Every holiday cookie tray needs a few of these buttery, melt-in-your-mouth Snowball Cookies. Studded with pecans and rolled or dusted with powdered sugar, they’re a classic and one of those cookies that is loved by so many. Here we show you how to make them as Gluten Free Snowball Cookies with a dairy-free option, so all can enjoy!
Notice we said, “Pass the cookies” and not, “We’’ll pass on the cookies”. There’s a big difference there. These snowball cookies are gluten-free and egg-free and can easily be made dairy-free so that you, or those you love who may have a food allergy, can enjoy one of the sweetest (pun intended) holiday traditions: making and sharing cookies.
You may know these popular cookies by the name of Russian Tea Cakes or Wedding Tea Cakes. Since there doesn’t seem to be a clear-cut answer as to what differentiates these cookies from one another, we’ve taken to calling them Pecan Snowball Cookies. We know that no matter what name you call them, you’ll find our gluten-free version to be delicious and the perfect addition to a holiday cookie tray or your next cup of coffee or tea.
Ingredients for Snowball Cookies
Yep, that’s it! It only takes six ingredients to make these classic Snowball Cookies. Here’s what you need to gather:
- Pecans – you can use pecan halves or pieces, as they will get ground finely
- Butter – we prefer unsalted butter; to make these cookies dairy-free and/or vegan, substitute vegan or plant-based butter
- Pure vanilla extract – good quality vanilla is a splurge, but worth it, since the vanilla flavor really comes through. It’s especially noticeable in recipes with just a few ingredients, like these snowball cookies
- Gluten-free flour blend – We recommend (and test all of our recipes with) Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free 1:1 Baking Flour. If you don’t need this snowball cookie recipe to be gluten-free, you can use an equal amount of unbleached all-purpose flour
- Powdered sugar – this is what makes the “snow” on these snowball cookies
For the complete directions and ingredient amounts, scroll down to the recipe card below. All of our recipes include the nutrition information, listing kcals, protein, carbohydrates, cholesterol, fiber, sugar, sodium, total fat, and more per serving.
Ingredient Spotlight: Pecans
Pecans are not only delicious with a naturally buttery taste, but they also offer a host of health benefits, including:
- Good source of calcium, potassium, and magnesium which are minerals that play a role in lowering blood pressure
- Rich source of monounsaturated fats which are important for lowering LDL cholesterol levels
- Contain 19 vitamins and minerals
- A 1-ounce serving (28 grams) provides 3 grams of fiber to support optimal gut-health
Here are the 6 basic steps to make these Russian Tea Cake cookies today:
- Chop the nuts: Place the pecans in the bowl of a food processor and pulse several times until half of the nuts are very finely chopped.
- Mix the cookie dough: Cream together the butter and vanilla using a hand mixer or stand mixer. Add the flour, powdered sugar, salt, and pecans.
- Chill the dough: Cover the bowl with a lightly damp towel or plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
- Roll the dough into balls: Remove the dough from fridge and roll it into 28-30 balls (slightly smaller than a golf ball).
- Bake the cookies: Place 14-15 balls on each of two large rimmed baking sheets lined with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Bake until the balls are set, dry to the touch, and lightly brown on the bottoms.
- Add the “snow”: Roll the cookies in powdered sugar, then allow them to cool for several hours. This will ensure the best texture as they are very fragile when removed from the oven but will firm up as they cool. We find that their texture is best the next day!
The Secret is Letting Them Cool Properly
The secret to perfect gluten-free snowball cookies isn’t the ingredients, it’s how you make them. Or more importantly, how you cool them. Like most gluten-free baked goods, the longer you allow them to cool (overnight is ideal), the better the texture of the crumb will be.
Frequently Asked Questions
Pecan Snowball Cookies are a simple cookie made with flour, butter, pecans, powdered sugar, vanilla, and salt. You may also hear them called ‘Russian Tea Cakes’ or ‘Mexican Wedding Cakes’.
There are two ways you can add the powdered sugar garnish to this snowball cookie recipe. After baking, you can either roll the cookies in powdered sugar or you can put the powdered sugar in a fine-mesh strainer and dust the cookies.
