Pecan Butter Balls

My Favorite Christmas Cookies Include Pecan Butter Balls + More!

December 4, 2013

I first posted about these cookies a couple of years ago; back when my dog was my most loyal reader. Since today is National Cookie Day I thought it perfect to offer them again along with other holiday favorites. I love these cookies and so does everyone I make them for so timing was perfect to share them with more than just Abbie! My first memory of these cookies was at my Grandma and Grandpa Bathe’s house and I have had a plate of them every year that I can remember.  I continued the tradition of baking them when I was a teenager and have made them with my children and for holiday gifts every year since. No matter how busy the holiday season, not one has gone by that this cookie isn’t at the top of the list. Closing for my house is creeping closer to Christmas Day; I promised my inner child that at the very least these will be made in my new kitchen; it would be a perfect thing. Me, memories of my beloved Grandma and these cookies. The tradition WILL NOT die!

The ingredients are simple but using the best is important and for me that means good vanilla and butter. I admit that at one time in my young life I wasn’t so crazy about vanilla. How could that be you ask? Well, you know how good it smells when you open that bottle of real vanilla extract? I decided to sneak a sip when Grandma wasn’t looking and let’s just say, the magic happens somewhere in between the mixing and the baking because drinking it straight did not exactly give me the rewards I was looking for! Luckily I’ve moved beyond that experience and always have a supply of vanilla extract, vanilla beans and my new favorite, vanilla paste, on hand (yum, vanilla sugar).

chopped pecans

I’ve recently found that toasting nuts prior to including them in baked goods makes for an even better flavor so  this year we’ve included that spin with this old favorite. It’s not a requirement but does punch up the pecan flavor a bit. With a cookie called PECAN Butter Balls that’s not bad, right?

Though there are versions I’ve seen and tasted called Mexican Wedding Cookies and Russian Tea Cakes, all include some slight variation on ingredients. My grandmother was neither Mexican or Russian so it’s a great  example of how recipe traditions spread all over the world; Pecan Butter Balls are more typical of the name associated with this buttery, nutty cookie from the Scandinavian part of the world and I’ve seriously had none better than these. Maybe it’s my memories that make them my favorite. I will always think of that wonderful sweet woman I was lucky to call Grandma!

How about a few other favorites for the holiday season?

Toasted Pecan and Caramel Fudge (Penuche) Cookies –  Sort of like cookie and candy together in one place and they are a perfect match!


The Best Sugar Cookies
– light and crispy and oh so good and no cutting out required!


Spritz Butter Cookies
– Almost as important to my Christmas memories as Pecan Butter Balls!


Rice Krispie Treats with Chocolate, Toasted Walnuts and Salted Caramel
– Devised to replicate a treat someone sent me, these are such a crowd pleaser and a great gift from the heart.


Heath Bar Shortbread Cookies
– I love Heath Bars; adding that flavor to a shortbread cookie? Oh my. Perfect!


Brown Butter and Molasses Chocolate Chip Cookies
– The Best Chocolate Chip Cookie I’ve ever had!


Larimer Toffee Squares
– No time for toffee? These are an easy baked alternative that will be devoured.


Merry Christmas Meringue Cookies
– Who needs Macarons anyway? Meringue cookies are easier and so festive!


Potato Chip Cookies
– Yes, Really. Such an old recipe but fits perfectly in today’s trend towards a touch of salty with sweet. These are fantastic!


These are some of my very favorite cookies but I’ll be lucky if I get any of them made this year. I’m supposed to close on my new home on 12/17 but sounds like they might push it to 12/20. Well, they promised before Christmas and that’s about what it will be! Still, Grandma’s will be made even if I have to stop Santa on his journey and ask him to help!

Have a favorite you want to share? Leave a link!

Pecan Butter Balls, Russian Tea Cakes or Mexican Wedding Cookies?
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
A nutty and not overly sweet cookie that is traditional over the holidays.
Serves: Makes 4 dozen cookies
  • 1 C butter
  • 4 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 2 C flour
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 2 cups pecans, toasted for 5-7 minutes in 350 degree oven (just until you can start to smell the nuts from the heat), cool
  • Confectioner's sugar
  1. Finely chop pecans. I use my food processor but if you don't have one and are doing by hand, they do need to be finely chopped.
  2. Cream butter and sugar. Add vanilla and mix til thoroughly combined.
  3. Add flour and salt and mix thoroughly.
  4. Add nuts incorporate into dough; using a paddle attachment or your hands.
  5. Refrigerate 30 minutes (I'll make the night before too, refrigerate and then let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before continuing)
  6. Roll into 1-inch balls and place one inch apart on a cookie sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 375 degrees until set but not brown. Remove from oven and let set for 1 minute.
  7. Roll in confectioner's sugar.
  8. Roll again if desired when cool.
  9. For a change, we will sometimes roll them in a combination of confectioner's sugar and pastel colored granulated sugar; it makes for a very winter wonderland sort of look with blue, pink and purple sugars.

