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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
3 Success Tips
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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
- Gingerbread Cookies
- Christmas Sugar Cookies
- Peanut Butter Blossoms
- Spritz Cookies
- Homemade Gingerbread House
- Candy Cane Kiss Cookies
Snowball Cookies Recipe
- Prep Time: 45 minutes
- Cook Time: 15 minutes
- Total Time: 1 hour
- Yield: 36 cookies
- Category: Cookies
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: Eurpoean
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!
- 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*
- 1 and 1/4 cups (150g) confectioners’ sugar
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Cookies stay fresh covered at room temperature for up to 1 week.
- 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.
- Special Tools (affiliate links): Electric Mixer (Stand Mixer or Handheld) | Baking Sheets | Silicone Baking Mats | Cooling Rack
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 Comments & Reviews
Another great Sally recipe. I make these every Christmas – sometimes with the powdered sugar “snow” coating, and sometimes without.They are always delicious, and simple to make.
Just made these and they’re so delicious and easy to make! 10/10
I love these cookies and have made them many times. They are a staple on my Christmas cookie platters. I was thinking of making them with freeze dried raspberries instead of nuts. What do you think?
Karen, that would be so tasty. I would add 1/2 cup of freeze-dried raspberry powder and perhaps very slightly reduce the flour, such as removing 2 Tablespoons of it. That’s what I would test first!
The batter did not come together. I did not want to discard so I decided to add an egg. It worked.
I decided to try out this cookie this year for the assorted cookie boxes I give to neighbors and friends. It was an absolute hit. In fact, my partner LOVED these cookies so much that she has declared them her new favorite cookie. Thanks for the recipe!
No other cookies get touched on the cookie tray at Christmas when I make these. They’re perfect! I only making these from now on to bring to Christmas parties
Hi Sally! I made these cookies with toasted pecans for Christmas and oh my god, they were so yummy! They’re so buttery and the toasted pecans add such an amazing flavor! Love love love this recipe!
Sally, I am new to baking and am not sure that I’m rolling the cookies correctly. They seem to crumble in my hands, and them I need to press them back together again. Do you have a suggestion?
Hi Annette! It sounds like your dough may be too dry. How did you measure the flour? Make sure to spoon and level (instead of scooping) to avoid packing in too much flour into your measuring cups – or use a kitchen scale. You can read more about properly measuring baking ingredients in this post. You can try using the warmth of your hands to bring the dough together.
My dough never did come together and put it in refrigerator for 2 days, it remained crumbly.
I tried mixing it again (on day 2) and it doesn’t seem to want to stay together. Not sure what I should do. Any suggestions? I’ve made these years ago and loven them. Thank you
Hi Carol! How did you measure the flour? Make sure to spoon and level (instead of scooping) to avoid packing in too much flour into your measuring cups – or use a kitchen scale. You can read more about properly measuring baking ingredients in this post. You can try bringing the dough together with the warmth of your hands or just letting it warm up at room temperature – that sometimes works!
Thank you for the information Trina. I believe I did level off the flour, but can’t be sure. I have baked some of the cookies and the room temperature and “hand” warmth seemed to help Thank you again.
I omitted the salt and added crushed pretzels (a bit less than 100g) to the dough as my son has a nut allergy! It worked and thought maybe this info would help others!
Easy. Didn’t spread (my snowballs last year did)! Soft chewy center!
I would like to try these with solidified browned butter. Do you happen to know if I should add more butter or a little milk as you do in the browned butter chocolate chip cookie recipe to adjust for the moisture lost in the browning process?
Hi Alexandra, yes, you can learn more about the moisture lost from browning butter here. Hope you enjoy the snowball cookies!
I love this recipe and the recommendation to add sprinkles! When I found chocolate sprinkles, adding chocolate became my favorite way to make these, but I love adding color sprinkles for pizzazz (and when I add the chocolate, the dogs can’t have any cookies as a down side because they can have butter and nuts). Coating them a second time, like Sally suggests, makes such a difference, to make your bakery really stand out over the rest. As always, thank you for teaching me how to succeed in baking culinary delights, Sally!
