Orange Blossom Shortbread

orange blossom shortbread cookies

Orange Blossom Shortbread harnesses one of the world’s great scents in an easy, buttery, and unique, shortbread cookie. These cookies go perfectly with afternoon tea, and they make a beautiful gift, as well.

They say in the days before urban sprawl when the Los Angeles valley was covered with orange groves, that the scent in the spring when all the trees set their blossoms was literally hypnotic. I can only imagine. The scent intensifies at night, and even the few backyard trees on our street have turned my nightly dog walk into an unbelievable sensual experience. Along with jasmine, lilac and rose, orange blossom is one of the most powerful and evocative floral scents.

In the perfume world, orange blossom is known as neroli, and it’s one of the most intoxicating scents on earth.

Orange blossom water is a flavoring distilled from fresh orange blossom petals, as opposed to orange extract which is made from the essential oils in the orange rind. It’s common in Mediterranean foods, but not so much here in the West. I picked some up a while back but haven’t had a chance to use it until now. I found mine in our specialty grocery store, but you can also buy it online.

Shortbread is utterly simple but dependent on a delicate balance of butter and flour with no other added liquids, so flavoring it can be tricky. Your flavoring agents have to be in a relatively dry form or you destroy the unique melt in your mouth texture of the cookie. But there is nothing worse than biting into something expecting a burst of flavor  only to be disappointed by a bland, barely there echo of the promised taste.

Going for the most flavor possible I infused the sugar itself with the essence of orange. In the mini processor I whizzed together a cup of sugar, the zest of 1 large orange, and a bit of orange extract. Don’t be afraid of natural flavor extracts, if you buy real extracts ( not ‘flavorings’), they are amazing. The orange extract smells exactly like a fresh orange because it comes from real oranges.

The result is a moist, orange scented sugar that even has a beautiful pale orange tint. I use half for the cookie dough and reserve half to sprinkle on the cookies before they bake.

When I explore a new flavor for the first time I like to keep it simple. I was tempted to add nuts, another spice, or even chocolate to the recipe but held myself back. I’ve infused orange into this cookie in three ways: with orange zest, orange extract and the orange blossom water…. that should be enough to get the point across!

Pair these cookies with Earl Grey Tea for an incredibly heady combination of floral citrus flavors.

orange blossom shortbread cookies
3.85 from 39 votes

Orange Blossom Shortbread

Course cookies, Dessert
Cuisine American
Author Sue Moran


  • 2 sticks 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed orange sugar (directions below)
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp orange blossom water

Orange Sugar (you won't need all of this)

  • 1 cup sugar
  • zest of 1 large orange
  • 1 tsp orange extract


  • Preheat oven to 350F
  • Cream the butter and 1/2 cup of the orange sugar together until fluffy. Be sure to pack down the orange sugar when you measure it, just as you would with brown sugar, since it will have fluffed up during the processing.
  • Add the flour and orange blossom water and mix until a soft dough forms.
  • Turn out onto a floured surface and bring the dough together into a smooth disk. Add a little more flour if the dough seems excessively sticky.
  • Wrap the disk in plastic and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
  • Roll out the dough on the floured surface to anywhere from 1/4 to 1/2 inch, depending on how you like your cookies. Cut the shortbread with any shape cutter you like; I used a 2 inch biscuit cutter with fluted edges.
  • Dust the tops of the cookies with more orange sugar. (You won’t use it all)
  • Place the cookies on a parchment lined baking sheet. Return the sheet to the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  • Bake for about 13 minutes until firm but not browned.
  • Let the cookies cool on the pan for a minute, then transfer to a rack.
  • To make the orange sugar, put the sugar, zest and extract in the bowl of a mini food processor and pulse until everything is combined and the sugar is a uniform pale orange color. I shake the machine between pulses a few times to redistribute the sugar and make sure everything gets evenly mixed.  Use half of this mixture for the cookies and reserve the other half.
  • You'll have more than you need, so you'll have leftover to sprinkle on buttered toast, or in tea.
The nutritional information for recipes on this site is provided as a courtesy and although tries to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.

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  • Reply
    July 26, 2020 at 2:23 am

    Hi just wondering how many servings does this recipe yield?

  • Reply
    November 25, 2019 at 12:20 pm

    I see that it says 1/2 under the ingredients, but it’s confusing to those of us that made the sugar before hand and skipped to the recipe. I can’t be the only one baking and child minding at the same time. 🙂

    • Reply
      November 25, 2019 at 2:23 pm

      Yes, I just clarified that Sasha, sorry for the confusion!

  • Reply
    September 17, 2019 at 10:44 am

    I just made these for book club tonight and added lavender as one of the main characters made Orange Blossom and Lavender Shortbreads. These are divine! So glad I found your recipe and your site!

    • Reply
      September 17, 2019 at 12:01 pm

      What a beautiful combination of flavors!

  • Reply
    June 23, 2019 at 6:50 pm

    I would love to try this with rose petals and rose water!

    • Reply
      June 23, 2019 at 7:55 pm

      On my list…:)

  • Reply
    Sonie Beasley
    September 21, 2018 at 6:22 pm

    Dear Samantha, I would love to try this receipe, but alas I do not have the orange blossom water available in Hereford. Is there anything I can substitute so I don’t have to wait to order it online? Thanks in advance for a wonderful recipe to try.

