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 pecan 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.
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 (spoon & 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 hand mixer 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 relatively 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