What Are Pecan Sandies?

Donni Jones

A pecan sandie is a classic shortbread cookie with pecans. Its consistency is a bit lighter and softer than traditional shortbread. Chock full of that popular nut and also sweet and chewy, pecan sandies are a perfect combination to satisfy many people's sweet tooths. The name “sandie” is believed to come from its color, and although its origin is disputed, the cookie is thought to have derived from Arab cuisine.

Pecans are added to shortbread cookies to make pecan sandies.
Pecans are added to shortbread cookies to make pecan sandies.

Rich, tasty and flavorful, pecan sandies are pretty easy for a baker to put together, and they do not require a lengthy list of ingredients, which makes them ideal for novice bakers and children. In addition to pecans, the traditional components of a pecan sandie are butter, sugar, salt, vanilla and flour. They are made by mixing the ingredients together, with the pecans being added last, after the dough is formed. It is rolled into a rounded log shape, then typically is refrigerated overnight. The chilled dough is then sliced into individual cookies, placed on a cookie sheet, sprinkled with sugar and baked.

Baking soda might used in a pecan sandies recipe.
Baking soda might used in a pecan sandies recipe.

The list of the basic ingredients for these cookies can be different from recipe to recipe. Some call for the use of baking soda or cream of tartar, brown sugar instead of white sugar and vegetable oil instead of or in addition to butter. Most recipes for this cookie are egg-free, but some call for eggs. For a different finishing touch, powdered sugar is sometimes sprinkled on the top after the cookies are baked instead of regular sugar being added before baking. The end result of these modifications is mostly the same, but they can create slightly different textures in the cookie.

Pecans are added last to the cookie dough when making pecan sandies.
Pecans are added last to the cookie dough when making pecan sandies.

Some versions of pecan sandies are enhanced by the addition of non-traditional flavors: coconut, chocolate, maple and caramel pecan sandies are a few examples of new takes on this classic treat. Another technique is using various spices in place of or in combination with traditional vanilla, such as star anise, cinnamon, nutmeg and saffron. Different nuts, such as walnuts, macadamias, peanuts, almonds or cashes, can be used instead of pecans to create other types of sandies.

Almonds and cashews can be substituted for pecans to make similar shortbread cookies.
Almonds and cashews can be substituted for pecans to make similar shortbread cookies.

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Discussion Comments


@Lostnfound-- Toasting pecans before adding them to the dough makes a huge difference. Toasted pecans taste amazing, I could eat a whole cup by myself.

I used to make my sandies with unroasted pecans. Then one day, my mother tried one and asked me "you don't roast the pecans?" I roasted them the next time and they were so good!


@ZipLine-- Yes, walnut sandies are just as good as pecan sandies. I've even made them with almonds and those were good too.

I think the most important rule for making great tasting sandies is using butter. Some recipes call for margarine but nothing replaces butter in a cookie. Real butter makes sandies melt in your mouth and they're delicious and flaky.

So feel free to experiment with the type of nut you use. Just keep the basic ingredients the same. If you don't want to use a lot of butter, you could also do half butter and half vegetable oil. Some people even use coconut oil but I have not tried that so I can't comment.


I love pecan sandies, it's one of my favorite cookies. I usually buy the commercial variety but I know homemade is so much better. I could make some today but I don't have pecans. I do have walnuts so I guess I could make walnut sandies. I've never tried the walnut version before, is it just as good as pecan sandies?


@Grivusangel -- I usually get my vanilla extract from the Mexican grocery store. You can get a huge bottle for about $5. It's good, too. Just make sure it says "sin coumarin" on the bottle, so it doesn't have that additive.

I also use the best unsalted butter I can find -- European, if I can locate it -- because it has a higher fat content, which makes for a richer cookie.

I also make sure my pecans are fresh. I will keep them in the freezer, but I use the most recent batch. They need to be frozen or they will go rancid. I also toast them a little before I use them in the recipe.


The one aspect of making these (and most other) cookies that makes them tricky for kids or newbies is that you have to cream the butter and sugar. That takes a little practice to get right. It's not hard, but it does take some time, and creaming the butter and sugar is an absolutely necessary step to a good cookie -- especially a shortbread cookie. Texture is what makes a shortbread, well, shortbread, so you have to mix everything correctly in order to get that good, rich texture.

Because a shortbread cookie uses so few ingredients, make sure they're good ones. Don't use goofy "imitation" vanilla. Get the real stuff!

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