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Pecan Snowball Cookies are melt-in-your-mouth butter cookies made with toasted pecans. Also known as Mexican wedding cookies or Russian tea cakes, these classic cookies are easy to whip up and can be customized with your favorite nuts and spices.
Easy Snowball Cookies Recipe
You might know snowball cookies by another name, like Mexican wedding cookies or Russian tea cakes. They’re a classic staple of the holiday cookie plate, but they’re not just for Christmas time. These unassuming little cookies with the big names and even bigger flavor can–and should!–be enjoyed year-round.
Made with toasted pecans, powdered sugar, a dash of vanilla, and a handful of pantry staples, these cookies have a melt-in-your-mouth texture thanks to a generous amount of butter, a soft coating of powdered sugar that melts to the outside, and a fast mixing method in the food processor. (Don’t have a food processor? No sweat–check the FAQ section for alternative instructions!)
If you like the sound of these snowball cookies, you’ll love my other nutty cookie recipes, like Chocolate-Pistachio Sandwich Cookies, Raspberry Almond Chocolate Chunk Cookies, and Pistachio Chocolate Chunk Cookies!
🧾 What You’ll Need
You don’t need much in the way of specialty ingredients to make these cookies, but here are a few tips to keep in mind as you make this recipe. (Links are affiliate links and I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases.)
- Pecans: pecan halves or pieces both work well. If you don’t or don’t have pecans, other nuts, like almonds or walnuts, are a great substitute.
- Powdered sugar: This is a MUST in this recipe! A double coating of powdered sugar is the secret for making perfect snowball cookies, and there is no substitute for it in this recipe.
- Brown sugar: Many snowball cookie recipes just use powdered sugar, but I like adding some brown sugar for a deeper caramelized sugar flavor.
- Cinnamon and vanilla: A blend of salt, cinnamon, and vanilla extract bring warmth and flavor to every bite.
- Unsalted butter: Adds a much-needed richness to these light and sweet cookies. Salted butter may also be used; just don’t forget to omit the additional salt.
Here are the kitchen basics you’ll need to make these cookies
- Food processor:A food processor is the easiest way to get a super light texture to these cookies, plus, you’ll dirty fewer dishes! If you don’t have a food processor, you’ll want to use…
- Stand mixer:a stand mixer or a hand mixer will both work in this recipe.
- Cookie scoop: You can use a regular spoon, but if you’re a frequent cookie maker, you’ll want a scoop to speed up the process. I love this OXO scoop–it’s lasted me for years, and makes perfect-sized cookies, every time!
- Baking sheets: Heavy-duty baking sheets will keep the bottoms of the cookies from burning and help cookies bake evenly.
- Parchment paper: I never bake directly on my baking sheets–it’s all about the parchment, baby! Save time and cleanup by using silicone liners or parchment paper when baking cookies.
Toast the pecans
- Toasting the pecans is technically optional, but highly recommended. Like many of my other sweet pecan recipes, these cookies are best when you take the time to toast the pecans before adding them to your cookie dough. Toasting your nuts will really enhance their flavor and give them a rich, bold, nutty taste that’s fantastic in cookies.
- To toast, spread your pecan halves evenly across a baking tray and pop them into the oven for about 10 minutes or until they are golden and fragrant, stirring a few times during cooking. Let them cool.
Make the cookie dough
Add the toasted pecans to the bowl of a food processor along with the brown sugar, powdered sugar, flour, salt, and cinnamon. Blitz on low speed until the mixture is the texture of coarse crumbs (picture 2).
- Add vanilla and butter to the bowl, and process again until the dough sticks together. Use a rubber spatula to stir the mixture, ensuring that all ingredients have been incorporated.
- When the dough is finished, it will still look rough/clumpy in the bowl, but when you touch it, it has a soft, smooth texture that easily holds together (picture 2).
Bake the cookies
- Form your snowball cookie dough into small balls about 1-inch wide, and place onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.
- Bake until puffed and small cracks form on the surface of each cookie. They will not change color or spread much.
Roll in powdered sugar
- Allow to cool for just 1-2 minutes, then toss the warm cookies in powdered sugar. The heat from the cookies will meld the layer of powdered sugar onto the outside of the cookie. (This is what makes snowball cookies so special, and this step should not be skipped!)
