The Origin of Mexican Wedding Cookies & The Best Recipe for Making Them

It's time to make some tasty treats.
Illustration of plate of mexican wedding cookies
Illustration: Tiana Crispino for The Knot
chapelle johnson the knot associate editor
by
Chapelle Johnson
chapelle johnson the knot associate editor
Chapelle Johnson
Associate Editor
  • Chapelle writes articles for The Knot Worldwide. She covers all things wedding-related and has a personal interest in covering celebrity engagements and fashion.
  • Before joining The Knot Worldwide, Chapelle was an editorial intern for Subvrt Magazine.
  • Chapelle has a degree in English writing from Loyola University New Orleans.
Updated Dec 15, 2023

There are so many culinary traditions connected to weddings, and Mexican wedding cookies are one of them. Mexican wedding cookies are sweet treats with a nutty, buttery taste and a powdered sugar exterior that melts in your mouth. A simple cookie made of only a few ingredients, they're a buttery and crumbly delight that goes by many names—at least four, to be exact. And even though this dessert is small, it comes with a big, tangled history. Learn what Mexican wedding cookies are, the tradition behind them, their history, origin and multiple names. And as a sweet bonus, we included a Mexican wedding cookies recipe and gave some ideas for how you can add them to your special day.

The Ultimate Guide to Mexican Wedding Cookies: What Are They? | Tradition | History | Origin | Name | Recipe | How to Incorporate Them

What Are Mexican Wedding Cookies?

Mexican wedding cookies are buttery desserts filled with walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans or almonds topped with delicious powdered sugar. "In Mexico, they are a popular part of the dessert offerings during many weddings," says Tatiana Parra, head of product at La Monarca Bakery & Cafe in Los Angeles. "The type of nuts vary from almonds to pecans to pistachios to walnuts, but we use pecans," she says. "Without eggs in the recipe to bind them, Mexican wedding cookies have the consistency of a crumbly shortbread instead of a chewy sugar cookie."

Mexican Wedding Cookies Tradition

Even though the Mexican wedding cake cookies' history and origin are complicated (we'll dive into that soon), they are known to be occasionally served at some Mexican weddings at a dessert bar or given to guests to take home as an edible wedding favor. Parra adds that the cookies are also popular year-round in Mexico and the US, especially during the holiday season because they resemble snowballs.

Mexican Wedding Cookies History

Culinary experts and historians admit the history of Mexican wedding cookies isn't clear or complete. These sweets look similar to Russian tea cakes, kourabiedes (Greek cookies that have egg yolks and brandy or orange juice) and qurabiya (Arab cookies with egg whites). With so many look-alikes across the globe, it's hard to trace the origin and history of Mexican wedding cookies specifically. Some people think they originated with medieval Arab bakers and, because of expanded trade routes, eventually made their way to Europe. It's been said that European nuns brought the mouthwatering recipe to Mexico or that Spanish conquistadors did the same for 16th-century North America.

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Mexican Wedding Cookies Origin

Since these confections have "Mexican" in the name, one might automatically assume that's their origin, but historians don't believe it's that simple. According to the Epicurious writer, Matthew Zuras, a reader of the 1937 American Cookery journal wrote in asking if the editors could send them the Mexican wedding cakes, another name for the cookies, recipe and described them as "small, round tea cakes, rather short, filled with nuts, and rolled in powdered sugar." With this information, we at least know that the cookies existed in the early 20th Century similar to how we know them now.

Mexican Wedding Cookies Name

So, why are they called Mexican wedding cookies? It's been said that the Mexican wedding cookies' name was originally Russian tea cookies, but changed during the Cold War because of tensions with Russia at the time. But cookbooks referring to the treat with the Mexican name existed before the start of the Cold War, like the 1937 publication mentioned above, so the waters are further muddled when it comes to the Mexican wedding cookies name.

