Snowball Cookies: How to Make Them from Scratch

I love making these buttery, nutty cookies during the holidays. This snowball cookies recipe is simple enough to make ahead and freeze, too!

December is peak season for cookie baking. It’s also the perfect time of year to make a batch of snowball cookies! You’ll find plenty of different versions of snowball cookies, but I recommend first learning learn how to make snowball cookies with the classic recipe below. They’re pecan-filled and melt in your mouth.

What Are Snowball Cookies?

Snowball Cookie Closeup - how to make snowball cookies from scratchApril Preisler for Taste of Home

Snowball cookies are a classic holiday treat, dusted with powdered sugar and packed with pecans. They get their name from their appearance: They look like balls of snow. You’ll also see snowball cookies called Mexican wedding cookies, Russian tea cakes, Italian wedding cookies, snowdrops or pecan butter balls.

The cookies are unusual in that they don’t include eggs in the dough and they use powdered sugar, which creates a light, crumbly cookie. They’re easy to assemble and call for ingredients you likely already have in your pantry.

How to Make Snowball Cookies

This recipe for pecan meltaways is from Alberta McKay of Bartlesville, Oklahoma, and is a tradition in her house at Christmastime.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans
  • Additional confectioners’ sugar

Directions

Step 1: Cream butter and sugar

Creamed Butter and Sugar - how to make snowball cookies from scratchApril Preisler for Taste of Home

In a large bowl, cream butter and confectioners’ sugar until light and fluffy.

Editor’s Tip: You definitely want softened butter for this step! Forgot to take it out of the refrigerator? This is how to soften butter in a pinch.

Step 2: Add remaining ingredients

Snowball Cookie Dough - how to make snowball cookies from scratchApril Preisler for Taste of Home

Beat in the vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine the flour and salt. Gradually add the flour to the creamed mixture and mix well. Next, stir the pecans into the dough. If you have whole pecans, chop them first.

Refrigerate the dough until chilled. Don’t skip this step—chilling cookie dough is essential for avoiding thin, flat cookies.

Editor’s Tip: One easy method for how to chop nuts is to put them in a bowl and put pressure on them using a measuring cup or smaller bowl. You’ll wind up with coarsely chopped nuts. For smaller pieces, move them to a cutting board and finish with a knife, placing your non-cutting hand over the top of the blade and carefully rocking the blade back and forth.

Step 3: Bake

Snowball Cookies ready to bake - how to make snowball cookies from scratchApril Preisler for Taste of Home

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Roll the dough into 1-inch balls and place on ungreased baking sheets. Bake 10-12 minutes or until set.

Step 4: Roll in confectioners’ sugar

Rolling Cookies in Powdered Sugar - how to make snowball cookies from scratchApril Preisler for Taste of Home

Roll the warm cookies in additional confectioners’ sugar, then cool completely on wire racks. Roll the cooled cookies again in confectioners’ sugar.

Snowball Cookie Variations

Once you’ve learned how to make this simple snowball cookies recipe, try experimenting with different versions.

  • Peppermint snowballs add a creamy filling inside and a mixture of peppermint candy and powdered sugar on the outside.
  • Chocolate snowball cookies give classic snowball cookies a chocolaty twist with a bit of cocoa powder.
  • Keto snowball cookies require a few ingredient swaps, like sugar substitutes and almond flour. (They can also be transformed into vegan snowballs with a vegan butter substitute.)
  • Gluten-free snowballs call for a flour replacement with potato starch and xanthan gum.

Snowball Cookie Tips

Why did my snowball cookies go flat?

If your cookies go flat, check the oven temperature. An oven temperature that’s too low can result in your cookies spreading out more. Butter that’s too soft or melted can also lead to flat cookies. If your butter is overly soft when you whip the cookies, pop the dough in the refrigerator for an extra 1-2 hours to firm up before baking.

How long do homemade snowball cookies last?

You can store these snowball cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days. You can also freeze the finished cookies by laying them in a zip-close bag and squeezing out at much air as possible. To thaw, put the cookies in the refrigerator overnight and then let them come to room temperature before serving. I like to roll them in powdered sugar again after freezing for a freshened-up look.

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April Preisler
April is a food and travel lover, wine enthusiast, ice cream obsessed and the vision behind the blog, Food n' Focus. Her favorite cuisine is Italian and loves to cook international recipes.