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Easy Buttery Pecan Snowball Cookies (Mexican Wedding Cookies)

Close up of Pecan Snowball Cookies on green dish.
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Buttery Pecan Snowball Cookies are beautiful, delicate and full of rich, buttery pecan flavor. Dusted in powdered sugar, they are such a great holiday treat and one of the easiest cookies you can make. Your cookie platter will not be complete without these melt-in-your-mouth cookies!

Close up of Pecan Snowball Cookies on green dish.

This Butter Pecan Snowball Cookie recipe has been a Christmas tradition in my family since as far back as I can remember eating cookies. Along with Czechoslovakian cookies, pizzelles, peanut butter chocolate chunk cookies and chocolate chip cookies, they are among my favorites of all the Christmas cookies!

What are Snowball Cookies?

Known by other popular names depending on the region, such as Mexican wedding cookies, Russian tea cakes, Swedish tea cakes, polvorones, southern pecan butterballs, snowdrops, Viennese sugar balls, sand tarts and sometimes Italian wedding cookies, these nutty and buttery snowball cookies are round and bite-sized then rolled in powdered sugar so that they look like actual snowballs!

The origin of these cookies is not really known, but some historians believe that they were first made in the Middle East or Eastern Europe because of their high nut to flour ratio. They might have traveled to the U.S. by way of immigrants from Eastern Europe or Mexico. Regardless, cookies like these are still made in countries across the world today and are especially popular for weddings and the November and December holidays.

Buttery Pecan Snowball Cookies are easy to make, delicious, and freeze well. If you don’t count the time that the dough chills in the fridge, you can have a batch ready in about 50 minutes. You can’t beat that! And, they’re perfect for adding to holiday tins because you can store them at room temperature.

Since the baked cookies are coated twice in powdered sugar, the cookie dough itself is not very sweet. The first coating of sugar happens right after the cookies come out of the oven when they are still quite hot, allowing the powdered sugar to stick. As they cool, this first layer of powdered sugar becomes very sticky. . This stickiness is what makes the second coating of powdered sugar cling on to the rich cookies and coat them fully.

These old fashioned buttery pecan snowball cookies are, quite honestly, irresistible. Once you try them at holiday time, you’ll soon realize that they are a perfect all-year-long cookie.

Handwritten copy of Buttery Pecan Snowball Cookies recipe from many years ago.
Mom’s Original Recipe Card for Pecan Snowball Cookies

Ingredients for Buttery Pecan Snowball Cookies

Here are the ingredients we will be using to make these easy Buttery Pecan Snowball Cookies:

  • Butter: Both salted or unsalted butter work. Butter gives the cookie richness and a buttery, tender crumb. The butter should be softened at room temperature before starting the recipe. Do not use margarine in this recipe as it will not create the same buttery cookie flavor and texture.
  • Powdered Sugar (a.k.a., confectioner’s or 10x sugar): There is a small amount of (sifted) sugar in the cookie batter to sweeten it. Most of the sugar come into play when it is time to roll the just baked, hot cookies in the powdered sugar until they are coated thoroughly. Do not use regular sugar in this recipe as it will not give the cookies the right texture.
  • Vanilla Extract: Enhances the flavor of the cookies. Feel free to switch this out for almond extract if you prefer that flavor.
  • Flour (sifted): The base of the cookie dough. Use all-purpose flour and measure it precisely by sweeping the top of the cup with a flat edge.
  • Pecans:The nuts need to be chopped finely and should be in very small pieces for nutty bits throughout the cookies. If the nut pieces are too large, the cookies will be crumbly, so be sure to chop them pretty finely. Buy them finely chopped or pulse them a few times in the food processor. I often purchase finely chopped nuts if I am short on time. There’s no need to toast the pecans, but you certainly can if you prefer.
  • Salt: Almost all baked good need a little bit of salt to balance the flavors.

A complete and detailed list of ingredients with amounts and instructions is included in the recipe below.⁠

Assorted Christmas cookie platter, containing Buttery Pecan Snowball Cookies, Anise Pizzelles and Peanut Butter Cup Chocolate Chip Cookies.
Snowball cookies are perfect for Christmas cookie assortments!

Easy Buttery Pecan Snowball Cookies, Step-by-Step!

Here are the main steps for making these Buttery Pecan Snowball Cookies:

  • Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 350°F. Prep and gather all ingredients. Chop the nuts by pulsing them in a food processor if you have not purchased them pre-chopped.
    • PRO-TIP: The nuts need to be chopped finely and should be in very small pieces for nutty bits throughout the cookies. If the nut pieces are too large, the cookies will be crumbly, so be sure to chop them pretty finely. Buy them finely chopped or pulse them a few times in the food processor. I often purchase finely chopped nuts if I am short on time.

  • Lightly grease a cookie sheet or sheet pan with butter.
    • PRO-TIP: Alternatively, line it with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

  • Place the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl and cream them together using a paddle attachment until they are well-combined.
    • PRO-TIP: Be sure that the butter has been softened at room temperature prior to starting the recipe.

