parmesan and black pepper shortbread

parmesan black pepper shortbread cookies

If by some chance you like to have your wine and eat some cookies too, this is a recipe for the file. And if by another chance you could care less about wine but require a sweet treat no matter what, I’m confident you’ll be equally pleased to indulge in one of these.

The savory elements of black pepper and Parmesan are at play here, which makes them a great partner for wine or other adult concoctions. But at the same time these crumbly, buttery cookies are subtly sweet, with a balance of crunch from cornmeal and some sea salt – just as delicious with tea or espresso.

parmesan and black pepper shortbread cookies

To me that equates to a perfect ratio. I love shortbread cookies for the very reason they’re not overly sugary, yet deliver a richness of flavor I find irresistible.

There’s just enough cornmeal for sandy texture, and Parmesan cheese fills the kitchen with a tempting aroma as they bake. The last touch is some lemon-infused sugar sprinkled over the top of the warm shortbread.

parmesan and black pepper shortbread cookies

parmesan, black pepper and cornmeal shortbread

Yield: 12 - 16 cookies


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup brown rice flour
  • ¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ½ cup stoneground cornmeal
  • 1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Sift both flours and the salt over a medium bowl; use a whisk to stir in the cornmeal, cheese and pepper.
  3. Pulse the butter and confectioners’ sugar in a food processor until creamy; add the flour mixture and pulse just until a soft dough forms (about 30 seconds).
  4. Pat the dough in an even layer into a 9-inch square or round tart pan with a removable bottom.
  5. Bake 35 – 40 minutes, or until the top is very lightly golden and the dough feels set when pressed gently. Stir together the granulated sugar and lemon zest and sprinkle over the top of the shortbread as soon as it comes out of the oven.
  6. Cool the pan on a rack 10 minutes, then unmold the shortbread and cool 10 more minutes. While it’s still warm, cut the shortbread with a large, sharp knife into 16 squares or 12 wedges.


  1. I don’t think that I ‘ve ever had a shortbread before. I like a nice glass of wine and if you say it goes well, I think it’s worth trying.

  2. I’m the girl that sprinkles black pepper on almost everything, so these shortbread are my kind of snack!

  3. This shortbread sounds so good! I don’t think I’ve ever had a completely savory shortbread before, but I’m definitely up for the challenge. 🙂

  4. This is a great idea. I like shortbreads any day and since I have a savory tooth, this would be perfect for friday night with wine. I will try this 🙂

  5. stoneground cornmeal? is it a special kind?
    thanks in advance

    • Hi Pearse – good question. Stoneground cornmeal is just coarsely textured, like polenta, rather than the more finely milled corn flour. As long as you buy “cornmeal” and not corn flour it will work just fine.

    • Also, if you’d rather leave out the cornmeal entirely, just use an additional 1/2 cup rice flour.

      • this is my new favorite snack to have when i have people over for drinks

        and i actually omitted the rice flour and did an extra 1/2 cup cornmeal and it was still great!

  6. Hi Karen,

    What a delight. I have come to enjoy savory shortbreads, and this sounds wonderful. The bend of black pepper and Parmigiano is quit tempting. Also I would imagine that the play between the a.p. flour, brown rice flour, cornmeal and confectioner’s sugar lends this shortbread a most complex and pleasing texture. Brava! Nice job! I have to try this.

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