Melt-in-your-mouth, easy to make almond cookies using 5 ingredients that will bring raves. Huge raves! You might also know them as butterballs or Russian tea cakes. You can make them with different nuts and keep well for a few weeks. They never disappoint and are perfect for gift giving.
As far as Christmas cookies go, these little sugar-coated butter cookies are the best. Who doesn't need an easy recipe for holiday gifting?
You can wrap them and give them as hostess gifts, or take them to whatever party you're going to where you don't want to arrive empty-handed. They are a crowd-pleaser. Great with coffee, mulled wine, or as an after-dinner sweet bite.
Similar to my beloved Pistachio Butter Cookies I usually make them with almonds but traditional snowball cookies are many times made with pecans. I also tried them with walnuts and think most ground nuts work here.
They are only four main ingredients in these cookies. I like to add flavorings, but let me tell you now that they are amazing even without them.
- Almonds: I buy nonpareil because they are easily available and the best if you want to remove the skins. But you can use Marcona or any other you like.
- Powdered sugar: the amount is small but very necessary for the melt in your mouth quality of these cookies. Using granulated sugar will not give the same results.
- Butter: use unsalted and the best you can afford. They are butter cookies after all.
- Flour: this recipe works with both all purpose flour and cake flour.
- Flavorings: they are optional, not essential for the cookies to be delicious, but I sometimes add vanilla extract and pure almond extract that add a nice depth of flavor.
Making the dough
This cookie recipe is made in one bowl and can be easily doubled or tripled.
- You can use an electric mixer (image 1) for the first part, but make sure you mix it just until it comes together after adding the flour. Don't over mix it to prevent the cookies from toughening up after they are baked.
- I like to use a spatula to fully mix in the flour (image 2) but that depends on the amount of snowball cookie dough you're making. For large quantities, a spatula is not very convenient.
- Final dough: it's soft and slightly sticky (image 3), and it needs to rest in the refrigerator for several hours, so take that into account. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or with freezer sheets like I do (image 4).
- Powdered sugar coating: after the cookies are baked, they are rolled in powdered sugar while still warm (but not hot) so it adheres well.
WATCH THE STEP-BY-STEP VIDEO 👇🏻
Toasting the nuts
Toasting, in general, opens flavors. Such is the case with spices and seeds that are toasted in a skillet or low oven before going into a dish or salad.
The same goes for the almonds in this recipe. I believe they make a difference. BUT, make no mistake, this recipe is amazing even without the toasted nuts.
Be aware that it takes a few minutes to toast and a few seconds to burn. So once they go into the oven keep an eye on them. It's fine to leave the skin on. It will simply crack open here and there. Let them cool down completely before grinding.
Every year I decide to make homemade gifts to give to friends, and every year I fail lol. Maybe this will be the year. And this is certainly a fitting recipe.
- They travel well.
- Can be made ahead.
- Can be flavored with different spices, citrus zest, and extracts.
- Are delicious plain or glazed, as we do with the Pistachio Butter Balls.
- You'll be hard to find someone that doesn't swoon over them!
My top tips
- Organization: always read the recipe first and make sure you have all the ingredients, at the right temperatures, and also the rest of the equipment and space to make it. This will make the process so much easier!
- Baking time: keep in mind that all ovens and pans are different, even if they look the same or very similar. The baking time in my recipes is as accurate as it can be, but it might take you more or less time. You can use a thermometer that is placed inside the oven (like the OXO oven thermometer) to check that your oven is at the right temperature. I recommend you keep track of how your oven works and what tiny details you might need to adjust.
- Butter: make sure it's at room temperature. You should be able to make this recipe by hand with a whisk.
- Toasting the nuts: as I explain before, lightly toasting the almonds add a lot to the flavor of the cookie. Be aware that it takes a few minutes to toast and a few seconds to burn. So once they go into the oven keep an eye on them. It's fine to leave the skin on. It will simply crack open here and there. Let them cool down completely before grinding.
