These vegan orange shortbread cookies are perfect for the holidays, with a lovely flavour from the orange and spices. Made with coconut oil, spelt flour, and coconut sugar, they’re a delicious wintery cookie that’s just right for the cookie jar.
This recipe is adapted from my friend Traci’s vegan dark chocolate shortbread cookies which were an absolute revelation for me. It ended up being a rather loose adaptation as I was going for a different flavour profile, but the method is straight from Vanilla and Bean.
The really big difference with these cookies compared to others is that there’s a significant amount of liquid (orange juice in this case), more than you think they’ll need, and the dough has a higher moisture content than most. It’ll seem like a mistake, but it isn’t. You refrigerate the dough, much like normal shortbread, and the coconut oil firms everything up. It’s a miracle cookie.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- Spelt flour: this should be light, or sifted, spelt flour for the best results. Substitute plain white flour if preferred.
- Coconut sugar: substitute brown sugar if preferred.
- Spices: these can be changed up depending on your personal preference. As is, it’s a bit reminiscent of lebkuchen, but if you’d like a milder taste, just use cinnamon.
Instead of using icing, I chose melted (vegan) white chocolate, because although I have a healthier icing recipe using coconut butter, it’s a bit pricy. The white chocolate tastes great with these cookies and you could sub dark chocolate if you’d like.
If you’re worried that they’ll be too sticky, don’t be. The method really is amazing and the cookies are so easy to cut and work with. I’ve even freehanded them before and didn’t have any issues at all with ripping or sticking.
A note about chilling the cut-outs before baking – you don’t really need to, as far as I can tell. I’ve included it in the instructions just in case it’s the type of pan I have. I tested several times with freezing and several without and didn’t have any problems at all with spreading. That being said, if you’re concerned then definitely take the step to chill before baking.
I’ve made these as slice and bake cookies before too and that worked, but prefer the thin and snappy version that comes with rolling and cutting shapes.
Make Ahead and Store
Make Ahead: if you want to make the dough ahead of time, make sure you wrap it very well before refrigerating and place it on the counter for half an hour to warm up a bit before trying to roll it out.
Storage: after three days, the cookies become quite soft. Keep them in the refrigerator or freeze them in a well-sealed container to preserve crispiness.
Freezing: the raw dough can be successfully frozen. Freeze in an airtight container, thaw it in the refrigerator, then follow the steps for make ahead when you’re ready to bake.
- Read through before starting: the recipe might seem a little tricky but just read the directions carefully and they’ll turn out perfectly. It’s not more difficult than other cookies, just a bit different, and after the first time making them it’ll make sense.
- Go for organic: you’re using the zest of the orange here, so try to get an unwaxed, organic orange, and wash well.
- Skip the plastic: while you can wrap the dough in plastic wrap, it’s not necessary. It won’t dry out in 15 minutes and you don’t need the single-use plastic.
More Orange Recipes
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Vegan Orange Shortbread
- ½ cup coconut sugar
- ¼ cup coconut oil melted
- ¼ cup orange juice*
- Zest of an orange
- 1 cup + 2 tablespoons light spelt flour
- 2 teaspoons arrowroot powder
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg**
- ½ vanilla powder
- 1 cardamom seed crushed***
- ¼ teaspoon allspice
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, oil, juice, and zest until the sugar is completely incorporated and no visible grains remain (fully hydrated). Sift in the flour, spices, baking soda, and salt. Stir until combined.1/2 cup coconut sugar, 1/4 cup coconut oil, 1/4 cup orange juice*, Zest of an orange, 1 cup + 2 tablespoons light spelt flour, 2 teaspoons arrowroot powder, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg**, 1/2 vanilla powder, 1 cardamom seed, 1/4 teaspoon allspice, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- Shape the dough into a disc (it will be quite wet), and place onto a piece of parchment paper. Refrigerate for 15-30 minutes. It should be just stiff enough to roll but not so hard that it can't be indented when pressed with a finger.
- Generously flour a countertop and rolling pin. Place the chilled dough onto the counter and hit it a couple of times with the rolling pin, then roll, turning occasionally, to a 5 mm (1/4 inch) thickness. Dip your cookie cutters in flour then cut the dough into your desired shapes. Gather the scraps, press them together, and roll again. Repeat until all the dough has been cut.
- Preheat your oven to 180°C (350°F) and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the cookies onto the prepared baking sheets and freeze for 10 minutes. Remove from the freezer and bake for 8-10 minutes, or until slightly golden but still soft to the touch. Remove and cool on the pan for 10 minutes before removing and cooling completely on a rack.
- To ice the cookies, melt a white chocolate bar with a teaspoon of coconut oil. Use a piping bag to pipe designs onto the cooled cookies. Place the cookies in the refrigerator to set the chocolate, then store in a sealed container for up to three days.
* For American cup measurements, please click the pink link text above the ingredient list that says ‘American’.
Nutrition is provided as a courtesy and is an estimate. If this information is important to you, please have it verified independently.