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{ 55 comments… read them below or add one }

1 maria December 12, 2014 at 6:37 pm

repinned this pin and gave this recipe a try. my husband says they are the best pecan ‘whatchamacallit’ cookies ever. these are his favorite cookies and i was worried when i decided to make them. so glad i did. it’s so simple. and toasting the pecans makes such a big difference! thanks again for such an amazing recipe.


2 Tanya December 21, 2013 at 5:12 pm

I made pecan balls tonight.. Are they suppose to be crumbly ??


3 Creative Culinary December 21, 2013 at 7:41 pm

They might be a bit crumbly when you eat them but I wouldn’t consider them really crumbly; they always hold together well for me. Were they warm? They do hold together best after the baked cookie has cooled off.


4 Karen December 6, 2013 at 5:42 am

Thank you for posting such a delicious assortment of cookie recipes many of which I’ve never made. I am definitely planning to add a few to this year’s baking list!!! Merry Christmas!!!


5 Creative Culinary December 14, 2013 at 11:19 pm

You are most welcome Karen; I hope I can get mine done too; moving this time of year is dumb. Necessary but dumb. :)


6 Jamie December 5, 2013 at 11:58 am

These really are beautiful and I do find it fascinating that some recipe seem to find their way into so many different cultures. But I do love some of your more decadent cookies…
Jamie Most Recent Post: Lamb Curry – Sautée de Mouton au Curry


7 Creative Culinary December 5, 2013 at 5:54 pm

I love that too; though I’ve never had another cookie that tastes quite like these but I know it’s probably memories that do that, right?


8 Simply Sweet Justice December 5, 2013 at 8:57 am

This post made me smile! These cookies are a tradition with my family, too. I have not yet tried vanilla paste, but may need to get some now. :)
Simply Sweet Justice Most Recent Post: Blondies


9 Creative Culinary December 5, 2013 at 5:56 pm

It’s great Claire; just the easiest way in the world to incorporate vanilla beans, that’s for sure.


10 Maureen | Orgasmic Chef December 5, 2013 at 4:00 am

I thought I was the only one with a loyal dog reader. :)

These cookies – all these cookies – would make me a very happy woman this Christmas season.
Maureen | Orgasmic Chef Most Recent Post: Chicken with Coca-Cola Sauce


11 Creative Culinary December 5, 2013 at 7:08 pm

Well, it sure wasn’t my children; they can’t be bothered with things that are important to me! But my dog loves me…that loyalty business you know? She’s good about that. :)


12 Tieghan December 4, 2013 at 8:28 pm

So many great cookies!! I love the pecan fudge ones!!
Tieghan Most Recent Post: Easy Chicken Tamale Burrito Bowls


13 Creative Culinary December 5, 2013 at 7:08 pm

Those cookies were simply amazing; I have to make more of them!


14 Holly December 4, 2013 at 4:59 pm

Let’s make a deal– if you don’t find time to bake these in your new place I will do so for you. Have to keep your tradition going! Thanks so much for the goodies today.
Holly Most Recent Post: Mini Toffee Banana Bread for #TwelveLoaves December


15 Creative Culinary December 5, 2013 at 7:09 pm

You know I might have to take you up on it…they are cutting it close. Guess the got the word and are replacing some flooring today and tomorrow. Yikes! Thanks Holly…you are too sweet!


16 Paula December 4, 2013 at 4:23 pm

I’ve been making your pecan balls ever since I found your post a few years ago. They are definitely a favourite (Christmas and otherwise!) You have shared some lovely Christmas cookie treats here today and I hope to be able to try a few of them.

I am hoping so hard for you that you are in and settled into your new home for Christmas Barb. What a wonderful way to kick off the New Year for you. Best wishes!


17 Creative Culinary December 5, 2013 at 7:11 pm

I remember that and I love it too…happy to share a family tradition far and wide with my Canadian friends; you especially Paula. I hope so too Paula. Maybe not settled but at least in. This is not living; it’s just barely surviving…I don’t have my own kitchen? Impossible to imagine what that has entailed. I should write a book but prefer to just put it behind me if possible! :)


18 Lizzy (Good Things) December 4, 2013 at 2:39 pm

What a cheery post to read over my morning coffee, Barbara… and how I smiled when I read about your dog being your most loyal reader, LOL! My mum hardly ever used vanilla, so, for me it was a later awakening too. But, oh, how I love it now. Great cookie roundup… delicious as always. Love your work!
Lizzy (Good Things) Most Recent Post: Party paella + Taylors Wines giveaway


19 Creative Culinary December 5, 2013 at 7:11 pm

I think we’ve all had those moments right? She is a loyal friend for sure! You are too sweet and generous with your compliments…hope you are feeling better Lizzy!


