My Grandma Clayton’s Sand Tarts ( also known as Snowball Cookies) are divine butter cookies that are filled with chopped pecans and rolled in powdered sugar. Yum!

Ruffled plate filled with Grandma Clayton's Sand Tarts
(Photo by Laurie Smith)

What are Pecan Sandies or Pecan Snowball Cookies?

September 21st is National Pecan Cookie Day! My absolute favorite pecan cookies are my maternal grandmother’s Sand Tarts – scrumptious butter cookies filled with chopped pecans and rolled in powdered sugar. With only 6 ingredients, these tasty morsels are super easy to prepare, and packed with flavor.

Every bite takes me back to grandma’s kitchen in Tucson, Arizona. Her kitchen wasn’t large, but it was full of love – and delicious aromas. As a kid, I used to love helping her make these cookies, when my family would visit her for Easter during spring break. So, celebrate National Pecan Cookie Day by preparing these delectable morsels for your family – and yourself!

Many Names for this Snowball Cookie Recipe

When I posted my Grandmother’s Sand Tarts recipe on social media, I quickly learned two things: one, these cookies are super popular! And two, they have dozens of different names. In fact, here is a sampling of the other names people told me they call these scrumptious cookies:

  • Snowballs
  • Pecan Sandies
  • Wedding Cookies
  • Mexican Wedding Cookies
  • Italian Wedding Cookies
  • Danish Wedding Cookies
  • Butterballs
  • Melting Moments
  • Nutty Buddies
  • Russian Tea Cakes

How to Make this Snowball Cookies Recipe

Time needed: 37 minutes.

These cookies are surprisingly easy to prepare. Here are the steps:

  1. Soften butter.

    Remove butter from refrigerator and let set at room temperature until soft. When you pinch the sides of the butter stick, it should feel soft and make an indentation. If you are short on time, you can soften in the microwave, 30 seconds at at time at 30% power (look in your instruction manual if you don’t know how to set the power to 30%).

  2. Toast the pecans.

    Coarsely chop shelled pecans. Spread evenly (in one layer) on a rimmed cookie sheet and toast in a 350 degree oven for around 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until fragrant and lightly browned. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

  3. Combine dry ingredients.

    In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, salt and 1/2 cup of the sugar. If you don’t have a sifter, you can use a fine mesh strainer. Sift it a second time. Set aside.

  4. Combine butter and sugar.

    Using an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and vanilla just until the butter is soft.

  5. Finish making the batter.

    With the machine on low, slowly add the flour mixture, beating until incorporated and the dough is starting to hold together. Stir in chopped pecans.

    If you don’t have a paddle attachment for your electric mixer, work the butter and vanilla into the flour mixture by hand until all the flour is incorporated (this is how Grandma did it!). Stir in chopped pecans.

  6. Prepare cookies for baking.

    Using a small spring-release ice cream scoop (around 1 inch in diameter), scoop the dough into balls, pressing down to ensure the dough is staying together, and place around 1 inch apart on the prepared cookie sheets.

  7. Cook.

    Bake cookies for around 12 to 15 minutes or until just lightly brown. Cool slightly on cookie sheet.

  8. Coat cooked cookies in sugar.

    Roll cookies in remaining 1 cup of powdered sugar.

Variations on the Classic Pecan Snowball Cookies

  • Substitute 1/2 cup chocolate chips (or toffee chips) for all the pecans.
  • Substitute 1/4 cup chocolate chips (or toffee chips) for 1/4 cup of the pecans.
  • Substitute 1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder for 1/4 cup of the flour.
  • Add 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon.
  • Stir around 1/4 to 1/2 cup finely ground peppermint candies into the 1 cup powdered sugar before rolling the cookies.
Storing Pecan Sandies

I store these cookies in an airtight container at room temperature.

Do Sand Tarts freeze well? Is it better to freeze the dough before or after baking?

Yes, these cookies freeze extremely well, before or after baking.

To freeze before baking: Follow the recipe through the step of scooping out the dough into balls and placing on a cookie sheet. Freeze until hard (no need to cover), then remove and place in a zip top freezer baggie. When ready to bake, remove from freezer and place on greased cookie sheet around 1-inch apart and follow recipe directions for baking, adding a few more minutes to cook time of not thawed.

To freeze after baking: Completely cool cookies; do not roll in powdered sugar. Place in a single layer on a cookie sheet and freeze until hard. Place in a zip top freezer baggie. To thaw, remove cookie from baggie and place in a single layer on a cookie sheet at room temperature. Once thawed, roll in powdered sugar.

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green ruffled plate filled with Grandma Clayton's Sand Tarts

Pecan Snowball Cookies (Inspired by Grandma Clayton’s Sand Tarts)

  • Author: (From “A Well-Seasoned Kitchen®” by Sally Clayton and Lee Clayton Roper)
  • Prep Time: 20 mins
  • Rolling in sugar: 5 mins
  • Cook Time: 12 mins
  • Total Time: 37 minutes
  • Yield: 3 1/2 dozen 1x
  • Category: cookies, desserts, make ahead, picnics, potlucks
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: Various

Description

These cookies are the perfect dessert for any outdoor BBQ or picnic because you won’t have to worry about them melting the second they’re outside.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, preferably unbleached
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, divided
  • 1/2 pound salted butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease two large cookie sheets (or line with parchment paper).
  2. In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, salt and 1/2 cup of the sugar. Sift ingredients together a second time. Set aside.
  3. Using an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and vanilla just until the butter is soft.
  4. With the machine on low, slowly add the flour mixture, beating until incorporated and the dough is starting to hold together. Stir in chopped pecans.
  5. Using a small spring-release ice cream scoop (around 1 inch in diameter), scoop the dough into balls, pressing down to ensure the dough is staying together, and place around 1 inch apart on the prepared cookie sheets.
  6. Bake about 12 to 15 minutes or until just lightly brown. Cool slightly on cookie sheet, then roll in remaining 1 cup of powdered sugar. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Notes

Note: If you don’t have a paddle attachment for your electric mixer, work the butter and vanilla into the flour mixture by hand until all the flour is incorporated (this is how Grandma did it!). Also, in dry climates such as Colorado and Arizona, reduce the flour slightly, by about 2 tablespoons, if the batter seems too dry.

Lee Clayton Roper

Welcome!

I’m Lee Clayton Roper, and I’m passionate about making cooking and entertaining easy, elegant and fun. Here you’ll find scrumptious recipes, helpful tips and seasonal menus that will spark inspiration in your kitchen!
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4 Responses to “Snowball Cookies (Inspired by Grandma Clayton’s Sand Tarts)”

    • Lee Roper

      Sorry for the confusion! It’s 1/2 cup sugar at that step. You sift all the ingredients listed in that step twice – twice applies to the number of times you sift, not the amount of sugar.

      Reply

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