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Pecan Snowball Cookies (Gluten Free Russian Tea Cakes)

pecan-snowball-cookies-(gluten-free-russian-tea-cakes)

Every holiday cookie tray needs a few of these buttery, melt-in-your-mouth Snowball Cookies. Studded with pecans and rolled or dusted with powdered sugar, they’re a classic and sure to be loved by everyone.

Overhead view baking sheet with piled up Pecan Snowball Cookies dusted with powdered sugar.

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Pass the Snowball cookies, please.

Notice we said, “Pass the cookies” and not, “We’’ll pass on the cookies”. There’s a BIG difference there. These snowball cookies are gluten-free and egg-free and can easily be made dairy-free so that you, or those you love, can enjoy one of the sweetest (pun intended) holiday traditions – making and sharing cookies.

You may know these popular cookies as Russian Tea Cakes or Wedding Tea Cakes. Since there doesn’t seem to be a clearcut answer as to what differentiates them from one another we’ve taken to calling them Pecan Snowball Cookies. We know that no matter name you call them by that you’ll find our gluten-free version to be delicious and the perfect addition to a holiday cookie tray or your next cup of coffee or tea.

Overhead view all ingredients for Pecan Snowball Cookies in small bowls and measuring spoons.

Ingredients for Snowball Cookies

  • Raw pecan halves or pieces
  • Butter – To make these dairy-free and/or vegan, substitute vegan or plant-based butter
  • Pure vanilla extract – Good quality vanilla is a splurge but the flavor really comes through especially in recipes with just a few ingredients like these snowball cookies
  • Gluten-free flour blend – We recommend (and test all of our recipes with) Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free 1:1 Baking Flour. If you don’t need this snowball cookie recipe to be gluten-free, simply replace with all-purpose flour
  • Powdered sugar
  • Salt

Find the ingredient list with exact measurements in the recipe card below.

Ingredient Spotlight: Pecans

Pecans are are often thought to be less ‘healthy’ than other nuts but we’re here to say that isn’t the case. Pecans are not only delicious with a naturally buttery taste, they offer a host of health benefits including:

  • Good source of calcium, potassium, and magnesium which help lower blood pressure
  • Rich source of monounsaturated fats which can help lower LDL cholesterol levels
  • Contain 19 vitamins and minerals
  • 1 ounce serving (28 grams) provides 3 grams of fiber to support optimal gut-health
Pecan Snowball Cookies piled on baking sheet, top cookie has bite taken out to show inside texture.

Overhead view small food processor filled with pecans.

Chop Those Pecans

The key to tender Russian Tea Cakes, Mexican Wedding Cakes, and Snowball Cookies is properly chopped pecans. Using a food processor allows you to get a mixture of very finely chopped (almost flour-like) and coarsely chopped pecans so that the end result is a melt-in-your-mouth cookie you’ll want to make again and again.

Shop The Processor Here

Overhead view food processor bowl filled with chopped pecans for Pecan Snowball Cookies
Mixing bowl with pour spout with whipped butter and vanilla for Pecan Snowball Cookies
Overhead view mixing bowl with pour spout filled with all ingredients for pecan snowball cookies, ready to be stirred together.

Simple Directions for Making These snowball cookies

  1. Place the pecans in the bowl of a food processor and pulse several times until half of the nuts are very finely chopped (almost like flour or nut meal) and half are in small, coarse pieces. Set aside.
  2. Cream together the butter and vanilla using a hand mixer or stand mixer.
  3. Add the flour, powdered sugar, salt, and pecans. Start mixer on low then gradually increase the speed to high. The dough will look very dry and crumbly at first but trust the process and keep mixing until it comes together into a smooth ball.
  4. Cover the bowl with a lightly damp towel or plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  5. While the dough chills preheat the oven to 400℉
  6. Remove the dough from fridge and roll it into 28-30 balls (slightly smaller than a golf ball).
  7. Place 14-15 balls on each of two large rimmed baking sheets lined with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Bake on the middle rack (one sheet at a time) for 9-12 minutes or until balls are set, dry to the touch and lightly brown on the bottoms.
  8. Remove the pan from the oven and allow cookies to cool on the pan for at least 10 minutes before carefully transferring them to a wire cooling rack with a spatula (not your hands).
  9. Roll the cookies in powdered sugar (or dust them with powdered sugar if you prefer them to be less sweet) then allow them to cool for several hours. This will ensure the best texture as they are very fragile when removed from the oven but will firm up as they cool. We find that their texture is best the next day!
  10. Store the cookies at room temperature in a tightly covered container for up to 1 week or freeze for longer storage.
Overhead view mixing bowl with Pecan Snowball Cookie dough. crumbled from mixing.
Pecan Snowball Cookie dough ball in mixing bowl
Overhead view baking sheet with lined up Pecan Snowball Cookie dough balls.

For the complete directions and ingredient amounts, scroll down to the recipe card below. All of our recipes include the nutrition analysis, listing calories, protein, carbohydrates, fiber, sugar, sodium, and more per serving.

Tip!

The Secret is Letting Them Cool

The secret to perfect gluten-free snowball cookies isn’t the ingredients, it’s how you make them. Or more importantly, how you cool them. Like most gluten-free baked goods, the longer you allow them to cool (overnight is ideal) the better the texture of the crumb will be.

Shallow bowl filled with powered sugar, Pecan Snowball Cookies being rolled in powdered sugar.

Glass storage container with lids stacked on each other.

