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Hazelnut Crescent Cookies

These hazelnut crescent cookies are a unique spin on classic melt-in-your-mouth nut crescents. Instead of pecans or walnuts, they’re made with crunchy chopped hazelnuts!

Hazelnut crescent cookies on plate

Classic Nut Crescents Made With Hazelnuts

As a child, especially around the holidays, I frequently asked my mother to make one of my favorite cookies, which she called 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 traditional Christmas cookies have many different names. While my family called them sand tarts, others know them as nut crescents, Mexican wedding cookies, Italian wedding cookies, or Russian tea cakes. (It’s clear these cookies have worldwide appeal!)

Stack of hazelnut cookies on plate

I eventually found the sand tarts recipe I remembered, but I’ve also adapted a comparable recipe that I found in Cook’s Illustrated‘s Holiday Baking issue several years ago. While my mother always made her sand tarts with pecans, I decided to go with hazelnuts for something different.

The result is a cookie that’s a study in contrasts. It manages to be both familiar and unique; it melts in your mouth, but it’s also delightfully crisp and crunchy. And it’s always a welcome addition to any holiday cookie tray.

Overhead view of hazelnut crescent cookie ingredients

What You’ll Need

Scroll down to the recipe card to find the ingredient quantities and recipe instructions.

Overhead view of ground hazelnuts in food processor

How Do You Toast Hazelnuts?

You have two options here. If you prefer to keep an eye on the nuts as you toast them, place them in a large skillet over medium heat; toast them in the pan until the skin blisters, their color darkens, and they become fragrant. Remove them from the pan immediately.

The second option is to place the hazelnuts on a sheet pan and roast them for about 10 minutes in an oven preheated to 350ºF. Halfway through the cooking time, give the pan a good shake. 

How to Make Hazelnut Crescent Cookies

From crispy pizzelles to spritz cookies and cut-out sugar cookies, many of our favorite holiday cookie recipes require quite a bit of work. That’s not so for these hazelnut crescent cookies—they come together in a snap!

Prepare. Preheat your oven to 325°F and line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners.

Overhead view of chopped hazelnuts and dry cookie ingredients in bowl

Mix the dry ingredients. In a large bowl, stir together 1 cup of the nuts, all of the flour, and the salt. 

Process the remaining nuts. Add the remaining cup of nuts to the bowl of a food processor and process for 10 to 15 seconds, or until the nuts resemble coarse cornmeal. Add the pulsed nuts to the bowl with the dry ingredients.

Finish the dough. Use an electric mixer to beat the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl until they’re light and creamy. Beat in the vanilla, then add the flour mixture and beat until the dough comes together, scraping down the sides of the bowl if needed.

Overhead view of unbaked hazelnut crescent cookies on pan

Form the cookies. Use a tablespoon of dough at a time to form the cookies. Roll the dough into balls; they can be baked this way, or you can pinch them into crescents, rings, or small bars.

Overhead view of baked hazelnut crescents on baking sheet

Bake. Set the shaped cookies on the prepared baking sheets. Bake one pan at a time for about 15 minutes, or until the tops of the cookies are a pale golden color and the bottoms are just beginning to brown.

Overhead view of cooling hazelnut crescents on rack

Cool. Place the pans on wire racks. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for about 5 minutes, then transfer them directly to the racks to finish cooling. (Learn more: Why Every Baker Needs Wire Cooling Racks)

Overhead view of nut crescent cookies in bowl of powdered sugar

Coat with sugar. Roll the cooled cookies in confectioners’ sugar, coating them completely and shaking off the excess.

Overhead view of hazelnut crescent cookies on wood tray

Tips for Success

If you’re new to baking, start by reading my baking tips for beginners. Then, use these additional tips for perfect hazelnut crescent cookies.

  • Expect a dry dough. Nut crescent dough is dry and crumbly, but when you pinch it together in your fingers (and roll it into balls), it will stick together. Because the dough is dry to begin with, it’s even more important to measure the flour carefully so you don’t use too much.
  • Don’t reuse hot pans. If you don’t have enough baking sheets for all the cookies, roll one batch of dough, bake it, then let the baking sheet cool before using it again.
  • Give the cookies a refresh. If you’re making these cookies for later, they can lose some of the powdery sugar coating. You can roll them in confectioners’ sugar again just before serving.
Overhead view of round hazelnut cookies on wooden plate

How to Store 

Hazelnut crescent cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 10 days.

Can You Freeze These Cookies?

If you’d like to freeze hazelnut crescent cookies, place them in a freezer bag or airtight container and store them in the freezer for up to 1 month. Thaw them at room temperature before serving.

Hazelnut cookie with bite taken out to show inside

More Nutty Cookie Recipes

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.

Overhead view of hazelnut crescent cookies on wooden board

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  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. 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.

Notes

*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.
    Thanks,
    Julie

  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!
    Julie

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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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