Holiday Cookie Recipe: Chocolate Orange Shortbread Cookies

December 23, 2011 | Written By:


The smell of oranges has always reminded me of Christmas. Every year around the holiday season, my mom takes Cuties and sticks whole cloves in them to make a festively fragrant centerpiece. The fresh citrus mixed with the spicy clove makes an undeniable aromatic announcement that the holidays are here.

I found this cookie recipe on and immediately had to make them. I'll admit, my first batch did not turn out that great. I didn’t follow the explicit directions of sifting all the dry ingredients, which caused my cookies to have a very chalky texture. But after another try, and making sure to sift, I had some really delicious cookies.

This Christmas cookie recipe is incredibly light and airy, but has rich flavors that pull from dark chocolate cocoa and orange zest. I have to say, orange zest makes almost anything taste better!  It’s the perfect cookie to share with your family. . .  or Santa, if they last that long!

Chocolate Orange Shortbread Cookies


  • 1 cup all-purpose or whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature*
  • 1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 Tablespoon of orange zest

*I used half the amount of butter and the cookies still turned out delicious.


  1. Preheat oven to 325°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, and salt in a bowl. (Do not skip this step as cocoa powder has a tendency to clump. You want the dry ingredients sifted to ensure a tender cookie.) Set aside.
  3. Beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed in a mixer for 5 minutes, being sure to scrape down the sides and bottom as needed. Add the vanilla and orange zest and mix for 30 seconds. Add about half the flour mixture and mix on low speed. Scrape down the bottom and sides and add the rest of the flour mixture. Once incorporated, mix at medium speed for 2 minutes.
  4. Lay out a sheet of parchment paper and place the dough on it. Cover with another sheet of parchment paper and roll out to 1/4-inch thickness with a rolling pin. (You can also lightly flour a work space, but I find my method far easier and cleaner; it also helps the shortbread keep a sandy texture by not picking up the extra flour.) You may find the dough getting too soft. If it does, place it in the freezer for ten minutes to firm it up before you continue rolling or cutting. (The dough is very hard to work with when soft.) Cut into desired shapes and place on the baking sheets about one inch apart.
  5. Bake for 13-15 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking. It can be difficult to tell when these cookies are done, so when they smell like freshly baked cookies and the edges are slightly firm but still give a bit then consider them done. Remove the pans and allow the cookies to cool for a minute or two before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.


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