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Mexican Wedding Cookies

gluten-free mexican wedding cookie recipe

Mexican Wedding Cookies are a classic Christmas cookie, and now both gluten-free and grain-free.

The other day on Twitter one of my readers asked me to create a recipe for Paleo Mexican Wedding cookies. Well here you go –these Mexican Wedding Cookies are gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free, and refined sugar-free. They’re also quick and easy to make. Paleo Mexican Wedding Cookies? Yes please!

According to Wikipedia, Mexican wedding cookies have quite a few other names and are also commonly referred to as Russian Tea Cakes and Snowball Cookies:

Russian tea cake is a kind of pastry, commonly eaten around Christmas in the United States. It is a form of jumble, a pastry common in England during the Middle Ages. They are also known as Mexican wedding cakes (or cookies) and butterballs; however, they are perhaps most commonly called snowball cookies for their powdery white spheric appearance and for appearing around the winter holidays.

Mexican wedding cookies are a wonderful treat to include in your Christmas gift bags, not that I would really know this since I’m Jewish and each year struggle to figure out what classic Christmas cookies really are. To do so, I go to sites like those run by Lori of Recipe Girl and Marla of Family Fresh Cooking. I also grill my friends around this time of year to figure out what to make.

Mexican Wedding Cookies


  1. In a food processor combine almond flour, salt and baking soda
  2. Pulse in shortening, honey and vanilla
  3. Mix in pecans by hand
  4. Using a 1 tablespoon ice cream scoop, scoop dough out in scant tablespoons
  5. Use your hands to form cookies into balls, pressing very firmly
  6. Bake at 350° for 7-10 minutes
  7. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 20 minutes
  8. Dip cookies into powdered coconut sugar
  9. Serve

Makes 18 cookies

When you make these Paleo Christmas cookies, be sure to press the dough into balls very firmly so they don’t fall apart after they are baked, this is an important step so do not skip it! Also be sure to form scant tablespoon sized balls so that the cookies are bite sized and so that you get the correct yield.

To stick to the classic version of this recipe, roll the cookies in powdered sugar instead of coconut sugar. To make the powdered coconut sugar called for in this recipe simply whiz your regular coconut sugar up in a vitamix or coffee grinder. I make a cup or so at a time and store my powdered coconut sugar in a glass mason jar. I find that homemade powdered coconut sugar keeps for at least a few weeks when stored this way.

If you can tolerate xylitol (most people with gut and digestive issues cannot) you can make powdered xylitol sugar using the method outlined above for the powdered coconut sugar and dip your Mexican Wedding Cookies in powdered xylitol sugar.

What other classic Christmas cookie recipes would you like to see me transform by making them gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free, and refined sugar-free? What are your favorite Christmas cookies?! I’m all ears.

posted on December 9, 2013, 83 comments

  1. jen

    hi elana – these look great, but can you tell me if they are crispy/crunchy or if they are more cakey? thanks so much – jen

  2. Alena

    Can I substitute vegan shortening for ghee, or maybe coconut butter?

  3. D @ The Kosher Cave Girl @ thekoshercavegirl.com

    Hmmmmm. Now I need to go on a hunt for vegan shortening. Do you think coconut oil/butter would work just as well?

    This recipe looks insanely good, by the way!

    • Lyn

      Spectrum brand makes a vegan shortening. It comes in a bowl/tub and is on sale at Whole Foods with a $3 coupon for it in their flyer and you can also use a manufacturer coupon if you have one. They will accept one store coupon and one manu coupon per product. I have also seen it at SuperTarget and all the health food stores. Earth Fare has it in buttery flavor as well.

    • Caitlyn

      used 2 Tbs. Organic unsalted butter… THESE ARE AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!

    • Caitlyn

      Update, used melted coconut oil, they turned out great, not really much different than made with butter. This recipe rocks!

  4. Allison @ amatlack.com

    Oh, wow! These have always been my favorite kind of cookies!

    But where can I find powdered coconut sugar? The link goes to regular coconut sugar. Do you use the method I found while searching (blending arrowroot powder + coconut sugar)?

  5. Staci

    I would love to see a GF/DF recipe for molasses crinkles

  6. Cathleen

    Thank you so much for making these. This is a Christmas classic at our house.

  7. Kristin

    Thank you! I need these in my life!

  8. Marlene Placido

    I have been looking for years for a recipe for a raspberry thumbprint almond cookie… a traditional Christmas cookie from maybe one of the Scandinavian countries.. these reminded me of them.

  9. Christi

    YUM!!! Thank you Elana!!! Molasses cookies please… :)

  10. MamaCassi

    No you didn’t!!!! I remember these from my childhood in Greece, except they were pressed into crescents that were two delicious melt-in-your-mouth bites of amazingness!!!

