These Cherry Snowball Cookies are our family’s favorite flavored snowball cookies by far! We love to make them any time of year but at Christmas, we quadruple the recipe and freeze the cookies in quart-size bags. Some end up as gifts, and well…the others end up in our mouths each and every day!
Our family has fond memories of making these Mexican wedding cookies year after year. Traditionally, we start baking in November and continue through December. We always make extra to give to family and friends and package them in tins. They are so easy to make and are such a classic.
Sometimes, I’ll mix a double or triple batch and divide the dough into portions and add different flavors with extracts. Around Christmas, I’ll use red, and green holiday sprinkles, add different ground nuts, candied fruits, chocolate candies, or different flavored baking chips to add texture, and change it up a bit on occasion.
How to Make Cherry Snowball Cookies
- Beat butter and sugars until creamy.
- Mix in salt, almond, vanilla, and cherry extract.
- Chop drained cherries and mix into the bowl.
- Mix in finely ground pecans.
- Mix in the flour.
- Add the chocolate chips and mix.
- Refrigerate dough for approximately 30-60 minutes to make it easier to scoop.
- Bake in 350°F for 15 minutes.
- Roll in powdered sugar.
A perfectly baked Christmas cookie dessert that is so incredibly easy to make. Made of flour, butter, powdered sugar, pecans, and in this recipe, cherries, these irresistible shortbread pastry cookies go by plenty of names. Around the world and in different cultures, these snowball cookies are called by a variety of names.
Commonly called pecan snowballs in the United States, they also go by a handful of other names such as Mexican Wedding Cookies, Russian Tea Cakes, Butterballs, Pecan Sandies, Snow Drop Cookies, Kipplens, Polvorónes, maraschino cherry balls, Italian wedding cookies, and kurabiye. Clearly, it’s a very popular and beloved cookie recipe and it deserves a spot on your Christmas dessert table.
Cherry Snowball Ingredients
Sugars: Sugar is a natural sweetener and helps bind ingredients together. Since powdered sugar has an extra fine texture and contains some cornstarch, your cookies will be extra tender and crumbly.
Extracts: A little goes a long way regarding adding extracts to your recipes. I use a variety of extracts to achieve a flavor like no other snowball recipe. In addition, I add just a hint of cherry extract as the star flavor.
Maraschino Cherries: You can use fresh pitted if it is in season but during Christmas, you will only find the canned or jarred variety, which I prefer more.
Flour: All-purpose flour.
Chocolate Chips: Use the mini semi-sweet chips.
Topping: Sprinkle colored sugar or coarse sugar on the top before baking and skip the powdered sugar altogether.
Sprinkles: Stir in festive Christmas jimmies or sprinkles into the dough.
Dried Fruits: Replace cherries with chopped fruit cake candied mix.
Candied Cherries: Swap maraschino cherries with candied cherries.
Cherry Cordials: Skip the cherries all together and swap them with classic holiday cherry cordials. Simply wrap the cookie dough around the chocolate-covered cherry. This stuffed cherry cordial cookie will certainly make for a nice surprise.
Baking Chips: Semi-sweet chocolate chips, dark chocolate chips, crushed peppermint candies, mint chocolate baking chips, toffee baking chips.
Coconut: Add ½ cup shredded coconut to compliment the cherry flavor.
Nuts: Swap out pecans for pistachios, almonds, or walnuts.
Snowball Cookies Reader Tips and Questions
Can I make the cookies right away without putting in the refrigerator?
You may but they will be a little sticky and may require your finger to swoop the dough off the spoon.
Can these be frozen?
Yes, you can freeze these for up to 1 month. Simply defrost overnight in the refrigerator before baking.
Can I leave out the maraschino cherries, pecans, or chocolate chips?
You can leave out any of these ingredients, you may want to check out some of my other snowball recipes to find a simpler shortbread cookie or bar. If maraschino cherries are not being used, reduce the amount of flour by 1 cup.
Can I use real cherries instead of maraschino cherries?
During certain months of the year, you will be able to find fresh cherries in your produce department. You can pit and chop then pat dry fresh cherries instead. Usually in December canned cherries such as maraschino are the only ones you will find.
The cookies are baking flat, what can I do?
Too much cherry juice will cause this. Simply beat the remaining batter with more flour.
How can I have more powdered sugar on the cookies?
The trick is to roll and pat them in a bowl of powdered sugar 5-20 minutes after baking. In addition, I like to repeat the step once more once they are completely cooled.
Refrigerating the cookie dough allows the cherry flavors to develop more. However, if the cookies need to be baked in a rush, simply freeze the rolled balls on a sheet pan with parchment paper for 20-30 minutes and then bake them in the oven.
Christmas Cookie Exchange Recipes to try Next
- Hershey’s Kiss Snowballs
- Chocolate Snowballs
- Pecan Finger Cookies
- Cherry Pie Cookies
- Chocolate Chip Maraschino Cherry Shortbread Cookies
- Whipped Shortbread Cookies with Candied Cherries
For more Christmas recipes, check out these 15 Most Popular Christmas Cookie Recipes. The list includes classics like pecan snowballs, pecan fingers, strawberry thumbprint cookies, gingerbread thumbprint cookies, lemon cream cheese cookies, gingerbread men, holiday sugar cookie cutouts, easy candy recipes and so much more.
What are your top three Christmas cookie recipes that you bake year after year?
Cherry Snowball Cookies
- 1½ cups butter, at room temperature salted or unsalted works
- ¾ cup powdered sugar
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1½ tsp almond extract
- 1½ tsp vanilla extract
- ½ tsp cherry extract or emulsion see notes
- ½ cup maraschino cherries drained well
- 1 cup pecans finely ground
- 4½ cups all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 1½ cups powdered sugar dusting
- Beat butter, powdered sugar, and granulated sugar until light and fluffy; about 5 minutes.
- Mix in salt, almond extract, vanilla extract, and cherry extract (if using)
- Drain cherry juice. Chop cherries. Remove as much of the liquid as possible with paper towels. Add to bowl and mix.
- Mix in finely ground pecans.
- Slowly beat in flour, ½ cup at a time until incorporated. Anywhere from 3½-4½ cups. See tip below.TIP: Based on how much cherry juice is added to the cookie batter, the consistency of the dough may change. To fix this, simply add more flour or add a splash of milk is too much flour is added.
- Slowly mix in or stir in chocolate chips.
- Refrigerate dough 30 minutes to 1 hour. This will make the dough easier to work with.
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Scoop 1½ tbsp dough and roll into a round ball. TIP: If using a cookie scoop and the dough is sticky, dip it in a bowl of powdered sugar between each scoop.
- Place on baking sheet spaced 1-inch apart.
- Bake in oven 15-17 minutes.
- Transfer to a cooling rack and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
- Roll cookies in powdered sugar.TIP: I coat mine a second time after they have completely cooled.
- Store in an air-tight container.
Nutritional information is only an estimate and it’s accuracy is not guaranteed to be exact.
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