Nankhatai (Parsi Shortbread Cookies)

These plain but aromatic butter cookies have a fascinating legend. Supposedly, India’s first nankhatai (the word literally means bread) were first baked in Surat, Gujarat to satisfy the Portuguese colonials. After they left, the cookie continued to be baked by Parsis, who added their own special touch of rosewater.

Total: 80 small cookies


  • 3 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
  • 1 ½ cups melted ghee, cooled. Melted butter is a fine substitute.
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground cardamom seeds or cardamom powder
  • Large pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon rose water

Use cookie trays lined with Silpats or parchment paper.

Preheat oven to 330 degrees (170 Celsius).

  1. In a large bowl, stir together all the dry ingredients.
  2. Pour in the ghee and rosewater and stir. It should have a consistency that allows for easily making balls with your fingers. If it seems too sticky, add a little more flour.
  3. Make small balls and flatten slightly.
  4. Bake for 15 minutes. Turn oven off, open door and let the cookies stay there for half an hour longer. The goal is to dry out the cookie crust.
  5. Let cookies cool on a wire rack set on a counter at least one more hour before eating. They keep well in an airtight container for a week and can also be frozen.