One of my all-time favorite holiday cookies isn’t what you would expect looking at most of the other cookie recipes here on my blog. They aren’t peanut butter or chocolate; instead, they’re powdered sugar and pecans. That’s right, it’s snowball cookies!
I’ve seen these referred to using half a dozen other names. Russian Tea Cakes. Italian Wedding Cookies. Mexican Wedding Cookies. I have no idea where they originally came from, but they’re such a simple recipe that I can easily believe they evolved separately in several different places. After all, all you really need is some chopped nuts, some flour and butter, and some powdered sugar.
These cookies are great. They aren’t super rich or overly strong. They’re pleasantly sweet, melt-in-your-mouth, and nutty. I make mine with pecans, though I’ve seen other nuts used before. Usually every year I would scour the grocery stores around Christmas in hopes of finding a box or two. This year, when I couldn’t find them, I decided; why not try to make them myself? How hard can they be?
Turns out? They’re really easy to do.
My recipe below is a very traditional, basic snowball cookie. It uses pecans, vanilla extract, and powdered sugar to give it all the flavor. That said, if you want to jazz them up a bit, you can try making some changes.
- Different nuts. Pecans are traditional, but almonds, hazelnuts, and walnuts all work too. I probably wouldn’t try it with peanuts or cashews, though.
- Toasted nuts. Pecans are plenty flavorful on their own, but if you can accentuate the flavor by giving them a coarse chop and then toasting them in a dry skillet for a few minutes. Let them cool and finish chopping them after. I do this in my recipe below.
- Different extracts. Vanilla is standard, but I’ve considered mixing in some orange or lemon extract with a bit of zest to add a citrus flavor to the mix.
- Filling. I don’t know how I would try it, but I’ve seen some people say you can wrap the dough around a bit of chocolate or Nutella for a surprise. I like mine dry, but you can freely experiment.
If you give any of these a try, let me know! I’m curious how some of them would turn out.
I also have a few tips for making your cookies a success.
- Make sure to let your cookies cool completely before adding your second coat of powdered sugar, so it sticks and doesn’t melt into the cookie. If you don’t have a good place to cool them (like the cooling racks on my Gear Page) you might need to let them cool longer than the recipe says.
- The cookies can last up to two weeks in an airtight container. They probably won’t — they’re too delicious — but they’re a fairly resilient cookie. You can also freeze them, but if you do, I recommend waiting for the second coat of sugar until you’re pulling them out to serve.
- Feel free to adjust the size! I made mine a little on the large side, but if you want bite-sized cookies, make them a bit smaller. Reduce cooking time for about a minute to ensure you don’t over-bake.
Here’s my recipe. As always, if you have any questions, drop me a line in the comments and I’ll see what I can do to answer!
- Food Processor
- Cookie Scoop
- Stand Mixer
- Baking Sheet
- Cooling Rack
- Parchment Paper
- ¾ Cup Pecans Whole, halves, pieces; it doesn't matter, you're chopping them.
- 2¼ Cup Flour
- ¼ Tsp Salt
- 1 Cup Unsalted Butter Softened.
- ½ Tsp Vanilla Extract
- ½ Tsp Almond Extract
- 1½ Cup Powdered Sugar Divided; 1 cup and ½ cup.
- Preheat your oven to 350°F.
- Toast your pecans. I coarsely chopped mine in a food processor, toasted them in the oven for 7-8 minutes, then finished chopping them small. Feel free to adjust coarseness to your liking. Small nuts will make the cookies more melty, but with less texture.
- Remove the pecans from the oven and increase oven heat to 400°F
- In your mixer, combine the butter, extracts, and ½ cup of powdered sugar until smooth and creamy.
- Mix together the nuts, flour, and salt in another bowl.
- Slowly add the flour/nuts mixture into the butter and sugar about half a cup at a time, beating to fully incorporate each time.
- Scoop your dough into scoops or spoons about of about one tablespoon and roll them into balls. The dough will seem a little dry; that's fine.
- Place your dough balls onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, about an inch apart.
- Bake for about 10-11 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and let cool for 5-7 minutes or until warm but not too hot to handle.
- Roll the cookies in powdered sugar to coat, then place on a cooling rack to finish cooling.
- Once cool and ready to serve, roll the cookies in powdered sugar for a second coat. Enjoy!