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With a double coating of powdered sugar, these delicately crumbly Italian Wedding Cookies are beautiful on a platter or stacked into tins for holiday gift giving. Made with roasted, salted almonds, they’re lightly salty, sweet, nutty, buttery and completely irresistible.
These small, fun-to-eat, two-bite cookies are well-loved and go by many names, including Russian tea cakes, Mexican wedding cookies, snowball cookies, and butterballs. The dough can even be shaped into crescents to make crescent cookies.
Table of Contents
Ingredients You Need to Make Italian Wedding Cookies
- Flour: All-purpose flour is the foundation for these cookies. Choose a brand that you trust for consistent results in baking to make sure your cookies have the right texture.
- Unsalted Butter: This is preferable for controlling the salt content in your cookies. If you opt for salted butter, remember to skip the additional kosher salt.
- Almonds: Roasted and salted almonds add an irresistible crunch and a hint of saltiness.
- Sugar: White granulated sugar is essential for that classic sweet taste.
- Vanilla: Pure vanilla extract is recommended for its rich and authentic flavor.
- Kosher Salt: Include this only if using unsalted butter. It balances the sweetness and enhances the flavors of the other ingredients.
- Powdered Sugar: A double coating of this sugar creates a beautiful finish. Look for a finely ground variety to ensure a smooth and even coating on each cookie.
Balanced Sweetness: The Layered Approach
Italian Wedding Cookies are sweet, but not cloyingly so. If you’re inclined to nibble on the dough (like I am), don’t be alarmed when it isn’t very sweet. The sugar comes in layers. You’ll add a little bit to the dough and to the food processor when you whirl your almonds until finely ground. Then you’ll roll your warm cookies not once but twice in powdered sugar.
- I recommend using roasted, salted almonds, but many versions use pecans or walnuts and they work well too. Whatever nut you choose, I recommend toasting them first for added flavor depth and crunch.
- For extra almond flavor, swap in almond extract for half of the vanilla.
6 Important Recipe Tips
- Roll in Sugar While Warm: Make sure to roll the cookies in powdered sugar while they’re still warm. Let them cool slightly on the baking sheet to avoid breaking, then roll them in a generous amount of powdered sugar. They’ll cool further in the sugar, and remember to give them a second roll for that perfect snowy coating.
- Double or Triple for Gifts: Feel free to double or even triple the recipe. These cookies are fantastic as edible gifts during the holiday season.
- Finely Ground Almonds: For the best texture, ensure your almonds are finely ground. Larger pieces can make the dough tough to work with and alter the cookie’s delicate texture.
- Chill Dough if Too Soft: If your dough feels too soft to shape, chill it in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. This will make it easier to handle and prevent spreading during baking.
- Uniform Size for Even Baking: Aim for uniformity in the size of your cookies to help them bake evenly.
- Let Cookies Cool Completely Before Storing: Allow the cookies to cool completely before storing them. This helps maintain their texture and prevents them from becoming soggy.
Storing Your Cookies
These cookies store very well in cookie tins or a ceramic or glass, airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week. Or freeze for up to 3 months. Once baked and rolled in sugar, you can always freshen their appearance with a quick roll in powdered sugar before serving or stacking into gift tins or boxes.
How to Bake from Frozen
You can freeze baked cookies, but for the tastiest, prettiest cookies, freeze the uncooked dough balls instead. Bake frozen dough balls on a parchment lined baking sheet, adding a couple of minutes to the baking time and proceed with the recipe at the middle of step 5.
More Essential Holiday Cookie Recipes
- Melt in Your Mouth Butter Cookies
- Excellent Soft Sugar Cookies
- Almond Flour Sugar Cookies
- Gingersnap Cookies
How to Make Italian Wedding Cookies
Pulse almonds and 1 tablespoon of sugar in the bowl of a food processor until finely ground. Set aside.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter, ¼ cup of sugar and vanilla on medium speed until light and fluffy. Scrape down bowl and add flour and salt, then mix until combined. Add ground almond mixture and mix until combined. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl to incorporate all dry ingredients.
Scoop dough and roll into balls ¾-inch in diameter and place them 1-inch apart on parchment lined baking sheets. In an oven preheated to 325˚F, bake 22 to 26 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking time, until the bottoms are light golden brown. Transfer baking sheet to cooling rack and let cool for 3 minutes (do not allow to cool completely or the powdered sugar coating will not stick).
Transfer warm cookies with a thin metal spatula to an even layer of powdered sugar in a 13x9x2-inch baking dish; roll to coat cookies well on all sides. Let cool in sugar to room temperature, then roll in powdered sugar once more. Remove cookies and serve or transfer to an airtight container to store at room temperature for up to 1 week.
Italian Wedding Cookies
- 5 ounces roasted and salted almonds ~1 cup
- 5 tablespoons sugar divided
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter 1 1/2 sticks, softened
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 204g
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt omit if using salted butter
- 4 cups powdered sugar 454g, for coating
- Preheat oven to 325˚F.
- Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
- Place almonds and 1 tablespoon of sugar in the bowl of a food processor; pulse until finely ground. Set aside.
- Add butter, remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and vanilla to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down bowl and add flour and salt; mix until combined. Add ground almond mixture and mix again until combined. (The dough will look dry at first, but will come together.) Remove bowl and scrape sides and bottom to be sure that all dry ingredients are combined.
- With a teaspoon or small cookie scoop, scoop dough and roll into 3/4-inch balls. Place 1-inch apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake 22 to 26 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking time, until the bottoms are light golden brown (If baking 2 pans at once, switch between racks as well). Transfer baking sheet to wire rack to cool for 3 minutes (do not allow to cool completely or the powdered sugar coating won't stick).
- While the cookies bake, spread powdered sugar in an even layer in a shallow baking dish (13x9x2-inch).
- With a thin, metal spatula transfer warm cookies to powdered sugar and roll to coat on all sides. Let stand in the sugar until cooled to room temperature, then roll in powdered sugar once more before removing. Serve or store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 3 months (see recipe note).
- You can freeze baked cookies, but for the tastiest, prettiest cookies, freeze the dough balls instead. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight or at room temperature before baking, then proceed with recipe at step #5.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.