Y’all, I am thrilled to bring you this recipe for pecan sandies. These little pecan shortbread cookies are just sweet enough, delightfully crumbly, and have a rich, deep butter pecan flavor.
I’ll tell you about a couple of ingredients that lend such depth of flavor, share some cookie-making tips along with some short video clips showing you what the crumbly dough should look like.
If you’re a crumbly cookie fan, and why wouldn’t you be, you may really like my Moroccan shortbread cookies or my caramel walnut shortbread.
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Watch my best pecan sandies recipe web story here.
Why Make This Recipe
If you love the unassuming pecan sandies cookies you can get from the store, then this recipe truly is a must-make.
My recipe uses brown butter rather than the oils the mass-produced ones use, so you know they’ll have great flavor.
(Read about how to make browned butter.)
They get even more flavor from a bit of brown sugar instead of all white sugar.
Toasting the pecans and chopping them very VERY finely ensures that you’ll have deep pecan flavor in every bite.
Keeping the liquid to the bare minimum results in perfectly sandy cookies that are crumbly and crunchy, as a good pecan sandy should be.
And last, giving the portioned dough a light roll in granulated sugar gives just a touch of added sweetness, crumble, and crunch.
They really are the perfect little cookies to munch with a cup of tea or coffee.
How to Make Pecan Sandies
Ingredients and Substitutions
There are no hard-to-find ingredients in this cookie recipe.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- butter: I call for both brown butter that has been cooled to a solid state and a little bit of whole butter. Since whole butter is 80-ish% fat and 20-ish% water and milk solids, the only liquid in the recipe is the small amount of water in the butter, so don’t leave it out. If you want to use all whole butter, the flavor will not be as deep, and the cookies won’t be as crumbly since they’ll get more water from the butter
- dry milk powder: I add this to the butter when browning it. It adds extra browned butter flavor. It is an optional ingredient, and if you don’t have dried milk powder, your cookies will still be very, very tasty.
- sugar: For sweetness, moisture, and browning. There’s granulated sugar in the recipe and the cookies get rolled in more granulated sugar before baking
- brown sugar: For a touch more sweetness and a little more depth of flavor thanks to the molasses in the brown sugar. I use dark brown, but light brown will work as well
- salt: Salt brings out the flavor in the toasted nuts and snaps all the flavors into focus. Don’t leave it out.
- vanilla: Rounds out flavors and brings some floral notes to the cookies. It’s not strictly necessary, but I like to add just a bit
- pecans: I toast and then chop the nuts very finely. So finely that lots of the pecans turn to dust and no pieces are larger than a very small pea. Chopped finely, you make sure that you get pecan flavor in every bite as the “dust” is basically pecan flour that will mix in with the dough completely. The nuts bring a sweet-toasty dimension to the cookie as well as more fat for a super-tender result. You can substitute any other type of nut that you prefer as long as you chop them up very fine.
- all-purpose flour: Since there is so little water in these cookies, I don’t recommend substituting for cake flour–they may fall apart completely. Nor do I think bread flour is a good sub here since it is a thirstier flour than all-purpose. Stick with AP here
- baking soda: The baking soda adds just a bit of leavening, but more importantly, it enhances the flavors and allows the cookies to set up more quickly for a crunchier, crumblier texture
These cookies are made using The Creaming Method. The dough comes together very quickly.
- Chop the pecans super finely or pulse them in a food processor until very finely chopped. Set aside.
- Cream the brown butter and butter together until creamy.
- Add the sugar, brown sugar, salt, and vanilla and cream until nice and smooth.
- Whisk the baking soda into the flour and then mix in on low speed.
- Add the nuts and mix until the pecans are evenly distributed and no dry flour remains. Scrape the bowl as necessary.
NOTE: Dough will be very crumbly and may not hold together at all. That’s okay.
Once you have your dough made, scrape it out onto some plastic wrap, wrap it up and press it together well.
Refrigerate for an hour or two so the flour can completely hydrate and the flavors can blend together.
Once the dough has rested for awhile, portion it out, roll it into balls, roll in sugar, place on parchment-lined cookie sheets fairly close together, and press them down a bit with the bottom of a glass dipped into sugar.
Bake them, let them cool completely on the cookie sheets, and you’ve got tasty, crumbly, butter pecan cookies or pecan sandies.
Whatever you want to call them, you will love eating them!
You don’t necessarily need a stand mixer to make these cookies.
You can mix up the dough with a good hand mixer or even with a wooden spoon in a bowl if you are patient and have strong arms.
A good, sharp chef knife makes short work of the pecans, and as I mentioned earlier, you can also pulse them in a food processor.
I bake on rimmed baking sheets, and if I need a rimless sheet, I just turn them upside down and bake on the back!
Last, lining the pans with parchment is my preferred method of preparing the pans for baking cookies.
The pre-cut sheets are the perfect size to fit on half-sheet pans.
Instead of making individually portioned cookies, you can roll the dough into a round that’s about 9-10″ in diameter and roll sugar into it with a rolling pin.
Bake as a whole shortbread and cut into wedges while still warm.
Another option is to make them into slice-and-bake cookies. Roll the dough into a log about 1 1/2″ in diameter, roll the outside of the log in granulated sugar, and then slice them into 1/3″ slices.
For a variation on the dough itself, you can cut back a bit on the pecans and add in some finely chopped toffee or chocolate.
Here are some video clips so you can get an idea of what the dough should look like at different stages. I hope you find them helpful!
Here’s the dough as you add the pecans. You can see how crumbly it is:
This is what the dough looks like poured out onto plastic wrap before resting in the fridge. I’m not kidding when I say it’s crumbly!
