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Snowball cookies are some of the easiest Christmas cookies you could make—you need just 5 ingredients and 1 mixing bowl. These snowballs are a classic on the Christmas cookie tray, and optional toasted pecans add the loveliest flavor and texture! Without any complicated steps or ingredients, you can be confident this easy snowball cookie recipe is foolproof.

snowball cookies on white plate with snowflake linen and red sprinkles in bowl next to it.

These sugar-dusted crumbly shortbread cookies have been around for ages, and there’s just something so irresistible about them. They’re uniquely buttery and dense with a melt-in-your-mouth texture—it’s hard to stop at just 1!

What Are Snowball Cookies?

Snowball cookies are part butter, part flour, and part confectioners’ sugar. Sometimes they include chopped nuts, as well (try them with toasted pecans!). The confectioners’ sugar not only goes into the cookie dough, but also coats the outside of the cookie for that iconic snow-dusted exterior. There are no eggs or leavening agents in traditional snowball cookie recipes.

What do you call these cookies? They have many names, and are usually made with nuts or nut flour as an add-in. Names include Russian tea cakes, Mexican wedding cookies, butterballs, snowdrops, and more. If formed into crescent shapes, they can be called Viennese crescents or Greek kourabiedes.

These easy cookies are a steadfast staple on my cookie platter—alongside other classics like gingerbread cookies, pinwheel cookies, peanut butter blossoms, and chocolate crinkle cookies.

snowball cookies coated in powdered sugar in baking dish.

Here’s Why You’ll Love Them

  • Melt-in-your-mouth texture
  • Buttery, dense, and sweet
  • Incredibly easy to make
  • 1-bowl recipe
  • Just 5 ingredients
  • Leave them plain, or add chopped nuts or colorful sprinkles
  • Only 30 minutes of dough-chilling time
  • A classic Christmas cookie everyone should try!

Snowball Cookie Ingredients (& Why You Need Them!)

With so few ingredients, each one has a very important job to do:

  • Butter: Creamed butter forms the base of these shortbread-style cookies.
  • Confectioners’ Sugar: A little in the dough, and then roll the baked cookies in the rest.
  • Vanilla Extract: Adds flavor, especially if using homemade vanilla extract!
  • Flour: This is the structure of the cookie.
  • Salt: To balance out the sweet. Note that it can be optional if using salted butter, like we do in the video tutorial below.
  • Optional: Finely chopped toasted pecans for delicious flavor. You know, just in case you have extra pecans leftover from your sweet potato casserole!

The ratio of butter to sugar to flour in the cookie dough varies between snowball cookie recipes, but I find 1 cup butter, 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, and 2 and 1/4 cup all-purpose flour to be the sweet spot. Again, you’ll need extra confectioners’ sugar for the coating.

ingredients on counter including flour, pecans, butter, salt, vanilla, and confectioners' sugar.

Expect a Crumbly Dough

The cookie dough comes together in just 1 bowl. It will be super thick, to the point where you don’t think it will come together. Turn your mixer up and watch the buttery goodness form before your eyes.

The dough will come together, I promise:

vanilla cookie dough in glass bowl.

Chill the dough for just 30 minutes to help that creamed butter solidify, which helps guarantee your rounded cookies stay… well, rounded! Without chilling, your cookies could spread flat.

Use a Tablespoon measure to portion the chilled dough, and then roll into balls:

spoonful of cookie dough and dough balls lined on cookie sheet.

Unlike lemon crinkle cookies and chocolate crinkle cookies, we bake the cookies first and then we’ll roll in confectioners’ sugar… the best part of this iconic cookie!

How Do You Make the Confectioners’ Sugar Stick?

After the cookies bake, roll each one in confectioners’ sugar. The trick to the stick (ha!) is to roll them twice. Give the cookies their first coating when they are slightly warm. As the cookies cool, the confectioners’ sugar will melt into them. (It tastes amazing.) After the cookies have cooled, coat them in confectioners’ sugar one more time, and they’ll be as beautifully snowy as the final scene of a Hallmark Christmas movie.

rolling cookies in confectioners' sugar and cookies shown again on cooling rack.
snowball cookies on white plate.

