Toasted Pecan Snowballs

A cookie with many names, but always a classic favorite. All made in 1 bowl!

1 bowl pecan snowball cookies! Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

QUICK. What you do you call these? Because I’ve asked over a dozen people (psycho cookie lady alert) and I got all different answers.

Russian teacakes, butterballs, Mexican wedding cookies, Mexican teacakes, snowdrops, pecan snowballs, the list goes on. Well no. That was about it. But I went insane over what to call these on my blog.

“Snowballs” it is because it sounds adorable. Welcome to recipe #3 in my annual cookie palooza, everyone!

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These cookies have been around for decades and are often overlooked in favor of cookies with chocolate, caramel, or smiles. We all get it; they’re not the most exciting cookies on the cookie tray! But there’s just something about them that has me coming back every single December. Maybe it’s all the butter? Well, yes. But it’s most definitely the melt-in-your-mouth texture. They’re dense, tender on the inside, and very crumbly. Sort of like that crumbliness we love in scones.

They’re surprisingly irresistible. You can’t stop at one!

1 bowl pecan snowball cookies! Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Before I talk about my particular recipe, let’s just discuss what these holiday cookies actually are. They’re part butter, part flour, and part confectioners’ sugar. And nuts: either almonds, walnuts, or pecans. The confectioners’ sugar goes into the cookie dough as well as the outside of the cookie. And all over your kitchen floor/face/shirt/house. There are no eggs or leavening agents. The ratio of butter to sugar to flour in the cookie dough varies between recipes, but I find the 1 cup butter, 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, and 2 and 1/4 cup all-purpose flour is the sweet spot.

Nutty Things

Now, what makes mine a little different are the few little extras. First, I toast the pecans. And I use the creme de la creme of pecans, Diamond of California. You know I’m obsessed with them. I toast the pecans for added flavor. And you can really tell a difference! All you do is throw them into the oven for 8-10 minutes. It’s that easy. You can use any nut you prefer, but pecans are hands-down my favorite. And the most common in this cookie recipe. No matter what nut you use, make sure you chop them up. To make things easier, grind the nuts up in the food processor. Takes less time than all that chopping.

You want finely chopped nuts. ↓

Toasted pecans for pecan snowball cookies on sallysbakingaddiction.com

I also add 2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract. Don’t use that imitation stuff. Pure vanilla goodness for rich vanilla flavor. The only other flavors in these cookies are butter and toasted pecans, so it’s important to use quality vanilla. Some years I add seeds from 1/2 of a vanilla bean too. This adds even more flavor– you’ll love it.

GUESS WHAT? This cookie dough is all made in 1 bowl! 

The cookie dough is super thick and a little dry. To the point where you won’t think it will all come together. But it will. Trust me. Just turn your mixer up and watch it turn into buttery doughy goodness. Pictured above!

The great thing about these million-name cookies? Minimal dough chilling! They can be baked after the dough sits in the fridge for about 30 minutes. The point of chilling = reduces excess spreading. If you want to make the dough way in advance like I usually do with my Christmas cookies– you can chill the cookie dough for a couple days. Just make sure it comes to *almost* room temperature before rolling and baking.

Pecan snowball cookie dough on sallysbakingaddiction.com

After the cookies bake, roll them in confectioners’ sugar. You’ll want to coat the cookies when they are slightly warm. Be careful when doing so because they are super fragile. As the cookies cool, the confectioners’ sugar will slightly melt. (And it tastes amazing.) After the cookies cool, coat them one more time. The first coat of “melting” sugar will help the second coat stick. And this is what makes them resemble snowballs!

Oh! And one more thing I do: sprinkles. They’re completely optional and you can divide the cookie dough in two and add 1/3 cup of sprinkles to half if you’d like. Some people are pecan snowball cookie purists! But the festive red and green peeking out is so fun. Right? Festive.

1 bowl pecan snowball cookies! Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Though the name varies, one thing’s certain. These cookies are DAMN good. Dense and buttery meets sweet and melty. There’s a reason they’ve been around forever!

Enjoy.