- Once the cookies have cooled completely, toss them in a second layer of powdered sugar – this one gives the cookies their signature snowy white appearance.
On the right, the cookie has had a second coat of powdered sugar. This coating stays more on the surface of the cookie, and gives it a snowy white appearance and slightly dry, powdery texture.
Just as this cookie goes by many names, there are many different ways to make them! The snowball cookies I grew up eating had very little sugar, big chunks of chopped pecans, and–no disrespect to my cookie-making family–not a lot of additional flavors. I’ve changed the recipe a lot to suit my tastes by adding brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, and making them in the food processor to improve the texture. Feel free to make it your own by trying one of these variations:
- Other nuts: try walnuts, almonds, or hazelnuts instead. Or use a mix of several!
- If you want bigger chunks of nuts in your cookies, reserve some of the pecans out of the food processor when making the dough. At the end, coarsely chop the pecans and stir them into the dough to give the cookies extra crunch.
- Other spices: you can omit the cinnamon entirely. Or swap in other spices like cardamom, or a pinch of nutmeg or allspice.
💡Tips and FAQs
❤️ More Festive Cookie Recipes
- Christmas Pinwheel Cookies
- Soft Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies
- Big Soft Sugar Cookies
- Gingerbread Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Junior Mint Cookies
Pecan Snowball Cookies
- 4 oz pecan halves, (1 cup)
- 1 oz brown sugar, (2 TBSP) lightly packed
- ½ oz powdered sugar, (2 TBSP)
- 4.5 oz all-purpose flour, (1 cup)
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 4 oz unsalted butter, (½ cup), cubed and at room temperature
- 4 oz powdered sugar, (1 cup), for coating the cookies
- Preheat the oven to 350 F (175 C).
- Place the pecans on a small baking sheet and toast them in the oven for 10 minutes, stirring every 3-4 minutes, until they have darkened in color and are fragrant. Let them cool completely.
- Put the pecans in the bowl of a food processor. Add the brown sugar, 2 TBSP powdered sugar, flour, salt, and cinnamon. Process on low speed until the nuts are finely chopped and everything is the texture of coarse crumbs.
- Add the vanilla and butter, and process again just until the dough holds together. The dough might look crumbly, but when you press some together between your fingers it should feel soft and easily hold together. Stir with a spatula to incorporate any bits of flour or nuts on the bottom of the bowl.
- Form the dough into small balls about 1 inch wide (.75 oz each). Place them on a parchment-covered baking sheet a few inches apart.
- Bake the cookies at 350 F for 13-15 minutes, until puffed and slight cracks appear on some of the cookies. They will lose their raw shine, but won’t change color very much.
- Once baked, allow them to cool for 1-2 minutes, and then roll them in powdered sugar while they’re still warm. Let them cool completely on a wire rack, then roll them in powdered sugar a second time before serving.
- Cookies can be stored up to a week in an airtight container at room temperature, or up to a month in the freezer. You will need to roll them again in powdered sugar once they have defrosted and before serving.
Our recipes are developed using weight measurements, and we highly recommend using a kitchen scale for baking whenever possible. However, if you prefer to use cups, volume measurements are provided as well. PLEASE NOTE: the adage “8 oz = 1 cup” is NOT true when speaking about weight, so don’t be concerned if the measurements don’t fit this formula.Click here to learn more about baking measurements and conversion.
About Elizabeth LaBau
I’m Elizabeth, but you can call me SugarHero! I’m a former pastry chef turned blogger, cookbook author, and baking instructor, and I consider myself sugar’s #1 fan. Learn more from my About page, or connect with me on social media:
Love the addition of the pecans to these snowball cookies! These were perfect.
I’m so glad you enjoyed them! Thank you for your comment 🙂
I love anything with pecans and these cookies look amazing
The cookies were awesome! I am making another batch!
I love these cookies and your recipe turned out to be perfectly sweet and so delicious! Went great with my afternoon tea!
Utter Cookie perfection! The instructions were clear and everyone loved them!
Thank you Louise, you are too kind 🙂 Pleased to hear everyone liked these!