Walnut Snowball Cookies

Festive holiday cookies made from a mixture of finely chopped walnuts, flour and vanilla, rolled into little balls and dusted with powdered sugar.

You can make these cookies with wild black walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, hickory or butternuts -- all will work fine.

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: Makes about 20 cookies.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose or cake flour
  • 1 1/2 cups walnuts, finely chopped
  • 2-3 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 pound butter (at room temperature)
  • Pinch of salt
  • Powdered sugar, to coat (about 1 cup)

Method

1 Preheat the oven to 300°F and prepare a large cookie sheet.

2 Mix all the dry ingredients (flour, walnuts, salt, sugar) in a large bowl. Add the vanilla extract. Add the butter in little pieces, and combine everything together with your (clean!) hands until the mixture looks like a coarse meal with nut bits in it. Form the dough into small balls no larger than a walnut and place on the cookie sheet, spaced at least an inch apart from each other.

3 Bake for 35 minutes. When they are still warm, but cool enough to touch, roll the cookies in some powdered sugar. Set aside on a rack to cool completely. When cool, dust again in powdered sugar.

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Comments

  1. Maren

    I am not qualified to question any cook, but I really have to say that you MUST also include a teaspoon of almond extract with the vanilla. You won’t be sorry!

    Not a big fan of mixing the almond and walnuts flavors in the same cookie, but that’s just a personal thing. I also make a version of these cookies with orange flower water added in, too. REALLY good! ~Hank

  2. Susan

    I love Snowballs. They are what first pops into my head whenever anyone asks what Christmas cookies to make. What I also love about them, I am never on hold to make cookies because I might be out of eggs. They are as simple as shortbread but not as dependent on the quality of the butter for flavor. Perfect, I tell you!

  3. Ravenous Rowie

    YUM! I make a similar cookie with hazelnuts. SOOO good, and festive too!

  4. Steffi

    These look so good. Is there a good substitute for nuts? Would chopped oats work? We have a peanut allergy in our family, so we have to be extra careful about the cross contamination that often happens with tree nuts.

    Sorry, I know of nothing that could come close to replacing the nuts – they are the signature flavor in this cookie. Only thing I could suggest is to go out and pick some walnuts or other nuts yourself (which is what I do) so you will then be sure there’s no peanut contamination. ~Hank

  5. Jennifer Jo

    Yes, these ARE good. We call them Russian teacakes and they have Christmas written all over them.

    Another cookie that I learned to make just a couple years back is quite similar, but yet totally different. They are called Walnut Balls, and they are made out of ground walnuts, whole wheat flour, flax seed, maple syrup, vanilla, and chocolate chips. I detest healthy desserts and I LOVE these. (http://mamasminutia.blogspot.com/2008/12/but-then.html)

  6. Stephen

    When I proclaimed my innocence, mum noted the powdered sugar on my face.

    You should have claimed you had been snorting what you thought was cocaine but that your dealer was passing off powdered sugar as cocaine!

    Dude, I was like 10 years old! ~Hank

  7. Kristin

    These were my childhood favorite as well, and we called them butterballs. These days, I love the tip in the Bon Appétit recipe for Mexican wedding cakes to add 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon to the powdered sugar that you coat the cookie in. I’m snowed in today and was already thinking of making a batch with the kids, so I’m taking the timing of your post as the nudge I needed to get into the kitchen to make them!

  8. Laura @ SweetSavoryPlanet

    I have always made these with pecans because I am from the south and I am supposed to! This year I am making a batch with walnuts and I might get really crazy and do almonds.

    These cookies are delicious. One of son’s favorite which means there is not many left for others!

  9. Darby "The Dessert Diva"

    My Mom was famous for busting these out in an afternoon. We always had a can of these somewhere to snack on. She also made a version that had cocoa powder in the cookies and mixed with the powdered sugar that the cookies were rolled in. Now, can you imagine THOSE with your Orange water? Oh my…

  10. Karen

    I have a friend whose grandmother makes these and she always says “they’re just as light as an angel fart”, so that’s what we have called them for years: Angel Farts!

