These Butter Pecan Cookies are a Swedish classic! A buttery, brown-sugar-rich shortbread dough, nestled under a pecan half. They are perfect for cookie plates or to enjoy with some coffee or milk. Only 6 ingredients! So easy. Originally published December 8, 2017.
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It’s Christmas cookie season!! All the cookies, all day long! These Butter Pecans are the FIRST Christmas cookie I bake every year, without fail. They are a HUGE family favorite. It’s seriously impossible to eat just one. They are nice for cookie swaps because one batch makes 50-60 small cookies.
I started my blog in October of 2011, and posted this recipe for Butter Pecans just a couple months later on December 12, so you can tell that they are a priority recipe!
My blog is still somewhat of a journal for me, and I can’t handle deleting my old “entries” when a post needs updated photos. (My thoughts on tomato aspic have not changed one bit, so here they will stand.) Here is the original post from 2011:
Butter Pecan Cookies (Traditional Swedish Recipe)
Eric’s great-grandmother was Swedish. Grandma Prudy cooked a lot of traditional recipes from her native country that have been passed down. Eric’s family still uses many of the recipes*, especially around Christmas. They have a special dinner on Christmas Eve with traditional Swedish meatballs, boiled potatoes, rye bread, and of course tomato aspic.
I am all about tradition, don’t get me wrong. Traditions are about family togetherness and I love them. I especially love them when they are delicious. Unfortunately tomato aspic does not fall under this category. How can you love what is essentially a tomato jello, even if it is dressed up in a bundt mold? I am not alone; even Eric admits that tomato aspic is revolting. In fact, I’m pretty sure that Bumpa (Eric’s grandpa, Prudy’s son) is the only one who eats the stuff every Christmas. This is the same man who also eats pickled herring on a regular basis. Just sayin’.
The first year we were married, Eric and I went to my parent’s house for the holidays. We have our Christmas traditions too, and those traditions usually include lots of mashed potatoes and tri-tip. But to make Eric feel more at home, I decided to try to recreate his family’s Christmas Eve dinner, even down to the tomato aspic.
The meatballs turned out awesome. I even won the meatball contest. (My brother-in-law, whose family is hardcore Italian, insisted on having a meatball contest to prove “once again” that northern Europeans (and their meatballs) are inferior to their southern neighbors. Boo-ya.)
Meatballs, check. The potatoes were good. The rye bread was good. The tomato aspic? Didn’t set up. So when we flipped that bundt mold over, instead of revealing our magnificently shaped (if nothing else) tomato jello, out came tomato soup with chunks of gelatin floating in it. Yum.
Even if the tomato aspic tradition is doomed to die on this generation’s watch, Grandma Prudy’s Swedish cookie tradition is one that is bound to stick around. These Butter Pecans have 6 ingredients and are incredible. I’m usually not one for pecans (or any nuts, for that matter), but these cookies are addictive. Especially since they are tiny; it’s easy to throw down 8 or 9 before you’ve even realized what’s going on. Long live Butter Pecans. Tomato aspic, rest in peace.
*Karen from Christmas Present chiming in. Here are some of Prudy’s famous cookie recipes I’ve shared since Butter Pecan’s original publication in 2011: Spritz, Gingersnaps, Sour Cream Twists, Thin and Crispy Sugar Cookies, Mexican Wedding Cookies, and Cardamom Cookies. There are so many more, I need to get on it!
Here’s one of the original photos from 2011:
Butter Pecan Cookie Recipe Ingredients
Here’s a quick shopping list to help you gather your ingredients. See the recipe card below for the full ingredients and instructions!
- Salted butter
- Brown sugar
- Egg yolk
- All-purpose flour
- Pecan halves
How to Make Easy Butter Pecan Cookies
This recipe for butter pecan cookies is ready in under 20 minutes! Here’s a quick summary of recipe instructions (full instructions in the recipe card):
- Cream the butter and brown sugar until combined. Add the egg yolk and beat well.
- Add the flour and salt to the wet ingredients, then mix until a ball forms.
- Cover and chill for 1 hour.
- Roll the dough into 1-inch balls and place on a lined baking sheet. Flatten each ball with a fork.
- Top each cookie with a pecan.
- Bake for a few minutes – so easy!
