Walnut Snowballs (aka Mexican Wedding Cookies or Russian Tea Cakes)
Snowball cookies are a soft and sweet classic Christmas cookie recipe filled with walnuts. You may have heard them called Mexican Wedding Cookies or Russian Tea Cakes, but this family favorite is known as Snowballs in our house. And the key to making them the best is a double roll in powdered sugar!
Originally published December 21, 2012. Updated photos and helpful information.
Snowball Cookies with Walnuts
My very first teacher was my very best teacher. Naturally, that’s my mom. I learned everything from my mom. Well, everything that matters.
She taught me how to love and care for others and accept love in return. I learned from her how to put others’ needs first and how to encourage achievement, and accept the best effort from someone, whatever that person’s best actually is. She taught me how to listen, and to be sensitive and understanding.
She also taught me practical things like how to change diapers. And how to coordinate the timing of food preparation for family dinners. Even things like how to iron, vacuum, dust, and do laundry.
One thing I taught myself, though, was how to make snowball cookies. And since they are her favorite, she deserves to have her very own batch made for her every year. So I’ve become a bit of a pro at making this classic Christmas cookie, and I am happy to share these cookies with her and the recipe with you.
What are Snowball cookies?
Often referred to as Russian Tea Cakes, Mexican Wedding Cookies, or Butterballs, these are a nutty, buttery cookie that is soft and tender, and melts in your mouth. It’s an easy cookie dough made simply from butter, powdered sugar, salt, flour, and vanilla. Then you stir in nuts, roll them into balls, and bake.
Some people make snowballs with pecans or even pistachios And you can certainly do the same with this recipe. But to make them the way we love the most, these are snowballs with walnuts.
How do you make the best snowball cookies?
While the cookies themselves are easy to make, there is one trick that makes this snowball cookies recipe. The key is double rolling in powdered sugar. That right, they are rolled not once, but twice.
After they come out of the oven, you roll them while they are still slightly warm. The powdered sugar melts slightly forming almost an icing-like coating. Then once they are cooled complete, roll them again for that perfectly powdery coating. That first roll makes sure the second roll sticks and doesn’t fall right off the cookie.
Let me share all of my tips, tricks, and decades-worth of expertise with you.
How to make Snowball Cookies
With only six basic ingredients, this Snowballs cookie recipe is one can throw together pretty much any time by just grabbing a few things out of your pantry. But because of their snowy festive appearance, they are definitely favorites of Santa. So be sure to add them to your Christmas cookie platter. I know they are part of my holiday baking plans every year!
What you need
- Butter – unsalted is preferred, softened to room temperature
- Powdered sugar – you’ll need some for the dough as well as additional for rolling the cookies
- All-purpose flour – you can also make gluten free snowball cookies using a 1:1 gluten free baking blend, such as Bob’s Red Mill
- Walnuts – buy a bag of pre-chopped walnuts or chop them yourself
Making the snowballs
As with most cookie doughs, start by creaming the butter powdered sugar, and salt. Blend in the vanilla, then gradually add the flour. The dough becomes quite stiff, so I recommend a strong stand mixer or the paddle attachment on your KitchenAid mixer.
As you get towards the end, you may find you’ll have to finish mixing it by hand with a wooden spoon or spatulas. For working in the walnuts, it’s best to switch to that spoon or spatula.
Why is my snowball cookie dough crumbly?
If you find that the dough is crumbly, you probably just need to keep working it a little longer and it will come together. It may just be that your butter wasn’t soft enough, and it will soften more as you work in the flour. The other tip is to make sure you lightly spoon the flour into the measuring cup then level off so that you don’t pack too much flour into the dough and end up with dry cookies.
Chill the dough for about 30 minutes to an hour. Then scoop out about a tablespoon at a time and roll into tight 1-inch balls. Place on an ungreased baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes. You want them set and ever-so-slightly golden, but not browned.
NordicWare Baking Sheets are workhorses in my kitchen. From roasting veggies to sheet pan meals, cookies to cake rolls, we use them almost daily. They are light, and the aluminum distributes the heat evenly.
Now for the key to perfect snowballs – the powdered sugar double roll. While they bake, get a bowl of powdered sugar ready. Take them out of the oven and let them cool for just a minute or two. Long enough that they aren’t too hot to handle or still so soft that they crumble. But warm enough that that powdered sugar sticks well and almost melts onto them.
Cool the cookies completely and roll them once again in the bowl of powdered sugar. Now you have the perfect snowball cookies with walnuts!
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you make snowball cookies without walnuts?
Sure, you can omit the walnuts and just end up with a lovely buttery cookie. You can also replace them with your favorite nuts. Pecans are quite common, but feel free to try chopped pistachios, almonds, or even something out of the box like hazelnuts, cashews, or macadamia nuts.
Can you make the dough ahead?
Yes, you can make the cookie dough several hours or even a day in advance. Just cover it tightly and store it in the refrigerator until you are ready to bake. You may need to let it warm up slightly to be able to scoop the dough balls.
It can even be frozen for up to two months either before or after you roll the balls. Just thaw in the refrigerator and take out of the fridge shortly before baking.
How do you store snowball cookies?
Snowballs can be kept at room temperature for up to a week if sealed well in an airtight container. I recommend placing them in a plastic Ziploc bag and squeezing out all of the air before sealing. Then place the bag inside a cookie tin or plastic container to keep out more air and prevent the cookies from breaking.
Can they be frozen?
Yes, you can freeze them for up to two months. You can either freeze them after the first roll in powdered sugar, then give them the second roll after they thaw. Or freeze the finished cookies knowing that they might not be quite so powdery after being frozen.
I like to put them in a plastic freezer storage bag and press out all of the air before sealing. Then place the bag in a cookie tin or plastic storage container. This helps keep them from getting crushed and crumbly while you have them in the freezer because they are a tender cookie.
More classic Christmas cookies
- Almond Crescent Cookies
- Crackly Gingersnaps
- Peanut Butter Cookies
- Cut-Out Sugar Cookies from In Katrina’s Kitchen
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
- Additional powdered sugar for rolling the cookies
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Using a hand mixer #f9b345stand mixer, in a large bowl, cream the butter, 1/2 cup powdered sugar, and salt.
- Blend in the vanilla.
- Gradually add the flour, blending until well combined.
- Using a spoon or spatula, work the nuts into the dough.
- Chill dough in the refrigerator until firm, about 30 minutes (can be left overnight) .
- Form the dough into 1-inch balls and place on ungreased cookie sheets.
- Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until barely set, but not browned.
- Cool on the pan for just a couple of minutes, roll the warm cookies in powdered sugar, and place on a rack to cool completely.
- Once cooled completely, roll in powdered sugar again.