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Almond shortbread cookies with Amaretto

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Almond shortbread cookies with Amaretto

I am very much in a holiday mood, and this is my first recipe in the holiday cookie series that I will be posting over the course of the next 2 weeks. This is a classic Christmas almond shortbread cookie that everybody should try at least once in their lifetime. Because, first, the recipe is so easy! And, second, almonds are great in cookies, and their flavor is even more amplified in this recipe by the addition of a small amount of Amaretto, a sweet almond flavored liquor. Amaretto….. Just give me any excuse to use it and I will. It’s one of my favorite liquors but it doesn’t feel proper to drink it straight out of the bottle, so I am always searching for ways to incorporate it in not so obvious way.

I’ve used Martha Stewart’s recipe, where I substituted almond extract with Amaretto and omitted orange zest. These 2 changes made the cookies even more “almond-y”, which is exactly what I wanted! The sliced almonds in the cookies give them a very nice crunch. Feel free to halve the recipe or double it. First time I made these I actually halved the recipe to make sure I liked it, and the cookies came out perfect.

Almond shortbread cookies with Amaretto

This cookie dough keeps very well frozen in the freezer, and you can make several smaller logs, so that each time you want to bake cookies, you just take out one log of cookie dough and slice it. The cookies themselves, once baked, can be stored in an air-tight container for a month. My husband and I have been eating these cookies for 2 weeks, and what a pleasure that was!


Almond shortbread cookies with Amaretto

Almond shortbread cookies with Amaretto

This recipe is adapted from Martha Stewart.

Prep time: 35 min


  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon amaretto liquor
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (sifted or aerated – see my note below!)
  • 3/4 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted

Makes 40 cookies.

Important note about properly measuring flour using measuring cups:

The proper way to measure flour using measuring cups is to aerate it first. This is done either by sifting flour, or aerating it by fluffing it up and whisking it well, then spooning it into the measuring cup, then carefully removing any excess flour with a knife. If you just stick that measuring cup in the bag of flour and scoop some out, you will get a lot more flour than what the recipe calls for. Do aerate the flour, or you will end up with dry dough! ๐Ÿ™‚

1) In a large mixing bowl, using mixer, beat butter, sugar, amaretto, salt until smooth and creamy.

2) With mixer on low speed, add flour and mix until dough forms.

3) Using rubber spatula, mix in almonds.

4) Form dough into a rectangular log (or 2 rectangular logs). Wrap each log in plastic wrap. Once the log is wrapped in plastic wrap, it is easier to continue shaping it as a more perfectly shaped rectangular log. Freeze the log for 40 minutes in freezer, then 20 minutes in refrigerator.

5) Preheat oven to 325. Using sharp knife, cut dough into 1/4 inch thick slices, place them on un-greased baking sheet 1 inch apart. Bake until edges are golden, about 12 minutes.

6) Cool on baking sheet for 10 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.


Mixing cookie dough ingredients


Adding Amaretto to the cookie dough


Sliced almonds – ready to be added to cookie dough

mixing in almonds

Mixing in almonds

making rectangular shape

forming a rectangular shape out of cookie dough – before putting it in the freezer

wrapping into plastic

Wrapping cookie dough into plastic wrap – at this point, once it’s wrapped in plastic, it’s easier to shape cookie dough into a more perfect rectangular shape

on a cookie sheet

After cookie dough was in the freezer/refrigerator, cut thin slices of cookie dough, using sharp knife, to form individual cookies

on a cookie sheet

Individual cookies on ungreased cookie sheet, lined with foil

Almond shortbread cookies with Amaretto

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{ 44 comments… add one }
  • [email protected] December 7, 2012, 6:24 am

    Oh goodness, I looove these! So pretty and so festive! And I am a sucker for boozy desserts. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Julia December 9, 2012, 1:56 pm

      Me too ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Patricia Herke July 12, 2016, 11:24 pm

        Thanks so much for the tip on aerating flour. I watch a lot of cooking tutorial and I have never heard this. I often wondered why my doughs will often turn out so dry. We live in high humidity south Louisiana so I will certainly give this tip a try. Thanks again!