Butter Pecan Cookie Variations
- Use another nut. Top the cookies with sliced almonds or walnut halves if preferred. You can also just make them nut-free and leave them off! The butter cookie dough is still delicious.
- Flavor them. Add a drop of vanilla or almond extract to add an extra layer of flavor.
- Toast the pecans. Toasting the pecans first heightens their nutty flavor.
- Make them salty. Finish the cookies off with a sprinkle of sea salt (before baking) to contrast with the sweetness.
- Spice them up. Warm the cookies up by adding a sprinkle of ground cinnamon and/or nutmeg to the dough.
- Substitute candy for nuts. While pecans are our family tradition, you could try pressing red and green M&Ms, Reese’s pieces, chopped Skor bars, or semisweet chocolate chunks into the top of each cookie.
- Make them sweeter. Give the cookies a sweet crunch by rolling the balls of dough in granulated sugar before baking.
Storing this Recipe for Butter Pecan Cookies
This butter pecan cookie recipe makes a ton of cookies. Luckily, leftovers store very well.
Stack them in a tupperware and keep them at room temperature for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
When you’re ready to serve them, let them thaw at room temperature or warm for a few seconds in the microwave.
Butter Pecan Cookies Recipe FAQ
The butter flavor is real butter! It’s enhanced by the sweet, nutty flavor of the pecans which is what makes it such a beloved flavor combination.
Butter pecan is a unique flavor combination that brings together the rich, creaminess of butter with the roasted nuttiness of pecans. The brown sugar in the cookies adds a caramel sweetness.
Not quite. Butterscotch is the brown sugar-plus-butter version of caramel; it’s cooked until it’s soft, sweet, and rich. Butter pecan is a flavor combining JUST pecans and butter–no brown sugar–as in butter pecan ice cream. These butter pecan cookies also include brown sugar, but it isn’t a key ingredient in the flavor of butter pecan.
Because of the butter…and pecans. It’s really that simple guys. “Butter pecan” desserts have a subtle and unique flavor. If you’re a huge butter fan (like me) you can taste that creamy richness immediately. Pecans have a roasted, sweet, nutty flavor that’s similarly rich, just like butter. Put ‘em together and you’ve got a recipe for some of my favorite cookies of all time.
More Christmas cookies to love!
- Ultra Fudgy Chocolate Crinkle Cookies << can’t beat a classic!
- Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies << there is a reason this is one of the top recipes on my site!
- Dipped Chocolate Peppermint Cookies << So beautiful! And, more importantly, delicious.
- Soft Cinnamon Cookies with Maple Pecan Frosting
- Caramel Pecan Thumbprint Cookies << these are a Better Homes and Gardens classic, they are perfect for cookie plates!
- Spritz << These are a Swedish classic from Eric’s Grandma Prudie. We make them every year!
- Swedish Sour Cream Twists (Layered Yeast Cookies) << Dip these in hot chocolate. Divine!
- Crispy Swedish Cardamom Cookies << Simple. Delicious. Addictive.
- Italian Christmas Cookies from The Farmgirl Gabs
- Chocolate Orange Roundies from Helvetic Kitchen
Easy Butter Pecan Cookies Recipe
- 1 cup salted butter, softened
- 2/3 cup brown sugar, packed
- 1 egg yolk
- 2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, I use kosher salt
- 50-60 pecan halves
- In a large bowl or stand mixer, cream butter and brown sugar. Beat it for at least 2-3 minutes, stopping to scrape the sides and bottom.
- Add the egg yolk and beat well.
- Add the flour & salt. Mix until it forms a ball, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl. When all the flour is incorporated, stop beating. (Over beating makes for a tough dough.)
- Cover the bowl and chill for about an hour. (If you are doubling the recipe, be sure to chill for more like 2-3 hours. They will bake flat if the dough is not cold. You can freeze the dough too, if you want.)
- Form the dough into 1 inch balls. Place on the cookie sheet with one inch of space in between each cookie.
- Flatten each ball once with a fork. If the fork is sticking, dip it in flour, then press on the cookie.
- Press a pecan on top, perpendicular to the fork marks.
- Bake at 350 for 6-8 minutes or until they are no longer shiny on the top or edges.* I don’t let mine get brown, or if they do, it is a very small amount on the bottom edges.