These gluten-free Mexican wedding cookies (aka snowball cookies) are a buttery, delicate, lightly sweet treat. The egg-free recipe has just a few ingredients including chopped pecans & powdered sugar. Flaxseed meal is included in this recipe to help these delicate gluten-free cookies hold together but still stay delicate. Snow kissed, they are a pretty shortbread cookie for a winter holiday table or celebration.
Mexican Wedding Cookies (Polvorones)
I like to be careful when creating recipes that are not of my background. I am not Mexican, but I wanted to create a gf recipe for these cookies. So for developing and testing this recipe, I partnered with my friend Danie to be sure that I was on the right track. They grew up eating these cookies and helped me get the flavor and texture as close to the real thing as possible.
Eggs are a usually an important ingredient in gluten-free baking. They help to provide structure and binding that is needed when there’s no gluten. Mexican wedding cookies are meant to be delicate, but I found that the gluten-free version is VERY delicate – to the point of falling apart too easily.
To make sure that the cookies hold up to handling and eating, I added a little flax seed meal to the recipe. Flax seed meal (ground flax seeds) is often used in vegan baking and is a good solution for these cookies. It provides some binding without changing the flavor or texture.
Gluten-free flour blend – King Arthur Measure for Measure is my go-to flour for gluten-free baking. It works well in almost all of my baked goods, is certified gluten-free and is the most affordable of the gluten-free flours I’ve tested.
Many of my readers said they use Cup4Cup flour blend in my recipes and have had good results with it. I don’t test with it because it contains milk powder and is quite expensive.
These cookies are not meant to spread. They’re rolled into balls and should hold their shape without spreading. So the key is to use butter that is only slightly softer than refrigerator temp butter. This will also cut down on the chilling time for the dough.
Pecans – You can start with raw pecan halves and toast them or buy toasted ones, if you can find them, and save a little time in the process. The pecans give these cookies their wonderful flavor and texture.
The pecans are ground to a coarse consistency with some of the flour and then mixed into the dough. The easiest way to grind them is with a food processor. It grinds them up just enough in 15 seconds. If you don’t have a food processor, pull out a good knife and chop by hand.
These cookies are sweetened with powdered sugar. Powdered sugar, as opposed to granulated sugar, gives cookies a more delicate texture. Then to finish the cookies they’re rolled in more powdered sugar to give them their snow-kissed look.
Salt and vanilla round out the flavors in this recipe.
Gluten-Free Mexican Wedding Cookies (Snowball Cookies)
- 1 c (8 oz) unsalted butter
- ⅔ c pecan halves
- 2 c gluten-free flour blend, King Arthur Measure for Measure recommended
- ⅓ + 1 c powdered sugar
- 2 tsp flax seed meal
- 1 tsp vanilla extract, powder or bean paste homemade gluten-free vanilla extract
- ¼ tsp salt
- This recipe works best with butter that is just slightly warmer than refrigerator temp. Do not take it out in advance. As your first step, place the butter on a plate and cut into 1/2 inch pieces and set on the counter.
- Place a small skillet on the stove over high heat for 1 minute. Add the pecans and cook them for 3 minutes, tossing every 10 seconds. This will toast them and bring out their flavor.
- Place the pecans with ⅓ c flour in the food processor.* Run for 10-15 seconds until the mixture is like coarse crumbs with some small chunks of pecans.If you don't have a food processor, the pecans can be chopped by hand.
- In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer (with paddle attachment) cream the butter with ⅓ cup of the powdered sugar and the flax seed meal. It should take no more than 1½ minutes. Too much beating will create air pockets in the dough which is not desirable in these cookies.
- Add half of the flour and beat until it is mostly combined.
- Add the salt and the remaining flour and mix until it is mostly combined.
- Add the pecan flour mixture and mix for 10 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat another 10 seconds or just until combined.
- Form the dough into 1 inch balls (1 Tbsp dough). Place the formed dough balls onto a parchment lined pan that will fit in your refrigerator or freezer. You can crowd them onto a small pan to chill them.
- Preheat the oven to 350℉.
- Chill the formed dough in the refrigerator for 15 minutes or the freezer for 5 minutes.
- Spread them out on a pan with 1-2 inches in between. The cookies will not spread but they need a little space in between to allow hot air to circulate around them.
- Bake for 14 minutes. Then cool the cookies on the pan for 15 minutes.
- They are very delicate straight out of the oven, so wait the full 15 before transferring them to a wire rack.
- Cool them for at least another 30 minutes or until there is no residual heat. If you dust them with powdered sugar before they are completely cooled, the powdered sugar will melt and turn pasty. Place the 1 cup of powdered sugar in a small bowl and roll the cookies to coat lightly.