These buttery pecan snowball cookies are easy to make and perfect for Christmas and other special occasions.
What are Snowballs?
Pecan snowball cookies are a variation on a classic shortbread cookie, coated in confectioners sugar for a festive effect. They’re also known as Russian tea cakes, Italian snowball cookies or Mexican wedding cookies.
Snowballs are made with butter, flour and icing sugar for the a delicious melt-in-your-mouth texture. These always disappear quick from a Christmas goodie tray.
You’ll love this simple recipe for your holiday baking and don’t miss these chocolate snowball cookies and lemon shortbread cookies too, they’re lovely!
- Vegan (dairy-free and no eggs).
- One bowl recipe.
- 6 simple ingredients.
- Can be made gluten-free and nut-free.
- Easy to make & can be prepped in advance.
- Great for Christmas and gifting!
- Melt-in-your-mouth texture.
- Can be frozen.
Please see the recipe card below for the complete ingredient list with amount. This section covers notes on specific ingredients used and any possible substitutions.
- Butter: Use your choice of plant-based butter. If you’re not vegan or dairy-free, you can use regular butter.
- Powdered Sugar: Also known as icing sugar or confectioners sugar. Wholesome makes an organic vegan powdered sugar, otherwise any brand works or you can make your own.
- Vanilla: You can use pure vanilla extract, or artificial extract, if needed.
- All-Purpose Flour: This recipe works with all-purpose flour or gluten-free all-purpose baking flour.
- Cornstarch: You should be able to substitute tapioca starch for this.
- Pecans: Use pecans with no added salt or oil. Chopped walnuts or almonds (or any chopped nut) work as a substitution. Use toasted pecans for extra flavour!
Step 1: Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. This should take about 2-3 minutes.
After you’ve combined the butter and sugar, add the vanilla and beat briefly to mix it in.
Quick Tip: If you’d like to toast the pecans for extra flavour, add them to a sheet pan and bake for 5-7 minutes at 350 F while you prepare the dough.
Step 3: Add flour, cornstarch and salt and start beating on low, slowly increasing the speed until everything is combined.
Step 4: Add the pecans and chill the dough.
Stir in the pecans or beat briefly to combine. Once you’ve mixed those in, cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a dish towel and place it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Quick Tip: You can prepare the dough as much as 24 hours in advance and chill overnight.
Step 5: Shape the cookies and bake.
When you’re almost ready to start baking, preheat the oven to 350 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Use a small cookie scoop to make approximately 18 snowballs and place them on a baking sheet.
If you don’t have a cookie scoop, you can use your hands to create the snowballs using a generous tablespoon per cookie. Bake them for 13-15 minutes until the bottoms are light golden brown.
Step 7: Cool and coat.
Cool the cookies for 10 minutes on the baking tray. Prepare a bowl with powdered sugar then coat the cookies in sugar, placing each on a cooling rack.
Quick Tip: Place the cooling rack on top of a baking pan to help catch any excess sugar.
Once you’ve coated all the cookies, let them cool completely on the cooling rack.
At this point, you can enjoy your cookies but I prefer to add another coating of sugar after they’ve cooled.
The first coating will somewhat melt into the cookies and make them a bit sticky, which is perfect for adding a second coating and the prettiest snowball effect!
Coat to your liking then enjoy your cookies!
- If you are toasting your pecans, you can put them in the oven at 350˚F (177˚C) for 5-8 minutes while preparing the dough.
- It’s highly recommended to use a digital scale to measure ingredients for accuracy and to ensure success.
- For best results, coat the cookies in sugar twice, once after cooling for 10 minutes and again once fully cooled.
- A small cookie scoop will help you get uniformly-sized snowballs.
- Use room temperature butter when starting the recipe.
- Lemon Snowballs: Add 1 tbsp lemon zest to the dough when you add the cornstarch and flour.
- Almond Snowballs: Substitute the vanilla extract for almond extract and use chopped almonds instead of pecans.
- Chocolate Chip Snowballs: Use mini chocolate chips instead of chopped pecans.
Chilling the cookies helps the creamed butter (fat) solidify so the cookies maintain their classic snowball shape.
You don’t have to chill the dough but we prefer these cookies after chilling the dough 30 minutes. Without chilling, the cookies will spread more and be denser.
No. You can omit the pecans for regular snowballs and to make the cookies nut-free!
If you don’t need them to be nut-free, you can also substitute walnuts, almonds, pistachios, hazelnuts or any other nut you enjoy.
Yes. You can make these cookies gluten-free by substituting a gluten-free all-purpose 1:1 baking flour such as Bob’s Red Mill.
- Let the cookies cool completely before storing.
- Once cooled, store in a sealed container at room temperature for up to 5 days.
- To freeze, cool completely then store in a freezer-safe container for up to 3 months.
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Classic shortbread pecan snowballs made with toasted pecans and coated in powdered sugar for a festive finish.
- Beat Butter and Sugar: In a mixing bowl, beat the plant-based butter and sugar using a hand mixer or stand mixer with a paddle attachment until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
- Add Vanilla: Add the vanilla and beat until fully combined.
- Add Flour, Cornstarch & Salt: Slowly beat in the flour, cornstarch, and salt. Start at a low-speed and increase to high until you have a uniformly mixed dough.
- Add Pecans: Once the dough is uniformly mixed, briefly beat in the chopped pecans.
- Chill Dough: Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes (or up to 24 hours). If you’re making the dough the day before, wrap well in plastic wrap and place in a sealed container to store.
- Prepare for Baking: Preheat the oven to 350˚F (177˚C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Bake Cookies: After chilling, remove the bowl from the refrigerator and use a small cookie scoop to create approximately 18 cookies, placing them on the prepared baking. Bake for 13-15 minutes, until bottoms are just lightly browned. I baked mine for 15 minutes.
- Coat in Powdered Sugar: Let cookies cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes. While they’re cooling, add the remaining powdered sugar to a bowl. Coat each cookie in sugar, transferring each to a cooling rack after coated to finish cooling. Once fully cooled, coat again in powdered sugar (optional). The first layer of sugar will somewhat melt into the cookies and the second coating will create that pretty snowball effect!
Storing: Once cooled, place cookies in an airtight container and store at room temperature for up to 5 days. For long-term storage, baked cookies can be frozen in a freezer-safe container for up to 3 months.
Toasted Pecan Snowballs: Preheat the oven to 350 F while you’re preparing the ingredients. Toast the pecans on a sheet pan for 5-7 minutes while you’re preparing the dough.
- Serving Size: 1 snowball
- Calories: 93
- Sugar: 5 g
- Sodium: 81 mg
- Fat: 5 g
- Carbohydrates: 12 g
- Fiber: 1 g
- Protein: 1 g
Keywords: pecan snowball cookies, snowball cookies with pecans