  11. Eli

    With these and chocolate rum balls, my Christmas is complete.

  12. Shannon

    My mother has been making these with pecans (always pre-toasted before baking) as holiday gifts for 30+ years. Many of them never make it to the final “dusted” stage (i.e. as a gift). They are so good before the dusting when still warm out of the oven! My Dad and I would often eat half her batch. Santa would get these with his glass of milk as well.

  13. Tina

    How long do you think these will stay fresh for? I’d like to make them for a holiday party, but am thinking one or two days ahead..

    You’ll be fine. These stay fresh for 4-5 days, easy. ~Hank

  14. Michele

    These were also my favorite growing up. They were so tender, they would crumble up if not handled gingerly. Other families made something that looked similar, but it always seemed to be a hard version, not soft or else had (ugh!) a licorice flavoring. i forgot about these. Sitting on the floor watching Rudolph and Charlie Brown at Christmas time while eating these. Happy memories.

  15. Tina

    These cookies freeze very well. I’ve been making them for years and back when I was much more efficient, I would start baking cookies for Christmas around the middle of November and I’d always start with the cookies that could be frozen. These were always made early because I’d have to hide them and the freezer was the perfect spot. My recipe also calls for confectioner’s sugar instead of granulated. I’ve had them made with both and the confectioner’s sugar produces a more tender cookie. Delicious either way!

  16. Suzy

    We always had these growing up, especially around the holidays…my mom called them Mexican Wedding cakes. I now make a la-di-da version with macadamia nuts. mmmmmmmmmmmmm

  17. Cubbief1

    My grandma always made these with pecans, but shaped them as crescents. My cousins and I still make them — and gobble them up before any other cookies, even chocolate chips!

  18. jonathan

    I’ve been waiting 28 years for someone to use the word ‘purloining’ correctly in a sentence.
    Thank you, Hank.

  19. Ophelia

    Russian Teacakes are a classic in my house every Christmas. My recipe is very similar but has less flour and uses powdered sugar in the cookies themselves, not just to coat.

    My mom and I always get a kick out of rolling the cookies in the sugar when they’re still hot from the oven and almost burning our finger tips. And oh darn it’s such a shame when one falls apart and we have to eat it!

  20. Brenda

    Can whole wheat flour be used or will the whole wheat flavor be to strong?

    Too strong is a relative concept. I’d eat these made with whole wheat flour, but then I like earthier flavors. Try a batch and let us know how it comes out! ~Hank

  21. cat

    made something similar growing up but it has dates in it too. mom always called them date nut balls and they were for sure my favorite holiday treat.

  22. Ginny

    Never posted a message to anyone before in my 80 years. Hope I get it right.

    Below is a recipe for Mexican Wedding Cakes that I have had in my collection for years. Don’t remember where I got it. Has been one of my favorites. Feel free to use it. Any recipes I collect these days are sourced.

    Mexican Wedding Cakes

    1 cup butter or margarine
    1/3 cup sugar
    1 teaspoon almond flavoring
    2-1/2 cups sifted flour
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 cup finely chopped Brazil nuts
    red and green food coloring

    Work butter and sugar in a bowl until creamy. Stir in flavoring. Stir in flour, salt and nuts and mix thoroughly. Divide dough in half. Stir a few drops of red coloring into one half; green coloring into the other. Chill several hours. Form into 1-inch balls. Place on greased baking sheets. Cover the bottom of a glass with damp cheesecloth and use it to flatten each ball to 1/4-inch thickness. Bake in a moderately low oven (325 degrees) 12 to 15 minutes or until the cookies start to brown a little around the edges. Makes about 3 dozen.

  23. Christina

    These are called “kourambiedes” in Greek! : ) My favourite!

  24. Dawn

    I made these with my mom growing up! My mom rolled those candied cherries sometimes in the center. Either way it was a treasure hunt when we were kids to find the cherry filled cookies.