I tried the marischino cherry in the middle. Turned out great, maybe a little more time consuming but soooo good!
I followed the recipe and instructions exactly, including adding pecans, but still the cookies spread more than I expected. I even chilled the rolled balls again before baking. The taste and texture were great, but I was a bit disappointed in how they looked. I use an oven thermometer for precise temps. Any suggestions for next time?
Hi Janet, Here’s our tips for keeping cookies from spreading that will he helpful for next time!
Approximately how many cookies per batch if you use 1 TBSP of cookie dough?
Hi Pam, about 36 cookies. Enjoy!
Sally, love your recipes! Wondered if I could make these snowball cookies with a maraschino cherry in the middle?
Hi Joy! We haven’ tested cherries in this snowball cookie dough but can’t see why it would be an issue! Let us know if you give it a try.
My mother always cut maraschino cherries in half and drained them on paper towels before adding to the snowball cookies!
Thank you for sharing this recipe. I have an old recipe, maybe from 30 years ago. A co workers mother-in- law made similar cookies and gave me her hand-written recipe just for me. So sweet; she said make by hand and take your time. And do it with love. I do not know how she had the patience to make them so tiny. DOZENS of them. Well, I tried making them a few wks ago and they did not turn out well. So, I checked here and am very glad I did. I subbed out 1 cup of AP flour for pastry flour because I wanted them light and crispy but with structure. Also, I put jam on them instead of using pecans. This will be my go-to for this cookie bc they turned out beautifully and so delicious.
I am a novice baker. Can you please tell me the amount of sprinkles I would need to add for this recipie.
Hi Joy! See recipe notes – you can add 1/2 cup sprinkles.
This recipe is amazing, I add a bit of lemon extract too for a different flavor profile. So yum. I want to make with sprinkles but am not sure what kind would work best? Jimmies/nonpareils/sugar crystals?
Hi Alex, sounds amazing with the addition of lemon! Regular jimmie-type sprinkles are best to use here.
Recipe came out great! I toasted pecans on the stove but otherwise did the recipe exactly as described.
I love these cookies fresh but can the dough be frozen before baking.
Yes! See recipe notes.
Can you substitute Almond Flour for All purpose Flour? Will measurement be the same?
Hi Sara, no, you need all-purpose flour in this recipe. If you’re looking for gluten free cookies made with almond flour, I really like these almond coconut macaroons.
I just had to tell you what I did a few years ago with this recipe & have been doing ever since. I brown the butter first, & brown the pecans right in the butter together so the butter becomes infused with pecan flavor. I let the butter cool until solid again, then I mix the cookies together. I do need to add a little extra butter when browning because the pecans do absorb some butter. They are the most decadent cookies & have been a huge hit with my family & friends.
These sound so good!! Could I use almond extract instead of the vanilla? Has anyone tried that?
Hi Becky! You could absolutely add almond extract – you could use 1 tsp vanilla and 1 tsp almond. You could even use chopped almonds in the dough – yum. Let us know if you give it a try!
I had vanilla but used Amaretto instead for the almond taste for both the cookie and icing. I think it’s great! As a novice baker, thank you they came out perfect!
Could you add grande Marnier liquor to this recipe, to change it up a notch in flavor. Iff so, how much would you put in the recipe.
Hi Jodi, Adding a flavor extract is fine because you would add such a small amount. We don’t recommend adding extra liquid to this recipe as it would change the consistency of the dough.
For the pecans – do you measure out 3/4 c before or after chopping fine?
Hi Alex, it’s 3/4 cup of finely chopped pecans, so measure after finely chopping. (About 100g finely chopped.)
This is the best recipe for these cookies, they are delicious ‼️‼️Thank you SALLY!!!
My cookies are flat on the bottom. What am I doing wrong?
Hi Kathy, all cookies are flat on the bottom. Hope this helps!
Going to try this recipe tonight. Would mini chocolate chips work instead of nuts?
Mini chocolate chips would be great!
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.
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?
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.
Great Recipe. Easy to follow instructions. I’m pleased with how these Pecan Snowball cookies turned out, I made them for our Annual Christmas Cookie Exchange. Thank you