These pecan sugar cookies raise the classic cut-out sugar cookie to new heights, delivering both extra flavor and texture. Best of all, the rich and flavorful brown butter icing requires zero decorating skills—just slather on and enjoy! If you love frosted cookies and are looking for extra flavor (with minimal decorating work), these brown sugared roast-y toasty pecan cut-out cookies are for you.
Today’s pecan sugar cookies are delicious in a totally unforgettable way. Let’s combine brown sugar, toasted pecans, and a hint of cinnamon to create a flavorful upgrade to traditional cut-out sugar cookies. Plus, we’ll swap royal icing for unfussy brown butter icing, which, clearly, is the right move.
I asked around and all other cookie icings are jealous. 😉
Why You’ll Love These Toasted Pecan Sugar Cookies
- Extra flavorful cookies with toasted pecans and brown butter.
- Brown sugar + cinnamon complement these flavors.
- Soft in the middle with crisp edges + extra texture from the nuts.
- Easy icing requires zero decorating skills. Ditch the piping tips and steady piping hand!
- Perfect when you want a festive cut-out sugar cookie, but crave more flavor.
- Not strictly a holiday cookie—enjoy any time of year using any shape cutter.
You’ll find an ordinary gang of baking ingredients in today’s recipe. Isn’t it incredible how many ways you can use these same ingredients? Heck, you use many of them to make wildly different treats like banana bread and pecan pie bars. Just another reason why baking is the best. 🙂
Grab These Ingredients:
Most of the ingredients are for the cookie dough, and some are repeated in the brown butter icing.
Success Tip: Pecans can be a little greasy when mixed into cookie dough, so it’s especially important that your butter isn’t greasy. Make sure you start with proper room temperature butter, which is cool to the touch and about 65°F (18°C). Room temperature butter should not be melted in the slightest.
Start by Toasting the Pecans
Pecans are a favorite ingredient choice in baking. They pair with so many comforting flavors and you can find them in popular recipes like pecan pie, cranberry Christmas cake, and sweet potato casserole. But have you ever toasted them before using in a cookie recipe?
Popping pecans in the oven for a brief 8–10 minutes elevates their flavor, and is a welcome step in my snowball cookies recipe. All you do is scatter them on a baking sheet and bake them until you smell that toasty goodness. It’s that easy.
After they’ve cooled enough to handle, give the toasted nuts a fine chop, or pulse a few times in a food processor. You want them chopped pretty fine, as if you were making pecan shortbread, so the dough is easy to cut with cookie cutters.
How to Make Toasted Pecan Sugar Cookies
After you chop the toasted pecans, make the cookie dough. You’ll use about 3/4 cup (90g) of pecans in the dough and reserve the rest for garnish on the iced cookies.
Just like when you’re making chocolate chip cookies, to prevent the cookies from over-spreading, the dough must chill. But I roll the dough out BEFORE chilling it and I’ll explain why this is so successful. Divide the dough in half, roll out each portion, and then chill:
Yes, roll out the dough before chilling.
Most sugar cookie doughs require chilling so the cookies hold their cookie cutter shape in the oven. But if you’ve ever tried rolling out chilled sugar cookie dough, you may remember how difficult it is to flatten cold, stiff dough. So, roll out the dough while it’s still soft (right after making it), and then chill the rolled-out dough. Here’s my exact method, and it works for chocolate sugar cookies, too:
- Divide the dough in half because smaller sections are easier to roll out.
- Roll out the cookie dough directly on a silicone baking mat or parchment paper so you can easily transfer it to the refrigerator.
- Pick the whole thing up, set it on a baking sheet, and place it in the refrigerator. Remember, you have 2 slabs of dough. If you don’t have enough room for 2 baking sheets in your refrigerator, simply stack the pieces of rolled-out dough on top of each other, with parchment paper or silicone baking mat in between.
After the rolled-out dough chills for at least 1–2 hours, use cookie cutters to cut out shapes, and re-roll your scraps.
Arrange cookies on a lined baking sheet. I usually get about 2 dozen 3-inch cookies from this recipe.
Brown Butter Icing (No Decorating Skills Required)
Browned butter is a massively underused ingredient. Like toasting the pecans, browning the butter takes 5–10 minutes and the result promises extra flavor. And it’s not just more butter flavor; brown butter has a deep toffee-like, nutty flavor that pairs wonderfully with toasted pecans. This brown butter icing is also delicious on peach Bundt cake, and you’ll find a thinner version on apple blondies, pumpkin oatmeal cookies, and pistachio cookies.
