Kinako Shortbread Cookies with Salted Black Sugar Buttercream

The classic Japanese flavor combination of roasted soybean flour and Okinawan black sugar come together in these buttery sandwich cookies that will give new sparkle to your holiday table

‘Tis the season for cozy pleasures, so how about a sweet holiday treat with a delightful Japanese twist? These buttery shortbread cookies have a satisfying nutty flavor that comes from the Japanese roasted soybean flour known as kinako, and they’re topped with a sparkly crunch of turbinado sugar. Sandwich them together with Okinawan black sugar-flavored buttercream and discover a tasty new take on an old tradition!

Kinako Shortbread Cookies


Makes 6 dozen small single shortbread cutouts (or 3 dozen sandwich cookies)

1-1/2 c. (340 g) butter, at room temperature (3 sticks)

1 c. (130 g) powdered sugar

3/4 c. (90 g) kinako (roasted soybean flour)

2-1/4 c. (270 g) flour

1/2 t. (3 g) salt

Turbinado sugar for topping (this granular sugar stays sparkly and crunchy even after baking, because unlike regular granulated or brown sugars, it doesn’t melt in the oven)

Cream butter and powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Whisk together kinako, salt and flour in a small bowl. Add to butter mixture and beat on low speed until it forms a soft dough.

Divide dough in half and gather into two balls, then flatten them into disks like this
On a floured surface, roll the first ball until it’s about 3/8″ (1 cm) thick
Spread handfuls of turbinado sugar generously on top of dough
Continue rolling until dough is a little less than 1/4″ (0.5 cm) thick
Cut out cookies with your favorite cookie cutter,* and put them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. (If you’re not using parchment, use an ungreased cookie sheet.) Chill in freezer for 15 min (or refrigerator for 30 min.) This is very important, or they will lose their shape when they bake!

Bake in preheated oven at 325° for 12-14 minutes.

*If you’re making them into sandwich cookies, choose a shape that’s symmetrical, or the halves won’t match when they’re put back to back and sandwiched together.

Kinako (roasted soybean flour) is sold at many Asian markets or online. The Japanese characters for “kinako” are きなこ

The bottle in the photo above contains kuromitsu, a syrup made from Okinawan black sugar (which has much more molasses in it than the brown sugar we’re used to cooking with). Kuromitsu and kinako are a favorite Japanese flavor combination, and this black sugar syrup is the inspiration for the filling for the kinako sandwich cookies.

They’re great just by themselves, but if you want to get really fancy, sandwich them together with Salted Black Sugar Buttercream

Salted Black Sugar Buttercream

1/2 c. (114 g) butter (1 stick)

1 c. (130 g) powdered sugar

2 T. (30ml) molasses

1 generous pinch of salt

Cream all ingredients together until light and fluffy.

Spread buttercream on unsugared side of a cookie (be generous!)
Top with another cookie and squish it a little so the filling oozes out a bit.

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Jonelle Patrick writes mystery novels set in Tokyo, and blogs at Only In Japan and The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had

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