Snowball Cookies

published Nov 27, 2023
christmas
Snowball Cookies Recipe

Mixed with toasted nuts and coated with powdered sugar, these five-ingredient cookies are a holiday classic.

Makes36 (1.5-inch) cookies

Prep30 minutes to 35 minutes

Cook15 minutes to 16 minutes

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Close up shot of a pile of cookies on a white plate, with the top middle one bit into.
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: Nicole Rufus

If I had to pick my absolute favorite Christmas cookie, I would say — without any hesitation — it’s definitely snowballs. For me, these bite-size, sugar-coated cookies are pure nostalgia. I’ve been baking them every year since I was 10 years old. I love the flavors of butter, toasted nuts, and warm vanilla, along with its crumbly texture. 

These five-ingredient cookies come together with just a handful of pantry staples. Most years I stick with this classic recipe, which calls for toasted walnuts — but sometimes I deviate by opting for different nuts or adding a sprinkle of something from the spice cabinet. Here’s how to make your own snowball cookies at home for Christmas. 

What Are Snowball Cookies?

Snowball cookies, also known as Russian tea cakes and Mexican wedding cookies, are dense and buttery two-bite cookies studded with finely chopped nuts (typically walnuts or pecans) and coated with a thick layer of powdered sugar. 

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: Nicole Rufus

Ingredients in Snowball Cookies

  • Unsalted butter. You’ll use two full sticks here, which give these cookies lots of flavor.
  • Walnuts. The cookies pick up lots of flavor from these finely chopped, toasted nuts. If you don’t have walnuts, pecans make a nice substitute. Pistachios and almonds also work nicely.
  • All-purpose flour. A couple of cups is what gives the cookies their structure. It’s helpful to mix the nuts into the flour first so they’re evenly dispersed throughout the cookies.
  • Powdered sugar. The bulk of the powdered sugar is used for coating the cookies, while just a 1/2 cup sweetens the dough.

If You’re Making Snowball Cookies, a Few Tips

  • Don’t skip toasting the nuts. This simple step packs a ton of flavor in each cookie. 
  • Cool the nuts completely. To make sure the toasted nuts don’t melt the butter, be sure to cool them all the way, which will take about 20 minutes.
  • Give them a twist. Try mixing in 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of a warm spice like cinnamon, cardamom, or pumpkin pie spice.
  • Allow ample time to soften the butter. Give the butter plenty of time to soften at room temperature (45 minutes to an hour is a safe bet). This will make it much easier to blend and mix together the cookie dough.
  • Give the dough a quick chill. The dough will be a little on the soft side, so it’s helpful to chill it for about 30 minutes until it’s firm but easily scoopable.
  • Maximize the powdered sugar coating by rolling them twice. Let the cookies cool just until they’re easy to handle (10 minutes should be sufficient), then coat in powdered sugar. Allow them to cool completely and roll in powdered sugar once more. 
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: Nicole Rufus

Can You Freeze Snowball Cookies?

The dough balls can be frozen until solid, then stored in a zip-top bag in the freezer for up to two months. When ready to bake, let the dough balls sit on the baking sheet at room temperature while the oven is heating. Then add a couple of minutes to the bake time. You can also freeze the fully baked cookies without powdered sugar — just thaw completely before coating twice in powdered sugar.

Snowball Cookies Recipe

Mixed with toasted nuts and coated with powdered sugar, these five-ingredient cookies are a holiday classic.

Prep time 30 minutes to 35 minutes

Cook time 15 minutes to 16 minutes

Makes 36 (1.5-inch) cookies

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 2 sticks (16 tablespoons)

    unsalted butter

  • 1 cup

    walnuts

  • 2 cups

    all-purpose flour

  • 1 1/2 cups

    powdered sugar, divided

  • 2 teaspoons

    vanilla extract

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Place 2 sticks unsalted butter in the bowl of a stand mixer (or large bowl if using an electric hand mixer). Let sit at room temperature until the butter is softened. Meanwhile, place 1 cup walnuts in a large frying pan and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until fragrant and lightly browned, 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and let cool completely, about 20 minutes. Finely chop the nuts.

  2. Place the walnuts and 2 cups all-purpose flour in a medium bowl and stir to combine.

  3. Add 1/2 cup of the powdered sugar, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt to the bowl of butter. Beat with the paddle attachment, starting on low speed and gradually increasing to medium-high speed, until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Gradually add the flour mixture and beat on low speed until just combined.

  4. Transfer the dough to a sheet of plastic wrap, form it into a 1-inch-thick disc, and wrap completely in the plastic. Refrigerate until firm but still soft enough to scoop, 30 to 45 minutes.

  5. Arrange 2 oven racks to divide the oven into thirds and heat the oven to 350℉. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Place the remaining 1 cup powdered sugar in a shallow bowl or pie plate.

  6. Scoop the dough out into level 1-tablespoon portions (34 to 36). Roll into balls. Place the dough balls at least 2 inches apart on the baking sheets, 15 to 20 per sheet.

  7. Bake for 8 minutes. Rotate the baking sheets between racks and from front to back. Bake until the tops of the cookies are set and edges are golden-brown, 7 to 8 minutes more.

  8. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 10 minutes. While still warm, gently drop each cookie into the powdered sugar and flip to coat completely. Place in a single layer on a wire rack; reserve the remaining powdered sugar. Let cool completely, about 15 minutes more. Coat again in the powdered sugar.

Recipe Notes

Substitutions: An equal amount of pecans can be used in place of walnuts.

Make ahead: The dough balls can be frozen until solid, then stored in a zip-top bag in the freezer for up to 2 months. Let the dough balls sit on the baking sheet at room temperature while the oven is heating. Bake, adding 1 to 2 minutes to the bake time, and continue with coating with powdered sugar. You can also freeze the fully baked cookies without powdered sugar; thaw completely before coating twice in powdered sugar.

Storage: Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.