Here is my full tutorial on how to brown butter. You’re gently melting and cooking it on the stove. It’s all very easy. Once browned, let it cool for a few minutes and then whisk in sifted confectioners’ sugar, milk, vanilla, and a pinch of salt. Since butter is solid at room temperature, the icing thickens as it cools. You can drizzle it on or dip the tops of the cookies into it while it’s still warm and fluid, or you can wait about 10–15 minutes to spread it on with a knife or icing spatula.
Can I Use Piping Tips With This Icing? No, I don’t recommend using piping tips or squeeze bottles for this icing because they would just get clogged as the icing thickens.
Does the Icing Set? Yes, the icing eventually sets, but it doesn’t dry hard. It sets enough after a few hours so you can carefully stack and store the decorated pecan sugar cookies.
Can I Make this a Drop Cookie? This dough isn’t ideal for a drop-style cookie. Instead, I recommend my butter pecan cookies and you can top those with this icing.
Can I Make this a Slice-and-Bake Cookie? Yes, you can use this dough and roll into logs like we do with pecan shortbread. Follow those assembly, chilling, and baking instructions. Or you can just make that recipe instead and top with today’s icing.
Can I Use Brown Butter in the Cookie Dough? You could, but this recipe requires creamed butter. You’ll have to brown the butter for the dough, and then let it fully solidify and come to room temperature. (You don’t want it cold, because it cannot cream with the sugar. Room temperature and solidified.) It’s easier to stick with regular butter in the dough and use brown butter in just the icing.
Favorite Cookie Cutters to Use
While I used winter/holiday cookie cutters for the pictured cookies, this is a fabulous year-round cookie recipe. It would make an especially good cookie recipe in the fall, or choose a shape that lends itself to the brown-speckled dough. An autumn leaf, or a spotty dog, perhaps? 😉
In general, I like Ann Clark brand cookie cutters. Not sponsored, just a genuine fan! For the cookies pictured here, I used the star, mitten, and tree from this cookie cutter set.
Sally’s Cookie Palooza
This recipe is part of my annual cookie countdown called Sally’s Cookie Palooza. It’s the biggest, most delicious event of the year! Browse dozens of cookie recipes over on the Sally’s Cookie Palooza page including:
- Chocolate Ginger Cookies
- Candy Cane Kiss Cookies
- Peanut Butter Blossoms
- Gingerbread House Recipe
- Chocolate Crinkle Cookies
and here are 75+ Christmas cookies with all my best success guides & tips.
Pecan Sugar Cookies with Brown Butter Icing
- Prep Time: 2 hours
- Cook Time: 12 minutes
- Total Time: 2 hours, 45 minutes
- Yield: 24 3-inch cookies
- Category: Cookies
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: American
These pecan sugar cookies combine brown sugar, toasted pecans, and a hint of cinnamon to create a flavorful upgrade to traditional cut-out sugar cookies. The rich and flavorful brown butter icing requires zero decorating skills—just slather on and enjoy! Be sure to chill the rolled-out dough before cutting into shapes and baking.
- 1 and 1/4 cups (150g) pecan halves
- 2 and 1/4 cups (281g) all-purpose flour (spooned & leveled), plus more as needed for rolling and work surface
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup (1.5 sticks or 170g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 3/4 cup (150g) packed light or dark brown sugar
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Brown Butter Icing
- 6 Tablespoons (85g) unsalted butter
- 1 and 1/2 cups (180g) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
- 3 Tablespoons (45ml) milk
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- optional: pinch of salt
- Preheat oven to 300°F (150°C).
- Toast the pecans: Spread the pecans on a lined baking sheet and bake for 8–10 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes, then chop, either with a knife or a food processor. You’ll use 3/4 cup (about 90g) in the dough, and save the rest for garnish. You can turn off the oven for now.
- Make the cookie dough: Whisk the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
- In a large bowl using a handheld or a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and brown sugar together on high speed until completely smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg, and vanilla, and beat on high speed until combined, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl and beat again as needed to combine.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix on low until combined. Stir in 3/4 cup (90g) toasted chopped pecans. Dough will be a bit soft. If the dough seems too soft and sticky for rolling, add 1 more Tablespoon of flour.
