Honey, Rose and Pistachio Shortbread Cookies

In Persian cultural, there is this phenomenon called tarof. What this means is, if you come over to my house and talk about how much you love something, let's say like a little crystal bowl, I'm going to tell you to take it. "Oh that thing? Please take it. I don't have any room for it." So, you're probably going to give in eventually and bring it home with you at which point I'll tell everyone, "Can you believe he/she actually took that bowl?" This was a real life example of a non-Persian coming into this family and falling prey to a classic tarof situation. Needless to say, I'm now always on high alert.

So, when we were invited over for a Persian break fast after Yom Kippur, I offered to bring a dessert. "No! No! Just yourselves, there's no space for more food," Alex's aunt told me. Right then, I started baking these cookies. In the end, it wasn't tarof because there was truly more food than we knew what to do with, but there's never anything wrong with an extra dessert.

This recipe is just a quick shortbread dough, given the Persian treatment with rose water, honey and pistachios. It's floral and sweet, with a pleasant crunch from the nuts. The best part is that you can keep switching up the nuts and flavorings for a endless combination of shortbread cookies.

Honey, Rose and Pistachio Shortbread Cookies

Yield: 18 cookies

Prep Time: 20 minutes, plus cooling time

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 50 minutes, plus cooling time


1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup wildflower honey, plus more for drizzling

2 teaspoons rose water

1 teaspoon kosher salt 

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup pistachios, divided

1 tablespoon rose petals, for garnish


  1. Preheat the oven to 350° and line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment. In a medium bowl, use an electric hand mixer to cream the butter with the sugar and honey until light and fluffy. Add the rose water and salt and mix to incorporate.
  2. Add the flour to the bowl and mix until a dough forms. Using a spatula, fold in half of the pistachios. Transfer the dough to the prepared pan and using a small offset spatula, spread the dough to the edges in an even layer.
  3. Bake until golden, 30 to 35 minutes. Once out of the oven, drizzle with more honey and garnish with the rose petals. Let cool slightly, then cut into 3 rows and 6 columns to make a total of 18 cookies. Cool completely, then serve.