    I am totally biased to Mediterranean sweets from my time there and found the chocolate chip cookies, brownies, cake, and peanut butter cookies were a sad replacement for my baklava, flan, jordan almonds, turkish delight, halvah, nougat, and spiced treats. my kids get chocolate chip cookies, but i make myself clove heavy almond cookies.

    just reading this dragged me back to the irresistible sweetness of these amazing cookies!

  11. Karen

    I would be interested in your take on those little Italian cookies that taste like anise. I think they show up on quite a few Christmas cookie platters. Thanks for all the recipes.

  12. Nina


    You stated that you’re all ears for favorite cookies, so I’m requesting a recipe for the Italian Pignoli (pine nut) cookies. Thanks in advance!

  13. Melanie

    Thank you! I haven’t made these in years! I would also love to see you come up with a Paleo version of the chocolate crinkle cookies. ;)

  14. Ann

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! You read my mind!

  15. Sandi

    Thanks for the recipe, we were just talking about these, my favorite Christmas cookie of all time! How about a recipe for Spritz cookies?
    We love all their buttery goodness. :)

  16. Brittney


    I would LOVE to see Marzipan cookies. I love the taste of Marzipan! but using almond flour you would think it was easy to get that flavor, but I haven’t succeeded.

    Christmas Cookies I wish I had good recipes for:
    Marzipan lindsor torte cookies – Omgggg :)

    Ginger Snap Cookies… I enjoy those super thin ones that come in a tin during xmas.

  17. Roxanne

    I would LOVE to see a grain free version of chocolate vanilla pinwheel cookies.

  18. Sunshine Rowley @ n/a

    I would love to find a nut-flour version of Santa Lucia buns. Here is a traditional recipe for them, in case you are not familiar with them:
    Thank you! :-)

  19. sandy gypp

    I would love to make a better version of a brown butter cookie. Like this:


  20. Erin

    I’m also interested to know if coconut oil can be used in substitution for the shortening.

  21. Heidi

    These look so good! Thank you so much for sharing all of your work, Elana and then asking for cookie requests… You are amazing!

    I’m going to echo the requests for spritz, tie plates and add one more…genetti Italian cookies. Please?

  22. Diane Orr

    THANK YOU! This is one of my favorites of all time….thought i’d have to give it up! :)

  23. Megan

    Thank you so much for posting just in time. I was looking for a gluten/sugar free recipe for this the other day as its an all time favorite of mine. One recipe I would love to know how to make gluten/sugar free would be molasses cookies as well. Thanks for all the hard work you put into this site and helping others. Its an inspiration!

  24. I wonder why they are called Mexican wedding cookies. I’m Mexican and I have never eaten them in a wedding, hahaha.

  25. Anna

    I can’t wait to make these for my Mexican roommate! Thanks so much for the recipe.
    I’d love to see a paleo version of czech vanilkove rohlicky.

  26. Connie

    Favorite Christmas cookies:
    Czechoslovakian Jam Squares (bar cookies/shortbread cookie base)
    Cranberry Cookies/Light Frosting
    Carrot Cookies/Orange Frosting
    Pumpkin Cookies/Maple Icing
    Date Bread

  27. Darlene

    I was so excited to see your recipe for Mexican wedding cookies….it was my Mother’s favorite. I cant wait to try them. I have a recipe for green Christmas tree cookies I would love for you to convert to Paleo. I will need to send you the recipe.

    • Darlene

      The ingredients for Christmas tree cookies are:
      1 cup butter
      3/4 cup sugar
      1 egg
      2 1/4 cup sifted all purpose flour
      1/8 tsp salt
      1/4 tsp baking powder
      1 tsp almond extract
      1/4 tsp green veg. food coloring(yuk)
      Cream shortening, sugar.
      Add egg, sifted dry ingredients, flavoring, and food coloring.
      Mix well.
      Fill cookie press and forn onto ungreased cookie sheet.
      Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 min.
      Thanks again.

  28. diane

    the kind you press your thumb in and add preserves

  29. diana @ na

    Mexican wedding cookies: any idea how they would turn out if i substituted the same quantity of olive oil for the shortening?

    • Karyn

      Having just made these with butter – I think the olive oil would not help the dough hold together well enough and it would impart a strong flavor. Butter or solid coconut oil may work though. I have substituted both in Elana’s different recipes when vegan shortening was called for with good success.

  30. Jane

    Thank you Elana! You read my mind when you posted this recipe. I will definitely be making these cookies soon. One of the classics I miss are madeleines… :)

  31. Leona

    My favorite holiday cookies are pizzelles. Would love to have an almond flour recipe for them – not necessarily paleo. Thank you for your delicious recipes.

