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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, 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.

Bake the cookies 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. Toasting pecans in the oven elevates their flavor, and you can really tell a difference! Bake the nuts for 8–10 minutes, and then give them a very fine chop before mixing into the cookie dough. I usually use a food processor to pulse the warm toasted nuts a few times.

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. I truly love all of Sally’s recipes! My husband and I started with the Nutella Brownies, best brownie I have ever eaten! Since then- this is my go to website for any sweets. Numerous occasions I have used recipes including M&M, Chocolate Chip cookies, and the snow ball cookies- amazing! Every time the cookies turn out great. Never once have I had a complaint. The fact the recipes are so easy to follow, without a lot of directions is truly amazing. I will come back to this blog for many many more years. Five stars~

  2. Just made these today and they’re great! I had this wonderful idea that I’d use these clear sprinkles thinking they’d make the insides shimmery; they’re kinda invisible in the end but they give a nice subtle crunchy texture. Great recipe.

  3. Hi Sally I love your recipes, thank you. I had a bit of problem with my dough for snowballs. It remained crumbly even after 10min of beating. I put it in the fridge still. Any suggestions on how to rescue it?
    Thanks

    1. Hi Linda, 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!

  4. These turned out perfectly for us and oh so delicious! These are now my daughters favourite cookies of all time.

  5. I really, really wanted to like this recipe. I turned my Kitchenaid stand mixer on High for probably 8 minutes. Not only did I have to cover the bowl as the sandy mix would fly out, but the mix kept condensing under the paddle, rocking the bowl and making the entire mixer walk across the counter. I ended up adding about a tablespoon of water because it just wasn’t coming together and the time and mess got to be too much. I baked for 15 minutes and they were raw inside. This is the first recipe from this site that was a complete fail for me. I’ll be looking for more low-maintenance recipes in the future.

  6. Sally, I have used numerous recipes of yours and they ALL came out fantastic. I love the special “hints” you provide that are so very helpful. Thanks again for sharing all your recipes.

  7. What kind of sprinkles are recommended? I have made these cookies many times, but have never added sprinkles. Excited to try.
    Thanks

    1. Hi Judith! Any sprinkles are great, but we recommend avoiding nonpareils (the little balls) as they tend to bleed their color in cookie dough.

  8. Question – the recipe states to split the confectioner sugar in half, but then states to use 3/4 cup in the mix. Is that accurate? I’m guessing the other 1 and 1/4 cups is for the coating, correct? I just want to be sure as some reviewers had problem with dough coming together.

    I love your baking recipes and tips. Have always had success with your recipes. But trying not this one for the first time.

    1. Hi Mercedes! You’re correct, 3/4 cup of confectioners’ sugar goes into the dough and the rest is used for coating. “Divided” in a recipe doesn’t mean divided in half, it just means that the ingredient will be used in too different places that will be specified in the recipe. Hope you enjoy these cookies!

  9. I love pecan snowballs! But although I followed the recipe closely, they took a lot longer than 15 minutes to begin to brown and once they did, they seemed dry. The dough made my KitchenAid stand mixer rock violently even on low. Fortunately, I have a bowl cover & a paddle that scrapes tge bowl aides & bottom. I used some vanilla seeds as well as the extract, so the house smells lovely. I wish the cookies had turned out better.

  10. I plan on making these snowball cookies for Christmas,. You said you can store them for up to a week at room temperature…What if you want to have them longer than a week, should you bake them and then freeze them until you are ready to have for family?

  11. Hi sally! I love all your recipes so much! I’m starting my holiday baking, is it okay to double this recipe you think?

    1. Hi Maria, it is generally okay to double cookie recipes, so long as the added volume doesn’t overwhelm your mixer. Happy baking!

  12. I put all the ingredients together as directed in your recipe. Boy, what a mess. The dough never came together and I don’t know what to do now. I surely don’t want to discard all
    those ingredients! I finally put in the refrigerator to see if I can get an answer from you as to what I can do. The mixture is loose and did not blend together. Do I add more butter until it glues together? I’m afraid that will mess up the final product. What can Ido?

    1. Hi Ruby! The dough will look dry and you may not think the flour will fully combine. Once all of the flour (make sure it was spoon and leveled) is added, turn the mixer up to HIGH speed. The dough will come together!

  13. The Toasted Pecan Snowball cookies are very good, but mine didn’t stay in balls, they formed as a normal flat cookie.

    1. Same here! Mine flattened out too I was hoping Sally had some tips for us on how to fix this. But also my dough didn’t have problems coming together so maybe I did something wrong and made it too wet? Either way the flavor was gorgeous, just not the shape I was looking for 🙂

      1. Same happened to me and I tried this recipe twice because Sally’s recipe never failed in the past.
        After the 2nd try, it still came flat and also the texture of cookies were hard.
        I started reading the recipe line by line and realized that Sally’s recipe on sugar didn’t break it out for the dough and coating after baking in the ingredients list. I mean she broke it out in the instructions, by saying 3/4 of the sugar goes in the dough but being a long- time baker I wasn’t paying close attention to the step-by-step directions!!!
        3rd time worked like a charm.

        So I think the reason it flattened was that the amount of confectioners sugar being too much vs. flour and batter.
        Did you buy any chance make the same mistake as me?

  14. I just made these today – they truly are melt in your mouth delicious. I did both options, toasted the pecans and added sprikles. This is the third cookie recipe that I’ve tried on this site, and all of them have been the best baked goods that I’ve ever made. I made the Christmas Sugar Cookies, the lace cookies and these. For the snowballs, I think I would sprinkle just a touch of salt into powdered sugar just to try it. She’s right, it’s tough to eat just one. I think I might join the monthly challenges now.

  15. Great recipe! Toasted the pecans and it gave a great flavor. For those having issues with the dough coming together I would make sure you’re measuring your flour properly.

    1. Made these yesterday and my wife says they were better than her grandmas recipe! I totally agree with her! Thanks for sharing!

  16. I love all your recipes too. This one, however, turned out flat. I had chilled it for nearly an hour. They taste delicious but I would have loved the round shape! Can you please let me know what may have caused it?

  17. These turned out beautifully, and the kids got to help with rolling them in the sugar. Thanks Sally!

    1. Hi CC, We haven’t tested these cookies with another liquid but you certainly can. We recommend sticking to the 2 tsp or less depending on the flavor. Extra liquid would throw off the consistency of the dough. Let us know what you try!

  18. love the taste of the cookies soo yummy, quick question why my cookies not round like yours?

    1. Hi Ludwina, After scooping the cookie dough, use your hands to roll each into a ball before baking. They should hold their shape when baked.

  19. I used 50/50 blend of pecans and walnuts to get that delicate buttery and robust nuttiness. Recipe is awesome. TY

  20. Hi Sally, when you say cover the dough and chill – can we just cover our mixer bowl with the dough in it with aluminum foil and put the bowl in the fridge or do you mean take the dough out and wrap it in aluminum foil to chill? Thanks!

    1. Hi Casey, You can just cover the bowl and place the whole thing in the refrigerator.

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