Butter Cookies 鳩サブレー

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Butter Cookies (Hato Sable) | Easy Japanese Recipes at JustOneCookbook.com

I came to the United States to study when I was twenty years old.  Until then I grew up in Yokohama (横浜; about 20 miles/30km from Tokyo).  Since moving to the US, I miss a lot of things in Japan especially my family.

I also miss the various snacks and Japanese produce that I cannot get in the Bay Area.  Whenever my mom comes to visit me, I always ask her to bring Butter Cookies called Hato Sabure (鳩サブレー) from this traditional Japanese confectionery store.

Hato Sabure (鳩サブレー) is a brand of butter cookies sold at Toshimaya in Kamakura (鎌倉) near Yokohama.  These cookies go all the way back to 1887 (during Meiji Era).  Around that time, Japan started to open itself up to the world and many foreign goods started coming into Japan.  A foreign visitor gave the founder of the store a biscuit, and that was when he first tasted western cookies and became interested in making them.  However, butter wasn’t a common ingredient in Japanese food that time so he had to look for butter in neighborhoods where the westerners lived to start testing and creating his version.

Butter Cookies (Hato Sable) | JustOneCookbook.com

You may wonder why these cookies are a dove shape.  Hato Sabure’s hato means dove/pigeon in Japanese.  This confectionery store is very close to Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu shrine (鶴岡八幡宮), where the founder often went to pray.  He was inspired to make dove shape cookies because children at the shrine adore doves and the shrine’s name contains Japanese character number “eight ” which resembles the shape of two birds facing to each other (more story about Hato Sabure, continue reading in Japanese here).

The other day I was craving for these cookies so I decided to make my own version.  I learned that there are only five ingredients in Hato Sabure: flour, sugar, butter, egg, and baking powder.  I was especially inspired by this Japanese blog where the blogger dedicates his time to make perfect Hato Sabure!  After reading his blog and comparing with sable cookie recipes online, I came up with this simplified recipe that works!  I made the dove pattern with parchment paper (you can download and print out here).  I was extremely happy that they taste just like Hato Sabure!!  Hope you will give this recipe a try, especially if you like Hato Sabure.

Butter Cookies (Hato Sable) | JustOneCookbook.com

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Butter Cookies
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 4 Hato Sables + 6 small cookies, or 30 small cookies
  • 1½ cup (200g) all purpose flour
  • ½ cup (110g) sugar
  • 6 Tbsp. (85g, ¾ stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • Click here for dove shape pattern.
  1. If you want to make the dove shape cookies, save the image to your computer and print out. Then trace the pattern on parchment paper.
  2. Sift the flour.
  3. Fit an electric mixer with the whisk attachment and combine sugar and butter in the bowl. Whisk on high speed until fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  4. Add the beaten egg and mix to combine.
  5. Change the whisk to the beater attachment. Add the flour and baking powder and mix on low speed until flour is incorporated.
  6. Roll the dough into a ball and wrap it in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  7. Preheat the oven to 350F (177C). Roll out the dough on lightly floured surface, to ¼ inch thickness. I put the long cooking chopsticks (it’s about ¼ inch thickness) on both side of the dough and roll the dough to keep the same thickness.
  8. Cut out the dough around the dove shape, or cut with 2-inch cookie cutters.
  9. Place the cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, about 1 inch apart.
  10. Bake until golden brown, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely on wire rack. Store the cookies in an airtight container. Enjoy!
* Prep time doesn't include 30 minutes that dough needs to rest in refrigerator.

Recipe by Namiko Chen of Just One Cookbook. All images and content on this site are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without my permission. If you’d like to share this recipe on your site, please re-write the recipe in your own words and link to this post as the original source. Thank you.

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  1. Nami, these are just beautifully shaped butter cookies – what a lovely story too about their history! I am sure that your kids must adore these as well. Isn´t there always a food that seems to bring back sweet childhood memories.
    Have a lovely Wednesday!

  2. Jayne

    I personally haven’t had Hato Sabure brand cookies before but my mom LOVES butter cookies. And Butter cake. I think butter flavoured confections in general. This is really easy! It’s quite similar to my chocolate chip cookies recipe that I just finished writing. Thumbs up :-)

  3. I’m going to give these a try so I can say I made one of Nami’s recipes. They look delightful and I love the story behind them. Real memory food in this post, Nami! I know it’s tough to be away from family even though you’re happy where you are. It’s hard to describe to someone. I get told, “so why don’t you move back there?” I don’t want to. I just need a cuddle from a pie or a cookie every now and then. :)

  4. I studied in the US too and I remember how much I missed my family and real Greek food! These were two of the reasons I decided to return to my country instead of pursuing a carrier there. To be honest with you now I come to regret it. Anyway, I love the shape of your biscuits and they must be very rich in flavor and texture!