  • Tash December 7, 2012, 8:59 am

    As a sucker for all things almond, I can imagine that these biscuits would be just up my street! I love amaretto, too, which tastes to me like warm, liquid marzipan… yum. I feel the urge to bake something almondy coming on. I am a huge fan of the humble Bakewell tart. You might like them if you like almonds… they are basically almond sponge over jam (usually strawberry) inside a shortcrust pastry case. It’s named after a town in Derbyshire and pretty much universally loved in Britain!

    On a Christmas theme, us Brits have Christmas cake which is a rich fruit cake covered in marzipan and then either fondant or royal icing. It’s a rich, decadent and utterly British delight which I cannot recommend highly enough! Do you have mince pies in America?

    • Julia December 9, 2012, 2:04 pm

      I’ve never heard of Bakewell tart, but now that you mentioned it I looked it up, bookmarked it and it will be on my “to-do” list. I love everything almond and Bakewell tart looks like something that would be my new favorite. About Amaretto – I like it so much but I feel bad just to drink it out of the bottle, so I am always searching for ways to incorporate it in a less “direct” way. ๐Ÿ™‚

      I’ve never tried mince pie either, but found a recipe and bookmarked it, too. Sounds delicious. I love traditional European recipes. I found the one without meat. Is it supposed to have meat?

      • Carol November 30, 2015, 3:02 pm

        I lived in Jersey Great Britain so grew up eating fruit cake with marzipan, bakewell tarts and mince tarts. It isn’t Christmas without mince tarts! the mince tarts everyone eats at Christmas in Britain do not have meat in them. Cross and Blackwell makes a decent jar of mincemeat, or you can make it yourself. Try Nigella Lawson. thanks for the almond shortbread recipe, looking forward to making it!

  • Maureen | Orgasmic Chef December 7, 2012, 3:42 pm

    I love these shortbread cookies. They are so upmarket and festive and your photography skills make me so envious.

    • Julia December 9, 2012, 2:05 pm

      I love shortbread! My favorite type of Christmas cookie.

  • The Wimpy Vegetarian December 7, 2012, 3:49 pm

    These look fantastic! And what a great make-ahead treat – just pop them in the freezer until you’re ready to make them!! I love the Amaretto here – great idea!

    • Julia December 9, 2012, 2:11 pm

      I suspect I’ll be having a lot of these “make-ahead” treats this season. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Liz December 7, 2012, 6:48 pm

    These are picture perfect! I love the square shape…just beautiful cookies!!!

    • Julia December 9, 2012, 2:11 pm

      Thank you, Liz!

  • Sandra's Easy Cooking December 7, 2012, 9:52 pm

    So Delicious…I would love one or maybe 5 right one before bed ๐Ÿ™‚ Great pics!

    • Julia December 9, 2012, 2:12 pm

      That’s what I do, eat them after dinner. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Ashley December 8, 2012, 9:40 am

    Yum, I love shortbread. The Amaretto is such a great idea – my mom would love these! It’s one of her favorite flavors : )

    • Julia December 9, 2012, 2:12 pm

      Amaretto is great, just give me an excuse to use it. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Laura Dembowski December 8, 2012, 10:17 am

    Those look outstanding! I love the addition of amaretto, because I think booze always improves baked goods ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Julia December 9, 2012, 2:13 pm

      Me too! I like using alcohol in cooking and testing how it turns out.

  • Kiersten @ Oh My Veggies December 9, 2012, 3:24 pm

    I am eager to start holiday baking too. With the addition of amaretto, these are totally perfect for a celebration! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Julia December 12, 2012, 3:44 pm

      Yes, plus I wouldn’t mind a shot of Amaretto to go along with these. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • brighteyedbaker December 12, 2012, 10:25 am

    The cookie dough wrapped up in plastic wrap reminds me of a log of almond paste, but with fresh almonds in it. Yum! I’m seriously in love with almond-flavored baked goods, and these cookies look perfect. I really haven’t baked much in the realm of holiday desserts this year, and posts like this make me want to!

    • Julia December 12, 2012, 3:51 pm

      I love almond desserts myself, I just wish I had more free time to get to baking everything I want.

  • Hazel December 15, 2012, 11:33 am

    If I can’t find amaretto liquor, can I substitute it with amaretto creamer?

