Lemon Snowball Cookies

lemon snowball cookies on a plate

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 in a dish

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!

lemon snowball cookie, broken in half

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.
  • salt
  • 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.
coating lemon snowball cookies

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.)

  1. Cream together butter, sugar, salt, vanilla, and lemon zest.
  2. Fold in the flour.
  3. Scoop the dough and roll into balls.
  4. Bake just until set.
  5. Toss while still warm in powdered sugar.
  6. Toss again in powdered sugar when cooled.
making lemon snowball cookies

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.

lemon snowball cookies, crumbled

snowball cookie tips and faqs

Can I make the dough ahead?

Yes, after you make the dough, cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days before baking.

Can I add nuts to this cookie?

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.

Why do we roll these cookies twice in powdered sugar?

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!

Why are my snowballs flat?

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.

Can you freeze snowball cookies?

Yes, but you may need to coat them one final time after defrosting.

How long will these cookies keep?

They’ll keep up to a week, at room temperature. Keep away from humidity, and do not refrigerate the baked cookies.

snowball cookies in powdered sugar

more holiday cookies

lemon snowball cookies on a plate
5 from 8 votes

Lemon Snowball Cookies

Lemon snowball cookies are melt in your mouth shortbread coated in powdered sugar ~ like little bursts of sunshine on your holiday cookie platter!
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
Total Time 22 minutes
Yield 28 cookies
Calories 99kcal
Author Sue Moran


  • 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.

Cook’s notes

Recipe lightly adapted from King Arthur Flour.


Calories: 99kcal | Carbohydrates: 9g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 17mg | Sodium: 79mg | Potassium: 12mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 203IU | Calcium: 3mg | Iron: 1mg
The nutritional information for recipes on this site is provided as a courtesy and although theviewfromgreatisland.com tries to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.
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    Leave a Reply

    Please rate this recipe!

  • Reply
    December 19, 2021 at 10:58 am

    Hi Sue,
    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

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      December 19, 2021 at 11:17 am

      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!

  • Reply
    Cathy C
    December 14, 2021 at 10:31 am

    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?

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      December 14, 2021 at 11:28 am

      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.

  • Reply
    December 9, 2021 at 4:59 pm

    Instead of AP, can almond flour be used? To make it gluten free?

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      December 9, 2021 at 6:29 pm

      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.

  • Reply
    December 9, 2021 at 8:41 am

    5 stars
    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!

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      December 9, 2021 at 8:55 am

      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.

  • Reply
    Judy B
    December 9, 2021 at 8:23 am

    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.

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      December 9, 2021 at 8:54 am

      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.

  • Reply
    Bernice Escobar
    December 9, 2021 at 7:41 am

    Oooo, I’m making these this weekend!

    Thank you Sue!

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