  • Reply
    Samantha Alecozay
    May 19, 2018 at 3:24 pm

    I made a double batch of the recipe yesterday. I love orange blossom, but I didn’t have time to get some so I just did a cardamom addition to it and orange/lemon juice to replace the liquid. I also added salt because in my opinion you always need salt for sweet recipes.
    The cookies were amazing, perfect texture (I sifted the flour and barely mixed it into the butter), wonderful taste (next time I will use the blossom water), perfectly balanced with the slight salt addition. I will be making this recipe again and possible using it as a crust dough for certain tarts. Thank you for posting this.

  • Reply
    SavoringTime in the Kitchen
    March 20, 2013 at 9:49 pm

    I’ve only smelled the blooms a couple of times and it was intoxicating! Shortbread is my very favorite cookie and these must taste heavenly.

  • Reply
    Paula Montenegro
    March 19, 2013 at 10:47 am

    Yes, a simply flavored shortbread is the best. It´s such an amazing dough. And with blossom water, I love it Sue! They look stunning! Perfect.

  • Reply
    shannon weber
    March 19, 2013 at 3:13 pm

    is it wrong to say i can like, smell these in my mind? Beause i’m still on vacation, in the Land of Oranges (and their blossoms) and i’m loving these. Shortbread is the best when there’s citrus housed in it, i think.

  • Reply
    Tricia Buice
    March 18, 2013 at 6:06 pm

    I am so jealous of the beautifully scented air – we had snow last night – so ready for spring. These cookies look perfect and perfectly delicious! Orange is so refreshing.

  • Reply
    thyme Sarah
    March 18, 2013 at 1:32 am

    I would love to smell the air filled with orange blossoms. I have no idea what that smells like! I do see people here with fruit trees but it’s nothing like that in California.

  • Reply
    The Café Sucré Farine
    March 17, 2013 at 4:57 pm

    I’m in love with this whole post, Sue. The cookies look scrumptious, your description of the orange groves is beautiful and the photos are gorgeous! The only problem is trying to eat the cookies virtually, it’s just not the same …….. 🙁 ,

  • Reply
    Ocean Breezes and Country Sneezes
    March 17, 2013 at 4:31 pm

    The cookies look so delicious, I’d love them with a cup of tea! Too bad that urban sprawl took away that intoxicating orange blossom scent. That’s one of the things I like about riding through New Hampshire in the Autumn, the smell of the apples from the orchards makes you salavate as you drive along the rolling roads with orchards on your left and right.

    Happy St. Paddy’s Day!

  • Reply
    belleau kitchen
    March 17, 2013 at 9:16 am

    how absolutely beautiful. I do adore shortbread and have made lemon shortbread but orange looks divine.. I mus give these a go. Can you imagine California back then!?!

  • Reply
    March 17, 2013 at 4:07 pm

    Shortbread really is my favourite biscuit, it’s so simple and so delicious. The sound of orange blossom as a flavour almost has me swooning and since I’ve looked at your photographs I think it might just happen – wonderful.

  • Reply
    March 17, 2013 at 3:01 pm

    Beautiful shortbread cookies and very informative. Makes me want to find orange blossom water. Thanks Sue

    • Reply
      Sue/the view from great island
      March 17, 2013 at 3:08 pm

      Thanks, Penny! All these specialty flavorings are becoming more and more widely available, and I’m so happy, it just gives us so many more choices in the kitchen. Look in the international section of your market.

  • Reply
    Magnolia Verandah
    March 17, 2013 at 7:18 am

    These look pretty special and I love the idea of infusing the sugar with zest and orange extract. What better smell in the evening than orange blossom!

    • Reply
      Sue/the view from great island
      March 17, 2013 at 3:12 pm

      Ever since I made the brown sugar with the molasses my mind’s been spinning about other kinds of flavored sugar. I did have it on toast the next morning and it was delicious.
      Have you ever smelled night blooming jasmine? We have a lot of that out here, and it takes over after the orange blossoms have fallen.

    • Reply
      Magnolia Verandah
      March 18, 2013 at 6:57 am

      Yes and how glorious is that too.

  • Reply
    Carol | a cup of mascarpone
    March 16, 2013 at 11:36 pm

    A must try…these are absolutely lovely!!!

  • Reply
    Averie @ Averie Cooks
    March 16, 2013 at 7:35 pm

    Oh wow, this just looks like spring! I can almost taste the delicate and beautiful flavors, Sue! And shortbread – these are so you. Everyone has a style of baking that I think is their signature and pretty shortbread cookies is definitely one of your specialties! Pretty cookies!

    • Reply
      Sue/the view from great island
      March 17, 2013 at 3:27 pm

      I’m definitely feeling spring here. It’s funny that we California bloggers are always lagging behind the fall bandwagon because it’s stays so bloody warm here through October, but we’re the first to jump into spring!

  • Reply
    Debby Foodiewife
    March 16, 2013 at 9:18 pm

    What a brilliant shortbread recipe! I have orange flower water… I’m hoping that’s the same as orange blossom water. I have pure orange extract, too. Infusing the sugar with orange zest is very genius. Guess what? Pinning to make. Well done.

    • Reply
      Sue/the view from great island
      March 17, 2013 at 3:15 pm

      It must be the same, just be sure yours is food grade and not perfume. I’m going to stock up on extracts this year, King Arthur Flour has a ton of different kinds….I can’t wait!

  • Reply
    March 16, 2013 at 8:49 pm

    the orange zest makes these extra pretty–i’ve always been fond of that hue. 🙂

  • Reply
    La Table De Nana
    March 16, 2013 at 7:38 pm

    Sure to love these~Thank you..and the blossoms..too cute!
    I have snowdrifts if you want~

    • Reply
      Sue/the view from great island
      March 17, 2013 at 3:19 pm

      You know I really miss the early spring in New England, so I have to try and appreciate the unique pleasure of living in a desert 🙂

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