20 Jennifer December 4, 2013 at 12:56 pm

These all look amazing. I want to try each and every one of them. Thanks for sharing.
Jennifer Most Recent Post: Browned Butter Rosemary Applesauce


21 Creative Culinary December 5, 2013 at 7:15 pm

Normally in any given year I would make all of them and package up boxes for friends. This year I hope to have one. One cookie that is!


22 Lana @ Never Enough Thyme December 4, 2013 at 12:05 pm

Yum! Barb, these are virtually identical to a cookie we make in an oblong shape and call ladyfingers. I’ve got to go find that recipe now. I’m suddenly craving it :-)
Lana @ Never Enough Thyme Most Recent Post: Mocha Eggnog Sundae


23 Creative Culinary December 5, 2013 at 7:14 pm

Right? They are so simple and so good; I never tire of them Lana.


24 Mark December 4, 2013 at 11:00 am

I just started a diet three days ago. I should never have read this. I’m doomed.


25 Creative Culinary December 5, 2013 at 7:14 pm

You and me both. Watch out tomorrow…it’s a whole bunch of cocktails! :)


26 John@Kitchen Riffs December 4, 2013 at 10:20 am

I love those Pecan Butter Balls/Mexican Wedding Cookies/ Russian Tea Cakes. Well, I love something similar – I’ve never had exactly this recipe! Most of the ones I’ve had included walnuts – love the idea of pecans. These looks terrific! Bummer the closing is moved back a bit, but it’ll be so worth it to make these in your new kitchen! Wonderful collection of cookies – thanks.
John@Kitchen Riffs Most Recent Post: The Seelbach Cocktail


27 Creative Culinary December 5, 2013 at 7:13 pm

I’ve never used walnuts as much as I love them toasted…because making them too different would not be the same. Maybe I should try some in addition to, huh? Thank you!


28 Karen Harris December 4, 2013 at 6:47 am

I was just considering buying the ingredients for some sour cream cookies yesterday and decided against it. Now I’m wondering what I was thinking! Thank goodness I might just have the ingredients for one or two of these recipes. We’ve got some new neighbors moving in next door and I should make some cookies to share with them don’t you think?


29 Amanda (@lambsearshoney) December 4, 2013 at 4:22 am

Such a lovely selection of cookies here – I wouldn’t know where to start. I always bake at Christmas, but not this year. We are off to Italy for the holidays so I’ll be eating some Italian deliciousness pretty soon!
Amanda (@lambsearshoney) Most Recent Post: Wish You Were Here Postcards – Lake Ontario


30 Peter February 28, 2013 at 8:29 pm

I made your cookies for my mother, who simply adores Pecan Butter Balls. She’s a very hard woman to please and I wasn’t sure what she would say. She thought they were the best she ever had and asked where I had bought them. The look on her face when she found out that they were homemade was simply priceless! Thank you for the recipe, your Grandma would be proud of you, I know I am.


31 Creative Culinary February 28, 2013 at 8:40 pm

You can’t imagine how heartwarming this message is for me tonight; thinking of my sweet Grandma is always a sweet moment amd hearing how your mother loved them too? Just simply made my day; thank you so much for taking the time to let me know.


32 Janice Workman November 1, 2012 at 1:35 pm

Can the pecan butter balls be frozen?


33 Creative Culinary November 1, 2012 at 2:11 pm

You know what? I never have! After baking I put them in tins and they last a long time though. Still, I would imagine they would freeze fine; it’s just flour, butter and nuts; nothing in there that would really change composition after freezing. I’m wondering though…were you thinking before or after baking. Not that I think it would matter either way but just curious.


34 Jane December 13, 2011 at 11:16 pm

This is the third year I have made a version of this cookie. Not exactly sure what recipe I used in the past, but this year my husband thinks they are the best cookie I have ever made, even better than my chocolate chip cookies which I have been making for 35 years for him. I could not believe my ears. He also said I had to make more if taking any to a party on Friday. Better start baking tomorrow. I did not toast the pecans as we like the “raw” taste. Have printed and bookmarked this recipe for life. Thank you! I also make and use my own Bourbon Vanilla Extract.


35 Creative Culinary December 13, 2011 at 11:43 pm

Jane…seriously made me get a bit teary because these cookies mean so much to me that it’s nice to know it’s not JUST because they are wrapped up in memories of my sweet Grandma. I had a similar one at a party the other night that were almost flavorless so I know there must be differences in all of the multitudes of recipes. Nothing and I mean NOTHING makes me happier than sharing something I love and having someone else love it too. Cheers! And Bourbon Vanilla Extract? Oh my…would you PLEASE share that with me?


