Spruce Tree Shortbread Recipe | PBS Food

Spruce Tree Shortbread

spruce tree shortbread

Cooking with spruce is magical. It fills up the house with the fragrance of a sweet-scented forest and makes it feel oh so Christmassy! These spruce tree shortbread cookies are also a lovely gift. Read about Aube Giroux's inspiration for this Christmas dessert on Kitchen Vignettes.

Occasion: ,


  • Shortbread Cookies:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup salted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated cane sugar
  • 3 Tbsp spruce needles (from an unsprayed, wild tree)
  • Spruce Icing:
  • 1 1/2 cup powdered (icing) sugar
  • 2 to 3 Tbsp milk
  • about 2 Tbsp spruce needles (from an unsprayed, wild tree)


  1. To make the cookies, In a coffee grinder, food processor, or vitamix, grind the spruce needles until bright green and powdery. Add the sugar, and grind until the sugar is powdery and the spruce powder is integrated with the sugar. You may need to stir with the end of a wooden spoon between grinding to keep the spruce powder from clumping in the corners.
  2. Beat the room temperature butter. Add the spruce sugar and beat until smooth. Stir in the flour until incorporated (don’t overmix). (If your dough feels overly dry, add a scant teaspoon of milk). Roll the dough into a ball, flatten into a disc, wrap and chill in the fridge for one hour, or up to 24 hours. (The longer the better, as this will give your dough time to absorb the spruce flavor).
  3. Preheat the oven to 350F. Roll out the cookies to 1/4 inch thickness on a floured countertop. Cut into shapes with a cookie cutter and transfer to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bake at 350F for about 8 to 10 minutes or until edges turn slightly golden. Allow cookies to cool completely before icing.
  4. To make the icing, grind the spruce as you did for the cookies but mix the powdered sugar and spruce powder together by hand. Add the milk, 2 Tbsp to begin. Mix well. Add more milk, a teaspoon at a time, until the icing has reached a smooth and spreadable consistency.
  5. Decorate the cookies with the icing and serve, or hang on your tree! Cookies will keep for about a week in a cookie tin kept in a cool place.


Some important words of precaution:
*Some sources recommend that pregnant women should avoid consuming spruce needles
*Please be sure to use unsprayed wild trees when cooking with spruce needles. Many commercial Christmas trees are sprayed with pesticides and some are even sprayed with toxic flame retardants. *When foraging for spruce, please be sure to use a reliable tree identification guide. It’s important to be aware that although most conifers (pine, spruce, and fir) have edible needles, there are a few toxic varieties to be aware of, for instance, the Yew tree is toxic to humans, as is Norfolk Island Pine which is sold as an ornamental tree, cedar and Ponderosa pine are known to have some toxicity.
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