must be frozen before baking; they will spread no matter what you do, but this keeps the monster contained. I usually prefer underbaked cookies, but the crisper ones in my batch were the best. Yum!


Cut the formed dough into thirds, wrap in saran and freeze. The frozen cookies will keep their form better when you cut them to bake. And you will have two more batches to use later.

Zeus G

I'm confused by the dimensions given for rolling the dough.
What does 9/10.5/2 mean?
I think you meant 1/2 inch thickness.
Please clarify.

Susan Telfer

I read all the notes before trying for my second time and had success with this method: refrigerate dough for 1/2 hour, then roll into logs 1 1/2 inches thick in wax paper and chill for 2 hours. Using very sharp knife, slice 1/4 inch thick slices and place on parchment paper covered cookie sheet. Put in freezer for 10 minutes. Prick with fork. Bake for 9 minutes plus 9 minutes, switching around sheet, but only one sheet at a time. I also roasted the pecans first and used 1 tsp. vanilla. Yum.

Stef Morgan

Use this as a piecrust, just pat it in the pan. Good with Bourbon Pecan Pie.

Linda Leone

I use aluminum or stainless steel cookie sheets and do not use non stick cookie sheets ever, especially recipes with alot of butter. Have dough chilled, and cookie sheets cool before using again. The cornstarch in the recipe makes for a more tender cookie and makes the dough more managable. Great cookie, enjoy!


Delicious crispy, rich cookies! Did make a few changes, went with walnuts instead and rolled dough into a log and then sliced. Worked great, really easy. Might coat the outside with chopped nuts or sugar next time.


Shaped dough into squared off logs on sheets of plastic wrap. Wrapped up and froze. Cut logs into 1/2 inch slices and baked on parchment lined sheets. Waited until turning the cookie sheets at the halfway point (9 minutes) to prick the cookies with a fork (for decoration). This avoided the breaking/crumbling cookies other complained of. Baked a total of 20 minutes for delicious crisp cookies. Ready to slice and bake cookies in the freezer are a great convenience.


I'd love to get some feedback from the recipe writer on the spreading issue -- seems like many readers
have developed workarounds -- i too tried freezing and they still spread quite a bit. So a tip on how to achieve the lovely cookie in the photo would be appreciated.


Hi Nancy,
There are several options for Non-GMO cornstarch now. Even good old Rumford's has one. Or if in doubt, choose organic which is always GMO free. Happy baking!


I toasted the pecans before grinding and added a teaspoon of vanilla in place of the cloves. The results were delicious. These cookies must be frozen before baking; they will spread no matter what you do, but this keeps the monster contained. I usually prefer underbaked cookies, but the crisper ones in my batch were the best.


Not a fan of cloves so I subbed in nutmeg. These might be my favorite cookies ever.


Has anyone tried this with a shortbread pan? I have a really pretty one I’d love to use.

Mark M.

Easy to make and tasty to eat!

Allyson (from comments section)

These are super tasty but I had trouble with the dough. It was too dry and I wasn’t sure what adjustment to make.


I didn’t have any trouble with spreading. I did not sift. I used regular Land o Lakes butter. I did not freeze the dough. I used vanilla instead of cloves like many have done. They were delicious. Will definitely be making again.


These were just okay. With the brown sugar it tasted more like a chocolate chip cookie without the chips. I prefer a regular shortbread with pecans.

Jo L.

OK, I was an English major. So I don't really do numbers. But I can't figure out how, if I roll the dough to 1/4" before chilling, I can divide it into 2" thick cookies. Or does the "/2" mean something else? What am I missing here? (And BTW, these are yummy. If not the right size.)


Better with less sugar than indicated.


Not a fan of cloves so I subbed in nutmeg. These might be my favorite cookies ever.

Michael Chertok

Substituted 1 tsp vanilla for cloves


I’m calling them Ugly Cookies. Tasted great. Made a spread out single cookie. Should have looked at the notes first. If I try again I’ll make a roll and freeze.


Butter oozed from these cookies and I followed recipe to a tee? Too much butter?


Funny, I pre-cut the dough and froze for 48 hours and put them directly into the oven and they spread all over the place. Taste good but can't use for the holidays unless crushed over ice cream or between a layer cake.


I didn’t have the problem with the cookies spreading that others describe here. Made exactly as the recipe, except a bit more clove and some cinnamon. Looks exactly like the picture and texture is dreamy.


Total winner recipe.


The cookies were very tasty, but if I were to make them again I would cut the amount of butter or add a little more flour. A little too short. Also, , would form the dough into a log and cut a bit thicker maybe 1/2”. The cookies didn’t hold their shape while baking

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Brown Sugar-Pecan Shortbread Cookies Recipe (2024)


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