Pecan Thumbprint Cookies

Buttery, nutty, and perfectly balanced between salty and sweet. These pecan thumbprint cookies are simple but so delicious! They are firmer on the edges but incredibly soft inside.

The crunch of the pecans adds a nice contrast to the creamy icing, making it a perfectly satisfying little cookie! Read below for the recipe.

pecan thumbprint cookies recipe, Christmas thumbprints

A Note About this Recipe

Cookies are one of my many weaknesses, and these pecan thumbprint cookies are no exception. I created this recipe in memory of a little bakery where I grew up called Sutton’s.

Sutton’s Bakery is no longer around making old-fashioned thumbprint cookies, so I had to come up with my own version to share with all of you.I originally wrote this recipe last year, but it needed an update so that all ingredient ratios are correct and blend better. It was good before, but it’s even better now!

These are my new and improved Christmas thumbprint cookies for this year, but I’ll make them any time of year because they are easy and super delicious.

Christmas pecan thumbprint cookies recipe with red icing

What are Pecan Thumbprint Cookies?

To put it simply, pecan thumbprint cookies are shortbread cookies. However, they don’t follow the traditional ratio of a shortbread cookie, as I wanted these cookies to be a bit softer and less crumbly.

Start by rolling the cookies into balls, creating a “thumbprint” indentation in each one, and gently rolling or pressing them in finely chopped pecans.

Finish them off with a delicious icing that is soft. The icing firms up nicely after a few hours, making it easier to bite through cohesively with the cookie.

Thumbprints have many edge garnishing options, including pecans, almonds, walnuts, festive sprinkles, or chocolate Jimmies. This little treat is perfect for a small sweet tooth craving, and they are great for parties and entertaining.

Christmas pecan thumbprint cookies

How to Make Pecan Thumbprint Cookies with Icing

Start with Soft Butter

Use butter that is slightly cool but soft to the touch. If it’s too cold, the cookie dough will be more difficult to work with. The dough will also get more cracks in the sides if the butter is too cold because the dough won’t be soft enough to press.

Note that the thumbprints will still get a few cracks no matter what, but not nearly as many when the butter is soft.

Mix Until Crumbly

This is not a cookie dough that pulls together in the mixer. Instead, you will see small dough balls come together, but never one big ball. Turn the dough out onto a pastry mat and press it all together before scooping.

Create the Thumbprints

Scoop the dough and roll them into balls.

When you make the thumbprints in each cookie center, the dough will crack on the sides. Gently push the dough back together on the sides, but don’t worry too much. A little imperfection is just fine!

pecan thumbprint cookie recipe with red icing

Chop the Nuts

Chop pecans very finely with a knife. Do not use a food processor for this step. The oils in the nuts tend to make them somewhat sticky when they are processed in a food processor. So, while chopping by hand takes longer, it’s worth the effort.

Roll the sides and top edges of the cookies in the pecans and place them on a baking sheet.

Bake the Pecan Thumbprints

Don’t let the cookies brown on top, or they will be a bit harder and crunchier. The best way to check the cookies is to lift one up with a cookie spatula.

Look at the bottom of the cookie. If it’s lightly golden brown, the cookies are done.

Fill with Icing

After the cookies cool, fill the centers of each thumbprint with icing. It’s easiest to do this with a piping bag or a sandwich baggie with one corner cut off.

These pecan thumbprint cookies with icing are truly something special! I always think about this cookie for the holidays, for parties, weddings, showers, etc. They are rustic but a little more glamorous with the icing, and people love them!

pecan thumbprint cookie with red icing with bite taken out

A Helpful Tip for Creating the Thumbprint Centers

When you create the centers of the thumbprints, they may not stay indented completely while baking. This is perfectly normal.

To make the pretty thumbprints, press your thumb or the back of a cookie scoop into the cookie dough all before rolling it in pecans.

When the cookies bake, pull them out at about 8 minutes, and use the back of a cookie scoop to press the centers back down gently. When they come out of the oven, you may need to do this again for those cookies that have fluffed up again in the middle.

It’s pretty easy to make the thumbprints, but don’t be alarmed when the centers puff up some during baking.

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Pecan Thumbprint Cookies

pecan thumbprint cookies recipe, Christmas thumbprints close up showing the red icing and the pecans on the cookies

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  • Author: Camille
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 13 minutes
  • Total Time: 33 minutes
  • Yield: 24 cookies 1x
  • Category: dessert


Units Scale

For the Pecan Thumbprint Cookies

  • 226 g unsalted butter, soft but slightly cool
  • 56 g powdered sugar
  • 56 g granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 300 g all-purpose flour
  • 8 g cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup crushed pecans, finely chopped


  • 120 g powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • A pinch of salt
  • 25 g unsalted butter, melted (2 Tbs)
  • 34 Tbs milk
  • Food coloring if desired


To Make the Pecan Thumbprint Cookies

  1. Preheat oven to 325 F.
  2. Cream softened butter in a stand mixer until smooth. Add powdered sugar and granulated sugar, and mix on medium low until fully combined.
  3. Mix in vanilla, then add all dry ingredients (not the pecans). The dough will start to come together but will still be crumbly and form little balls of dough. Remove dough from mixer, pour it onto a pastry mat, and bring the dough together with your hands.
  4. Place finely chopped pecans on a plate or in a bowl. Next, scoop cookies from the dough block with a tablespoon cookie scoop until all cookies have been scooped. (I do a scant tablespoon for a slightly smaller cookie, but a full tbs works too.)
  5. Take one cookie ball and roll it until smooth. 
  6. With the back of the cookie scoop or your thumb, make noticeable thumbprint indentations in the tops of the cookies. If the dough cracks along the edges when being indented, gently press back together.
  7. Roll the sides and top edges of the thumbprint cookies in pecans, and place cookies on a rimmed half sheet pan lined with parchment (about 1 inch apart).
  8. Bake cookies on middle oven rack for 11-14 minutes, being sure that the cookies do not brown on top. They will be lightly golden on bottom when finished.
  9. The tops of the cookies will puff up slightly during baking, so at about 8 minutes, use the back of a cookie scoop to gently press the centers back down. You may also need to repeat this when the cookies come out of the oven.
  10. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool before filling with icing.

To Fill the Pecan Thumbprint Cookies with Icing

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk butter, vanilla, and salt. Add powdered sugar and begin whisking. Add milk a tablespoon at a time. A little milk goes a long way, so don’t add too much! Icing should be thin enough so that it is easy to pipe into each cookie. 
  2. Add the food coloring of your choice. Put icing into a sandwich bag, snip a small corner, and pipe into the centers of the cookies.
  3. These cookies can be eaten right away, but if you want the icing to set up, put them in the fridge for an hour or let the icing set up and harden some for a few hours on a cooling tray. Store in an airtight container for up to a week, no refrigeration needed.


This is a Baker Street Society original recipe.

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