36 Barbie September 27, 2011 at 7:25 am

I think I’m making these this week :)

Can I use something else aside from pecans, though?


37 Creative Culinary September 27, 2011 at 6:15 pm

I think you could use any nut you want. I’ve never modified it but I imagine toasted walnuts would be equally good. I’ve found that toasting my walnuts a bit before baking with them is a new favorite; just brings out their flavor a bit more.


38 Carol Stevens December 20, 2010 at 3:22 pm

Thanks for a great recipe! Made these for my school’s cookie walk. They are delicious!! Will be adding these to my annual Christmas cookies.


39 Creative Culinary December 20, 2010 at 3:35 pm

There is nothing that makes me happier than hearing from someone who is happy with a recipe! I have 12 dozen sitting on my table now ready to be packaged for holiday gifts! I tried something just a bit different this time and did like the results; we toasted the pecans just a bit prior to grinding them and it does make them even better! Thanks for letting me know!


40 Carol Stevens December 20, 2010 at 7:42 pm

Wow- what a great idea! Will make a note to try that next year.


41 Paula December 1, 2010 at 11:10 am

I can’t believe how simple the recipe is nor can I believe that I have never had them. I think they are going on my list to bake this Christmas. I also think I share your addiction to vanilla :)


42 Creative Culinary December 2, 2010 at 3:14 pm

Do them, easy and so good. Sort of shortbread texture rolled into a ball with nuts.


43 Wendi @ Bon Appetit Hon November 22, 2010 at 7:10 am

I adore these cookies. They are so freaking easy and delicious.


44 Creative Culinary November 22, 2010 at 9:10 am

Exactly! And for me, that memory of my Grandma is rolled into it too; so they are a must.


45 coco cooks November 21, 2010 at 10:25 am

I dont care what you call it. Send me some. Love vanilla. Was just gifted some Bourbon Vanilla Pods. Hello!


46 Creative Culinary November 21, 2010 at 1:29 pm

Oh yum. I need some of those!


47 foodwanderings November 20, 2010 at 1:08 pm

Love the post, the title and cookies barb. Excellent story, tradition and tea cakes. I am always in search of one. Wish hotel room service tea would have these, I would go and stay in a hotel just for these, heeheehe, as I cannot make them at home due to allergies. Have awonderful Thanksgiving Holiday!! Shulie


48 Sarah E. Welch November 19, 2010 at 4:34 pm

If you want vanilla to taste good straight out of the jar, try vanilla bean paste :)

At The Spice House in Chicago, they have a tester jar with another jar of small cinnamon sticks sitting next to it. I was hesitant, because I tried extract straight as a kid, too. Oh my, this stuff is good! I’ve been hooked ever since. Savory Spice carries it, but doesn’t have a taster (one of the very few in the store w/o one!).


49 Creative Culinary November 20, 2010 at 9:34 am

Savory Spice is on my list this weekend; I get excited like a kid in anticipation of going there and you’re right…very little there that you can’t taste before purchasing. I always include some small packs of spices in the gift baskets I make, yes it’s part of the gift but it’s also wonderful how it scents the package so when it’s opened…it’s Christmas!


50 Lea Ann November 19, 2010 at 4:24 pm

I used to make these all the time when I was a kid. My absolute favorite cookie. I’ll have to make them soon, it’s been years. They are DEEEElicious.


51 Creative Culinary November 20, 2010 at 9:31 am

I think if you’ve never had anything but the store bought version, someone might wonder what the big deal is, right? I used to get Royal Crest Dairy home delivery when my kids were younger and ever since the first time I tried their eggnog with these cookies, I have to admit it must also be a part of that Christmas Eve tradition. Those two combined? Oh my.


52 Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction November 19, 2010 at 2:46 pm

Whatever you call them, these are my FAVORITE cookies. When I was young, a family friend always made these and brought a tin of them to our house for the holidays. I would wait all year for those cookies!


53 Suzy November 19, 2010 at 1:10 pm

:-) It totally understand about the family recipe thing. If I make these for the family the MUST be made with honey as the sweetener.


54 Suzy November 19, 2010 at 1:02 pm

I make these cookies every year also, using powdered sugar instead of regular. My mother always asks me if I made Grandma Ruth’s recipe, which calls for 4 T of honey instead of the sugar. So, last year I did a bake-off of the recipe with powdered sugar and the one using honey. Honey won hands down! I recommend at least trying it!


55 Creative Culinary November 19, 2010 at 1:04 pm

That sounds good…I might have to try a batch; but for me part of it is using my Grandmother’s recipe and gifting it to my Dad and my Aunt Jane, her two remaining kids…wonder if they would notice?


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