Chocolate Orange Shortbread Cookies

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Please welcome Garrett as he shares the most chocolate-y of shortbread cookies. We ate them ALL. ~Elise

If you’re lucky, you have a certain special someone who surprises you with dinner when you get home and takes out the trash without being asked. Someone who instinctively knows that you can take on the world even when you’re doubting your ability to just slog out of bed in the morning and who is happy to be hugged by you even when you’re rank with sweat from the gym.

If you’re lucky, and your loved one is someone who adores chocolate, then I have the recipe for you. These chocolate shortbread cookies have a richness that’s as sweet as a kiss goodnight. A heavy dose of orange zest perfumes them making them all the more tempting (assuming you weren’t hooked by the words “chocolate” and “shortbread” already). If you’re looking for something different and chocolatey, then these are the perfect Valentine’s Day treat – or even the perfect Just Because treat – for that special someone.

Chocolate Orange Shortbread Cookies Recipe

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: Makes 2 1/2 dozen.

I like Hershey's Special Dark for this recipe as it gives baked goods a dark, nearly black color and a rich cocoa flavor. However, Ghiradelli unsweetened cocoa or any other brand will do just fine and give more prominence to the orange flavor.


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened natural 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


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, cleaner, and the shortbread keeps 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 1-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 (simply enough, it takes some judgment on your part). 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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Garrett McCord

Garrett McCord is a food writer, writing instructor, culinary consultant, freelance food photographer, and recipe developer who shares his enthusiasm for food and the written word through his blog Vanilla Garlic. Garrett's cookbook, co-authored with Stephanie Stiavetti, is Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese

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Showing 4 of 39 Comments

  • Eleanor Eastick

    Can the dough be rolled into logs, chilled and then cut into 1/8 inch thick rounds. It would be easier, if not as elegant.

  • Alison

    This recipe doesn’t specify dutch processed or natural cocoa powder. I know that can make a difference in some recipes so I’m wondering what should be used here. The recipe looks great but I’m hesitant to try it out without knowing which type of cocoa to use. Thanks.

  • Arzu Ayla

    I made these today, the dough was too soft to roll out and cut with cookie cutter. So, I made small balls and dropped them on the cookie sheet. i actually used one lemon zest, since i didn’t have any oranges at hand. I made the cookies look like lemons too. They turned out soooo good. I wish I can attach a photo here. The only mistake I made was to keep them in the oven for too long, they dried out a little, but still was yummy. Thanx for the recipe :)

  • cindy

    I made these cookies again today. Little hearts for Valentine’s. They are great. I rolled them out between two silpats and transferred them to the baking sheet with a thin metal spatula. Thanks again for the recipe. It pleases the kids and the grown ups.

  • inka

    I had the same problem as Jade! Mine started bubbling on the tray and spread out..they came out kind of brittle so I pulled out the second batch a lot quicker. Shame, I used such cute cookie cutters and in they end the rubble :-) tasted great. My butter wasn’t very roomtemperature but I did follow the rest of the recipe. Maybe next time I’ll try a bit more flour. Oh, I have a fan oven, would that make a difference?

    Inka, I can’t say on the fan oven. My guess, would be to chill the dough after cutting and check the oven temperature if it’s not running to proper temp. ~Garrett

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