Quick and simple, not too sweet, nutty, buttery and downright addictive – these Mexican Wedding Cookies go by many names, and are great as Christmas cookies and as an edible gift during the holidays.
Plus, I have a simple trick to get a nice, thick coating of confectioner’s sugar on the cookies that won’t easily shake off.
Updated: December 2018
It feels bittersweet to be updating this post, because these Mexican Weeding Cookies were the very first recipe I shared on my blog when I launched it in August 2014! I’ve made the cookies many times since then, and they’ve come to be my husband’s favorite cookie ever in that time, so I figured it was time this post got an upgrade on my blog.
Besides, the pictures from that original post look ghastly, and these little guys deserve so much better!
I tried Mexican wedding cookies for the first time when I used to live in Australia, and my co-worker brought some in to work one day. One cookie and I was hooked!
These Mexican wedding cookies were unlike any cookie I’ve had before. All you see is a layer of powdered sugar on top at first, which quickly melts away, revealing a delightfully soft, nutty, buttery cookie that’s just so addictive with a perfect, not too sweet flavor.
Mexican wedding cookies are widely popular around the world, especially during the holidays. So much so, that these cookies have many different names…
- Snowball cookies
- Russian tea cakes
- Italian wedding cookies
- Danish wedding cookies
- Butter balls
- Kourabiedes (Greek butter cookies)
Apparently, they are also really popular at weddings.
These cookies have European roots, and were introduced to other parts of the world by travelers from Eastern European countries. The powdered sugar coating makes them look like snowballs, and they are known as butter balls because of just how buttery they taste!
Since being introduced to the Americas, they’ve only gained in popularity, especially at weddings and around Christmas time.
But no matter the occasion, no matter the name, these cookies are one of a kind, simple to make, and insanely addictive!
What are Mexican wedding cookies (Snowball cookies)?
Mexican wedding cookies are a variation of shortbread cookies, with the added taste and texture of nuts. They are made with,
- and ground nuts – pecans, almonds, walnuts, pistachios or even hazelnuts.
I like to use unsalted butter for this snowball cookies recipe, so that I can control how much salt I add. Plus, I find that unsalted butter makes shortbread cookies more buttery as well. I also like to use confectioner’s sugar instead of granulated sugar, because confectioner’s sugar makes these cookies softer – I’m talking melt in your mouth soft!
How to make Mexican wedding cookies?
Butter and sugar are mixed together with salt and vanilla using a hand-held mixer or stand mixer until light and fluffy. Then the flour and nuts are folded in to make the Mexican wedding cookie dough.
I also prefer to grind the nuts to a coarse texture, so that you end up with both finely ground and coarsely ground nuts, which really adds to the texture of these snowball cookies. I love tasting little chunks of nuts in these soft, buttery cookies!
Although I personally prefer making these cookies with almonds, classic Mexican wedding cookies are made with pecan, which happens to be my husband’s favorite too.
But I’ve also made these snowball cookies with walnuts and hazelnuts as well, and they are all great options.
What gives these cookies that classic snowball look is the powdered sugar that’s generously coating the cookies.
Coating the cookies in confectioner’s sugar while the cookies are warm. Note the thick layer of sugar melted onto the cookies on the baking tray
How to make sure your snowball cookies get a nice, thick coating of confectioner’s sugar
I’ve got a little trick to get the confectioner’s sugar to coat the snowball cookies. Other recipes for Mexican wedding cookies call for waiting until the cookies cool down and then rolling them in confectioner’s sugar TWICE. The confectioner’s sugar is only loosely coating the cookie this way, and most of it easily shakes off.
What I do instead is, I DIP these Mexican wedding cookies in confectioner’s sugar TWICE – once when the cookies are WARM, and then again when the cookies have cooled down.
Second coating of confectioner’s sugar. Note the difference in appearance between the cookies on the bottom left and upper left. They look more like snowballs with the second coating.
Why dip snowball cookies in confectioner’s sugar twice?
When you dip the cookies while they’re warm, the confectioner’s sugar melts on to the surface of the cookie, creating a nice, thick layer that’s firmly coating the cookie. Then you dip them again, where the second coating of sugar gives them that characteristic snowball appearance, while also sticking to the first layer. While a little of the sugar may still get shaken off, it’s much less this way than if you rolled cooled down cookies twice in sugar.
How can I store Mexican wedding cookies?
Once the snowball cookies are cooled down and coated in confectioner’s sugar for the second time, they should be stored in an air-tight container. These are good for about 10-14 days, but will last even longer in the freezer.
Can I freeze Mexican wedding cookies for later?
Yes, you can! If you’re planning on freezing these Mexican wedding cookies, then you should freeze them after you’ve coated the cookies in confectioner’s sugar the FIRST time, and in a single layer on a sheet pan. Then once frozen, you can transfer the cookies into freezer bags and store them for up to 2 months in the freezer. To thaw them, leave the cookies out at room temp., and once thawed out, coat them in the second layer of confectioner’s sugar before serving.
Alternatively, you can portion the cookie dough into balls, and freeze the raw cookie dough balls instead. Again, freeze them in a single layer on a sheet pan first, then transfer frozen cookie dough balls into freezer bags. And when you’re ready to bake, you can place the cookie dough balls on prepared pans and bake them straight from frozen.
These Mexican wedding cookies (or snowball cookies or Russian tea cakes or whichever name you use for these cookies) are so adaptable, really simple to make, not too sweet, and just downright addictive. They are great Christmas cookies and for gift-giving during the holidays too.
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Mexican Wedding Cookies
- 8 oz unsalted butter, at room temperature 1 cup
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 3.5 oz confectioner's sugar plus more for coating (3/4 cup)
- 5.25 oz finely chopped pecans (with some coarsely chopped pieces too) 1 cup (almonds OR walnuts OR hazelnuts can be used as well)
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 8.8 oz AP flour 2 cups (spooned and leveled)
- Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper. Set aside until needed.
- In a bowl, beat the butter, sugar, vanilla and salt together at medium high speed using a stand mixer or hand-held mixer, until light and fluffy. This can take about 4 - 5 minutes depending on the weather and the butter.
- Add the ground pecans (or any other type of nuts you like) and mix in to combine well.
- Add the flour and mix on low until a stiff dough is formed.
- Using a 2 tbsp cookie scoop - portion out the cookie dough onto a parchment paper-lined pan, or container (in one layer). Roll these portions to form smooth cookie dough balls (or any shape you like for your cookies) and place them in the fridge to chill completely (at least 30 - 45 minutes).
- Preheat oven to 325°F/165°C when you're ready to bake the cookies.
- Remove the chilled cookie balls from the fridge and place them on a prepared half sheet pan with at least 2 inches of space between each cookie. You can keep the cookies round, or gently press on top with your fingers to flatten them slightly.
- Bake for 15 - 20 minutes. The cookies will be golden brown on the bottom, but just a pale golden color on top. Cool the cookies for about 5 minutes and then roll them in powdered sugar while they are still warm. Place the coated cookies on a cooling tray, and let them cool completely.
- Coat the cooled cookies in an additional layer of confectioner's sugar to give them the characteristic snowball look.
- Store in an airtight container. This recipe makes about 30 cookies.