  • Add the vanilla extract, then mix in the flour and salt and blend well. Next, stir in the chopped nuts on low until incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

  • Transfer the batter to a bowl and chill it in the refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap, for at least two hours and up to 12 hours.
Close up of Pecan Snowball Cookies on green dish.
  • When ready to bake, remove the batter from the refrigerator. Scoop and shape the cookie dough into small round balls (about 1” diameter each), pressing the dough together in your hands.
    • PRO-TIP: The dough is quite crumbly so you will need to press the dough into balls to hold a round shape instead of just rolling them between your palms as in forming a meatball. Place the formed balls onto the greased or parchment-lined sheet pan or cookie sheet about ½” apart.
    • PRO-TIP: Use a small or medium cookie scoop to measure out even sized balls. 
    • PRO-TIP: As there is no baking soda or powder in the batter, the cookies will not expand or rise while baking, so they can be placed close to each other on the pan.

  • Spread out 1 to 2 cups powdered sugar on a sheet pan so that is it ready to be used to coat the hot cookies.

  • Transfer the pan of raw cookies to the middle rack in a 350°F preheated oven for about 15 minutes or until they are lightly browned.
  • Roll cookies in powdered sugar: As soon as the cookies are removed from the oven, carefully pour them into the powdered sugar in the sheet pan and shake the pan back and forth so that they become coated in the sugar. Use a spoon or a spatula to help this process along.
    • PRO-TIP: The cookies are very hot, so be careful if you try to use your hands for this! Be sure that the cookies get coated completely in the powdered sugar. Add more sugar as needed.

  • Allow cookies to cool completely, then roll them again in powdered sugar before serving or storing. Remove excess powdered sugar, then store cookies in a cookie tin. They will stay fresh at room temperature for about a week, if they are around that long!
Snowball cookies on sheet pan just tossed in powdered sugar.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about these buttery snowball cookies:

How far in advance of Christmas can I make this snowball cookies recipe and how do I store them?

Store cooled cookies at room temperature for up to one week. I generally store my cookies in tins and not plastic as I feel they hold their crispiness better and will not become as soft as if they were stored in plastic containers.

If you are making the cookies one to two weeks or more in advance of Christmas, I suggest freezing either the finished cookies or the unbaked dough (see next question).

Can I freeze Buttery Pecan Snowball Cookies?

Yes, the finished snowball cookies can be frozen for up to three months in an airtight container or freezer bag. When ready to enjoy, thaw them at room temperature and roll them in a little powdered sugar again for the best presentation.
 
You can also freeze the unbaked cookie dough, ideally pre-portioned into balls, for up to three months. Simply roll out the dough into balls, then place them on a parchment covered baking sheet so that they are not touching each other. Place the sheet pan in the freezer until the balls are frozen, then transfer the frozen balls to a freezer bag and back to the freezer. When ready to bake, place the cookies on a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet and let them thaw as the oven preheats. Proceed with the recipe from here. The frozen cookies may require an additional minute or two of baking time.

Why are snowball cookies rolled in powdered sugar twice?

The first coating of sugar happens right after the cookies come out of the oven when they are still quite hot, allowing the powdered sugar to stick. As they cool, this first layer of powdered sugar becomes very sticky. This stickiness is what makes the second coating of powdered sugar cling on to the rich cookies and coat them fully.

How can I keep my snowball cookies from crumbling?

The cookies can crumble if the nuts are not chopped finely enough or if the butter is on the cooler side before mixing. Be sure to chop the nuts finely and that the butter has been softened at room temperature before starting the recipe.

Why did my snowball cookies flatten out during baking?

If the cookie dough is too warm, the cookies may spread out and flatten during baking. Be sure to chill the dough for at least two hours before forming them into balls and baking. Also, never use melted butter in this recipe.

Close up of Pecan Snowball Cookies on green dish.

Variations and Substitutions

Here are a few notes on variations and substitutions for these Buttery Pecan Snowball Cookies:

  • Change the Nut: Any type of walnut is a great alternative for the pecans. You can also use half walnuts and half pecans if you would like. Almonds, hazelnuts and pistachios may work as well (although I have not tried these). Just make sure the nuts are shelled and finely chopped.  Each nut would give the cookie a delicious different unique flavor.
  • Add spices: If you’d like to add some additional spices, ground cinnamon, cardamom and/or allspice are all great options. I suggest adding 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon each at the most to the cookie batter.
  • Change the extract I used vanilla, but almond, orange or lemon extracts are great options! If you use a citrus extract, use some of the respective zest also for a more intense flavor.
  • Make them chocolate: Mix 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder into the batter at the same time as the butter. Also, stir some miniature chocolate chips (about ¾ cup) into the batter at the end.
  • Get festive: Add some finely crushed peppermint candy canes to the powdered sugar used for the final dusting.

Kitchen Tools for Buttery Pecan Snowball Cookies

To make these butter pecan snowball cookies, you’ll need the following:

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Close up of Pecan Snowball Cookies on green dish.

