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Almond Shortbread Brownies, a textural wonder

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These brownies, oh, these brownies. These almond shortbread brownies are something special. They might be the dessert I’ve made the most frequently in the last ten years.

They are rich fudgy brownies baked on a buttery shortbread crust. Before the first time I made them, it never occurred to me that brownies would benefit from a crust, but ever since, it has seemed as natural as adding chocolate chips to a cookie.

(Uh, like in these oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.)

Chocolate, sugar, and butter in a mixing bowl

They are adapted from chocolate genius Alice Medrich’s book Bittersweet (recently re-released as Seriously Bitter Sweet). Her books are the first ones I turn to when I’m looking for anything chocolate, from truffles to tarts to mousses to cakes to brownies.

She’s never steered me wrong.

Melted chocolate mixture with eggs

These shortbread brownies are a study in the pleasure of contrasts. The brownie part seems smoother and more chocolatey against the crisp almond shortbread background. They are almost like handheld chocolate tarts.

Even better, they are incredibly easy to make. The shortbread crust is a simple pour-melted-butter-over-flour-almond-meal-and-sugar, stir, and pat-in-the-pan job. It gets baked until golden while you put together the brownie batter.

(I use a chocolate version of this crust in my chocolate peanut butter tart.)

Shortbread crust with brownie batter

You melt the chocolate and butter and sugar together over a pan of barely simmering water, and then stir in the eggs, vanilla, and flour. Since they have so little flour, these brownies do need some serious stirring, but it still only takes a couple of minutes.

Then you pour the batter over the shortbread crust and bake until the edges are puffed and the middle is set.

Brownie batter in the pan

I’ve made many variations on these over the years. I’ve omitted the nuts for friends with allergies, I’ve swapped in ground hazelnuts for the almonds, I’ve added a caramel layer to the top of the brownies, I’ve sprinkled them with sea salt, I’ve dusted the top with the faintest hint of freshly grated nutmeg.

I’ve yet to find a version of these I don’t like.

Sliced almond shortbread brownies with a few turned sideways to show the layers of shortbread crust and brownie topping

These brownies are, pretty much, unanimously loved when I bring them anywhere.

People sometimes ask me what they are and look at me with incredulity when I say they’re brownies. As though something this good can’t just be as simple as a brownie. Rest assured, my friends, it can.

Almond Shortbread Brownies
Yield: 25 small, rich brownies

Almond Shortbread Brownies

Sliced almond shortbread brownies with a few turned sideways to show the layers of shortbread crust and brownie topping

These brownies are one of my favorite easy-to-make desserts. They manage to combine the decadent pleasure of a fudgy brownie with the crisp, buttery, nutty texture of almond shortbread. You can pulse almonds in a food processor to make almond meal if you don’t want to buy it separately. Or you can omit the almond meal completely if you want to avoid nuts. These are quite rich, so cut them small. You can always have a second one.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes


For the almond shortbread crust:

  • 3/4 cup (3 1/3 oz, 95 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (1 3/4 oz, 50 g) almond meal
  • 2 tablespoons (1 oz, 24 g) sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons (3 oz, 85 g) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the brownie batter:

  • 7 tablespoons (3 1/2 oz, 98 g) unsalted butter, cut into 1-2 inch pieces
  • 6 1/2 ounces (185 g) bittersweet chocolate 66-72%, chopped
  • 1 cup (7 oz, 200 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs, cold
  • 1/2 cup (2 oz, 50 g) all-purpose flour


Make the Almond Crust

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil with enough overhang on two sides to be able to lift it out after everything is baked.
  2. Combine the flour, almond meal, sugarm and salt in a small bowl. Add the vanilla extract to the melted butter and pour over the flour mixture. Stir until it comes together. Press the dough into the bottom of the lined pan in an even layer all the way to the edges.
  3. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.
  4. Set aside to cool while you make the brownie batter.

Make the Brownies

  1. Add some water to a wide skillet and bring it to a low simmer. Place the chocolate, butter, and sugar in a medium heat-proof (stainless steel is a good choice) bowl and set the bowl in the skillet. Stir until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and the mixture feels hot to the touch.
  2. Remove the bowl from the skillet (wipe the bottom with a towel to prevent any drips) and turn off the heat. Add the vanilla extract and salt and stir. Add the eggs, one at a time, until incorporated. Add the flour and stir until the batter is smooth and glossy and pulling away from the sides of the bowl. If you’re not sure, keep stirring. This should take about two minutes. Pour the batter over the shortbread crust and bake until the edges look puffed and the surface in the middle looks dry, about 20-25 minutes.
  3. Allow the brownies to cool completely in the pan on a cooling rack. At least an hour.
  4. Lift the brownies out of the pan by holding onto the overhanging edges of parchment paper or foil. Using a sharp chef’s knife, cut into 25-30 squares. These are rich, don’t be tempted to cut them larger.
  5. They keep well in an airtight container for about 4-5 days.

Nutrition Information:



Amount Per Serving: Calories: 225

Originally published April 24, 2014

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Wednesday 13th of February 2019

my daughter has recently been diagnosed as gluten intolerant..... These sound amazing and I would love to make tem for her....and for me too :-) Would gluten free AP flour be ok to substitute in both the cookie and brownie? Thanks so much!!!


Wednesday 13th of February 2019


I'm confident these would work with a gluten free AP flour blend like Cup 4 Cup or Bob's Red Mill 1-to-1 in both the brownie and the shortbread part. I hope your daughter loves them.


Saturday 26th of January 2019

You had me at brownies and then you mentioned shortbread! Haha! So loving this recipe! Thank youuu!


Saturday 26th of January 2019

Just when I thought brownies couldn't get any better haha! These shortbread brownies are incredible!


Saturday 26th of January 2019

Yum, I agree what a great textural combination. There's a treat I grew up with that we called Millionnaire's shortbread - shortbread base, topped with a kind of caramel then chocolate. While different, this reminds me of that a little with the mix of flavors and textures. Sounds delicious!


Saturday 26th of January 2019

Love the mixture of textures This is perfect to take to a potluck or get together!

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