Feeling nutty? Make these sweet snowball cookies.
This easy snowball cookie recipe (also known as Mexican wedding cookies or Russian tea cakes) makes a sweet, buttery batch of nut cookies that taste festive and fun.
What’s in a name? Snowball cookies a.k.a….
Snowball cookies, Mexican wedding cookies, or Russian tea cakes: No matter what you call them, these are hands-down one of my favorite cookie recipes. And that’s saying something, because I love all cookies!
In addition to being called snowball cookies, Mexican wedding cookies, and Russian tea cakes, these nutty, buttery snowball cookies also go by butterballs and Danish wedding cookies. But no matter what you call them, this sweet and easy cookie’s high-butter, high-nut ratio ensures a crisp, melt-in-your-mouth texture that crumbles blissfully when bitten.
How to Make This Snowball Cookie Recipe
Luckily, there is not much to these simple, easy-to-mix snowball cookies with pecans. They are a basic shortbread cookie, meaning no leavening and a high-fat/low moisture ratio.
The snowball cookie ingredients are simple: butter, powdered sugar, flour, salt, vanilla extract, and chopped nuts.
How to mix, roll, bake, and add powdered sugar to snowball cookies:
Here are the main steps to snowball success:
Preheat the oven to 400°F and line two half-sheet pans.
In a bowl, mix together the butter, 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar, flour, salt, vanilla, and chopped nuts.
Scoop into rounded tablespoon-sized rounds and roll between your hands into balls.
Bake one sheet pan at a time for 12 to 14 minutes on the center rack, until the bottoms are light golden brown. While still warm, roll in powdered sugar. Cool fully on a cooling rack.
When fully cool, dust or roll again with confectioner’s sugar.
What Type of Nuts Are in Snowball Cookies?
Traditionally, pecans or walnuts are used for these cookies, and can be used interchangeably. I prefer pecans, which I think have a slightly better flavor for baking and a more noticeable color.
No matter which type of nut you choose, make sure that they are chopped into small pieces.
Want my pro tip for making pecan or walnut halves into pieces? Put the nuts in a clean baggie or between the fold of a clean dish towel and bang them with the bottom of a pot until broken into small pieces.
Troubleshooting: Why Are My Snowball Cookies Dry?
If your snowball cookies taste dry, they were likely overbaked a little. These cookies have a low moisture content, so baking just until light brown on the bottom is key.
Troubleshooting: Why Did My Snowball Cookies Break Apart?
Snowball cookies are a shortbread cookie, meaning that they have no leavening and not much moisture added besides the small percentage of milk solids in the butter. Shortbread generally has a very tender texture, meaning they easily break and melt in your mouth. The addition of nuts to these snowball cookies means an additional chance to break apart.
My best tips for making sure your snowball cookies do not break apart or crumble:
- Make sure you mix the batter enough — but don’t overmix. The correct batter texture is large chunks; it should be neither dry or too crumbly, nor a cohesive ball.
- Chop the nuts fine enough. If your chopped nut pieces are too large, it’s like inserting a wedge into the dough. My easy pro tip for crushing nuts is to cover them on a cutting board with a clean kitchen towel, then bang them with a pan. Putting the nuts in a baggie with a slight opening to let the air out works, too.
How to Make Powdered Sugar Stick to Snowball Cookies
To make powdered sugar stick to the snowball cookies, roll the baked cookies in the confectioner’s sugar while still warm. The heat helps “glue” the powdered sugar onto the cookie.
I then like to give them a second roll or fresh dusting of powdered sugar when cooled.
If your cookies have already fully cooled, you can pop them back in a 325 degree F oven just until warm, about 5 minutes.
Here are all my pecan snowball cookie recipe (Mexican wedding cookie) tips:
- The pecan shortbread cookie dough will seem a little crumbly. That’s normal and correct.
- Roll these in powdered sugar while they are still warm. It helps the sugar adhere. You will re-roll or dust them again once cooled.
- If you don’t mind small bits of nuts, this entire cookie dough can be made in about one minute in a food processor. The tedious part is scooping and rolling — but it is so worth it.
- Traditionally, you should use pecans or walnuts. While not necessary, you could always toast them in a pan for a few minutes to bloom their flavor.
- Since these cookies do not have many ingredients, it becomes all the more imperative that the ingredient quality is good. Choose pure vanilla extract, make sure your nuts are not rancid, and use good quality, unsalted butter.
Love Russian Tea Cakes or Butterball Cookies? You’ll also like:
- Pecan Sugar Shortbread Cookies
- Slice-and-Bake Butter Cookies
- 10 Holiday Cookies to Sweeten the Season
- Spiced Gingerbread People Cookies
Snowball Cookies (Mexican Wedding Cookies)
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar, plus more for rolling
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
- Preheat the oven to 400°F and line two half-sheet pans.
- In a bowl, mix together the butter, 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar, flour, salt, vanilla, and chopped nuts.
- Scoop into rounded tablespoon-sized rounds and roll between your hands into balls.
- Bake one sheet pan at a time for 12 to 14 minutes on the center rack, until the bottoms are light golden brown. While still warm, roll in powdered sugar. Cool fully on a cooling rack.
- When fully cool, dust or roll again with confectioner's sugar.Tip: These will keep in an airtight container for a week.
Just exactly right. Made with a combination of walnuts and pecans. The tip for getting the powdered sugar to stick was so helpful because I used to fully cool them first. Game changer–thanks.
An excellent shortbread cookie that I have been making regularly. Thank you for the tip about rolling the cookies while warm to make the powdered sugar stick!
My FAVORITES!!! This is a wonderful recipe, buttery and nutty and not too sweet.
Susan vinson myers
These are called Crack Balls in my house. They will mess you up and the addiction will not fail!
My Italian grandmother always made these and we called them (in English ) Butter Balls. Always used finely chopped walnuts and the zest of an orange. No vanilla extract.. I’ve made them for years and are a family favorite .
Mmm…the orange zest must have smelled fantastic. Thanks for sharing that. I love that these have so many names!
Baker in NC
I know the recipe says use either, but do you have a preference for pecans or walnuts? I used walnuts. Came out great.
These are. my favorite cookies. Thank you for this recipe.