    • Christine

      Here are 2 favorites that I’d like “Elana-fied”:

      Gilleys – they’re made in a Pizzelle maker, but they’re more substantial:

      0.5 pounds Butter (2 sticks)
      1 pounds Sugar, Light Brown (2 1/4 cups)
      2.25 teaspoons Vanilla
      3 Eggs
      0.125 cups Coffee, Brewed, Strong
      5 cups Flour, All-Purpose

      Conbine ingredients. Chill for several hours. Bake in waffle or cookie iron.


      Modern Chewy German Peppernuts – Pfefferneuse, but chewy instead of rock-hard. I’m actually going to attempt to convert this on my own, and will report back if I remember!

      1.5 cups Flour, All-Purpose
      1 teaspoons Ginger
      1 teaspoons Cloves, Ground
      1 teaspoons Baking Powder
      0.25 teaspoons Pepper, Black, Coarse-Ground (Fresh)
      0.5 teaspoons Salt
      0.67 cups, packed Sugar, Brown
      0.5 cups Margarine
      1 Eggs

      Combine ingredients. Drop spoonfuls of the cookie on greased cookie sheets. Bake at 375 for 10 minutes. Cool on cookie rack, then roll in confectioners sugar.

      I’d also love a copycat version of the Peparkakor cookies that come in the decorated tin at World Market (they’re thin, crispy molasses rounds).

  32. Ooo, I can suggest lots of favorite Christmas cookie recipes I would love to be able to eat again. Here’s one, for a start: Rum Raisin Shortbread Cookies. (Let me know if you’d like the recipe for the original.)

  33. Karyn

    I made these last night and they are delicious. I do more primal than pale, so I substituted grass-fed unsalted butter (2TBSP) and they were really, really good! I love the powdered coconut sugar idea. Opens up new ideas for icing/frosting recipes with a bit more stiffness (thinking coconut milk and powdered coconut sugar?)

  34. Barbara

    Just made these today. I used butter instead of shortening and didn’t roll them in sugar after they were baked. They turned out really good and I like them a lot. Very happy to have this recipe.

  35. Though I was raised Christian I had never heard of Christmas cookies until I was 27! I asked my mom about it and she said “Of course I’ve heard of them, we didn’t make them because we ate healthy”. So you are not alone with the Christmas cookie obstacle. Though these cookies sound delicious to me!

  36. lori

    my girls’ love oreo truffles! they are made from cream cheese and smashed oreo cookies, rolled in to balls (like truffles) then cooled and dipped later in either almond bark (ick) or white chocolate.

    any suggestions?

  37. Reba

    I love your recipes and look forward to making more. Since I’m trying to count calories and carbs, is there any way to know how many calories and carbs the recipes have? My doctor wrote “obese” on my chart at 64 years old, 5’2″ and 157 pounds, so I’m trying to lose some weight.

    Many thanks.

  38. Stephanie

    Another christmas cookie favorite I remember are pecan tassies:)

  39. Stephanie

    How could I forget…. Danish Butter Cookies and Lace Cookies!

  40. Aleesha Banks @ cookiecutter.com

    I will definitely make this cookies. As I was searching for a long for Mexican cookies. So can’t wait.

  41. Jess

    These look amazing! And bring back such happy memories… I am going to add a lil cinnamon to the powdered coconut sugar similar to how we used to eat them.
    Thanks for the recipe Elana!

  42. GiGi Eats Celebrities @ gigieatscelebrities.com

    Elena! I made something you would be SO PROUD OF!! Made of coconut flour and flaxmeal! I cannot wait to share it, but I have yet to post it :) You’re inspiring me to BAKE – as I am soooo not a baker!

  43. Carrie

    These look fantastic! I can’t wait to try them!

    I don’t have a holiday cookie suggestion, but I was wondering if you’ve heard of povitica? The Croatian side of my family makes it every holiday season – it’s basically a bready pastry that is slathered in a sweet, chopped walnut mixture then rolled into a “log” shape and baked. It’s crazy delicious and is the one holiday treat I haven’t been able to find a substitute for since going grain free. Would be thrilled if you made a paleo version!

    Thanks and love your website!


  44. Jen Mathew

    So fantastic. Thanks for doing this! Love mexican wedding cakes, but wanted to make them less allergenic. I will have to tweak the almond flour out and sub something else in, but the recipe is great. Some of our favorite Christmas cookie traditions are: springerle (German); feffernuise (German); Chococolate Chip Cherry Cookies (Alsaice Lorraine); Gingerbread (German); Anise Cookies (French?); Sugar Cookie Cut-Outs; Fudge; and Macaroons

  45. Emily

    I just made these with my 6 year old son and they are DELICIOUS! We followed the recipe using palm shortening and then only used a little bit of the powdered coconut sugar (not even close to 1/2 cup) and they were plenty sweet. We used pecans that I had soaked and dehydrated. This was SO easy – we’ll definitely be making them again! Thank you!