  5. Oh wow, looking beautifully baked these butter cookies. I love the dove shape and I really thought you are using the dove shape cookie cutter but instead cutting from the paper stencil shape.

  6. Nice history behind these Japanese dove-shaped cookies! I can guess how crunchy and tasty these cookies would taste. Now I want to make these cute fellas for my kids for sure!

  7. carol | a cup of mascarpone

    What a lovely story, Nami! Thank you for sharing! These cookies are wonderful…and you formed the dove so beautifully!

  8. Isn’t it wonderful to make treats from our homelands here in the States. There are so many easy to find foods in Sri Lanka that I miss. These cookies look delicate and beautiful. I can see why you love them so much. :)

  9. Kimmi

    These are terribly cute!! =) And thank you for sharing the dove template. I’m tempted to make some of these to give to my friend for his birthday. I guess I’ll be baking tonight~~

  10. I love the dove cookies, Nami!!! They are so cute…When I saw them on facebook days ago, I got all excited. I think you were preparing this post to share with us and gave there a peek of what you were doing. What an interesting story about these cookies as well.

  11. Oh how I miss these cookies! I remember my friend brought me to that shop in kamakura and I bought them for every one in my family. I can’t wait to make these!

  12. I didn’t know that is why you came here. I can imagine how homesick you must get sometimes. Luckily you can recreate all those foods you miss, but it’s hard not having family around. I have a special spot for doves and cookies in my heart.

  13. O Nami, such a beautiful story about dove cookies. You know that I love when you post about Japan, so much history. The butter cookies look very neat and perfect.

  14. How neat! 名物を手作りしちゃうって、どうなのかしら?こっちの方が美味しいって、クレーム(?)来たらどうする?まだオリジナル食べてないから比較出来ないけど、なみちゃん、すごいよ。作ってみたいけど、本気でこの体重おとさなくては。

  15. The sable looks so adorable!!! My mouth started watering just looking at your photos as I recall eating them as a child whenever my family and I visited our relatives in Kamakura. Thank you for sharing, Nami san!

  16. Hi Nami, I started making your butter cookies but i’m confused.
    In the ingredients you write 1 tsp of baking powder and in the instructions, you write add the salt. Can you let me know which one it is?

    • Thank you Nobuko-san for catching my mistake. The real Hato Sabure doesn’t include salt so it was my mistake in the Step #5. It should have been written as baking powder instead of salt. If you alredy put salt in it, no worries. A lot of butter cookie recipes use salt too, but I wanted to stick with real Hato Sabure ingredients… :) Late night work can cause some mistake! Recipe is updated now. Thank you!!

  17. Beautiful cookies, Nami! Thank you for sharing the stories about yourself and the cookies. I haven’t had a Hato Sabure before, but yours look so cute and buttery. Must be very tasty.
    I have a similar story like yours. I am always craving for food from Hong Kong. Whenever my parents are visiting, they always bring snacks for me. And sometimes as you said, I just have to figure out how to make my own. When the food I made comes out just like how I remember, that brought back some really good memories.

  18. What a lovely story behind these cookies. I’ve never made French sables but have a recipe which I have to try one day. Innovative solution to getting the shape of the doves … make your own template. :)

    I too use a guide to make my cookies 1/4″ … 2 wooden gadgets for pulling hot dishes out of the oven without having to reach all the way to the back and getting burned.

  19. Hi Nami! As some one who lives far away from home I can really relate to your feelings. That’s great that you satisfied the craving and made your own cookies. The pigeons look beautiful! I would love to try them, they sound so good.Thanks for sharing.

  20. Sandy

    あああ~~~鳩サブレ-!!!Our family love this cookie. It’s not available in our country so we only get to eat whenever we visit Japan. I will try to follow your recipe later! Thanks Nami san!

    • Hi Sandy! はははは!私も鳩サブレー食べたい・・・と思うことがよくあります。あの味は一度食べたら忘れられない・・・。 I hope you like the recipe! The taste and texture is really close!! :)

  21. I have not moved countries but I do live across the US from where I grew up and miss some of the local products. It is very neat you were able to recreate something that you missed.

  22. It must have been lovely to have grown up in a place as beautiful and rich in culture as Japan. I hope, once I graduate, that I can visit :)
    The cookies are adorable, and they sound delicious.