- Storing: the baked cookies keep very well for a few weeks if stored in an airtight container, tins or cookie jars.
- Make ahead: the dough is similar to shortbread, so you can freeze the unbaked cookie balls before baking, well wrapped, for a month. Bake directly from the freezer.
- Variations: use a different nut such as walnuts or pecans. Add citrus zest (lemon and orange work very well). Add mini chocolate chips. Add a spice, such as ground cinnamon or cardamom.
Frequently asked questions
They are not really Mexican, and they appear to have been named like that as a counterpart to the Russian tea cakes (which is basically the same cookie) decades ago during the cold war.
If you call them snowballs the origin is said to go back to the 1800s in NYC.
The original cookie probably dates back centuries and originated in the Middle East as they have similar cookies with different names.
They crumble too much and fall apart when they don't have enough moisture which comes from the butter. They are crumbly cookies, make no mistake about that. But they hold their shape. If you're not able to take a piece of dough and form it into a moist ball you need to add more butter, maybe a few teaspoons. Adding a teaspoon of milk will also bind the dough.
Absolutely! I like to freeze the formed balls on the baking sheet. And then transfer the rock-solid pieces to a plastic bag so they don't take up space in the freezer. Baked cookies can also be frozen before rolling them in sugar.
Related recipes you might like:
Let me know in the comments below if you made this recipe and loved it and if you had issues so we can troubleshoot together. I love to hear what you think, always. Thanks for being here. It's much appreciated.
You might also consider subscribing to our FREE email series to Boost your Home Baking Skills! And our regular newsletter.
And let's connect via Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.
- 1 cup butter, at room temperature
- 4 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
- ½ teaspoon almond extract
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- ¾ cup ground almonds, toasted if you want to (see Notes below)
- Extra powdered sugar, for coating the cookies
- In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until creamy and smooth. Add almond extract and beat well.
- Add flour, 1 cup at a time and then the almonds. Mix just until smooth.
- Gather into a ball, wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 3 hours.
- Preheat oven to 350º. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
- Roll portions of cold dough between your palms to form balls. Place 1-inch apart on lined baking tray.
- Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until they are a bit golden and cracked.
- Let cool on a wire rack. Roll in some extra confectioners' sugar to coat.
- These cookies freeze well unbaked. When you need them, just line them up on a parchment-lined or greased baking tray, thaw, and bake.
I buy nonpareil because they are easily available and the best if you want to remove the skins. But you can use Marcona or any other you like.
Powdered sugar: the amount is small but very necessary for the melt in your mouth quality of these cookies. Using granulated sugar will not give the same results.
make sure it's at room temperature. You should be able to make this recipe by hand with a whisk.
Toasting the nuts: lightly toasting the almonds adds a lot to the flavor of the cookie. But they're still great with natural almonds. To toast them: put whole almonds on a baking sheet and bake in a 300°- 325°F oven for about 15 minutes, until the skin starts to crack and the aroma is nutty. Watch them closely so they don't burn. The time might vary depending on the oven.
Storing: the baked cookies keep very well for a few weeks if stored in airtight containers, tins, or cookie jars.
Make ahead: the dough is similar to shortbread, so you can freeze the unbaked cookie balls before baking, well wrapped, for a month. Bake directly from the freezer.
Variations: use a different nut such as walnuts or pecans. Add citrus zest (lemon and orange work very well). Add mini chocolate chips. Add a spice, such as ground cinnamon or cardamom.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Refrigeration + cooling down: 130 minutes
- Cook Time: 15 minutes
- Category: Cookies
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: American
- Serving Size: 1/24
- Calories: 157
- Sugar: 6.4 g
- Sodium: 1.4 mg
- Fat: 10 g
- Carbohydrates: 15.2 g
- Protein: 2.1 g
- Cholesterol: 20.3 mg
Keywords: snowballs, mexican wedding cookies