This homemade pecan sandie recipe delivers a buttery shortbread texture that melts in your mouth. Preparing the cookie dough in a food processor makes the process quick and easy. Roll, chill, then slice and bake!
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Learn how to make pecan sandies loaded with a nutty praline flavor! These slice-and-bake shortbread cookies are crisp and buttery. They don’t contain leavening agents and thus rely on butterfat for structure. Some of the nuts are toasted to enhance the aroma and flavor, then ground down for a tastier cookie dough.
Using simple pantry staples, like flour, butter, sugar, and eggs, creates the characteristic brittle sandy texture when bitten into. The dough is made using a food processor to chop and mix the ingredients. Roll into a log and chill. This helps firm up the butter to reduce the spreading. The dough is great to prepare ahead of time, then just cut and bake for a freshly made treat!
Enhance the pecan flavor
Purchase halves, not chopped pecans, at the store. You’ll need 8 ounces or 2 cups. This gives plenty of beautiful halves to place in the center of each cookie for a garnish and to use in the cookie dough.
Toasting these types of nuts for a few minutes warms up the oils, making the pieces more fragrant and flavorful. Be careful not to burn the surface, and shake the pan frequently for even cooking.
Chop the nuts and sugars
The great thing about this recipe is you can make the entire cookie dough in the food processor. It works best in a larger unit, 8 cups or larger. The wider blade helps to break down the ingredients quickly. If you own a smaller unit, use it to chop the nuts with the sugars, then use a stand mixer or hand mixer to combine the flour, butter, and eggs.
Reserve the best-looking 28 pecan halves, then add the rest to the processor, about ½ cup. Add the light brown sugar, also called golden brown sugar and powdered sugar. Use low speed to grind down until very finely chopped.
Make the dough
Use all-purpose flour to give the cookies structure. Add the flour to the nut mixture, along with salt. Use the food processor to mix the ingredients. Add slices of cold butter to the mixer ⅓ at a time, then process on the high setting. This helps trap air pockets in the dough.
The mixture should look like wet sand. Add the egg yolk and process until just mixed. This adds extra richness and a crumbly texture to the cookies.
Roll and chill
The key to creating easy pecan sandies that don’t spread is to chill the dough. You’ll find that the dough is greasier than other types of cookies due to the high amount of fat from the nuts and butter. Form the cookie dough into a ball, then divide it in half. This makes it easier to roll into 1 3/4-inch wide logs.
Tightly wrap the dough logs in plastic wrap, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours. You can make the dough three days ahead.
Slice and shape
Cut the cookie dough logs into 1/2-inch thick rounds. Place them 1 inch apart on two parchment-lined baking sheets. The cookies only spread about ¼ inch after baking. After slicing, use your fingers to lightly press the sides of the dough to make a rounder shape.
The dough is more malleable when the butter isn’t cold. Place one pecan halve into the center of each cookie, lightly pressing to secure.
Preheat the oven to 325ºF (163ºC), and bake both trays. Switch and rotate halfway through. The cookies are done when the edges turn golden brown. The surface should be light in color, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to completely cool after sitting on the warm tray for 3 minutes.
They will be brittle when hot, be careful when moving them from the pan to the rack. These cookies have a sturdy structure and taste better once the butter cools down to room temperature.
More shortbread cookies
Frequently asked questions
Pecans deliver a sweet, nutty taste to the cookies. When finely ground in the food processor, they add a distinct flavor, light brown hue, and interesting texture. They are shortbread-style cookies, similar to Mexican wedding cookies or thumbprints. It is made with flour, butter, sugar, and sometimes eggs. This creates a very fine, sand-like texture that crumbles easily in the mouth.
To switch up the flavor, use blanched almonds. These have the skin removed for a smoother mixture. If you like the taste and texture of the skins, use regular almonds. Toast the nuts to bring out the rich flavor from the fats before using.
Using powdered sugar is best to prevent the cookie texture from tasting hard. The granules of white sugar won’t melt as quickly, making the surface tougher.
Can I use a stand mixer instead?
A stand or hand mixer can make the cookie dough if you don’t have a food processor. Use a chef’s knife to chop the pecans as fine as possible. Add them to the mixer bowl and combine with the sugars, flour, and salt. Add the pieces of butter, and incorporate using low speed, followed by the egg, until the dough forms.
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- 2 cups pecan halves
- ½ cup light brown sugar, packed
- ¼ cup powdered sugar
- 1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon table salt
- ¾ cups unsalted butter, cut into ½" slices and chilled
- 1 large egg yolk
- Toast the Nuts – In a medium skillet, add the pecans. Toast over medium heat until fragrant, shaking the pan to evenly heat, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Reserve 28 unbroken pieces to add as a garnish.
- Process the Nuts – Add the remaining pecans (about 1 ½ cups), brown sugar, and powdered sugar to a food processor. Grind on low speed until the nuts are finely ground, about 20 seconds.
- Make the Dough – Add the flour and salt to the food processor. Mix on low speed until combined, about 30 seconds, scraping the bottom of the bowl halfway through. Evenly distribute the chilled butter in the food processor, adding ⅓ of the butter at a time.Process on the high setting to break down the pieces, then add the remaining butter until the mixture looks like wet sand. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl after each addition. It will take 1 to 3 minutes, depending on the food processor's size. Add the egg and mix on high speed until combined, about 20 seconds.
- Portion the Dough – Briefly knead the dough on the counter. Divide it in half, then roll each piece into 1 ¾" wide logs. Tightly wrap each log in plastic. Refrigerate until the dough is firm, about 2 hours. The dough can be made 3 days in advance.
- Preheat the Oven – Adjust the oven rack to the upper-middle and lower-middle positions. Set the oven to 325ºF (163ºC). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Slice the Dough – Cut the dough into ½" thick rounds. Place them 1" apart on the baking sheet. Reshape into circles if needed. Gently press one reserved pecan half in the center of each cookie.
- Bake – Add both baking sheets to the oven. Bake for 10 minutes, then rotate and switch the trays. Continue to bake until the edges are golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Cool the cookies on the baking sheet for 3 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Make Ahead: Refrigerate dough for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 2 months. Defrost before slicing.
- Storing: Store cookies in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
- Freezing: Store in a resealable plastic bag or airtight container for up to 1 month.
- Using a Mixer: Finely chop the pecans. Add to the mixer bowl and combine with the sugars, flour, and salt. Add the pieces of butter, and incorporate using low speed, followed by the egg, until the dough forms.
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