  46. Robin

    This recipe is delicious! I have made these cookies twice now, because they disappear so fast. Thank you so much for providing high-quality gluten-free cookie recipes. I was feeling really overwhelmed at the thought of trying to convert my traditional cookie recipes into gluten-free versions that my daughter and I could eat. I was actually thinking of skipping the Christmas cookie baking entirely this year, until a friend told me about your website.

  47. Hi Elana
    Love your recipes!!!
    Could you create a recipe for ‘Mince Pies’ they are a must have in England over the holidays and I really miss them
    thank you :)

  48. Julie

    Hi Beautiful Elana,

    I’m wondering if I can use coconut oil instead of veg shortening? Have you ever tried that before vegan shortening? I wanted to make that for Xmas day look so yummy. Thanks

    Happy Holidays to you & your family!

    Julie :-)

  49. Amanda

    These are DELICIOUS. just made them and am going to the store to get ingredients for a second batch. They are going to be a hit!

  50. Christine @ NEOhioHomeInfo.com

    Hi Elana, I’ve been trying to paleo friendly many of my faves from my old Betty Crocker Cooky Book. I tried converting Russian Tea Cakes and Peanut Butter Cookies last night. This morning I went in search for some help and checked here.

    First, the Russian Tea Cakes. I converted the recipe using Almond Flour, coconut sugar and ghee. What I found is that because of the oil from the Almond Flour, I needed a whole lot less of the butter. The first few batches were actually melting away on the pan. Flavor is very good, but they are rather cake like/soft and chewy, not crisp and crunchy as when they are made with original recipe. What should I do to fix this? Do you think it would make a difference using Coconut Flour?

    Second, Peanut Butter Cookies. I converted the recipe using Sun Butter, almond flour, coconut sugar and ghee. What I found is that you cannot make the criss crosses :( The sun butter has runnier consistency than peanut butter, so this combined with the butter and almond flour seemed to make them too creamy. I had to increase the almond flour by a half cup and could not follow the time and temp. The first two batches were burnt to crisps. I ended up lowering the temp to 350 and only cooking for 6 minutes. Again, the flavor is very good, but cake like and chewy. What would you suggest for me to crisp these up?

    Thanks in advance for your help!

  51. Jan

    These are our #1 Christmas cookie (#2 is Macedonian Kefle) and now I am overjoyed to have them again! Thank you Elana for all you do. You are so very appreciated.

  52. julie

    Please make a grain free struffoli recipe! I miss them so much!

  53. Laura King

    Thank you so much for this recipe! I have made them twice now and both times everyone raved about them. I did make one substitution, I used butter instead of shortening.
    These are awesome :)

  54. Lisa

    I can’t wait to try this recipe! I’m attaching a link to a cookie that my mom always makes at Christmas. It is a family favorite…but not very healthy…at all. I’d love to see if you can come up with a better, healthier version!


  55. QueenJellyBean

    Best cookie I have ever had in my life. Hands down. Didn’t even put powdered sugar on top – and I used coconut oil instead of shortening. Didn’t bother to toast my raw pecans.

  56. Michelle

    These are soooo yummy, I can live without chocolate. They are sooo satisfying. I do not have a food processor, so I used my bullet to pulse things together and it worked great. It was time consuming, but oh so worth it. I also cut the coconut sugar with xylitol. Thank you.

  57. Laura Jo

    This is a delightful, easy to make cookie. My guests of 10 ladies tonight just loved them (I hosted a Paleo Mexican Fiesta) . This recipe is a keeper. Thank you!! :)

  58. Deb Anderson

    Can you use a different flour? i cannot eat almonds.

  59. Lauren

    Can I use butter since I can’t have vegetable shortenings?

  60. julie

    Hi Elana, I would love to see the traditional Italian Christmas cookie recipe transformed. I am referring to the bite-sized, ball-shaped cookie with the sprinkles on top. At first I thought this recipe for the Mexican Wedding Cookies was it, but it isn’t. Good luck and Happy Holidays! I have been an avid follower and fan of yours for years ~ have all of your cookbooks and refer others to your site regularly! Thanks so much for doing what you do! :)

  61. Jamie

    Hi Alana, Do you have a replacement recipe for the Neiman Marcus cookies? They have been our favorite to bake at Christmas, and this is our first year eating Paleo. That is the one cookie I will definitely miss eating! Thank you!

  62. I used a mix of coconut and almond flour, half org grass fed butter and half cold coconut oil, mixed erythritol with coconut sugar and they turned out fantastic!

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Comments are greatly appreciated! Unfortunately Elana is not able to answer substitution questions, as the only way to know if something works is to test it, and she does not provide this service. If you have a substitution question, please don't hesitate to leave a comment here, and another reader may jump in to answer. ↑ back to top