"As early as the 17th century, similar cookies were popular in Northern Europe, but modern-day Mexican wedding cookie recipes began to appear in cookbooks in the 1950s. Food historians have noted that during the Cold War, Russian tea cakes started disappearing from American cookbooks, and wedding cookies began to appear. It could be a coincidence, but no one knows for sure," Parra explains. Most assume the cookie's name is due to its occasional appearance at some Mexican weddings.

It's probably not shocking to you, but because of their complex history and origin, there are numerous other names for Mexican wedding cookies. There are plenty of blogs discussing Mexican wedding cookies vs. Italian wedding cookies, snowball cookies vs. Mexican wedding cookies and Russian tea cakes vs. Mexican wedding cookies.

With all these monikers, you might be wondering what to call Mexican wedding cookies in Spanish. As yet another name for wedding cookies, there are polvorónes, which comes from the Spanish word "polvorón" meaning "powder" and is what Mexico natives call the cookies.

At this point, the cookies have dozens of names, and bakers can't agree on one. One thing they all agree on is how tasty these desserts are. No matter what you call it, as long as the recipe calls for nuts, butter, powdered sugar, flour and vanilla extract, it'll please any crowd.

Mexican Wedding Cookies Vs. Russian Tea Cakes

Are Russian tea cakes and Mexican wedding cookies the same? Almost, but not quite—Russian tea cakes are powdered sugar-covered treats that bear a striking resemblance to Mexican wedding cookies. Notably, most recipes for Russian tea cakes call for walnuts instead of pecans.

Mexican Wedding Cookies Vs. Italian Wedding Cookies

According to the Institute of Culinary Education, Italians prepare similar buttery cookies for celebratory meals with a special touch of star anise, which gives the dessert a delicious fragrance. Italian wedding cookies are traditionally called anginetti and can sometimes be shaped into crescents instead of circles. Additionally, some recipes call for a mix of nuts, like almonds and hazelnuts, instead of just one nut variety.

Mexican Wedding Cookies Recipe

If all this talk about food has your stomach grumbling, we have just the thing for you. Try this super-easy Mexican wedding cookie recipe Parra shared with us. It makes about three dozen small cookies and takes about an hour to make.

But if baking isn't your thing and you're about to type "How to find Mexican wedding cookies near me" into your search engine, there's another option for you. Use The Knot Vendor Marketplace and find the best local baker to create these treats for your wedding or the holidays.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups confectioner's sugar, divided
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt

    How to Make Mexican Wedding Cookies:

    1. Toast the chopped pecans over low heat in a pan for 5 minutes, until they are fragrant and slightly browned. (Do not add any oil.) Remove from heat and let cool.
    2. Using a food processor, pulse the nuts into a coarse consistency. Stop when you achieve a crumbly, sand-like texture.
    3. Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and ¾ cup of confectioner's sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy.
    4. In a large bowl, mix the flour and salt.
    5. With the mixer on low speed, alternate adding in the flour and pecans slowly until evenly mixed.
    6. Remove the dough from the mixer and transfer it to a piece of plastic wrap. Cover and chill for at least one hour in your refrigerator.
    7. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
    8. Form the chilled dough into 1-inch balls. Roll each in a bowl of the remaining 1 ¼ cup of confectioner's sugar and place on the parchment-lined cookie sheet.
    9. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes or until the edges are slightly browned, and allow cookies to cool on the sheet for 10 minutes.
    10. Roll the warm cookies in the confectioner's sugar again before cooling them on a wire rack. Store leftover cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 7 days. Enjoy!

          How to Incorporate Mexican Wedding Cookies into Your Day

          Now that you know just about everything there is to know about Mexican wedding cookies, you can include them in your celebration. We love the idea of couples with small guest counts making the cookies themselves and serving them at the wedding, asking their baker to make them as wedding favors, handing out a family Mexican wedding cookie recipe at the reception or having a Mexican wedding cookie cake. There are so many ways you can incorporate these delicious little domes into your nuptials—just ensure you choose whatever will make your stomach happy.

          Hannah Nowack contributed to the reporting of this article.

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