Lemon snowball cookies are like little bursts of sunshine on your holiday cookie platter. This tender snowball cookie recipe is made without nuts, and they literally melt in your mouth!
lemon snowball cookies are pure bliss
These bright and buttery bites are absolutely delicious with a cup of coffee or tea, and they fit right into any holiday cookie assortment you’ve got going. I’ve always loved powdered sugar coated cookies, they give me that instant Christmas vibe. They’re so easy to make, too. You won’t need a rolling pin, cookie cutters, or any other special equipment ~ just scoop, roll, and bake!
ingredients for zingy lemon snowballs (without nuts!)
Most snowball cookies are made with finely ground nuts, but this recipe omits the nuts for a buttery, melt-in-your-mouth texture and a zippy lemon flavor.
- unsalted butter
- all purpose flour
- powdered sugar ~ using powdered sugar instead of granulated makes these cookies extra tender.
- vanilla extract ~ you could certainly substitute lemon extract if you have it.
- lemon zest ~ lemon zest gives these cookies all the lemon flavor they need. The essential oils (and flavor!) of citrus fruits are concentrated in the peel, not the juice. Save the lemon juice for another use.
how to make lemon snowball cookies
These cookies are one of the easiest in my arsenal of Christmas cookie recipes, in fact the most time consuming part is measuring out the ingredients! The technique is a classic one that goes way back (see the history of snowball cookies, below.)
- Cream together butter, sugar, salt, vanilla, and lemon zest.
- Fold in the flour.
- Scoop the dough and roll into balls.
- Bake just until set.
- Toss while still warm in powdered sugar.
- Toss again in powdered sugar when cooled.
history of snowball cookies (aka Mexican wedding cakes or Russian tea cookies)
Historians think this type of cookie originated in the Middle East, and may have found its way to Europe through trade routes, and then to Mexico with the conquistadors. These round, powdered sugar coated cookies are usually made with ground nuts in the dough and have a melt-in-your-mouth texture. The double coating of powdered sugar makes them look like little snowballs. The basic cookie has been appropriated by many cultures around the globe, and has assumed many names. They became popular as holiday cookies in America in the 20th Century.
snowball cookie tips and faqs
Yes, after you make the dough, cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days before baking.
Yes, you can add one cup of very finely chopped nuts like pecans or walnuts. Make sure you chop or grind the nuts finely so the cookies will hold together.
The first time you roll the cookies in sugar while they are still warm. This lays down a base coat of sugar which will absorb a little into the warm cookie. The second roll, when the cookies have cooled, coats them completely and gives them that ‘snowball’ appearance. You can even roll them a third time, if necessary!
Be sure you’ve measured everything accurately for these cookies, precision is key when baking simple recipes like this. Try chilling your balls of dough for 30 minutes before baking, which will help keep them round.
Yes, but you may need to coat them one final time after defrosting.
They’ll keep up to a week, at room temperature. Keep away from humidity, and do not refrigerate the baked cookies.
more holiday cookies
- Glazed Gingerbread Spritz Cookies
- Embossed Gingerbread Cookies
- Toasted Almond Russian Tea Cakes (plus printable gift tags)
- Acorn Meringue Cookies!
- Best Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies
- Fruitcake Shortbread Cookies
Lemon Snowball Cookies
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar (plus more for coating the cookies)
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- grated zest of 3 small lemons (use the juice for another recipe)
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- In a stand mixer or with electric beaters, cream together the butter, powdered sugar, salt, vanilla extract, and lemon zest until light and fluffy (1-2 minutes)
- Add the flour, and mix just until the dough comes together. Give it a final stir by hand to make sure everything is evenly incorporated.
- Using about 1 tablespoon of dough, roll each cookie into a ball and place on an ungreased baking sheet, about an inch apart.
- Bake for 10-12 minutes. The cookies will still be pale and very soft when they come out of the oven, do not over bake. Allow to partially cool on the baking sheet before gently removing to a rack.
- While the cookies are still barely warm, roll them in powdered sugar. Give them a second coat when they are completely cool. Note: if your powdered sugar is lumpy, be sure to sift it before coating.
Questions and Reviews
I Just did it, wonderful recipe I have used orange zest instead. One tray out of the oven , but mine are not picking up as much powder sugar as yours what is your tricikli tocoat them well to call it show balls? Thank you
You need to roll them first when they’re still warm, then roll again later to get that full coat. Sometimes you even need to coat a third time!
My family doesn’t like grated lemon rind. Can I replace it with lemon juice or lemon extract? If so, how much would I use?
You can use lemon extract, but not lemon juice. Use about a teaspoon. Also keep in mind that the lemon rind really kind of ‘melts’ into the cookie and doesn’t have any bitter flavor.
Instead of AP, can almond flour be used? To make it gluten free?
I haven’t tried these with almond flour. You might try an all-purpose gf baking mix first, since that might provide a little more structure to the cookies.
Good morning, Sue! Can you give me an idea of the # of tsp 3 small lemons will generate? I am a precise measurer especially with the star ingredient. Thanks for all your contributions to the baking world!
If you’re a really good zester you can get up to a tablespoon of zest per lemon. But here I’d say 2 tablespoons is plenty.
Hi Sue… I love your recipes! If I wanted to make Lime Snowballs, would I just substitute equal parts lime juice for the lemon juice? Thank you.
Lime would be wonderful, but remember it’s going to be zest, not juice, in this recipe, as it’s a low moisture shortbread type cookie dough.
Oooo, I’m making these this weekend!
Thank you Sue!