    • Julia December 15, 2012, 1:56 pm

      Yes, you can. I used amaretto just for flavor purposes (because it has such a distinct and strong flavor). As long as amaretto creamer has a distinct flavor (which I assume it should), it should work. Original recipe called for almond extract, so that will work too but I prefer Amaretto.

  • SonyaUK January 5, 2013, 7:19 am

    Hi I made the cookies the other day and loved them so much! The taste great. I’m wondering what else you can use instead of amaretto. I’ve got a bottle of bailey’s irish cream do you think that would work?

    • Julia January 9, 2013, 7:20 pm

      I am sure Irish cream would work in this recipe, though I think amaretto is much stronger in flavor than Irish cream, which is why only 1 teaspoon is required. And I wouldn’t use more than 1 teaspoon not to compromise the texture of cookies.
      I am, though, envisioning using Irish cream in much larger quantities in a different recipe, such as 1 cup of Irish cream instead of buttermilk in cake recipes. You just gave me a great idea!

  • JT April 19, 2013, 10:46 pm

    The cookies look great! How many cookies does this recipe make?

    • Julia April 20, 2013, 12:02 pm

      Makes 40 cookies. I just updated the recipe.

  • Monica December 15, 2013, 5:12 pm

    These sound delicious! I was wondering if I could use rum instead of the amaretto? I don’t have amaretto on hand and would love to make some of these tonight.

    • Julia December 18, 2013, 3:31 pm

      I think rum would add wonderful flavor to it! I just made the same recipe recently and added 2 teaspoons of amaretto instead of 1 – it worked beautifully and made cookies even more flavorful. I don’t see anything wrong with adding 1 or 2 teaspoons of rum to the recipe!

  • pamela December 27, 2013, 12:29 pm

    You state to cook these @325 for 12 minutes, yet on martha stewart site, she says 325 for 20 – 25 minutes! ??l

    • Julia December 31, 2013, 2:48 pm

      12 minutes is really enough, unless you want pronounced brown edges around your cookies. ๐Ÿ™‚ After 12 minutes of baking, cookies are fully baked and of perfect color! If you read comments on Martha Stewart’s recipe, other people also prefer 12 minutes to avoid overbrowning the cookie.

  • Leanne February 11, 2014, 11:34 am

    Your cookies look so yummy!! I will be trying it out as soon as i get hold of the ingredients. By the way, are these cookies crunchy or are they soft n crumbly ? Tks for this recipe, it reminds me of the almond cookies I used to buy but have not done so for ages. I can’t wait to try it out!!

    • Julia February 11, 2014, 2:32 pm

      These cookies are very crumbly (melting in your mouth) just like what you would expect from shortbread cookies. They are crunchy but in a melt-in-your-mouth sort of way if you know what I mean. They have perfect texture if you ask me. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Colleen March 19, 2014, 11:40 am

    Just came upon your site, since I am a visual person as well as someone who loves great food I think your site is a delight. Beautiful photos and I want to make all yout recipes. Keep up the good work.

    • Julia March 19, 2014, 3:00 pm

      Colleen, thank you for your very sweet comment! I love photography and all things pretty! ๐Ÿ™‚ I wish I had more time to publish more recipes. I have too many ideas and not too much free time – like all of us. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Naomi November 30, 2014, 4:58 am

    These look really tasty, i am looking to make them as a Christmas present but was wondering how long the shelf life is on these?

  • Judy November 30, 2014, 9:23 am

    These look awesome, and I can’t wait to make them! Just for reference, how big should each log be to get the right amount of cookies? Thanks!

  • sylvie March 2, 2015, 1:25 pm

    Be sure I won’t wait for next Christmas to experiment these delicacies!

  • MommaMary August 15, 2015, 8:05 pm

    Hello, can I substitute almond flavoring for the amaretto? Don’t want to purchase $20 bottle that I may never use again.

  • Deidra Mitchem October 28, 2015, 10:37 pm

    I followed the recipe and did everything correctly (I think). However my dough was sticky. Even after coming out of the freezer my dough was still soft and they did not cut into square.They tasted good but not great… HELP ME! These cookies look amazing and I really want to get this right.

  • Ruthie November 26, 2015, 1:23 pm

    These look great. I was wondering if you have tried using half almond flour and half AP flour?

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