Homemade Chai Spice Shortbread Cookies are a perfect treat for cold winter mornings. Each bite is flavored with warm spices like cinnamon, cardamom, allspice, and clove. This recipe makes incredibly flavorful, buttery, and crumbly cookies, that are especially good with coffee or tea!

Slide3There are few spice blends that transport us to another country, and even another moment in time. Chai is one of those. It’s a unique combination of spices (including my favorite, cardamom) is both warming and cooling at once, an Indian and Ayurvedic recipe refined over 5,000 years 

If I close my eyes and inhale the intoxicating aroma of Chai, every fiber of my being conjures India. It’s likely this memory came from childhood, sitting at my Nonna Vera’s feet as she sipped a steaming mug of chai, regaling us with stories of Goa. She spent forty winters living in her Goan community, a mix of Italians, ex-patriots, and her beloved Indian “family.” 

I was so enthralled by her stories, luxurious Indian Sari’s and jewels, that after college I worked four jobs and saved every last penny so that I could visit her there. My twin sister Dimity and husband (then sweetheart) Bobby journeyed with me too. 

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One day during our travels, we rambled around one of Rajasthan’s desert cities, running our hands along the painstakingly carved grooves of a building’s ornate facade, peering into abandoned rooms where queens once lived.

In one such empty room, a man materialized from thin air, shuffling around the corner with a tray of piping hot tea, beckoning us to stay. He served the clay mugs, explaining that the chai would cool us by helping our bodies sweat (though it’s just as pleasant and effective on ice). 

Oh, it was marvelous! Rich with fresh spices, laden with whole milk (likely collected that morning from the cow in the nearby pasture) and laced with golden honey. Then, he pulled a scroll from his back pocket and unfurled it on the dirt floor, pointing at the calligraphy on a black-ink family tree.

This waking dream was common in India, a land steeped in history and ancient magic. Despite decades of colonial oppression and a booming technology sector, the beating heart of India is very much alive in its food and culture.  

When I drink and cook with Chai, I give gratitude to the ancestors who have passed down this sacred blend, and to the plants who have persevered to bring their gifts to the world. 

With love and gratitude // E

Chai Shortbread Cookies

History of Chai

  • The name “chai” is actually the Hindi word for “tea”, which was derived from “cha”, the Chinese word for “tea”.
  • The origin of chai dates back more than 5,000 years when a king in what is now India ordered a healing spiced beverage used in Ayurveda.
  • The original versions of “masala chai” or “spiced tea” contained no tea leaves, only spices.
  • Black tea leaves, milk, and sugar were popularized thousands of years later (in the mid-1800s) when the tea plant Camellia sinensis was discovered in India and cultivated by the British.

Medicinal Properties of Chai

The medicinal properties of each herb and spice in Chai are vast; here are just a few of their benefits:

  • Ginger and black pepper stimulates digestion
  • The antiseptic properties in cloves help relieve pain and inflammation
  • Cardamom is used as a mood elevator and is also a great way to move phlegm from the body (which is why it’s always great to pair phlegm-inducing foods like dairy with ground cardamom)
  • Cinnamon supports circulation and respiratory function
  • Star anise helps freshen the breath

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Reasons You’ll Love This Chai Shortbread:

  • No rolling pin needed! Just slice and bake
  • Flavored with fragrant spices
  • Crisp, crumbly, and buttery
  • Make ahead and bake later

How to Make Chai Spice Shortbread Cookies

Now that you’re SOLD on making these tea shortbread cookies, let’s walk through the process:

  • Grind the black tea leaves. Use a clean coffee grinder or mortar and pestle to grind the loose-leaf black tea. Try to use a good brand like Rishi, it will make all the difference!
  • Combine the dry ingredients. Whisk together the ground black tea, spices, flour, and salt in a medium bowl. Or you can buy a premade blend like this one
  • Make the cookie dough. Beat butter and sugar together until very creamy then add in the dry ingredients, a little at a time, until just combined. 
  • Roll into logs. Divide the dough in half and transfer each to a piece of plastic wrap.
  • Chill the logs. Wrap each in plastic wrap (like a piece of hard candy), then chill for 1 hour. (If storing for another day or week, triple wrap the dough).
  • Slice & bake. Cut the logs into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Space 1 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets and bake until the edges turn golden brown.

Extra Finishing Touches

  • Dip in chocolate. If you’re feeling decadent, you can dip or drizzle the cooled cookies into a little melted white chocolate as I do with my pumpkin-cranberry granola bars!
  • Roll the logs in chopped nuts. You can do this before or after chilling the logs. The nuts or seeds on the outer edge will give the cookies a nice nutty flavor.
  • Use cookie molds or stamps. Give your shortbread cookies a neat design by using a shortbread mold. They can be giant like this snowflake mold, or simply stamp your slices with these smaller ones

More Cookie Recipes

Cardamom Quinoa Cookies with Pistachios

Gluten-Free Brownie Cookies

Trail (GORP) Cookies

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Chai Shortbread Cookies

chai spice shortbread cookies

Made without eggs or leavening, this chai spice shortbread is soft yet dense with crisp crumbly edges. 

  • Prep Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Yield: 48 cookies 1x
Scale

Ingredients

  • 4 teaspoons black tea leaves 
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup confectioners sugar 
  • 2 teaspoons ground cardamom 
  • 2 teaspoons ground allspice 
  • 2 teaspoons ground clove 
  • 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, softened

Instructions

  1. Use a clean coffee grinder or mortar & pestle to grind the black tea leaves. Combine in a small bowl with the remaining spices.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the chai tea mixture, flour, and salt.
  3. In a large bowl or electric mixer, combine the butter and sugar. Use a fork or the mixer to beat until pale and fluffy.
  4. Slowly add in the flour mixture, a third at a time, until just combined.
  5. Divide the dough into three pieces and transfer each to a piece of plastic wrap. Shape the dough into logs about 2 inches wide and roll in the plastic wrap like a burrito. Transfer the logs to the freezer for 1 hour. (If storing for longer for baking another day or week, triple wrap the dough).
  6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut logs into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Space 1 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets.
  7. Bake for 13-15 minutes, until the edges turn golden brown. Cool before serving.
  8. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week (though they’ll doubtfully last that long!)

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