Yes! These cookies freeze very well and can be frozen for up to 3 months. They are quite fragile thanks to their tender crumb so we recommend storing them in a glass or plastic container with lid to avoid being crushed in the freezer.
Recipe Swaps and Substitutes
Make it Dairy-Free
Easily make this Snowball Cookie recipe dairy-free and vegan by replacing the butter with a plant-based stick butter. We like Miyokos Unsalted European Style Cultured Vegan Butter and Good & Gather Organic Plant-Based Buttery Sticks
Make It Gluten-Free
These cookies can easily be gluten-free with a simple flour by swapping the regular flour in this recipe for a gluten-free one-to-one flour blend. We recommend using Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free 1:1 Flour Blend for best results.
Make it Vegan
These Snowball cookies can be an easy vegan cookie recipe. Just replace the unsalted butter with a vegan stick butter of choice (see above for our recommendations).
About Snowball Cookies: It’s the Nuts!
So what makes these delectable little bites more of a Russian Tea Cakes recipe instead of Mexican Wedding Cakes? It’s the pecans and they way they’re shaped. Russian Tea Cakes are traditionally made with pecans and rolled into balls while Mexican Wedding Cakes are most often made with almonds and shaped into crescent (moon) shapes. Russian Tea Cakes are a popular cookie enjoyed during the holidays in the U.S. and are sometimes called ‘snowballs’ because of their shape and powdery white sugar coating.
Now it’s your turn to bring back a classic
If you’ve been missing those sweet little bites around the holidays or just want something to make your next cup of tea even better, give these Gluten-Free Russian Tea Cakes a try!
- 1 ½ cups raw pecan halves or pieces
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened*
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 2 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour or gluten-free flour blend**
- ⅔ cups powdered sugar + more for dusting or rolling
- ¼ teaspoon fine salt
- Place the pecans in the bowl of a food processor and pulse several times until half of the nuts are very finely chopped (almost like flour or nut meal) and about half are in small, coarse pieces. Set aside.
- Cream together the butter and vanilla using a hand mixer or stand mixer.
- Add the flour, powdered sugar, salt, and pecans. Start the mixer on low then gradually increase the speed to high. The dough will look very dry and crumbly at first, but trust the process, and keep mixing until it comes together into a smooth ball.
- Cover the bowl with a very lightly damp towel or plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
- While the dough chills, preheat the oven to 400℉ and line two large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats and set aside.
- Remove the dough from fridge and use your hands to roll it into 28-30 balls (each slightly smaller than a golf ball).
- Place 14-15 balls on each of the two prepared baking sheets. Bake on the middle rack (one sheet at a time) for 9-12 minutes or until balls are set, dry to the touch, and lightly brown on the bottoms.
- Remove the pan from the oven and allow the cookies to cool on the pan for at least 10 minutes before carefully transferring them to a wire cooling rack with a spatula (not your hands). Note: These cookies are very fragile when first removed from the oven but will firm up as they cool.
- Roll the cookies in powdered sugar (or dust them with powdered sugar if you prefer them to be less sweet) then allow them to cool for several hours. This will ensure the best texture and will help them firm up more. We find that these cookies have the best texture the day after baking!
- Store the cookies at room temperature in a tightly covered container for up to 1 week or freeze for longer storage.
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* For vegan or dairy-free cookies, use plant-based stick butter. We recommend Miyokos Unsalted European Style Cultured Vegan Butter and Target’s Good & Gather Organic Plant-Based Buttery Sticks
** You may use regular all-purpose flour if you don’t need cookies that are gluten free. For gluten-free cookies, we recommend Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free 1:1 Baking Flour.
- Serving Size: 1 cookie
- Calories: 150
- Fat: 10 g
- (Sat Fat: 4 g)
- Sodium: 25 mg
- Carbohydrate: 13 g
- (Fiber: 1 g
- Sugar: 3 g)
- Protein: 1 g
- Cholesterol: 17 mg
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