  23. Gorgeous doved shaped Hato cookies and thanks for the history about them. You have so much patience for using a pattern, I would have been scouring the stores to look for dove shaped cookie cutters. I bet these cookies are buttery and delicious. I also miss the foods in Japan and I only lived there a year, I can only imagine the withdrawals you are having! Thank goodness my hubby brought me back some of my favorite Japanese treats from his last visit to Yokohama. Are you going back for a visit home in the summer? I hope you are feeling better. Ja Mata, BAM

  24. I just love old fashioned biscuits. I still remember the taste of my favourite butter cookies when I was little. Unfortunately, it went out of circulation and I have never tasted anything like it again. Your dove cookies looks so delicate and delicious, Nami. Love the shape!

  25. Isn’t it the best feeling when, as an expat, you find an previously unfindable ingredient or recapture a taste that reminds you exactly of home? Something you haven’t had in ages and look forward to on every trip… it always makes me feel like home isn’t quite as far away.

  26. Love those dove shaped cookies, butter cookies was the first type of cookies that I baked when I first picked up baking interest! they are pretty easy and delicious too!

  27. Perfect cookies, and I know I can make these. You have no idea how happy that makes me 😀 Bookmarking. Btw, do you know, we Asians have very similar taste in cookies?? I have found Japanese cookies to be very similar to those we love fresh from the bakeries back in India. Even if I don’t get the shapes right, I will be happy to have them round, or any other shape for that matter, as long as they taste as delicious as they look.

  28. donna mikasa

    I love the dove shape and the story behind it! And 5 ingredients makes it hard to resist trying out the recipe! Will give it a go soon. Thank you for sharing!

  29. Linda | The Urban Mrs

    I adore butter cookies – everything with butter always tastes good. :) And you just mastered the art of baking, they look so neat and perfect! Delish!

  30. These are so cute Nami! And how wonderful that you were able to recreate a taste from home. That’s so hard to do. I’m so happy it worked out on your first try! Now you can have a little taste of home whenever you need one. I am positive we would enjoy these as well!

    By the way – we had your honey soy chicken for dinner. It earned the highest reviews from both of the kids and Mike and I were licking our fingers clean too. :)

  31. Florence

    Hi Nami,

    I’ve been following your blog, great recipes!

    I will be in the SF area next week, could you recommend any authentic Japanese restaurants?

    • Hi Florence! So sorry for my late response. I’ve been a little behind in replying my email… please email me with what kind of Japanese food you are looking for ie sushi, ramen, izakaya food, etc. I’ll do my best. :)

  32. The dove shape is so beautiful. Goodness, I wish I had a few right now. They would go perfect with my evening pregnancy tea! Thank you for sharing…I love coming to your blog. Each time is a treasure.

  33. Candice

    Yum! this cookies reminds of this Japanese cookie I bought at a Japanese market. It’s manufactured by Fujiya and the box says Milky (it’s a girl with two pigtails). Have you seen it before?

    Thanks for sharing the history behind these cookies. =)

  34. I’ve been to Kamakura and got to try these cookies (free samples). They tasted quite delicious and were so pretty that I couldn’t resist. So at the end, either my brain or my desires betrayed me I bought 2 boxes.

  35. I visited Toshimaya in Kamakura after visiting the shrine. Of course, I purchased their famous cookie. So, お疲れ様でした。Thank you for finding and making the Hato Sabure maker friendly.

  36. Ola Jane Gow

    Hi! Made the cookies last night and they are delicious. But you show in your ingredient list as using baking powder, but in your written description you don’t mention baking powder but say to add the flour and the “salt”. You might want to review and adjust if necessary. I used the baking powder and put less than a 1/4 t of salt, just to be “safe.”

  37. Nami, thanks so much for sharing such a fun, great looking cookie recipe. I love that you shared the origin of the recipe and such detailed instructions. As a recent transplant to the US, I can’t help but to smile when I learn that so many of us share the same emotions and experience. Recreating foods we grew up with become the easiest way for us to feel connected to home.

  38. Love the sweet shape of your butter cookies- and I can imagine how much you miss some of the special treats from Japan! Great job creating these lovely birds at home-please pass the tea 😉

  39. How wonderful that you were able to recreate a cookie that brings back such lovely memories of your home growing up. With such simple ingredients, I bet even this non-baker could make these.

  40. Raymond

    Hello!! I was just wondering for step 5, since I don’t have a paddle attachment, can I just use the beaters I used to beat egg/butter/sugar?

    Thank you!!

  41. Such sweet little cookies Nami – I must admit I thought you were making “Twitter” cookies when I saw the first picture, hehe :D. That’s the second time I’ve seen someone rolling dough out against two wooden blocks or chopsticks to gauge the thickness recently. I never would have thought of that before… so glad I could learn the tip!