Toasted Pecan Snowballs

A cookie with many names, but always a classic favorite. All made in 1 bowl!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (230g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 2 cups (240g) confectioners' sugar, divided
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract1
  • 2 and 1/4 cups (281g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 1 cup (125g) finely chopped and toasted Diamond of California pecans2
  • optional: 2/3 cup (127g) sprinkles

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl using a hand-held mixer or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter for 1 minute on medium speed until completely smooth and creamy. Add 3/4 cup confectioners' sugar and beat on medium high speed until combined and creamy-looking. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Next, beat in the vanilla extract on medium-high speed until combined. Switch to low speed and slowly add the flour. The dough will look dry and you may not think the flour will fully combine. Once all of the flour is added, turn the mixer up to high speed. The dough will come together. Finally, beat in the pecans. At this point, you can beat in the sprinkles as well.
  2. Cover the cookie dough tightly and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes and up to 3 days. (If chilling for 3+ hours, make sure you let the cookie dough sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before rolling into balls. The cookie dough will be very stiff after being in the fridge that long.)
  3. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. (Always recommended for cookies.) Set aside. Pour the remaining confectioners' sugar into a shallow bowl.
  4. Scoop or roll 1 Tablespoon of cookie dough per cookie. Roll into a ball and place on the baking sheets, at least 2 inches apart. Bake the cookies until golden brown on the bottom edges and just barely browned on top, about 15 minutes.
  5. Allow the cookies to cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet, then very gently roll them in the confectioners' sugar to coat completely. Place the cookies on wire racks to cool completely. Once completely cooled, roll in confectioners' sugar again. This is when the sugar will really stick!
  6. Make ahead tip: Cookies stay fresh covered at room temperature for up to 1 week. Baked cookies freeze well - up to three months. Unbaked cookie dough freezes well - up to three months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator then allow to come to room temperature and continue with step 3.

Recipe Notes:

  1. In addition to the 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract, sometimes I add seeds scraped from 1/2 of a vanilla bean. Adds a little extra flavor. It's so good! This is optional, of course.
  2. I usually buy the pecans already coarsely chopped. Then, I toast them for 8-10 minutes at 300°F (149°C). Let them slightly cool. Then, I put them into the food processor and pulse a few times to really chop them up fine. You want small pieces of nuts. See photo in this post for a visual. You can also use walnuts or almonds.

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© Sally’s Baking Addiction. All images & content are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without prior permission. If you want to republish this recipe, please re-write the recipe in your own words, or link back to this post for the recipe.

Try my raspberry almond thumbprints next!

Raspberry Almond Thumbprint Cookies. Get this buttery shortbread cookie recipe at sallysbakingaddiction.com

I’m working with Diamond of California to bring you today’s recipe.

1 bowl pecan snowball cookies! Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

82 comments

  1. My mom has made these every year at Christmas for my entire life (and, on occasion, a couple times throughout the year when we needed a little Christmas right that very minute!) and she has always called them Noel Balls. Her recipe is different than yours (for instance, she uses granulated sugar in the dough–only 10 tablespoons for the whole batch–and saves the powdered stuff only for the coating; and she grinds her pecans finely with no chunks at all) but it was interesting to see the variations since I am so very used to her recipe. I was also surprised to find out people make them with nuts other than pecans. My mom is hard-core about pecans. She also makes hers teeny, using about a teaspoon and a half of dough–she seriously fits over 100 on each air-bake pan she uses. When any of her sisters make them, they use more dough in each ball (which I’ve gathered from other peoples’ recipes is more common), and we always laugh and start cookie smack-talking (that’s a thing, isn’t it?), calling theirs snow balls because they’re so much larger. haha. Ah, the delights of cookie wars. Perhaps we should have a cookie “snowball” fight… I suspect we’d all be winners, amiright? haha. Anyway, loving the cookie palooza!

    • Noel balls is such a great name for them! I love it! I’m all about the pecans, but I must say– I’ve made these with toasted walnuts and they are REALLY good that way too.

  2. I am really excited to try these because I feel like so many people fail at these cookies!! I’m sure your recipe will not disappoint and will restore my faith in snowball cookies! Haha. Do you have a favorite ricotta cookie recipe you like to use ? I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen one on your blog and I’m always baking them around the holidays! 

  3. Hi sally,
    Russian tea cakes (what my family calls them 🙂 were my favorite cookie at Christmas, but then I became allergic to nuts do you think your recipe would work with finely chopped toasted Pepita? (Pumpkin seeds) Or any other ideas for a nut substitute? I really miss these! 

