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Pecan Butterballs

From the book Christmas Cookies by


Tender, crumbly, melt-in-your-mouth cookies appear in many international cuisines: they might be Greek kourabiedes, Mexican wedding cookies, Russian tea cakes, or what are more commonly known as snowballs or butterballs. The recipes rely on at least one cup of butter, finely chopped or ground nuts, and a generous coating of snow-white powdered sugar (hence the reference to snow or weddings in some of their names). I grew up calling them “pecan butterballs,” which perfectly describes these chubby, buttery, pecan-studded treats.


16 Tbsp. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup confectioners’ sugar, plus about 1¼ cups for coating the cookies
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
¼ tsp. salt
cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup finely chopped pecans


  1. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter in a large bowl until creamy. Add ½ cup of the confectioners’ sugar and beat until smooth. Beat in the vanilla and salt. With the beaters on low speed, mix in the flour just until incorporated. Mix in the pecans.
  2. Using your hands, gather the dough into a ball inside the bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for about 30 minutes. (The dough becomes very firm when refrigerated for a longer time, but it will soften after about 1 hour at room temperature.)
  3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line 1 or 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  4. Pinch off small clumps of dough and roll into 1-inch balls, arranging them about 1½ inches apart on the prepared sheet(s). Bake for 11 to 12 minutes or until the cookies are lightly golden on the bottom and just barely beginning to color on top. (If using 2 cookie sheets, rotate them from top to bottom and front to back about halfway through baking.) Let the cookies cool on the sheets for about 5 minutes.
  5. Place the remaining 1¼ cups confectioners’ sugar in a shallow bowl. While the cookies are still warm, roll them in the sugar to coat. (Be gentle, because the cookies are fragile.) Set them on a rack to cool. Just before serving or storing, recoat the cookies with sugar.

This content is from the book Christmas Cookies by Lisa Zwirn.

There are 13 comments on this item
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30% recommend this recipe
1. by nicole309 on Dec 20, 2008 at 2:30 PM PST

These truly are my favorite Christmas cookie. I just posted about them on my blog.

2. by hotmama on Dec 20, 2008 at 3:56 PM PST

Nothing says “Christmas” like these luscious, nutty, powdery cookies. I don’t even mind the trace of powdered sugar on my red reindeer sweater. YUM!!!!

3. by Xanthippe on Dec 20, 2008 at 3:58 PM PST

Because I’m such a hazelnut “nut,” I often use them in this recipe, rather than pecans. Almonds are good too, imparting an unmatched sweetness to these delectable cookies; and walnuts add their own special goodness. The bottom line here is: one can’t go wrong with this recipe!

4. by Acook on Dec 20, 2008 at 4:05 PM PST

I used 1cup of hazelnuts this year too since other holiday recipes already included pecans. Loved the extra tsp. of vanilla in this version.

5. by Marilyn Noble on Dec 20, 2008 at 4:28 PM PST

I used to make these all the time, but somehow they disappeared from my cookie repertoire. Thanks for the reminder, and thanks to all of you who commented with your “nutty” suggestions.

6. by The Lucky Ladybug on Dec 20, 2008 at 8:11 PM PST

These cookies are an all-time favorite :) Thanks for the giveaway!

7. by hotmama on Dec 20, 2008 at 8:41 PM PST

So I remembered the story on this cookie from “Martha Stewart’s Christmas” - she had a beau over to the house and her brothers replaced the Tea Cakes that she had baked with Styrofoam and confectioners sugar as a joke. Ho, ho, ho! Must have been a hoot!

8. by Teacher A on Dec 20, 2008 at 9:53 PM PST

I think these are my dad’s favorite Christmas cookie.

9. by ivyt on Dec 21, 2008 at 11:51 AM PST

Who can resist these?. So easy to make.

10. by Eric on Dec 21, 2008 at 12:13 PM PST

These look good!

11. by That's nuts! on Dec 22, 2008 at 5:56 AM PST

These are one of my Mom and my favorite cookie.

12. by rtysons on Dec 22, 2008 at 9:35 AM PST

YUM, though we have a varient that uses oatmeal instead of nuts that I like even more!

13. by damons on Dec 22, 2008 at 9:37 AM PST

Ooo, one of my favorites!

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