Butter Pecan Cookies

November 19, 2018

Test Kitchen-Approved

Author Notes: This type of cookie goes by many names: Mexican wedding cookies, Danish wedding cookies, Russian tea cakes, snowballs, butter balls. But the idea stays the same: a buttery, nutty, crumbly cookie, tossed in more confectioners’ sugar than seems appropriate. Here, I brown the butter to amplify its flavor, toast the nuts, and up the usual amount of them. They’re just as welcome on a holiday table as they are on the couch.Emma Laperruque

Makes: 32 cookies
Prep time: 1 hrs
Cook time: 40 min


  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (2 1/4 sticks, 256 grams) unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup (84 grams) confectioners’ sugar, plus more for dredging
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 cups (232 grams) chopped pecans
  • 2 cups (256 grams) all-purpose flour
In This Recipe


  1. Brown the butter: Add the butter to a large skillet and set on the stove over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until it turns a chestnutty brown. It will sputter a lot at first, then foam, then you’ll start seeing these bits on the bottom going from golden to brown to mahogany. Just before it burns, turn off the heat, and pour the brown butter into a heatproof bowl (preferably one that’s large enough to mix the rest of the cookie dough). Immediately add 2 tablespoons water to the emptied, off-the-heat pan (be careful, it may spatter a bit). Use a wooden spoon to scrape up any remaining buttery bits, then add that liquid to the brown butter in the bowl.
  2. Refrigerate or freeze the brown butter until solid but softish, like you would normally use for chocolate chip cookies.
  3. Meanwhile, toast the pecans. Heat the oven to 350°F. Line a sheet pan with parchment or a silicone mat. Add the pecans and bake for about 8 to 10 minutes, or until fragrant and deeply browned. Cool completely.
  4. When the pecans are totally cool, add them to a food processor. Pulse until they’re very finely ground, scraping down the food processor as needed. Watch these closely! Because pecans are so rich and fatty, they go from finely ground to pecan butter in the blink of an eye. They skip that floury stage that you’d get with almonds.
  5. If the chilled butter isn’t already in a large bowl, transfer it to one. Add the confectioners’ sugar (preferably through a fine-mesh sieve to remove any lumps, but no big deal if you don’t have one). Use a spoon or rubber spatula to combine until totally smooth. Add the salt and stir. Add the ground pecans and stir. Add the flour and stir until a cohesive dough forms.
  6. If the dough is wet and/or soft, refrigerate for a bit until it’s firm enough for you to scoop and roll into balls. If the oven isn’t still at 350°F, bring it back. Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper or silicone mats.
  7. Scoop the dough into heaping tablespoons and roll each into a ball. You should get about 32. Add these to the lined sheet pans, evenly spaced out with a couple of inches between each—they won’t spread too much. Bake for about 16 minutes, until deeply golden brown. Repeat in batches if needed.
  8. Let the cookies cool for at least 10 minutes on the tray, until they’re sturdy enough to transfer to a cooling rack. There, cool completely.
  9. When the cookies are cool, dredge them in powdered sugar: Dump about 2 cups of powdered sugar on a rimmed plate or in a bowl. Roll around each cookie until completely coated.

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Reviews (14) Questions (0)

14 Reviews

strawberrygirl December 8, 2018
Any idea how these would fare if you froze the dough balls before baking? I'm thinking about adding these to my holiday baking lineup this year but my usual strategy is to make doughs that can be frozen (as balls or sliceable logs) so that I can bake some now and replenish the supply of freshly baked cookies as the holiday season goes on.
Patty December 8, 2018
I use your freeze and bake strategy as well. I froze these cookies and baked some off and they were great. I opted not to bake straight from the freezer as I felt these needed a bit of a thaw. Left on the counter for 15 minutes and then ended up adding an extra minute to baking time. They are phenomenal cookies!
Author Comment
Emma L. December 9, 2018
Thanks for sharing this reply, Patty!
Emily W. December 6, 2018
I made these cookies last night for the first time and they are delicious!! I followed the recipe as stated but they turned out a bit dry/crumbly. Any thoughts on what I should add next time to moisten them up a bit? More butter? Milk? Just a little water? Thanks!!
Author Comment
Emma L. December 6, 2018
Hi Emily! So glad you enjoyed. Two thoughts: You could bake them a smidgen less, or just add another tablespoon or so of water to the dough.
jayaymeye December 8, 2018
I had the same problem and I think maybe because I overlooked the water de-glazing the brown butter pan part. Perhaps that could be added to the recipe itself? Less likely to overlook...
Patty December 3, 2018
SOS. I’m in the midst of making these cookies and normally love the weighing out the ingredients, but two cups of pecans is double the gram measurement given. Should it be two cups or one? Hoping you can answer soon 🤞🏻.
Author Comment
Emma L. December 3, 2018
Hi Patty! Looking into this right now, more soon.
Author Comment
Emma L. December 3, 2018
Just confirmed with my notes and other sources, and you're totally right! I corrected the recipe to be 2 cups (232 grams) chopped pecans—so sorry about the typo there, and thanks so much for the catch!
Patty December 3, 2018
Thanks for the quick reply! I figured as much but wanted to be sure. Even unbaked, they smell like heaven. I have been making Mexican Wedding Cakes for years, but your version really intrigued me. I portioned and am refrigerating overnight (long Monday).
lsm November 26, 2018
Thank you, thank you, thank you 3 times then some more. Just made this recipe. So easy. Take s the place of my other recipe . One little change. I didn't have pecans, so I used a combo of almonds and walnuts. When I ground the nuts in the food processor, I did them one at a time. Then mixed them together. Started a new batch with shaved chocolate mixed in the dough. Just pulled the cookies out of the oven. Couldn't wait for them to cool down.Just as good as the first batch. Again, thank you. lsm
Author Comment
Emma L. November 26, 2018
Yes please to almonds and walnuts *and* shaved chocolate! So glad you enjoyed the recipe—and thank you for reporting back about these awesome adaptations!
Stacy I. November 24, 2018
These were excellent!! Huge thanks for the weighted measurements!
Author Comment
Emma L. November 25, 2018
Thanks so much, Stacy!