  25. Shalome Stine

    I made these yesterday to give as part of the gifts we are giving to my husbands coworkers. These cookies are fabulous and easy to make. My husband’s coworkers did not get many of these because my family sucked them down before I could plate them!

  26. Jena

    These are my favorite holiday cookies, too. Once, when I was a kid, I thought these were the cookies on Grandma’s counter, but those turned out to be pfeffernusse. Ick. Those pfeffernusse turned me against molasses cookies forever.

  27. Anne

    Yum! I LOVE Walnuts, but my daughter is allergic. I would love to make these with her; could Almonds be used instead?

    Yep, almonds will work just fine, as will pecans, hickory nuts, hazelnuts, and even macadamia nuts. ~Hank

  28. Natasha Kravchuk

    Those are like my Russian tea cakes. I love those little Russian tea cookies. they are so easy to make and sooo good!

  29. Jeff

    Are the 1.5 cups of walnuts measured before or after chopping? If before chopping, were they measured whole, halved or broken? Giving the walnuts (and other ingredients) by weight would be very helpful here (and in general).

    It’s 1 1/2 cups of walnuts before chopping — halves and pieces. But it really doesn’t matter which state they are in, because a little variability in the amount of walnuts you get in the cookies won’t affect things much. ~Hank

  30. Manny

    I made these last night, they were a hit with my family! Everyone wants the recipe. They were so easy to make too.

  31. Kay

    I love these cookies! I always knew them as Mexican Wedding Cookies, and I’ve always had them with pecans and almond extract instead of vanilla. I once made them without the almond extract and I felt I was missing out somehow – I think its one of those things, where if you have it one way for your whole life, if you try it another, you may not like it.

    The best part is when you roll them in powdered sugar and all of a sudden what was once a dry cookie is now gooey and sugary!

  32. kathy

    I too have been making these cookies for many years. You only need to bake them for about 10 minutes, until they are set and not browned, not 35 minutes!
    We call them Russian Tea Cakes

  33. kathy

    oops! My recipe calls for a 400 degree oven! My version bakes up fast and only takes 10- 12 minutes.

  34. Erica

    OMG Just made them and they are so so so delicious. I just gave some to my friends and they said it’s the best that they’ve ever had. They are usually very dry, but these .. oh these. So delicious. When I tasted the uncooked dough, it seemed a little meh, so I doubled the vanilla extract. I think adding coffee extract along with vanilla extract would be good too. Next batch… (which I’ll be making in few days) I meant to give these away to several people, but I don’t think I can stop eating.. So gooooood!

  35. Danielle

    I’m currently making this recipe but for some reason my little cookies are melting after about 5 minutes in the oven … they’re not keeping their shape. Any suggestions?

    Huh. You’re sure you are following the recipe exactly? I’ve made these cookies many times and that has never happened to me… ~Hank

  36. Christina

    I love to use almonds and toast them first before I finely chop and add to recipe, really gives it flavor!

  37. Lynda

    This looks just like a recipe (passed down to me by my mom and grandma) that I thought I had lost forever when my computer died a few years ago. Most of the recipes that I have found since then call for anise flavoring – not the flavor of my childhood Snowballs. This recipe looks identical to mine, other than that mine uses pecans rather than walnuts.

    Thanks so much for the post – my mom and grandma have both passed away, so it is great to get some of these recipes back.

  38. Sharon

    I made these this weekend to take to our Christmas party at work. Delicious! I like them much better than the “hard type” that I have tried before. I didn’t make enough of them! The texture is very light & they crumble a bit when you bite into them, so I am storing them well covered in the refrigerator until the party.

  39. Mollie Rose

    I made these using this recipe and the cookies came out so good! These were always my favorites growing up and they definitely took me back to my childhood!

  40. Christine

    We make these cookies in my house but we put a halved cherry in the middle of the dough. it makes for an excellent surprise when you bite into them!