Here’s the pecan shortbread dough just a few seconds later after wrapping it up and pressing it together. At this point, refrigerate it for an hour or two.
Here is the dough before baking, all portioned out, rolled in sugar, and somewhat flattened with the bottom of a glass.
NOTE: Before baking, I pressed them just a bit flatter than this.
Tips for Success
Know that the dough is very crumbly, so please resist the urge to add a little water or milk. This will throw the texture of the cookies off and make you sad.
Even after refrigerating the dough, it will still be a little crumbly, so make sure to firmly press the dough into the shape you want so it will hold together.
Once out of the oven, the cookies are too delicate to move, so let them cool completely (or at least mostly) on the baking sheets before transferring to a cooling rack or to container.
Pecan Sandies Q & A
No they aren’t. To make them gluten-free, use your favorite cup-for-cup gluten-free flour blend. Note that using other flours may change the texture of the dough. You want it to be crumbly, but not dry, so you might need to add a touch more liquid with a gf flour blend.
The commercially made version does not contain butter, so they are vegan as written. My recipe is not vegan because it contains butter. I don’t have a recommendation for a substitute here since the brown butter brings so much delicious flavor to these cookies.
Since pecan sandies contain almost no water, they have a pretty good long shelf life. They will be fine in an airtight cookie tin (or similar) at room temperature for a week or two.
Yes! Wrap them really well in freezer bags or airtight freezer containers and freeze for up to three months. Thaw at room temperature.
These unassuming little butter pecan cookies are perfect to enjoy with a cup of tea or with coffee.
You could even use them to make homemade ice cream sandwiches, sandwiching them with your favorite ice cream.
Make sandwich cookies by sticking two together with some raspberry jam, mixed berry jam, or maybe some Nutella.
Fancy them up a little bit by drizzling the cookies with fine lines of ganache, or dip them halfway into coating chocolate.
If you have questions about this post or recipe, don’t hesitate to get in touch. You can leave a comment on the post and I will get back to you within about 24 hours.
If your question is more urgent, please shoot me an email, and I will respond within 4 hours, unless I’m asleep.
A Note About Measurements
NOTE: Most of my recipes are written by weight and not volume, even the liquids.
Even though I try to provide you with volume measurements as well, I encourage you to buy a kitchen scale for ease of measuring, accuracy, and consistency.
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- 7 oz (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, divided use
- 1 Tablespoon dried milk powder
- 2 oz granulated sugar
- 1 oz dark brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt (I use Morton's kosher salt)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 9 oz (about 2 cups) all-purpose flour
- 4 oz pecans (a heaping cup)
- scant 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
To Finish and Bake
- additional white sugar for rolling
- Toast the pecans in the toaster oven for a few minutes until you can smell pecans and they have deepened a little in color.
- Allow them to cool and then chop them very finely. Set aside.
- Set aside 1 ounce (2 Tablespoons of the butter.
- Melt 6 oz butter in a pan. Add the dried milk powder and whisk well.
- Cook, swirling the pan frequently, until the milk solids start to turn a dark amber color.
- Immediately pour the butter into a heatproof container, scraping the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
- Allow the butter to cool and refrigerate until solid but not rock hard. If it gets too hard, take it out of the fridge and let it sit at room temperature for 45 minutes to an hour to soften back up.
- Cream brown butter, the reserved whole butter, sugar, brown sugar, salt, and vanilla until smooth and creamy,
- Whisk together the flour and baking soda and mix in on low speed, scraping the bowl as necessary.
- When the dough is almost mixed (there is still a bit of loose flour in the bowl), add the nuts.
- Continue mixing and scraping the bowl until there's no more loose flour. Dough will be very crumbly.
- Scrape the crumbly dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap and wrap it up, pressing the crumbled dough together in one mass. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
- Set oven racks in top and bottom thirds of the oven. Heat to 325F convection or 350F conventional.
- Line rimless baking sheets (or the backs of rimmed sheets) with parchment. Set aside.
- Portion dough into 1/2 oz pieces and roll into balls.
- Roll each ball in some granulated sugar and then place on parchment-lined baking sheets about 1" apart.
- Press each ball down to about 1/3" with the bottom of a glass or measuring cup dipped in sugar.
- Bake for 15 minutes, rotating the pans top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking.
- Cookies are done when they are just barely starting to color around the edges and on the bottoms. They won't spread much at all and won't look like much has happened at all.
- Let the cookies cool completely on the cookie sheets and then transfer to a rack to make sure they are all the way cool before storing in airtight containers.
- If for some reason the cookies aren't crunchy/crumbly all the way through, bake an additional 2-3 minutes.
I add extra milk solids to my butter when I brown it. It is not strictly necessary, but it really does bring so much more flavor to the cookies.
Pat the dough evenly into a 9"-10" circle and bake as shortbread. When still warm, score into wedges.
Roll the chilled dough into a log and roll the log in granulated sugar to make slice and bake cookies. Slice into 1/3" pieces and bake according to the recipe.
If you don't like pecans or don't have any on hand, substitute your favorite nut for pecans. If using almonds. for more flavor, add 1/8 teaspoon almond extract to the dough.
Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks. Freeze airtight for up to 3 months, and thaw at room temperature.
Nutrition InformationYield 40 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 92Total Fat 6.1gSaturated Fat 2.8gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 0gCholesterol 11mgSodium 68mgCarbohydrates 8.8gFiber 0.5gSugar 3.6gProtein 1g
The stated nutritional information is provided as a courtesy. It is calculated through third party software and is intended as a guideline only.
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Watch my brown butter pecan recipe web story here.