Easy Buttery Pecan Snowball Cookies (Mexican Wedding Cookies)

Michele
Buttery Pecan Snowball Cookies are beautiful, delicate and full of rich, buttery pecan flavor. Dusted in powdered sugar, they are such a great holiday treat and one of the easiest cookies you can make. Your cookie platter will not be complete without these melt-in-your-mouth cookies!
4.32 from 29 votes
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Resting/Chill Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 50 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine Italian
Servings 80 cookies

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup softened butter at room temperature (2 sticks) + more for greasing pan
  • ½ cup sifted powdered/confectioner’s/10x sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour (sifted)
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2 cups finely chopped pecans
  • 2-3 cups powdered/confectioner’s/10x sugar or as needed for coating the cookies

Instructions
 

  • Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 350℉. Prep and gather all ingredients.
  • Chop the nuts by pulsing them in a food processor if you have not purchased them pre-chopped. The nuts need to be chopped finely and should be in very small pieces for nutty bits throughout the cookies.
    2 cups finely chopped pecans
  • Lightly grease a cookie sheet or sheet pan with butter. Alternatively, line it with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
  • Place the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl and cream them together using a paddle attachment until they are well-combined. (You can also use a hand blender.)
    1 cup softened butter, ½ cup sifted powdered/confectioner’s/10x sugar
  • Add the vanilla extract, then mix in the flour and salt and blend well. Next, stir in the chopped nuts on low until incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
    2 tsp vanilla extract, 2 cups flour, ¼ tsp salt, 2 cups finely chopped pecans
  • Transfer the batter to a bowl and chill it in the refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap, for at least two hours and up to 12 hours.
  • When ready to bake, remove the batter from the refrigerator. Scoop and shape the cookie dough into small round balls (about 1” diameter each), pressing the dough together in your hands. The dough is quite crumbly so you will need to press the dough into balls to hold a round shape instead of just rolling them between your palms as in forming a meatball. Place the formed balls onto the greased or parchment-lined sheet pan or cookie sheet about ½” apart. As there is no baking soda or powder in the batter, the cookies will not expand or rise while baking, so they can be placed close to each other on the pan.
  • Spread out 1 to 2 cups powdered sugar on a sheet pan so that is it ready to be used to coat the hot cookies.
    2-3 cups powdered/confectioner’s/10x sugar
  • Transfer the pan of raw cookies to the middle rack in a 350℉ preheated oven for about 15 minutes or until they are lightly browned.
  • Roll cookies in powdered sugar: As soon as the cookies are removed from the oven, carefully pour them into the powdered sugar in the sheet pan and shake the pan back and forth so that they become coated in the sugar. Use a spoon or a spatula to help this process along. The cookies are very hot, so be careful if you try to use your hands for this! Be sure that the cookies get coated completely in the powdered sugar. Add more sugar as needed. Transfer the sugar-coated cookies back to the baking sheet.
  • Allow cookies to cool completely, then roll them again in powdered sugar before serving or storing. Remove excess powdered sugar, then store cookies in a cookie tin. They will stay fresh for about one week at room temperature, if they are around that long!

Notes

  • Either salted or unsalted butter can be used.
  • If the nut pieces are too large, the cookies will be crumbly, so be sure to chop them pretty finely. Buy nuts finely chopped or pulse them a few times in the food processor. I often purchase finely chopped nuts if I am short on time. There’s no need to toast the pecans, but you certainly can if you prefer.
  • Use a small cookie scoop to measure out even sized balls. 
  • Store cooled cookies at room temperature for up to one week. I generally store my cookies in tins and not plastic as I feel they hold their crispiness better and will not become as soft as if they were stored in plastic containers.
  • If you are making the cookies one to two weeks or more in advance of Christmas, I suggest freezing either the finished cookies or the unbaked dough. The finished snowball cookies can be frozen for up to three months in an airtight container or freezer bag. When ready to enjoy, thaw them at room temperature and roll them in a little powdered sugar again for the best presentation.
  • You can also freeze the unbaked cookie dough, ideally pre-portioned into balls. Simply roll out the dough into balls, then place them on a parchment-lined sheet pan so that they are not touching each other. Place the sheet pan in the freezer until the balls are frozen, then transfer the frozen balls to a freezer bag. When ready to bake, place the cookies on a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet and let them thaw as the oven preheats. Proceed with the recipe from here. The frozen cookies may require an additional minute or two of baking time.
 
Recipe by Mangia With Michele. Please visit my site for more great cooking inspiration!
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Keyword Buttery pecan snowball cookies, pecan snowball cookies, snowball cookies, Italian cookies, Holiday cookies, Christmas cookies, dessert, sweets, dolci, Christmas recipe
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

3 thoughts on “Easy Buttery Pecan Snowball Cookies (Mexican Wedding Cookies)

  1. 5 stars
    These cookies are perfect for the holidays. They hold their shape better than the recipe I used to use. I will use this recipe from now on.

  2. 5 stars
    These are so delicious! Keeper for me now at holiday time!

  3. 5 stars
    Love these cookies and was waiting for you to post it. The instructions were super clear-thank you!

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