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Hazelnut Crescent Cookies

Hazelnut Crescent Cookies

With the holiday season officially upon us, I have moved into heavy baking mode. This time of year, I especially love to bake cookies and other treats for giving to family and friends. I have stacks of recipes, old and new, to try out. I would love to share these recipes with you and hopefully give you some ideas for your own home-baked gifts. So, I am giving you my own little holiday baking guide, beginning with these cookies that remind me of my mother.

As a child, especially around the holidays, I frequently asked my mother to make one of my favorite cookies. She called them Sand Tarts. I loved helping her make them, especially shaping them and rolling them in confectioners’ sugar. After I began my own baking adventures, I came to realize that these cookies have many different names. Most frequently, I have seen them referred to as Mexican Wedding Cookies, Italian Wedding Cookies or Russian Tea Cakes. I’m not sure why those are all given a nationality in their names, but I suppose it just proves their worldwide appeal.

Hazelnut Crescent Cookies

I don’t know what happened to my mother’s recipe for those cookies. I have looked through many of her collected recipes but I haven’t found it yet. I’ve been putting off making similar recipes because I really wanted to make the one I remember. Finally, I decided not to wait any longer and turned to a comparable recipe I found in Cook’s Illustrated‘s Holiday Baking issue.

This recipe suggests trying different nuts, like almonds, pecans, hazelnuts. As most good Southern women would, my mother made hers with pecans. In my mind, they wouldn’t taste quite like hers anyway, so that’s why I went with hazelnuts. Well, that, and the fact that I’ve come to love hazelnuts this year.

As for the final result, they’re not exactly like Mama used to make, but they are very good. Flavor-wise, these are such simple cookies. To me, there’s just something about the simple combination of butter, flour, and nuts that is so appealing. The only downside is that with such subtle flavors, it’s far too easy to eat far too many.

Hazelnut Crescent Cookies

Yield about 48 cookies
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes

Hazelnut Crescent Cookies are a simple and delightful cookie with a subtle sweetness and nuttiness.

Hazelnut Crescent Cookies


  • 2 cups (282g) toasted hazelnuts, finely chopped* (divided)
  • 2 cups (240g) all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (226g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup (75g) superfine sugar**
  • 1 & 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 & 1/2 cups (165g) confectioners’ sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners.
  2. Mix 1 cup of the nuts, all of the flour, and the salt. Set aside.
  3. Place the remaining cup of nuts in a food processor and process about 10 to 15 seconds until the nuts resemble coarse cornmeal. Stir into the flour mixture.
  4. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and creamy. Beat in the vanilla. Add the flour mixture and beat until the dough is cohesive, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  5. Using one tablespoon of dough at a time, roll into balls. (Cookies can be baked as balls or can be rolled between palms and shaped into crescents, rings, or small bars.)
  6. Place the cookies on the prepared pans sheet. Bake (one pan at a time) 15 minutes, or until the tops of cookies are pale golden and the bottoms are just beginning to brown.
  7. Place the pans on wire racks and allow to cool on baking sheets about 5 minutes. Then, transfer the cookies from the pans directly onto a wire rack to finish cooling to room temperature.
  8. When the cookies have cooled, roll each in confectioners’ sugar to coat completely. Shake off any excess sugar. If needed, the cookies can be rolled again in confectioners’ sugar before serving.


*Feel free to substitute pecans, walnuts, almonds, etc.

**Don’t have superfine sugar? Process regular granulated sugar in a food processor for about 30 seconds.

Recipe adapted from Cook’s Illustrated.

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    28 Comments on “Hazelnut Crescent Cookies”

  1. What a coincidence that I stumbled upon this. I’ve been living abroad for the past few months and have been feeling nostalgic for holiday baking (and, more specifically, for cookies like these). My mom and I usually make these every year using her old family recipe. We call them “sand tarts” as well and always make them with pecans. With a splash of extra vanilla thrown in, they are the best!

  2. EAB, what a wonderful coincidence! I don’t know if it’s just the cookie or the memories, but these are definitely the best.

  3. Just lovely! I know these as mexican wedding cookies. It doesn’t matter what there name is; as long as they taste great and bring back all of our wonderful Christmas memories.

  4. I’m going to make those cinnamon roll cookies—thanks for listing the recipe!

  5. These are one of my absolute Christmas favourites! Beautiful!

  6. Thanks, Gigi and Ivonne!

    JEP, you’re welcome! I hope you enjoy them.

  7. I love these too, and I’m trying to decide which recipe to go with. Are yours crisp or soft inside? I really like the soft, nearly underbaked variety.

  8. Julie, these cookies are wonderfully soft inside. I like all cookies a bit underbaked anyway. I’m not a big fan of crispy cookies. If you make them, let me know what you think!

  9. Thanks so much, Jennifer. The first thing I want to know about a new cookie recipe is, are they soft or crispy!

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  11. Oh, I loved these!! I hope you saved some for me! This was a specialty in our childhood, huh?

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  13. Should I assume that the 1 cup of nuts that was processed to meal consistency is added to the dough? I reread the instructions 3 times. This sounds just wonderful and know my husband will adore these cookies. Thanks so much for posting it.

  14. hi there, sorry if this is already written somewhere but i can’t seem to find it. approximately how many cookies will one batch make?

    thanks so much!

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  21. I just tried this yummy recipe from your blog and it has come out really yummy!! 🙂
    This is my first cookies and I am quite happy with the outcome…
    Thanks for sharing this easy recipe 🙂

  22. Do you hazelnuts with skin or without skin?

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  24. Hey there! Can the butter be substituted with vegan butter?

    • Hi, Faith. I’ve never baked with vegan butter, so I can’t say for sure. There are also many options for a vegan butter substitute, which would all give varying results. If you’ve had previous success baking with a particular one, then I would assume you’d get similar results using it with these cookies.

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