Gluten-free Dairy-free Shortbread Cookies

Not too sweet, these delicate gluten-free cookies are so tender they fall apart as you bite into them, in a flaky burst of vanilla and coconut that makes it hard to stop with just one. Although I prefer to bake with dextrose instead of sugar, I made an exception for this recipe. I created it  for my daughter’s roommate, who is allergic to just about everything including milk, wheat and eggs, the mainstays of cookies. She also avoids corn so dextrose was out, as it’s generally derived from corn. Sugar is allowed on the low-FODMAP diet, which means this recipe will work for fructose malabsorbers as well as people with allergies. It’s also a great dessert for vegans.

Make sure you use potato starch, not potato flour. And, as with all baking, you’ll get best results if you weigh the ingredients instead of using volume measurements. Besides, if you weigh your ingredients you only have one bowl to clean instead of many cups and spoons. I’m all for making everything in the kitchen as quick and smooth as possible. Use solid coconut oil, not melted, for best results. Carefully measure the coconut oil, as too much will make the dough wet and the cookies will spread in the oven.

The texture of the cookies will be best if you cream the coconut oil and sugar before mixing in the flour, and it will be easier if you use a stand mixer. If you don’t have a stand mixer you will have to mix in the flour by hand, as the dough is too stiff for a hand-held mixer.

These cookies are best if stored in the fridge or freezer. They start to crumble after a few days at room temperature, but quickly regain their texture if refrigerated. Coconut oil becomes a liquid at 76° F (24° C), so they are somewhat sticky when they come out of the oven. Leave them on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to finish cooling. Freeze them in a single layer before storing them in a plastic zip lock bag.

Gluten-free Dairy-free Shortbread Cookies

Makes about 30 cookies

300 grams (1 3/4 cups + 2 tablespoons) super-fine brown rice flour
100 grams (1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon) potato starch
50 grams (1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon) tapioca flour
224 grams (1 cup) coconut oil, room temperature
104 grams (1/2 cup) sugar
1 teaspoon (10 ml) vanilla
1/4 teaspoon (1.25 ml) salt

Place one of the oven racks in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375° F (190° C). Set aside 2 baking sheets. Use a whisk to combine the brown rice flour, potato starch, tapioca flour and salt in a medium bowl.

Beat the coconut oil, sugar and vanilla in a stand mixer. Add the flour and mix until a pasta-like dough forms. If you don’t have a stand mixer, use a hand mixer to cream the coconut oil, sugar and vanilla in a large bowl. Then add the flour and use your hands to knead the dough, as it will be too stiff to continue with a hand-held mixer. The mixture will be floury and will take a while to form the proper consistency, but keep working it with your hands until it forms a thick, pasta-like dough.

Divide the dough in two and put half of it on a piece of plastic wrap and shape it into a flat circle. Cover it with another piece of plastic wrap and use a rolling-pin to roll it out to a 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) thickness. Do the same with the other half of the dough. The dough will become stickier the more you handle it, as your body heat melts the coconut oil. If your kitchen is hot and the dough gets too soft, transfer it to a baking sheet and put it in the fridge for 3-4 minutes. Remove the top piece of plastic and use a cookie cutter (1 1/2 inch or 3.8 cm diameter) to cut out the cookies. Slip your fingers underneath the bottom piece of plastic to loosen the cut cookie from the surrounding dough. The less you handle the dough, the better.

Transfer the cookies to the baking sheets and bake them one tray at a time in the center of the oven for 18-20 minutes, or until just beginning to turn golden-brown on the bottom edges. The cookies are extremely fragile when they come out of the oven but will firm up as they cool. Coconut oil becomes a liquid at 76° F (24° C), so they are also a bit sticky. Remove them from the oven and let sit for 5 minutes, then carefully transfer the cookies to a wire cooling rack.

The cookies are best if stored in the fridge or freezer. They start to crumble after a few days at room temperature, but quickly regain their texture if refrigerated. Freeze them in a single layer before storing them in a plastic zip lock bag.

31 thoughts on “Gluten-free Dairy-free Shortbread Cookies

    • They really do melt in your mouth. I’ve got another recipe for gluten-free Scottish shortbread (made with butter and almond meal) that I’ll post one of these days.

      • I would really love the shortbread recipe. I look forward to it maybe in time for Christmas gifts?
        All your recipes are terrific, thank you.

      • I’ll post it in a month or so. I like to have a variety of things up at a time, so as soon as this one disappears off the front page I’ll post the other shortbread recipe. That should be in plenty of time for Christmas gifts. I’m so glad to hear that you like the recipes, Jenny. I always wonder if people try them or not.

  1. Pingback: Reblog / Link Project: Gluten-free Dairy-free Shortbread Cookies | ft. // la vie éclectique

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  3. Thanks for visiting and liking my quinoa post! My son has IBS, so I’ll be checking through your blog for what you’ve learned that may help. Thanks!

  4. I was wondering…I usually bake with Dextrose too, do you think these would hold together using Dextrose? or do you think they need that extra stickiness from the sugar? (don’t worry, I know I will have to use more dextrose)
    Thanks a bunch.
    (oh, I have a cooking blog, but haven’t been able to cook much for the past few months due to some health issues, do you mind if I do a post about how helpful your blog is, and send people your way?)

    • It didn’t work when I tried the recipe with dextrose, which was a bummer. The texture was weirdly cake-like and the flavor was off. This is one of those recipes that works best with sugar, which makes the cookies crisp and delicate.

  5. These are gorgeous! So perfect and adorable. My tarts looked a mess — but tasty. I sometimes like to use other sugars — maple syrup in particular because of the lower glycemic index — but I was scared to use it without using regular flour.

    • Thanks! You can substitute maple syrup for honey or other liquid sweetener on a one to one basis, but you need to subtract some liquid if you’re table sugar with maple syrup. The main thing to watch for when substituting a gluten-free flour for regular flour is to substitute by equivalent weight, not by volume measurements. You may need to tweak the recipe some, but you’ll be in the ball park.

  6. Hi! Do you know if you can use maple syrup instead of sugar? and how much I would have to use?

    • I haven’t tried using maple syrup in this recipe, but I doubt that it would work as a straight swap because syrup has more moisture than dry sugar. Shortbread gets its crumbly texture because it’s high in fat and low in moisture, so if you increase the moisture the texture will be off. That said, you may be able to add a tiny bit of coconut flour to compensate for the extra moisture in syrup. You’ll have to experiment. Coconut flour sucks up moisture like you wouldn’t believe, so start with a very small amount, maybe even as low as 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml). One cup of sugar is equal to about 2/3 to 3/4 cup of maple syrup. (240 ml sugar = 160 to 180 ml syrup). Good luck- let me know what happens.

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