Pistachio Shortbread Cookies

Valentine’s Day may be long gone, but you will have to pry my heart-shaped cookie cutter from my cold, dead hands.* We’re talking shortbread cookies today, and I’m convinced that shortbread tastes best when cut into twee heart shapes, dipped in chocolate, and sprinkled with colorful accents. Don’t ask why, and don’t even think about cutting them into boring squares—just dig out those heart cutters and let’s do this thing.

*Seriously, though, please don’t hurt me. Take my cookie cutter, and grab a cookie too. I’m all talk and no action.

Pistachio Shortbread Cookies | SugarHero.com

I used to think of myself as a chocolate chip cookie loyalist, but in browsing the SugarHero archives, it’s clear: I’m actually a shortbread groupie. I’ve topped it with caramel, sprinkled it with strawberry dust, and recreated everyone’s favorite Keebler Fudge-Striped Shortbread at home.  I’m convinced these buttery, crispy cookies can do no wrong, and I’m looking forward to testing out this theory with 213 more shortbread recipes. (Give or take 200.)

Pistachio Shortbread Cookies | SugarHero.com


This particular shortbread recipe is made with ground pistachios in the dough, so it has a strong nutty flavor and a sandy texture with tiny bits of pistachios in every bite. On its own, it’s more of a tea cookie—something to enjoy alongside a beverage or as part of a larger dessert plate. It’s adequate, and enjoyable, but not the most exciting recipe.

But we’re not here to be just adequately tempted, so that, friends, is why we give these cookies a chocolate bath. Dunk ‘em in chocolate, sprinkle them with a big handful of your favorite toppers, and these cookies are elevated from “munchable” to “GIMMEGIMMEGIMME” status.

Pistachio Shortbread Cookies | SugarHero.com

I chose to finish my cookies with three different toppings: ground pistachios, minced candied orange peel, and crushed candied violet. I didn’t think about it too much, beyond a vague desire for variety and color, but I couldn’t have been happier with how well the contrasting colors, flavors, and textures worked out. Fair warning, though, if you top your cookies with a variety of different things, you will probably be compelled to taste each of them in turn, maybe several times, in the interest of comparison and quality control.

Pistachio Shortbread Cookies | SugarHero.com

If you want to follow suit, you can make your own candied orange peel, or buy candied peel online. (Many grocery stores also carry it in the baking aisle, especially around holiday time.) Candied violet is an ingredient I discovered working at a restaurant a few years ago—it’s bright purple and intensely crunchy, with a subtle floral flavor that’s a perfect match for pistachios. (It’s also wonderful in truffles, and atop cakes or cupcakes.) Look for it in gourmet or specialty food shops, or buy candied violet online.

We ate an embarrassing number of these cookies at my house, and managed to give away about half of the batch before we devoured them all. They’re a great gift, or a cute shower dessert or edible favor, and, let’s be real, a totally appropriate afternoon snack. Happy shortbread-ing!

Pistachio Shortbread Cookies | SugarHero.com


Pistachio Shortbread Cookies
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
These buttery cookies have a melt-in-your-mouth quality and a wonderful nutty flavor. Dipped in chocolate and finished with your favorite toppings, they're a perfect snack, gift, or edible favor!
Recipe type: Cookie
Serves: 30
  • 4½ oz (1 cup) finely chopped pistachios
  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 12 oz unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 12 oz chocolate candy coating (I like Merckens)
  • Toppings like candied orange peel, candied violets, and crushed pistachios
  1. Place the pistachios and 1 cup of the flour in the bowl of a food processor and process them until the pistachios are ground into a very fine powder. Add the remaining flour and the salt and pulse briefly to combine.
  2. Combine the butter and powdered sugar in the large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix them together on medium-low speed just until the sugar is incorporated and the butter is smooth. Add the pistachio-flour mixture, and mix on low speed until only a few flour streaks remain. Stop the mixer and finish stirring with a rubber spatula, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl.
  3. Scrape the cookie dough onto a piece of plastic wrap and wrap it tightly. Refrigerate it until firm, at least 30 minutes.
  4. Once firm, preheat the oven to 350 F (176 C), and cover two baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll the dough out between two sheets of lightly floured waxed paper or parchment paper, until it is about ¼-inch thick. Use a cookie cutter to cut out shapes—I used a 2½-inch heart cutter and got about 30 cookies from the batch.
  5. Arrange the cut-out cookies on the parchment. The cookies won’t spread much while baking, so you don’t need to leave much room between them. When you’ve cut out all the hearts you can, press the dough together, re-roll it, and return it to the refrigerator to chill while the first batch bakes.
  6. Bake the cookies at 350 F for about 12-13 minutes, until they’ve lost the raw shine in the middle and the edges are very slightly colored. Remove the tray from the oven and let them cool for 5 minutes, then transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough until all of the cookies are baked.
  7. When you’re ready to dip and decorate the cookies, make sure your toppings are nearby, then melt the chocolate candy coating in the microwave. Microwave it in 30-second increments, stirring frequently to prevent overheating. If it seems too thick to dip easily, add a spoonful of shortening and melt it with the coating.
  8. Cover your work surface with waxed paper or parchment. Hold a cookie by one edge and submerge half of it in the coating. Let the excess drip back into the bowl and scrape the bottom on the lip of the bowl, then set it on the waxed paper. Repeat with 2-3 more cookies, then while the coating on the cookies is still wet, sprinkle the tops with chopped candied orange peel, candied violets, or a pinch of chopped pistachios.
  9. Repeat the process, dipping 3-4 cookies at a time, until all of the cookies are dipped and decorated. Refrigerate the tray for about 10 minutes to set the coating. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two weeks.
I've called for candy coating to make this recipe fast and easy. If you want to use real chocolate instead, I recommend tempering it so that it's shiny, hard, and stable at room temperature. Here's my guide to tempering chocolate. If you don't temper the chocolate, consider keeping your cookies in the refrigerator so the chocolate doesn't melt or get soft.


