I was reminded how much I love shortbread when a good friend gifted us a box of Heritage Shortbread http://www.heritageshortbread.com/ from Hilton Head, SC. Theirs is a fascinating story with the original Scottish recipe being passed down orally from mother to daughter for generations.   Well, my family ate their way through that box in a hot minute.  And, I needed a gluten free version for me.  So, I went back to a recipe from my catering days and converted one of my favorite shortbread recipes to Gluten Free – Gluten Free Orange Pistachio Shortbread.

Shortbread, in its simplest form, is made of flour, sweet butter and sugar.  With those few ingredients, it’s extremely important that you use the best quality ingredients.  On top of that, I’ve added toasted shelled pistachios and orange zest for this unique flavor.  And, yes, those are kumquats in the picture.  The oranges in my market aren’t looking too spiffy this week and I have a loaded kumquat tree calling my name.

You’ll cream the butter with the sugar, but be careful not to incorporate too much air into that.  So, avoid the light and fluffy creaming step.  Otherwise, you’ll make the cookies crumbly.  Once the dough comes together, shape it into a disk and wrap with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate dough for about 30 minutes.  You don’t want to go longer than that or the dough will become too hard to roll out.  Should the dough get too cold, just bring it out to room temperature until the hard edges get soft again.

And, it’s up to you how you want to shape these.  Roll the dough out between two pieces of lightly floured parchment to 1/2″ thickness.  I chose, this time, to shape the dough into a square or rectangle and cut into 1 and 1/2″ x 1 and 1/2″ squares.  Or you could use a cookie cutter to cut out your desired shape OR roll into a disk and cut into triangles.  Good thing about gluten free dough is that you can re-roll it as often as you like and it won’t toughen – no gluten is good for something.  Once the dough is rolled, take a floured fork and gently make fork marks in each cookie.   I moved the larger square to the prepared pan before I cut it into shapes.  Made that step a bit easier.

These get baked for about 30 minutes at 350F.  Be sure to rotate the pans from bottom to top and turn the pan around in the oven halfway through if your oven has hot spots.  Once you take them from the oven, let the cookies rest about 5 to 10 minutes before you try to move them.  They are a bit delicate when they are still hot.

And, one other thing.  The way I kept mine close together, I needed to carefully run a knife through the cookies at the cuts again to ensure they came apart when cool.  You could avoid having to do this by separating the cookies about 1/2″ apart before being baked.

These cookies are perfect served with a hot cup of tea!  But, it was really cold in Southeast Georgia this weekend and I loved these shortbreads with Hot Buttered Rum.  All I need now is a fire in the fireplace!

And, please don’t limit yourself to pistachios and orange zest.  You could easily change this up by eliminating those ingredients or substituting some of your favorites – pecans for example.

Deb Farina

Yields 5 dozen

Gluten Free Orange Pistachio Shortbread

25 minPrep Time

30 minCook Time

55 minTotal Time

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  • 1 pound butter, unsalted
  • 1 and 1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons (5.75 ounces) Confectioner’s Sugar, sifted
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 2 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 and 1/2 cups (19.8 ounces) Gluten Free Farina All Purpose Flour
  • 2 teaspoons guar gum or 1 teaspoon xanthan
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 and 1/3 cups (6.5 ounces) pistachio kernels, toasted and coarsely chopped


  1. Cream butter and sugar being careful not to incorporate too much air or the finished cookies will be crumbly.
  2. Add zest and vanilla extract to butter mixture and mix to combine.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine flour, guar gum, salt and pistachios and stir until mixed.
  4. Add dry mixture to butter mixture and mix to combine.
  5. Shape dough into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate 30 minutes.
  6. Preheat oven to 350F.
  7. Dough can be shaped a few different ways. I chose to roll my dough out to a square shape and cut into 1 and 1/2″ x 1 and 1/2″ squares. You could use cookie cutters or roll dough into a circle and cut into triangles.
  8. Roll out dough between two pieces of lightly floured parchment to a 1/2″ thickness and cut as desired.
  9. Place on parchment-lined or silpat-lined cookie sheet.
  10. Bake shortbread about 30 minutes, rotating pans from bottom to top halfway through.
  11. Cool on pan 5 to 10 minutes before moving.


Buon Appetito!

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