  41. Laura

    I made these for the very first time today. I remember an Italian grandmother friend who made them every Christmas and I loved them. I got concerned when I had a few crumble on me and a few flatten out, but after reading the comments on here, looks like I’m not the only one. Thanks for sharing the recipe

  42. Denisse

    I’m going to be making these to serve at xmas. Should I use salted or unsalted butter?

    Unsalted. I don’t like using salted butter because it affects the saltiness of everything else – I like to be able to control it myself. ~Hank

  43. Eryn

    This is a time-honoured family recipe, though we make them with ground almonds. We’ve always called them Four O’Clock Cookies.

  44. Jen S

    How yummy! These are nearly identical down to the measurements, to the snowball cookies I grew up with. Strange how I’ve never called them Russian or wedding or Mexican wedding cookies before. One of the first cookies I learned how to make in fact. As kids my siblings and I were in charge of the powdered sugar rolling. Now adults with our own kids these cookies are still required via my mom each Christmas.

  45. Shannon

    I tried to make these cookies, and half of them started melting in my oven. I left them alone, thinking I could salvage the ones that didn’t spread. But when I took them out of the oven to roll them in the powdered sugar, they crumbled!

    I’ve been baking for years, and this has never happened to me! So sad. :(

    Still a huge fan of your blog though!

    So weird! I’ve made this recipe for years and years, and they have never melted. Did you have the temperature at 300 degrees? They are supposed to be crumbly, though, which is why you make then one-bite cookies. ~Hank

  46. Uma

    I made these and they taste wonderful and were so easy to make. I think I’ll double the recipe the next time :)

  47. Ann

    I just made these last night and they are yummy! Just the right amount of sweet and I love walnuts anyway. Next time I make them I may try using almond meal instead of flour for a gluten-free alternative cookie. Thanks Hank for adding a new cookie to my repertoire!

  48. Jenny

    I just made these last night and they were delicious and easy!

  49. Eileen Morris

    Tried these cookies a few weeks ago, using a different recipe. By reading yours, I see my recipe used too much flour! No wonder they didn’t taste right. So glad I found this. Thanks so much!

  50. Heidi

    while my cookies tasted great, the cookies flattened out. Any tips for a better next time?

    Colder butter, and pack the balls a little tighter. A little flattening is normal, though. ~Hank

  51. Kristin

    OLD TIME classic Christmas cookie recipe. Also known as Russian tea cakes, Mexican wedding cakes etc. I make them every year. I do mine with finely chopped pecans.

  52. Donna Duke

    This is an ultra delicious cookie! I have added cocoa powder, plus more sugar occasionally to satisfy the chocolate lovers in my family.
    I have added more sugar to the basic recipe also, left as is, substituted walnuts for pecans, even added coconut as a variation. This cookie does need butter instead of shortening to make it richer. I have often dipped in chocolate instead of the powdered sugar.
    I have NEVER had this recipe fail.
    I know to double the recipe since the single recipe is never enough.

  53. Eileen

    Who says these cookies are only good at Christmastime? I made a batch today & they were delicious! I can always count on Hank to make me mix dough by hand. First, I think, “Ewwww!” but then the kid in me has a blast. The only change I made to the recipe was to add a little cinnamon to the coating sugar, as one of your readers suggested. I did a taste test both ways & that little bit of cinnamon was a beautiful final touch.

  54. Jessie

    I just made these cookies and they are delicious. I baked the first batch on a Silpat mat and 1/4 of them melted. The second batch I baked on parchment paper and didn’t have any issues. Maybe that’s why some people had problems with melting?

  55. Anonymous

    Room temperature butter? Please respond.

    Yes. ~Hank

  56. Anonymous

    Also, I forgot to ask in my question above how will using all purpose flour and cake flour be different than each other?will the color, texture, etc. be different?