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37 Responses to Pistachio Shortbread Cookies
  1. Johlene says:

    Have to try this recipe! I don’t think I have ever made shortbread cookies.. Love that you added pistachios! They are super cute cookies :-) Don’t worry I won’t take your cookie cutter, you hang on to it.. I’m here if you need to talk though ;-) Lol! Xx

    • Elizabeth says:

      Hah, so glad the cookie cutter is safe! And GIRL, you have to make some shortbread! Totally easy but so good! I’ll never give up gooey chocolate chip cookies, but a little cookie variety is nice every now and then!

  2. A cute heart shaped cookie definitely means a good tasting one! ;) I love shortbread and I’m loving even more how you added pistachios and chocolate to the party. I wish I had 1 or 9 of them right now.
    PS I just started following you on twitter and I can’t wait to see what you’ll be up to next. :)

    • Elizabeth says:

      Oh, awesome! Thanks for letting me know–I’m sometimes forgetful about keeping up-to-date on Twitter stuff. Sending you a virtual cookie in appreciation. :)

  3. These are the cutest shortbread cookies Elizabeth! Love all the toppings specially the candied violet. Have to try them soon:)

    • Elizabeth says:

      Thanks guys! Candied violet is definitely one of those ingredients you might buy and use sparingly, but it lasts practically forever and is so fun to have on hand to give simple desserts like this a little extra pop. Let me know what you think if you give it a try!

  4. What a great flavor for a shortbread cookie. I love those different toppings you used too!

  5. I was just struck with the unassailable desire to eat one of these cookies. My soul needs one of these right now.

  6. Me and my friends pronounced pistachios as our favorite snacking nuts. I’m pretty sure these would win favorite snacking shortbread! (because that is a category, right?)

  7. Ummm these look AWESOME! I love all pistachios!!

  8. Norma says:

    You’re so creative. These cookies are gorgeous.

  9. Ground pistachios in the dough? That sounds really delicious. I’m sure it adds such a lovely texture and flavor. And the chocolate bath sounds lovely too. Ahhh these look so pretty. Bring on those heart shaped cutters :D

  10. Yum-O! Shortbread is one of my faves. My heart cutter is gigantic though, so I don’t use it that much, but. . . hey! It might be perfect for these! ;) There really isn’t such a thing as too much shortbread, is there??

  11. Wow these are so cute! I love how they’re decorated :)

  12. Medeja says:

    These pistachio cookies would be so perfect with coffee or tea.. they look addictive and so good! pistachios are one of my favorite nuts.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Yes, they’re totally a tea cookie! I’m with you on the pistachio love train too–although I also think they’d be great with hazelnuts. :)

  13. A_Boleyn says:

    I love nuts in shortbread and pistachios is an inspired choice. I make panna cotta quite often and I think one of these cookies on the plate would be a great textural contrast as well as looking amazing.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Yes, agreed! This is the perfect cookie to go along with panna cotta, or any sort of custard/mousse/soft dessert. Great idea!

  14. Dina says:

    i love the different toppings. great idea!

  15. Danguole says:

    Loooooove the various fancy sprinkles on top! It’s so you. Simple, honest cookie, with some pastry-school ninja magic.

  16. Liz McCrea says:

    Do you think these would hold up well in the mail?

    • Elizabeth says:

      Hi Liz, The cookies are a little fragile, so while I think they will stay fresh for a mailing, you’ll need to package them carefully so they don’t break during transit. I’d say that if they’re well-wrapped, they will be tasty for up to a week in transit, though.

  17. Hehe, your posts always make me giggle :) Heart cut-outs are totally appropriate all the year long (in my opinion)! Who couldn’t use a little extra love? The half chocolate dipped with colorful, yummy sprinkle toppings are really pretty. So simple and classic but so sophisticated.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Thanks Amy! And isn’t it true that what the world needs now is love, sweet love? And heart-shaped cookies, sweet heart-shaped cookies?

  18. Cheryl Nelson says:

    I just bought your book: The Sweet Book of Candy Making. I am so excited about my new adventure in Candy making. I am planning to do candy baskets for sale for Valentine’s day.

    I was wondering if you have any DVD’s or Video’s so that I can just WATCH first. This is how I teach myself the art of baking. I read then I watch a video. After all that I practice.

    I love your book. I just wanted to lick the page. LOL

    Cheryl Nelson

    • Elizabeth says:

      Hi Cheryl,

      Thank you so much for the sweet comment, and I so appreciate your buying my book! Unfortunately I don’t have videos at this time. Starting a YouTube channel is something I’m exploring this year, but I haven’t launched anything yet. I’m happy to answer any questions you have through email (elizabeth@sugarhero.com), so don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions!

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