These Snowball cookies are nutty, melt-in-your-mouth tender, and loaded with toasted pecans. They are one of the easiest Christmas cookies to make, using just 5 ingredients.
What are snowball cookies? Also known as Russian tea cakes or Mexican wedding cookies, butterballs, snowdrops, and more, they are bite-sized, round cookies typically made with part butter, part flour, and part confectioners’ sugar, and finely chopped nuts, such as pecans or walnuts.
They have a crumbly texture and are usually coated in powdered sugar, resembling balls of snow, hence the name. They are popular during the holiday season, particularly around Christmas, and are enjoyed as sweet treats with a cup of tea or coffee, like walnut cookies.
There are no eggs or leavening agents in traditional snowball recipes. They are also sometimes shaped into crescents like the cashew cookies, they can be called Viennese crescents or Greek kourabiedes.
Why you'll love this recipe?
- Only 5 pantry ingredients.
- Not overly sweet despite being coated in confectioners' sugar.
- Made in one bowl.
- Quintessential Christmas cookie
- Rich buttery, nutty flavor with melt-in-your-mouth texture.
Scroll down to the recipe card below for full information on ingredients and amounts.
- Butter - I prefer using unsalted butter to have more control over the salt added. If using salted butter, you may want to lessen the salt in the recipe.
- All purpose flour - This is the structure of the snowball cookies.
- Confectioners sugar - The presence of cornstarch in confectioners' sugar inhibits gluten formation when mixed into the dough, resulting in a more tender and crumbly cookie.
- Pecans - Use toasted pecans as in pecan pie without corn syrup. It adds a wonderful nuttiness to the ball. Learn how to toast pecans at home with this detailed tutorial.
- While traditional snowball cookies often use pecans, you can experiment with other nuts such as walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts or pistachios.
- Mix in mini chocolate chips or chopped chocolate chips to the dough, as in healthy cookie dough recipe.
- Replace some of the flour with cocoa powder for a chocolate version, as in chocolate shortbreads.
- Mix colored sprinkles into the dough.
- Replace the vanilla with almond extract, and toasted pecans with chopped almonds.
- Roll the baked snowball cookies in powdered sugar mixed with ground cardamom or cinnamon.
How to make?
You can find full printable recipe below, but here is a quick overview of the procedure along with step-by-step photos.
1.Add butter, ¼ cup confectioners sugar, vanilla extract and salt into a medium bowl and beat with a hand held electric beater for about 2 minutes or creamy.
2 to 4. Add all purpose flour and chopped pecans, and continue mixing, until the dough comes together. Chill for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 days.
5 to 7. Roll about 1 tablespoon measure dough into a smooth ball and place on a parchment lined baking sheet, spacing about an inch apart.
8. Bake at 350 degrees, for about 18 minutes or until golden brown on the bottom but barely brown on top. Cool for 5 minutes.
9 & 10. Gently roll warm cookies in confectioner sugar to coat on all sides. Place them on a plate to cool. Roll them again to ensure that the sugar sticks.
How to make sure that the confectioner's sugar sticks? The trick is to roll them twice! Give the cookies their first coating when they are slightly warm. As the cookies cool, the confectioners' sugar will melt into them. After the snowball cookies have cooled, coat them in confectioners' sugar again, and they'll be as beautifully snowy and stay true to their name.
How to Store?
- Storage: Snowball cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.
- Freezing instructions for dough: Place the rolled balls on a baking sheet and place in the freezer until completely frozen, about 2 hours. Transfer to a freezer-safe zipper bag and freeze for up to 1 month. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight, then bake as directed.
- Freezing instructions for baked cookies: Once baked, cooled, and dredged in powdered sugar, the snowball cookies can be stored in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Be sure to place wax or parchment paper between layers. Thaw them on the kitchen counter for a few hours before eating. I always give them another powdered sugar shake to freshen them up.
Pro tip: Snowball cookies make great homemade gifts during the holiday season. Place them in mini muffin liners and then tuck them into a decorative tin or a cellophane bag and adorn them with a festive ribbon for an elegant gift.
- Use unsalted butter that is at room temperature for proper creaming.
- Confectioners sugar is the same as powdered sugar found in grocery stores.
- Chop the pecans very fine. I prefer processing them in a mini food processor, but don't make them powdery.
- Pull the snowballs out of the oven when the bottoms have browned but the tops are still pale. If they turn darker, they turn crispy instead of melting in your mouth texture.
- Tossing the snowballs in powdered sugar twice is key.
- Make sure you use confectioners’ sugar or powdered sugar and not granulated sugar.
- Chilling the dough makes it easier to roll into balls and also help them keep their shape.
- Use a 1-inch cookie scoop to easily make uniform cookies.
Snowball cookies can sometimes flatten during baking due to a few possible reasons:
1. Dough was soft and not chilled enough. Chilling the dough before baking helps the cookies retain their shape while in the oven.
2. Incorrect measurement of ingredients. Using too much or too little flour can affect the cookie dough consistency. Too much flour can lead to a harder dough, causing them to flatten, while too little flour can make the dough too soft, resulting in spreading. Make sure to measure the flour accurately using the spoon and level method.
3. Bake at the wrong temperature. Baking at a temperature that is too low can cause the butter in the snowball cookies to melt before the dough sets, resulting in spreading.
4. Using granulated sugar instead of powdered sugar can lead to spreading. Confectioners' sugar contains cornstarch, which aids in firming up the cookies during baking—a quality that granulated sugar lacks.
Use any one of the following suggested methods to chop pecans for the snowball cookies.
Food processor - This is my preferred method to grind the pecans. Pulse the pecans in a food processor, being careful not to over-process; a few quick pulses should suffice to avoid turning the pecans into a powder.
Crush - Place them inside a gallon-size zipper bag and smash using a mallet, hammer, or the back of a heavy skillet until you don't see any big chunks.
Hand chop - Place a small amount of pecans on a cutting board and use a rocking motion with the knife to chop them finely. Keep chopping until they are small and finely chopped.
More Christmas cookies
- Add butter, ¼ cup confectioners sugar, vanilla extract and salt into a medium bowl and beat with a hand held electric beater for about 2 minutes or creamy.
- Add all purpose flour and chopped pecans, and continue mixing, until the dough comes together. Chill for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 days. Tip: If chilling for more than 30 minutes, let dough sit at room temperature for at least 15 minutes before rolling into balls.
- Pre heat oven to 350°F (177°C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Roll about 1 tablespoon measure dough into a smooth ball and place on the prepared baking sheet, spacing about an inch apart.
- Bake cookies until golden brown on the bottom edges but barely brown on top, about 17 to 20 minutes.
- Place baking pan on a wire rack and cool for about 5 minutes. Place remaining confectioners sugar in a shallow bowl, gently roll warm cookies in the confectioners sugar to coat on all sides. Place them on a plate to cool completely.
- Roll them again in sugar to ensure that it sticks.Pro tip: The trick is to roll them twice! Give the cookies their first coating when they are slightly warm. As the cookies cool, the confectioners' sugar will melt into them. After the snowball cookies have cooled, coat them in confectioners' sugar again, and they'll be as beautifully snowy and stay true to their name.
Nutritional information, based on third-party calculations, should be seen as estimates, not guarantees, as various factors like product types, brands, processing methods, and more can alter the nutritional content in recipes.
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