    Using cake flour will result in a lighter cookie. Cake flour has less protein than all-purpose flour so it will not form tight gluten bonds, which can make the cookie tough. ~Hank

  57. Kitten

    Just made these last night for the first time, we had some black walnuts in the freezer that we hadn’t had a use for yet. Love the recipe, they turned out wonderfully, next time I think I’ll make them with a slightly sweeter nuts, the black walnuts were a little too bitter (but it was a great use for them! :-D)! Just in time for the holidays…or at least holiday shopping!

  58. Eileen

    If the cookies aren’t keeping shape, put them in the fridge for a bit to stiffen up the batter. It helps them keep their ball shape.
    These are my favorite too, Grandma made them with confection sugar as well. We are adopting the name “Angel Farts” this year!

  59. Jessica D

    Made these cookies as instructed except didn’t set the butter out before hand, so had to microwave it for 15 seconds. Batter, shape, etc, was great but I didn’t care for the taste particularly. Not sweet enough for my Christmas cookie taste. However, if this is the cookie you like, the recipe made the perfect cookie as is!

    Yep, you nailed it. I don’t particularly love super-sweet cookies. You can increase the sugar in the mix to bring it up if you’d like. ~Hank

  60. Mindy

    My mom used to make these when we were kids. She made 3 batches: 1 with nuts, 1 with cherries and 1 plain.
    I had a friend who used to put 2 chocolate chips in the center.
    still delicious!!

  61. Sharon

    They came out flat.

    No idea why that happened. They shouldn’t have. ~Hank

  62. Linda

    I was so happy to find this recipe, when I was younger (much) my mother made these cookies especially for me, I lived 1000 miles away and she would mail them to me and my family, unfortunately they did not ship very well and we received “crumbs” every year and enjoyed them immensely. My mother has since passed and I never thought to get her recipe, but, we just made this cookie. I made 4 batches so we could have some for Christmas. I am sorry this is so long however, thank you Hank for giving us not only a great cookie, but, my Mothers memory at this time of year of miracles. Thank you so much for bringing my mother so vividly to us for the holiday. God Bless you and yours and have a wonderful holiday

  63. Maria Amparan

    Hank, thank you for posting this recipe. It is the closest I’ve found to a cookie a co-worker’ sister makes. She refuses to share her secret. The biggest difference is that she puts some form of rum in it. Do you know of a recipe or cookie like this one that uses rum as an ingredient? I really enjoyed her cookies and would love to learn to make them myself.

  64. Priscilla

    The moment I stumbled on this recipe, I knew it was a dream come true! Now, I make these cookies regularly! They never last at my home. I only add one tablespoon of sugar in the batter, because my family hates overly sweet stuffs. So the sugar coating is more than enough! :) Thank you!

    I trust every single of your recipes, and I’ve tried a few recipes from your website especially the mashed potatoes. They never fail me, only garnering amazing compliments from my family & friends. :DD

  65. Liz T.

    I made these this morning for the first time. I added cocoa powder and doubled the recipe. They are absolutely delicious and were very simple to make. Next time I’ll make them without the cocoa just to try them that way. Great recipe.

  66. Eudocia

    I made these last night and I thought maybe there was a mistake in the recipe because of the texture of the cookies. I didn’t think the butter should be room temperature because the dough was so wet. I see you told one poster to use colder butter, but then said room temp. to someone else. Is the dough supposed to be loose like when you cut in butter to make crust? Mine flattened out and didn’t look anything like Mexican wedding cakes. I followed the recipe exactly–used a cup of cake flour–sifted. At a loss.

    • Elise

      Hi Eudocia, sorry it didn’t work for you! Here are some thoughts as to what might have gone wrong. “Room temperature” varies depending on the time of year. We typically make these cookies in winter when the room temp is closer to 68 or 70°F. So if you are making these in a warmer ambient temperature I recommend chilling the dough or the cookie dough balls before cooking, to help keep the cookies from spreading so much. (I’ve added that note to the recipe.) Also, not only do cup measures vary in sizes, but the way that people measure flour in cups varies too. The next time I make these cookies I’ll try to get a weight measure to share. But in the meantime, if the dough looks too wet, add more flour.