3 Success Tips

  1. Use proper room temperature butter. Like when making Christmas sugar cookies or butter cookies, if your butter is too soft when you start, it won’t form a sturdy base for your cookie dough. The cookies will over-spread and taste greasy & dense.
  2. Make sure you use confectioners’ sugar (aka powdered sugar or icing sugar) in the cookie dough. Granulated sugar causes the cookies to over-spread and they’ll lose their “snowball” shape.
  3. Coat the cookies with confectioners’ sugar twice, once when warm and again when cool, because the first layer melts like a… well, a warm snowball! 😉

Try My Pecan Snowball Cookies

Want to make the best snowball cookies? Add some toasted pecans. Popping pecans in the oven for a brief 8–10 minutes elevates their flavor, and is a welcome step in my pecan sugar cookies. All you do is scatter them on a baking sheet and bake them until you smell that toasty goodness. I usually use a food processor to pulse the warm toasted nuts a few times. It’s that easy.

You can also use finely chopped (and toasted, if desired) walnuts, almonds, pistachios, hazelnuts, or macadamia nuts.

chopped pecans in bowl and shown again in cookie dough.
close-up photo of pecan snowball cookie with bite taken out.

Even More Variations

Instead of nuts, try adding sprinkles. Regular jimmie-type sprinkles are the best choice. And if you want some other variations, try my cranberry spice cookies, pistachio cookies, and lemon coconut shortbread cookies! I even have a recipe for chai spice snowball cookies in my book, Sally’s Cookie Addiction.

Though the name varies, one thing’s certain: these snowball cookies always disappear quickly. There’s a reason they’re enjoyed in so many countries around the world!

More Classic Christmas Cookie Recipes

Print
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snowball cookies coated in powdered sugar in baking dish.

Snowball Cookies Recipe

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 45 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 36 cookies 1x
  • Category: Cookies
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: Eurpoean

Description

This cookie dough is made from just 5 ingredients in 1 mixing bowl and only needs 30 minutes of chill time before baking. Without any complicated steps or ingredients, you can be confident this easy snowball cookie recipe is foolproof. Toasted pecans are optional, but add the loveliest flavor!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 cup (230g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (90g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 and 1/4 cups (281g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt (see note)
  • optional: 3/4 cup (100g) finely chopped and toasted pecans*

Coating

  • 1 and 1/4 cups (150g) confectioners’ sugar

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl using a handheld 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 (90g) confectioners’ sugar and beat on medium high speed until combined and creamy. 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 and salt. 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 chopped pecans, if using.
  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. Set aside. Pour the confectioners’ sugar needed for the coating 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. Coating: 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. The confectioners’ sugar will melt a bit and get sticky; that’s ok. Once the cookies have completely cooled, roll in confectioners’ sugar again. This is when the sugar will really stick.
  6. Cookies stay fresh covered at room temperature for up to 1 week. 

Notes

  1. Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions: Baked cookies freeze well up to 3 months. Unbaked cookie dough freezes well up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator then allow to come to room temperature, then continue with step 3.
  2. Special Tools (affiliate links): Electric Mixer (Stand Mixer or Handheld) | Baking SheetsSilicone Baking Mats | Cooling Rack
  3. Salt: The video uses salted butter, so I skip the salt. Feel free to use salted butter and skip the added salt in the recipe.
  4. To Toast the Pecans: Spread chopped pecans on a lined baking sheet. Bake for 8–10 minutes at 300°F (150°C). Let them slightly cool. Then, give them a very fine chop with a sharp knife or pulse a few times in a food processor. You want small pieces of nuts. Feel free to skip the toasting step and just use finely chopped pecans.
  5. Sprinkles or Other Nuts: You can also use finely chopped (and toasted, if desired) walnuts, almonds, pistachios, hazelnuts, or macadamia nuts. Toast according to the same directions as pecans in Note above. Instead of nuts, you can beat in 1/2 cup sprinkles.

Keywords: snowball cookies

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. If making ahead, should I roll in powdered sugar and then freeze or roll in sugar after thawing? Which would give the best powdered sugar coating?

    1. Hi Beth, I usually do the 2x confectioners’ sugar coating as instructed, and then freeze the cooled cookies. The sugar coating is still intact after thawing.

  2. I made these for a women’s gift exchange at church. The second batch turned out crunchy but I think it’s because they were over baked. Other than that, they turned out good.

  3. Going to try this recipe tonight. Would mini chocolate chips work instead of nuts?

  4. This is the best recipe for these cookies, they are delicious ‼️‼️Thank you SALLY!!!

    1. Hi Alex, it’s 3/4 cup of finely chopped pecans, so measure after finely chopping. (About 100g finely chopped.)

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