How to Store Snowball Cookies

Once the cookies are completely cool, we recommend storing them in an airtight container for up to 1 week at room temperature. May be frozen for up to 3 months.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are snowball cookies?

Pecan Snowball Cookies are a simple cookie made with flour, butter, pecans, powdered sugar, vanilla, and salt. You may also hear them called ‘Russian Tea Cakes’ or ‘Mexican Wedding Cakes’.

What is the best way to add the powdered sugar?

There are two way to add the powdered sugar in this snowball cookie recipe. You can either roll the cookies in powdered sugar or you can put the powdered sugar in a fine-mesh strainer and dust the cookies.

Can you freeze snowball cookies?

Yes! These cookies freeze very well and can be frozen for up to 3 months. They are quite fragile thanks to their tender crumb so we recommend storing them in a glass or plastic container with lid to avoid being crushed in the freezer.

Baking sheet with several Pecan Snowball Cookies piled in, sprinkled with powdered sugar.

Recipe Swaps and Substitutes

Make it Dairy-Free

Easily make this Snowball Cookie recipe dairy-free and vegan by replacing the butter with a plant-based stick butter. We like Miyokos Unsalted European Style Cultured Vegan Butter and Good & Gather Organic Plant-Based Buttery Sticks

Make It Gluten-Free

These cookies can easily be gluten-free with a simple flour by swapping the regular flour in this recipe for a gluten-free one-to-one flour blend. We recommend using Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free 1:1 Flour Blend for best results.

Make it Vegan

These Snowball cookies can be an easy vegan cookie recipe. Just replace the unsalted butter with a vegan stick butter of choice (see above for our recommendations).

More Holiday Baking Recipes

All Holiday Cookies

About Snowball Cookies

So what makes these delectable little bites Russian Tea Cakes and not Mexican Wedding Cakes? It’s the pecans and they way they’re shaped. Russian Tea Cakes are made with pecans and rolled into balls while Mexican Wedding Cakes are made with almonds and shaped into crescents. Russian Tea Cakes are a popular cookie enjoyed during the holidays here in the U.S. and are sometimes called ‘snowballs’ because of their shape and powdery white sugar coating.

Now it’s your turn

If you’ve been missing those sweet little bites around the holidays or just want something to make your next cup of tea even better, give these Gluten-Free Russian Tea Cakes a try!

A baking sheet filled with Snowball cookies covered in powdered sugar.

A delightful Holiday cookie, these Snowball Cookies are made with 5 simple ingredients, easy to make, and are soft and delicious.

Prep: 10 minutesCook: 9-12 minutesTotal: 1 hour 20 minutes

Servings: 2830 cookies 1x

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups raw pecan halves or pieces
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened (use plant-based stick butter for dairy-free and vegan)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 ¼ cups gluten-free flour blend (we recommend Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free 1:1 Baking Flour)*
  • ⅔ cups powdered sugar + more for dusting or rolling
  • ¼ teaspoon fine salt

Instructions

  1. Place the pecans in the bowl of a food processor and pulse several times until half of the nuts are very finely chopped (almost like flour or nut meal) and half are in small, coarse pieces. Set aside.
  2. Add the butter and vanilla to a medium bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer) Cream together the butter and vanilla using a hand mixer or stand mixer.
  3. Add the flour, powdered sugar, salt, and pecans. Start the mixer on low then gradually increase the speed to high. The dough will look very dry and crumbly at first but trust the process and keep mixing until it comes together into a smooth ball.
  4. Cover the bowl with a lightly damp towel or plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  5. While the dough chills preheat the oven to 400℉ and line two large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats and set aside.
  6. Remove the dough from fridge and use your hands to roll it into 28-30 balls (slightly smaller than a golf ball).
  7. Place 14-15 balls on each of the two prepared baking sheets. Bake on the middle rack (one sheet at a time) for 9-12 minutes or until balls are set, dry to the touch and lightly brown on the bottoms.
  8. Remove the pan from the oven and allow cookies to cool on the pan for at least 10 minutes before carefully transferring them to a wire cooling rack with a spatula (not your hands).
  9. Roll the cookies in powdered sugar (or dust them with powdered sugar if you prefer them to be less sweet) then allow them to cool for several hours. This will ensure the best texture as they are very fragile when removed from the oven but will firm up as they cool. We find that their texture is best the next day!
  10. Store the cookies at room temperature in a tightly covered container for up to 1 week or freeze for longer storage.

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Notes

*May use 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour if you don’t not need these to be gluten-free

Nutrition Information

  • Serving Size: 1 cookie
  • Calories: 150
  • Fat: 10 g
  • (Sat Fat: 4 g)
  • Sodium: 25 mg
  • Carbohydrate: 13 g
  • (Fiber: 1 g
  • Sugar: 3 g)
  • Protein: 1 g
  • Cholesterol: 17 mg

Dietary

© The Real Food Dietitians

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For ultimate success, we highly recommend reading the tips in the full blog post above. All photos and content are copyright protected. Please do not use our photos without prior written permission. If you wish to republish a recipe, please rewrite the recipe in your own unique words. Link back to the source recipe here on The Real Food Dietitians. Thank you!

Jessica Beacom

Jessica Beacom

Jessica is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist living in Boulder, CO with her husband and two daughters. She’s been described as a ‘real food evangelist’ and loves sharing her knowledge with others to help them break free of the diet mentality and find their own food freedom. In her spare time, she enjoys CrossFit, telemark skiing, mountain biking, and camping out under the stars.

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