These easy Pecan Sandies are melt-in-your-mouth shortbread cookies that are bursting with the aroma of real butter and roasted pecans. We keep these pecan cookies deliciously simple with only 4 ingredients.
What are Pecan Sandies?
If you aren’t familiar with Pecan Sandies, they do have kind of an adorably unique ring to them. They’re also referred to as sablé sometimes. Super glitzy moniker.
Essentially, this fancy sounding yet humble looking cookie is a butter shortbread cookie strewn with roasted pecans. Pecans can either be partially ground and included within the dough, or they can be used whole and placed on top of the cookies. For this recipe, we go with a happy jolly middle — finely chopped pecans sprinkled throughout the dough. Not too much, not too little. It’s juuuuust right. (Said the baby bear.)
Often, pecan sandies contain white sugar, baking powder, or eggs. This recipe includes none of those. Instead, these deliciously simple melt-in-your-mouth sandies are based on our forever favorite easy buttery shortbread cookies.
We simply added roasted pecans to the mix and transformed these dreamy shortbread cookies into a slice-and-bake deal that’s way too easy not to try…
How to make pecan sandies with just 4 ingredients
Because there are only 4 ingredients, make every ingredient count, using only the freshest ingredients.
- Cold salted butter is used in this pecan shortbread recipe. Slice the butter and keep it chilled prior to using. A stand mixer is extremely helpful when mixing cold butter to a fluffy consistency. Using salted butter eliminates the need for adding any additional salt. Keeping the butter cold helps your dough to retain ability to be rolled into logs.
- Rather than the typical white sugar, we opt for all light brown sugar, tightly packed. Important: use only fresh brown sugar that has not lost any of its moisture (as brown sugar sits in the pantry, it tends to gradually dry out.)
- When measuring all-purpose flour, only use measuring cups meant for dry ingredients. Gently spoon flour into your dry measuring cups and scrape off excess flour with flat edge of a knife. Do not tap down or pack down flour. One of the biggest reasons for less than ideal results in baking is inaccurate flour measurements.
- Finely chopped roasted pecans give these shortbread cookies the nutty aroma characteristic of pecan sandies cookies. Reserve some for sprinkling on top of the cookies just prior to baking – this is purely vanity, but you know how people eat with their eyes and all.
- Totally optional: powdered sugar for dusting on top of baked/cooled cookies. Again, for pomp only.
Why do we make pecan sandies with brown sugar?
Many pecan sandies cookies contain confectioner’s sugar or granulated sugar in the dough. We use brown sugar for its depth of flavor and its moisture content.
Be sure your brown sugar is fresh and has not lost any of its moisture from being in the pantry too long. I’ve noticed that even when my brown sugar has been opened for just a few weeks, it already seems a bit drier than when first opened. You can keep brown sugar moist longer by double wrapping it airtight and storing it at moderate room temperature.
(We’ve probably all heard of the slice of bread or apple or even marshmallow tricks to rejuvenate aged brown sugar, but I’ve yet to confirm the epic-ness of those hacks.)
Final pro tips
- Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats. I use my mats for all cookie baking adventures, and they never disappoint.
- It’s definitely worthwhile to pull out your stand mixer whenever the recipe calls for fluffing butter and sugar together.
- It takes several minutes for the cold butter and brown sugar to become fluffy on medium-high speed in stand mixer. It needs to look like fluffy whipped butter. Don’t rush this process. It’s not a race, unless you’re on Chopped.
- You may not end up using all of the flour; the consistency of your cookie dough should be akin to play-dough. Not dry/crumbly nor wet/sticky.
- My favorite cookie making tip: whenever working with cookie dough literally by hand, it helps tremendously to keep the palms of your hands slightly damp with either a bit of water or oil. None of the cookie dough will cling to your palms that way 🙂
Fun variations for these pecan shortbread cookies
- Play around with various nuts; chopped roasted walnuts, almonds, or hazelnuts are great options.
- If you like vanilla flavor in your shortbread, feel free to add 1 tsp of pure vanilla extract into your dough. A bit of almond extract is delicious as well. We actually use both in our vanilla almond cut out cookies.
- Try add-ins such as chocolate chips, white chocolate, dried cranberries, or colorful sprinkles. We did holiday sprinkles with our 3-ingredient shortbread cookies.
- Instead of slice-and-roll cookies, try rolling out the dough 1/2-inch thick and use cookie cutters for fun shapes.
- Try drizzling finished cookies with melted chocolate or homemade salted caramel, which is out of this world amazing.
Can both the unbaked dough and baked pecan sandies be frozen?
Yes and yes. You can confidently wrap up unbaked dough airtight and keep in freezer for several weeks until ready to be used. Defrost by placing frozen dough in fridge overnight.
Baked cookies can be wrapped airtight and frozen for 1-2 weeks. They’re absolutely perfect for cookie emergencies, which is a real live thing.