  42. I still remember you saying a while ago that you weren’t a baker (I used to say the same thing)…but seeing all the goodies that have been coming out of your oven lately, I’d say you’ve got that covered, too. These cookies look darling and I liked reading about its history. :)

    • POH chin

      Hi Nami,
      Thanks for sharing great recipe here. I baked the soufflé cheesecake last night , it was great but crack at the corner of the cake , I think I should not beat the egg white till stiff .,,,today I will like to try this butter cookies , may I know 6tbsp of butter equivalent to how many grams ?

      • Hi POH! I’m sorry to hear the souffle got cracks. Hope next try will be successful. Hope it was still tasty. :)

        6Tbsp of butter = 85grams = 3/4 stick of butter
        (1 Tbsp butter = 14.18 gram)

        Hope that helps. I’ll update the recipe with gram as well.

  43. That`s a really cute story! I love butter cookies. I wish I had a dove shape cookie cutter to make this easier. LOL. But, I think using a print template is a smart idea.

  44. I’ve seen these Hato cookies in Japan before but I had no idea the reason behind while they were made into this shape :) It’s very meaningful to know that it’s because of the character ‘8’ hehe

    Looks like a great simple recpie ~

  45. Thank you so much for this recipe! One of my good friends always brings back these “bird cookies” from her Japan trips and they are my favorite!!!

  46. Katherine

    I tried out this recipe, today and the cookies turned out amazing. I’m so bad at baking, particularly making cookies, but today is a success. Thank you

    • Hi Katherine! Yay! So happy to hear you enjoyed my favorite cookie. :) These are very simple butter cookies but quite addicting. Thanks for trying this recipe and for your feedback! 😀

  47. How did I miss this delightful butter cookie post? I love baking cookies. This is so pretty. I remember going to one of the large department stores on Ginza st. in Tokyo — and in the lower level where there was a food section, I bought a box of sables. The packaging was so pretty, and inside the cookies were even more beautiful. I will try your recipe here. As always, thanks for sharing, Nami.

    • Oh the food section under the department stores in Japan is SO FUN! Each department stores have different shops too (some popular ones are always same), and I can spend hours looking for gifts and food that I want to buy for myself. And the packaging – some are “excessive” and waste of materials (LOL) but it certainly looks nice especially if it’s gifts. Wrapping after one another… :) Thank you Elizabeth! Hope you enjoy these cookies – very nostalgic taste for me from the Hato Sable store. :)

  48. Esther Tan

    Hello! May I know if I can leave the dough in the refrigerator overnight instead of 30mins?:) I’m planning to bake these for 310 people so may I know how many cookies can I make with this recipe? :) thank you and great recipe!

    • Hi Esther! 310 people! Wow. This recipe will yield 30 round small cookies (you see in the photos). You might want to see how many you want to make based on that. I usually follow this recipe to make the cookies, and haven’t refrigerated overnight for this recipe (obviously I can’t wait to bake so that I can eat. haha). I assume it’ll be okay, but I just hope that dough won’t become too hard. You have to try it to see as I’ve never refrigerated for that long. Sorry I wish I could help. Good luck with baking many cookies! :)

  49. Yukthi Manjunath

    Hi Nami,
    I liked your blog very much. I visited today for the first time.
    Can you pleas explain me what is the use of refrigerating cookie dough for sometime?

    • Hi Yukthi! Thank you so much for your kind words about my blog. It’s necessary to cool it down so that you can slice it. If you are going to use a cookie cutter, you can still refrigerate for some time so it’s easier to handle the dough to keep the good shape.

  50. Sarah

    Hey we tried out the recipe and loved it. However, we added a few things like vanilla extract and my family wished it to be sweeter. Still, we loved the cookies and they came out great. We made them heart shaped and loved them. Thank for such an easy cookie recipe. I’m 15 and was able to cook them well. Thanks again.

    • Hi Sarah! So glad to hear you liked this recipe! I like the addition of vanilla extract. :) For this recipe, I wanted to make a copycat version of “Hato Sables” so I didn’t include any other ingredients, but it’s totally optional. :) Thank you for your kind feedback, Sarah! xo

  51. Esther

    These are so good and are easy to make! I made a batch yesterday, and they are all gone. Am making another batch now. (Seriously, they are so addictive!) My whole family likes them. 😀 Made them in teddy bear, heart, hippo, star, and flower shapes, and for the second batch I added a 1/4 teaspoon of salt.
    Thank you Nami for this recipe! Keep up the good work.

    • Hi Esther! I’m so happy to hear you enjoy this recipe! It’s one of my favorite cookies! Love that you made into different shapes. My kids would love the different shapes. Thank you so much for your kind comment!

  52. meng

    Not only my friends and family love them, they can’t seem to stop! I am planning on buying a bigger oven because I can’t seem to make enough of them. Thanks for another great recipe.