pine nut + peppercorn shortbread // vegan + gluten-free

I'm a little embarrassed to admit this ..... but ... here it goes .... 

I do not have a single cookie recipe on this blog. Well, until now.

It is not that I do not love cookies, trust me, I do. Having a mid-day cookie is my secret indulgence. I usually pick up a freshly baked one when I am grocery shopping and nibble on it while waiting to check out. Sometimes the checkout person asks me about the half eaten cookie "do you know there is only half a cookie in there?", sometimes they giggle at my response, and sometimes they give me a look like "you couldn't even wait until you checked out to start eating that cookie". 

Michael knows all about my secret mid-day cookie indulgence. I think he finds it funny.  

So for my very first cookie recipe here, I thought it was appropriate to give you a recipe for my favorite cookie of all time.


Hopefully you know me well enough by now to know that this cookie will not be your average shortbread. These little guys are both vegan and gluten-free. You're probably wondering how shortbread could possibly be vegan, well, I have a trick up my sleeve.

Earth Balance. I use Earth Balance butter in place of real butter. I am not saying that this is a much healthier alternative to using real butter, but for someone like me who cannot have dairy (especially butter) this makes for a great alternative. If you tasted Earth Balance and regular butter side by side, you would never be able to tell the difference. 

As for the gluten-free part of this recipe, since I am fairly new to gluten-free baking I had to consult my favorite gluten-free chef, blogger, and cookbook author, Aran Goyoaga. You might remember I did a workshop with Aran back in September. Her gorgeous cookbook came out shortly after that, and it has since become a staple and reference guide for gluten-free cooking and baking in my kitchen. 

I have had her recipe for shortbread earmarked for some time, and since cookie season is in full swing, I have been playing with some variations of this recipe. She made hers with pistachios (which are wonderful) but I chose to share the pine nut version that I tried the other day. I just love pine nuts in cookies. I also took her advise and added the peppercorns. They add a subtle little peppery kick. The peppercorns dress it up and make it a much more adult cookie. A really really good adult cookie.

I'm snacking on one right now ;)

pine nut + peppercorn shortbread
adapted from Small Plates & Sweet Treats by Aran Goyoaga

40-50 cookies


1/2 cup of pine nuts

1 cup of superfine brown rice flour
1/2 cup of potato starch
1/2 cup of gluten-free oat flour
1/4 cup of tapioca starch
1 teaspoon of salt 

16 tablespoons of unsalted butter (earth balance butter, non-dairy butter, or regular butter will do) at room temperature
3/4 cup of powdered sugar (plus a little more for dusting)
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped
1 teaspoon of pink and green peppercorns, finely ground (optional)


  • In a small pan over medium-low heat, toast the pine nuts for about 2-5 minutes until they are a light golden brown. Be careful because they can burn quickly. Immediately remove them from the heat and pan, and then place them in a blender or food processor. Pulse until they are a fine powder. 
  • Over a medium bowl, sift the brown rice flour, potato starch, oat flour, tapioca starch, and salt, and give it a good stir to make sure everything is combined. Add in the ground pine nuts and stir again. 
  • In a separate bowl or a stand mixer combine the softened butter, powered sugar, and vanilla seeds. I did this by hand with a wooden spoon which is a bit more work (and arm strength) but can be done. If using this method, stir the ingredients for a good 2-3minutes until you have a nice cream and everything is combined. If using the stand mixer, start off on low for about a minute then increase the speed to medium-high for two minutes. Scrape down the sides. 
  • Add the dry ingredients and the peppercorns (if using) to the butter mixture and stir / mix until a sticky dough has formed. 
  • Lay out a sheet of saran wrap on a flat work surface, and place the dough on top. You have two options here. If you would like to cut shapes out of the dough using a cookie cutter, you will have to roll the dough out. Place another piece of saran wrap on top of the dough, and then using a rolling pin, roll the dough out into a large rectangle that is about 1/4 of an inch thick all around. If you would like to make circular cookies instead, you can take the dough and shape it into a log, by rolling it back and forth between the saran wrap. It should be about 13" long and 2" in diameter. 
  • Refrigerate the dough for at least one hour.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 350º.
  • Remove the dough from the refrigerator and unwrap it. If you are using a cookie cutter, cut out the shapes you want being sure to use as much of the dough as possible. You can save the scraps by working it into a ball and placing it back into the refrigerator. If you are making circular cookies from the log shape, then cut out disks that are about 1/4 inch thick. 
  • Place them about an inch apart on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes until they are golden brown on the bottom. Be careful not to overbake because they can become very hard. Dust them with powered sugar. They will last in an air tight container at room temperature for about three days, and about a week in the refrigerator.