Classic Snowball Cookies with Pecans
Made with only 5 ingredients, these melt-in-your-mouth snowball cookies are a must-try this holiday season. They taste like pecan shortbread cookies, but have a snowy appearance thanks to the confectioners’ sugar!
A wintery day calls for snowball cookies! These classic vanilla butter cookies are quick and easy to make and taste delicious! The chopped pecans add flavor and texture while the powdered sugar acts as snow covering the cookies. I love baking this treat for friends and family around the holidays.
Traditional snowball cookies are also known as Mexican wedding cookies, Italian wedding cookies, Russian tea cakes, snowdrops and butterballs. Whatever you call them, they all have nuts mixed in to an eggless butter cookie dough and a melt-in-your-mouth texture (just like vanillekipferl!)
Why this recipe works
- You only need 5 ingredients and one bowl to make this recipe!
- The dough can be made ahead of time for easy holiday prep.
- The recipe is versatile so you can use different types of nuts, mix-ins and flavorings.
- The cookies turn out buttery, sweet and melt in your mouth!
- Unsalted butter should be room temperature for best results. If you’re not sensitive to salt, you can use salted butter in this recipe instead. Keep in mind the nuts will add a slightly salty flavor.
- Finely chopped pecans add texture and flavor. You can also use walnuts or almonds.
- Confectioners’ sugar (also known as powdered sugar) is used for the dough and to coat the cookies in.
- Vanilla extract adds flavor. Use high-quality 100% pure vanilla extract for best results.
You can use almost any type of nut in this recipe! Walnuts, pistachios, hazelnuts or almonds are great substitutions for pecans. If you use almonds, I think adding 1/2 teaspoon almond extract would be a good addition to the dough.
For you chocolate lovers, try mixing in 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips to the dough when adding the nuts. You can also mix in 1/2 cup sprinkles (or jimmies), which would be a festive touch!
Other flavors include peppermint. Add 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract to the dough and roll the cookies in powdered sugar with 1/4 cup crushed peppermint whisked in. You can also make espresso snowballs by mixing in 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder with the flour.
This recipe doubled easily if you are making a large batch for Christmas. If you want a small batch of snowball cookies, simply cut this recipe in half!
How to make snowball cookies
- Make the cookie dough: Cream the butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy.
- Add flour and pecans and mix until incorporated.
- Chill the dough: Cover the bowl and chill it for 45 minutes.
- Bake: Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll dough into 1-inch balls. Place on baking sheet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes.
- Add sugar: Roll the warm cookies in confectioners’ sugar. Serve.
Weigh your ingredients for accurate measurements. If you don’t have a kitchen scale, be sure to fluff up your flour, spoon it into a measuring cup and level with a knife (don’t pack it down). Do the same for the confectioners’ sugar.
Also, keep the dough cold. If it becomes too warm, the cookies will spread and lose their snowball shape. Keep in mind the your body heat will warm the dough as you roll it into balls so work quickly.
To make the confectioners’ sugar stick, make sure the cookies are warm when you roll them in the sugar. The sugar will slightly melt into the cookies (making them extra delicious!) So once they have cooled, or right before serving, you will likely need to roll them in sugar again.
Make ahead and storage tips
Snowball cookie dough may be kept in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours or frozen for up to 3 months. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap to prevent it from drying out. If frozen, let the dough defrost in the refrigerator overnight before rolling into balls.
Baked cookies may be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week. They may also be frozen for up to 3 moths. I suggest wrapping them in plastic wrap as well as storing in an airtight container so they stay fresh. Defrost in the refrigerator before bringing to room temperature.
If freezing baked cookies, you should roll them in powdered sugar before freezing. You will likely need to give them another sugar coating after they are defrosted so they look fresh!
Frequently Asked Questions
They were likely over-baked. They should be somewhat soft, but crunchy from the nuts.
There was probably too much flour added or they were over-baked. Add another tablespoon of butter or a tablespoon of milk. If they are falling apart a few days later, then they were sitting out too long. Keep them in an airtight container to help them last longer.
The dough was too warm causing the cookies to spread in the oven. Make sure the cookie dough chills long enough that it becomes firm. Roll it into balls quickly as your body heat will warm up the dough. If you’re in batches, keep the dough in the refrigerator while the first batch bakes.
I do not recommend using almond flour in this recipe. It has a higher fat content than all purpose flour so the ratio of all the ingredients would have to change.
Here are some similar cookie recipes you will enjoy!
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Pecan Snowball Cookies
- 1 cup (226 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
- ½ cup (60 g) confectioners’ sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 cups (250 g) all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup (93 g) finely chopped pecans, (or walnuts)
- ½ cup (60 g) confectioners’ sugar, for rolling cookies in
- In a large bowl of a stand mixer (or using a hand mixer), combine butter, ½ cup confectioners’ sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add flour and pecans. Mix until well blended.
- Cover dough and chill in the refrigerator for 30 to 45 minutes and up to 2 days.
- Preheat oven to 375° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Measure about 1 tablespoon of dough and roll into a ball. Place dough balls 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheet. Bake at 375° F for 10-12 minutes or until cookies are set but not browned (the edges may be golden).
- Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for a couple minutes. While they are still warm, roll the cookies in confectioners' sugar. Set on a wire rack. After they have cooled (or right before serving), add more confectioners' sugar.