- Divide the dough into 2 equal parts. Place each portion onto a piece of lightly floured parchment paper or a lightly floured silicone baking mat. With a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough out to about 1/4-inch thickness. Use more flour if the dough seems too sticky. The rolled-out dough can be any shape, as long as it is evenly 1/4-inch thick.
- Lightly dust one of the rolled-out doughs with flour. Place a piece of parchment on top. (This prevents sticking.) Place the second rolled-out dough on top. Cover with plastic wrap or aluminum foil, then refrigerate for at least 1–2 hours and up to 2 days.
- Once chilled, preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Line 2–3 large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Carefully remove the top dough piece from the refrigerator. If it’s sticking to the bottom, run your hand under it to help remove it. Using a cookie cutter, cut the dough into shapes. Re-roll the remaining dough and continue cutting until all is used. Repeat with second piece of dough. (Note: It doesn’t seem like a lot of dough, but you get a lot of cookies from the dough scraps you re-roll.)
- Arrange cookies on baking sheets about 3 inches apart. Bake for 12–13 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges. If your oven has hot spots, rotate the baking sheet halfway through bake time. Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before decorating. No need to cover the cookies as they cool.
- Make the brown butter icing: Slice the butter up into pieces and place in a light-colored skillet. (Light colored helps you determine when the butter begins browning; I love this one.) Melt the butter over medium heat, stirring constantly. Once melted, the butter will begin to foam. Keep stirring. After 5–8 minutes, the butter will begin browning—you’ll notice lightly browned specks begin to form at the bottom of the pan and it will have a nutty aroma. Once browned, immediately remove from heat and cool for 5 minutes. (See How to Brown Butter for photos and tips.) Whisk in the remaining icing ingredients until smooth.
- Immediately dip the top of each cookie into the icing, or wait 10–15 minutes for the icing to thicken at room temperature. (The thickened icing is what you see in these photos.) Then, spread on with a knife or icing spatula. Do not use piping tips because this icing thickens and they will clog. Garnish with remaining toasted chopped pecans right after applying the icing.
- Icing sets after a few hours at room temperature, so you can easily stack and transport these cookies. Cover and store decorated cookies for up to 3 days at room temperature or up to 10 days in the refrigerator.
- Freezing Instructions: Plain or decorated sugar cookies freeze well up to 3 months. Wait a few hours for the icing to set before layering between sheets of parchment paper in a freezer-friendly container. To thaw, thaw in the refrigerator or at room temperature. You can also freeze the cookie dough for up to 3 months before rolling it out. Prepare the dough through step 5, divide in half, flatten both halves into a disc as we do with pie crust, wrap each in plastic wrap, then freeze. To thaw, thaw the discs in the refrigerator, then bring to room temperature for about 1 hour. Roll out the dough as directed in step 6, then chill rolled-out dough in the refrigerator for 45 minutes–1 hour before cutting into shapes and baking.
- Special Tools (affiliate links): Electric Mixer (Stand Mixer or Handheld) | Baking Sheets | Silicone Baking Mats or Parchment Sheets | Rolling Pin | Holiday Cookie Cutter Set | Light Skillet | Icing Spatula
- Nut-free or Substituting Another Nut: You can skip the pecans if desired. Or you can swap with another nut such as almonds, walnuts, or hazelnuts. Feel free to toast the nuts following the same toasting instructions in the recipe above.
- Room Temperature Butter: Room temperature butter is essential. If the dough is too sticky, your butter may have been too soft. Room temperature butter is actually cool to the touch. Room temperature egg is preferred so it’s quickly and evenly mixed into the cookie dough.
- Can I skip the cookie cutters? This dough isn’t ideal for a drop-style cookie. Instead, I recommend my butter pecan cookies and you can top those with this icing.
- Can I make this a slice-and-bake style cookie? Yes, you can use this dough and roll into logs like we do with pecan shortbread. Follow those assembly, chilling, and baking instructions. Or you can just make that recipe instead and top with today’s icing.
- Can I brown the butter in the cookie dough too? You could, but this recipe requires creamed butter. You’ll have to brown the butter for the dough, and then let it fully solidify and come to room temperature. (You don’t want it cold, because it cannot cream with the sugar. Room temperature and solidified.) It’s easier to use brown butter in just the icing.
- Be sure to check out my top 5 cookie baking tips AND these are my 10 must-have cookie baking tools.
