Difference Between Shortbread & Sugar Cookies

By Carly Schuna

There are a few simple differences between shortbread and sugar cookies and also a slight difference in taste. Most of the variances have to do with texture, ingredients and traditional decorations.

heart cookies
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Shortbread has fewer ingredients than sugar cookies

Ingredients

christmas cookies
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Sugar cookies

Sugar cookies often have many ingredients, including eggs, vanilla, salt and a leavening agent such as baking powder or baking soda. Traditional shortbread has four ingredients at most: sugar, butter, flour and sometimes vanilla.

Process

Cookie dough and cookie cutters
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Sugar cookies

Shortbread and sugar cookies are often chilled and then rolled and cut with cookie cutters, but sugar cookies can also be made in the style of a drop cookie without being rolled out.

Texture and Taste

Shortbread Cookies
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Shortbread cookies

Shortbread is almost always thicker and denser than a sugar cookie. It contains more butter than sugar cookies as well, so the taste is richer.

Baking Time

Freshly made sugar cookies in the oven for baking
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Sugar cookies

Baking times don't differ much, but shortbread is often baked longer than sugar cookies by 2 to 5 minutes.

Decorations

Teenagers showing Christmas cookies
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Sugar cookies

Though shortbread is most often eaten plain and left undecorated because of its rich flavor, bakers tend to frost and decorate sugar cookies with sprinkles or granulated sugar.