Traditions…gluten free, dairy free Scotch shortbreads

Traditions are such a wonderful part of being a family! So many holiday traditions center around food, those of us with food allergies or intolerances tend to remember them more during the Holidays. What doesn’t bother you during the rest of the year can make you feel deprived when you have to forgo the Christmas cookies at your office party or the traditional pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving. Some things are easy to make gluten free (that pumpkin pie, for example!). Others may prove to be a real challenge. While it would be better to remember to count my blessings around this time of year (less cookies, pastries and sugary baked goods means less possibility of gaining holiday weight, right?), I admit to sometimes succumbing to a little nostalgic longing where Christmas comfort food is concerned.

But! Substitutions can be made! Our family has had a long-standing tradition of making shortbreads for Christmas. The day after Thanksgiving, Hubby’s family has always made Scotch and Irish shortbreads. The tradition involves making many dozen of each kind, carefully packing them into containers, and then hiding them so they can cure during the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Further tradition involves at least one disaster during that time, where a dog finds and devours all the cookies or (more commonly) your loving Husband finds the stash and has just one cookie…several times a day…until you find you need to make another batch a few weeks after hiding the first.

Christmas morning always finds family sitting around the Christmas tree, shortbreads and a cup of coffee in hand. In fact, I discovered that gluten was wreaking havoc on my body due to eating Christmas shortbreads! They have been very difficult to make gluten and dairy free, since they are made entirely of butter and finely sifted flour.

But! This year, the shortbreads are back! Here is a recipe developed by a dear friend who also has Celiac disease and dairy intolerance. These are pretty darn close to the ‘real thing’, not too hard to make, and satisfy the family tradition quiet well. I know it’s too late to let them cure, but I wanted to share this recipe now so you can try it and then tuck it away for next year.  And, if you don’t need the gluten and dairy free part, go ahead and make them with regular flour and regular butter.  They are wonderful!

Gluten and Dairy Free Scotch Shortbreads


  • 1 cup butter substitute (I use Nucoa, which is a completely dairy-free margarine. You could also use Spectrum butter substitute, which is soy-free as well)
  • 2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 1/3 cups gluten free flour mix (I used 1 part rice flour, 1 part tapioca flour and 1 tsp. xanthan gum per cup of flour)


  1. Sift dry ingredients over softened butter substitue. Cut in butter until completely incorporated.
  2. Knead dough on floured surface until soft, about 2 minutes. Form dough into 2 balls and cover with plastic wrap. Chill one hour.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).
  4. Knead dough to soften a bit then roll 1/4 inch thick and cut with a cookie cutter (I use an inverted drinking glass). Bake for 5 minutes on ungreased cookie sheet.

We use a cookie press to stamp crosses on ours before baking. You can also melt some dairy free chocolate chips (and soy free if you need to…Enjoy Life makes them) with a little allergy-safe butter and then dip half of each shortbread into the chocolate…it makes a great “black-and-white” cookie!


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