Keywords: pecan sugar cookies
Reader Comments & Reviews
Can you use the br butter icing on a cake?
Hi Tammy, this is a thinner icing more than a thicker buttercream and wouldn’t be the best option for a layered cake. It’s wonderful drizzled on Bundt cakes, like this peach Bundt cake, if you’d like to try it that way!
These cookies are delicious! My book group and library coworkers loved them. My only suggestion is to take the cookies out of the oven after 10 1/2 to 11 minutes, and they will continue to firm up. Love the cookies and the icing.
Question. Can i use gel food coloring successfully in this icing? Just wondered if the browned butter might affect that.
That shouldn’t be a problem.
This is a very delicious cookie the cookies not too sweet but the frosting is sweet so it balances it out. thank you so much for sharing your recipe with us
This is my second time baking cookies from scratch lol. They are so good! Will definitely make again. Thank you so much for having the recipe available. I found it through social media. Would recommend to everyone! I followed the exact recipe & they turned out soooo good
I made these twice over the holidays. They were fabulous. My question is can you pre-chill roll out the all butter PIE CRUST in the same way as you do these cookies (which is genius)?
Hi Benda! Pie dough is softer and best to roll out after chilling. Glad you love these cookies!
These were so delicious! I made them for the December baking challenge alternate recipe and am about to make my second batch because they are that good! I absolutely loved the brown butter icing, and the tip about refrigerating the rolled out dough worked perfectly. My dad loves cookies with pecans and so this was the perfect thing to make for him.
I made these cookies for Christmas and decorated them with royal icing (with a little bit of orange extract). They came out perfect. It was easy to roll the soft dough and then cut them out and bake a couple days later.
Excellent cookies! I’ve made them twice now. First time I made as written; second time I added almond extract to the dough and maple extract to the frosting, and that was really great as well.
Very delicious, thank you! Mine baked for about 3 mins less. They’re like an adult version of cutouts because they have a lot of flavor.
As usual Sally’s recipes are awesome! I’ve made so many I’ve lost track and they never let me down. These were delicious!
Hi Julie, I agree! I’m a successful baker because of Sally! And these cookies are incredibly dangerous so I have to make then for others and leave myself one. Lol
I made this cookie recipe yesterday (I skipped the frosting). It was really easy to pull together. I followed the recipe exactly except for the roll out instructions. I felt the dough was too soft so I went with the more common way of refrigerating it for a couple of hours and then rolling it out on a floured counter. The dough was really easy to work with!
I used different cookie cutters, some had these additional imprints on the inside. They were still visible after baking (though I did freeze the cut out cookies for aboit 30 minutes before baking). The cookies held their shape well.
In terma of taste: incredible!! They were really delicious and I was so happy to have a different cut out cookie beyond the normal butter/sugar cookies. The pecan taste really comes through.
Wowwwww these are so good. The icing is to die for! Thanks for another great recipe!
These are incredible! Amazing flavor! Everyone loved them and thought they were some of the best cookies I’ve ever made!
Just made these cookies and they are amazing! I try to make at least one new cookie every year and this year it was this one. I may keep it in my selection for good. I’ve never made brown butter icing before but it turned out so well. I am really excited to share these with my family in their cookie boxes I put together for them. Thank you for the great recipe.
I love nut desserts and this really hit the spot. These cookies with the brown butter icing is incredible. This will be a go-to cookie recipe for me going forward.
I did need to bake them for longer than the recipe recommends. I put them in for 13 minutes initially and they were much too soft when they cooled down. I baked them a second time to get them a bit more crunchy and then they were perfect. That could be an issue with my oven
I used salted butter and omitted the salt. I wish I wouldn’t have omitted the salt. Also wish I had doubled the vanilla. I found your method of rolling out the cookie dough on the silicone mats troublesome. I made a few cookie cut cookies and rest I rolled up. I will make again but with my adjustments. Thank you for the recipe.
These are perfection! Texture, flavor, presentation – all just holiday magic. They set up beautifully and are easy to transport, too.
These are hands down the best cookie I have ever made. I brought them to work for my cookie grazing day and they were gone within the first couple of hours of the day!
These are DELICIOUS. I used a little more powdered sugar in my frosting but the measurements are all right-on. These are making up the nutty cookie part of the Christmas cookie assortment this year and I think they’ll be the first to get eaten – YUM. Thank you, great recipe!