Pecan Snowball Cookies are sometimes called Russian Tea Cakes, Mexican Wedding Cookies, Snowdrop Cookies, Southern Butterballs, Pecan Sandies, and Italian Butter Cookies. These pecan snowballs are popular throughout a multitude of cultures and you’re bound to find them on a cookie tray throughout the holiday season. Another traditional variety is to turn these pecan cookies into Pecan Fingers.
If you’re looking to make classic and traditional Christmas cookies, you’ll want to add these to your baking list.
What are Pecan Snowballs?
Snowball cookies have been around for a long time. Growing up in the 90s, my grandparents always made these Russian Tea Cakes for the holiday season. I usually preferred holiday sugar cookies loaded with sprinkles over this easy snowball cookie recipe but as an adult I adore snowballs.
We had our first bite of cooler weather and I’m in heaven! It’s nothing like fall weather in the midwest but I’m grateful that the season seems to be “changing” in New Orleans. Let me tell you, I’ve been telling family I can hardly believe it’s almost Christmas — okay in like 9 weeks — but since I grew up in Wisconsin, something as simple as the weather changing to mark a new season ( all 4 of them! ) it’s hard for me to really get in the spirit of things when it’s 90 degrees outside in late October or November — until this week.
What kind of nuts can I use?
I always suggest using pecans in this recipe. Do not use walnuts. Certain nuts contain too much oil in them. The cookie balls will flatten while baking in the oven. If you cannot use pecans, skip them all together or divide the dough into several sections and test a few varieties of nuts. That way, if a nut is too oily, you’ll know to avoid it.
Snowball Cookies are one of the most popular holiday cookies and they have been around for decades. Every year I get excited about making a few big batches of these cookies to share during holiday parties. In fact, these cookies get so many requests at my Christmas parties, that I’ve finally shared the snowball recipe. Whether you prefer to call them Mexican Wedding Cake Cookies or Russian Tea Cake Cookies, everyone recognizes these shortbread holiday balls dusted in powdered confectioners’ sugar.
Pecan Snowballs deserve a spot on the Christmas cookie tray. I even love to dip them into coffee for a late-night holiday snack. If you’re feeling nostalgic during the holiday season, bake a batch of these and pass them out at a holiday office party or cookie exchange with friends.
What Kind of Vanilla Extract Should I use?
For this shortbread recipe, I used my favorite Mexican Vanilla Extract. Since vanilla extract prices soared over the past few years, I brought a few bottles back from Mexico when I was on vacation but you can also find it online here. I’m a huge fan of this vanilla extract and I also purchase a few bottles as gifts for friends and family during the holiday season.
Since these snowball cookie ingredients use flour, sugar, butter, salt, and pecans, I like to add a large amount of vanilla extract. Not just any vanilla extract though, only use vanilla you love. If will bring the buttery pecan flavor of these cookies to life even more!
This Mexican vanilla extract is to die for! It’s my go-to extract flavor and tastes so much better than typical extract found on the grocery store shelves in the states. I even add extra in this recipe because it’s really a flavor I cannot get enough of.
If you’re looking for a quick buttery shortbread cookie for the Christmas holiday season, you can’t go wrong with Pecan Snowball Cookies. These cookies are sweet, buttery, and have the perfect amount of vanilla flavor you’ll love paired with pecans.
Each snowball cookie is pretty large. My pecan snowballs have about 200 calories each. To cut calories, reduce the size of the balls and adjust the baking time.
For more Christmas cookie recipes, try these Peanut Butter Blossoms, Whipped Shortbread Cookies, Gingerbread Thumbprint Cookies, Italian Christmas Cookies, and these Chocolate Crinkle Cookies.
If you love these classic vanilla snowball cookies with pecans, try my Chocolate Snowball Cookie Recipe. This shortbread snowball recipe uses chocolate and pecans. Both recipes are a wonderful classic recipe for the Christmas cookie tray.
- 2¼ cups Pecans (about 1⅓ cup finely chopped/ground)
- 1 cup (2 sticks) butter (softened)
- ½ cup powdered confectioners’ sugar
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2½ teaspoons vanilla extract, I used Mexican Vanilla Extract (more for flavor; up to 1 tbsp.)
- 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
- 1½ cups powdered confectioners’ sugar, to dust
- Place pecans in a food processor or small chopper. Ground until no big chunks remain.In a bowl fit with a mixer, beat butter, ½ cup powdered sugar, and ⅓ cup granulated sugar until light and fluffy; about 5 minutes.Beat in salt, and vanilla extract. Slowly beat in flour, ½ cup at a time until incorporated.Slowly beat in chopped pecans and mix just until incorporated.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.Use a cookie scoop to scoop dough. I used a 1½ tablespoon cookie scoop. If the dough is sticky, dip it in a bowl of powdered sugar between each scoop.Roll dough between hands to create a ball. Place on baking sheet spaced about 1 inch apart.Bake in oven 15-18 minutes. Allow cookies to cool for 5 minutes. In a large bowl, add 1½ cups powdered confectioners' sugar.Coat each ball with powdered sugar. Transfer to cooling rack. Repeat step after 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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I’ve never made these before. Is the dough supposed to be crumbles?
No. Try rolling it into a soft ball to incorporate any flour. If that doesn’t work, add in a little more butter.
I make these every year & my family loves them.
quesstion: your recipe says pecans should be chopped/ground fine, but the picture shows them larger. so can i chop nuts larger?
I usually run them through a mini electric chopper (mini food processor) so naturally, the pieces at the top are larger. Of course, chopping them will work as well.
Can the dough be frozen before rolling in the powdered sugar?
Yes. Baked first, cooled, then sugar.
These Cookies are THE BEST! So easy and sooo good. My husband was pretty much raised by his grandparents from Lithuania and when he ate one tears formed in his eyes…instant flashbacks of being a young boy in her kitchen. That was worth every second of making them. Giving them out to neighbors for Christmas – we’ll call them the Russian Tea Cake in memory of her ❤️
I haven’t made snowballs in years. Thanks for the reminder to include them on the list this year. I will give your recipe a try. Love how your snowballs look. So delicious!
These are one of my favorite Christmas cookies of all times! Not too sweet, perfectly nutty with that yummy powdered sugar all around… Thank you so much, these are the best!
These are our favorite holiday cookies. Make a great addition to a cookie exchange too. They’re the first to get swooped up!
These pecan snowballs are just what I’ve been looking for to make for Christmas! I usually try to make 3 to 4 different types of cookies to offer guests and give as presents!
Perfect treat for holidays. Looks so beautiful too. Thanks for sharing
These Pecan Snowballs were amazing, plus making them was so easy! A perfect holiday indulgence and great idea for gifting. It’s in our favourite’s list now, thanks for sharing! 🙂
We made them last night and loved them! So easy and quick to make, and no fancy ingredients or equipment necessary! Perfect to add to my list of edible gifts I will be making for the loved ones this season!
These pecan snowballs are some of the best I’ve ever made for the holidays. Easy to make & so good!