  4. Hi everybody!I read comment with interest,but I have to say that these little bundles of joy must be international,as here in Cyprus and Greece these are called Boukies..which means exactly ( little bites ) .Obviously with the Mediterranean influence ,I add a little Cypriot Rosewater, which is distilled every May ,at 5 in the morning when the ‘wild ‘roses growing in region , still have the morning dew on them…in the village of Agros in mountain area…anybody can go and help in the harverting of the roses.. It’s incredible…you can either add a sprinkling of rose water in dough!be careful as it can be bitter if to much is added ..or when taken out of oven and before adding icing sugar ,sprinkle sparingly …then add icing sugar.  

  5. Our Snowball recipe calls for a bit of honey in the recipe. Just adds a touch of sweetness which is nice. Kids named them “Old People Cookies”, because only we old people ate them. Love them :)! So yummy!

  6. Sally,

    These look awesome. I make an “Italian” version with chopped almonds and anise extract. But I’ll have to try with toasted pecans!

  7. I love these cookies, I make them with the toasted pecans but also add mini semi-sweet chocolate chips, roll some in powdered sugar and some in red sugar, green sugar or large crystal sugar.  At Christmas time they are all beautiful on a platter for giving or sharing with guests in your home.  I love all of your recipes, thank you for sharing with us.  Merry Christmas and a Happy and healthy New Year.  

  8. Yummmmmmmm these look delicious! I dont think I’ve ever seen them before (don’t judge me, I’m in Australia :P)

    Just wondering, do they crumble easily? I’m looking for something I can package up into little cello bags to give to people, so anything I make needs to be reletively sturdy lest I end up with bags full of crumbs.

    Also, totally unrelated, can you tell me what post of yours has the gorgeous photos of the jar full of sprinkles? I found it earlier this year and was just telling someone about it, but couldn’t find the post! I’m a photographer and I think its a FANTASTIC photo 🙂

    Thanks!

  9. I made these over the weekend and they were a big hit with my family!
    Love it

  10. Hi I wanted to add to the name list. My mom usually bakes these during the holidays too, and we grew up calling them Cocoons, which were shaped in a crescent half-moon shape. I think this year I may try a small batch with sprinkles in them! Thanks for the suggestion!!

  11. My family always called them, “White Suckers With Nuts,” as in, “Bring me some of those…” Thank you for the recipe. 

  12. I started having a craving for these! I remember them from my childhood. My aunt would make them. I decided I really wanted some this Christmas! Thanks for the recipe. BTW we called the Pecan Sandies.

  13. LOVE these! My mom also used to color the powdered sugar red & green for Christmas!

  14. Thanks for the yummy recipe!  My college roommate introduced me to a very similar one (she called them “Nissenpheffers” !)

  15. We made these for Christmas this year and they were perfect! They were the first cookies gone 🙂

  16. I make these adding mini chocolate chips instead of the sprinkles.  They are so yummy, I can never eat just a few because they are so addicting.  Thank you so much for sharing this recipe.

  17. I got toasted pecans from Trader Joes. Do I need to toast these again?

    Thanks

    Neha

  18. Hi Sally

    I tried this recipe and baked a few of the cookies from the dough and they turned out great!
    However, I made a mistake..I ended up making the cookie balls and freezing them instead of freezing the whole dough. Do you think I can still thaw these overnight and bake them the next day or is the whole batch wasted now?

    Thanks
    Neha

  19. OMG Sally, these blew my mind! I used hazelnuts and they basically taste like Ferrero Rocher in cookie form and I’m trying not to scarf down the whole batch. Thank you for an amazing recipe!

  20. Hi Sally! I wanted so badly to bake these for Christmas, but when I went to the store today they only had diced walnuts. I read in previous comments that you’ve made them with walnuts before. Do you use the same amount of walnuts as pecans or should the measurements be tweaked a bit? Please let me know!! Happy holidays 🙂

  21. Hi Sally,

    First of all Hafa Adai all the way from sunny Guam…and Happy New Year!!!

    I have a question…can this recipe be doubled up? The pecan sandies is what I’m referring too!!

    Thank-you in advance ☺☺☺

    Simmie

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