Pecan Thumbprint Cookies

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These pecan thumbprint cookies are a scrumptious shortbread cookie recipe bursting with pecan flavor, with sweet Christmas-inspired icing added to the thumbprint.

pecan thumbprint cookies

I fell in love with these little gems when I was a child. They have the taste of a pecan sandy cookie with just a little extra oomph provided by the icing. Traditionally, the icing was tinted pastel when my mama bought them from the store, but today I decided to use paste food coloring for a deeper color for the holidays.

These pecan thumbprint cookies are very simple to make. In fact, I bet you already have most of the ingredients in your kitchen right now. You need flour, sugar, vanilla, butter, salt, and pecans. Then for the icing, we need confectioner’s sugar, food coloring, and sprinkles. To make the cookies, we cream together the butter and sugar and stir in the remaining ingredients. Then we add our thumbprint and bake. The final step is to mix together the Christmas-themed green and red icing, add it to the thumbprints and top it with some sprinkles.

These pecan thumbprint cookies have a buttery shortbread texture so you know they’re just going to melt in your mouth. The sweet icing is the cherry on top! But I’ve included other ideas below of what you can add to the indents rather than icing. I hope you try these little gems and please let me know if your family loves them as much as mine. I just bet they will.

What You’ll Need to Make Pecan Thumbprint Cookies:

pecan thumbprint cookies ingredients


  • Granulated sugar
  • All-purpose flour
  • Salt
  • Pecans
  • Unsalted butter (soften at room temperature for 30 minutes).
  • Vanilla extract  


  • Confectioner’s sugar
  • Almond extract (or vanilla)
  • Water
  • Food coloring
  • Sprinkles (optional)

How to Make Pecan Thumbprint Cookies

cream together butter and sugar

Cream butter and sugar together with a handheld or electric mixer until fluffy.

mix in flour and sugar until well-combined and add vanilla

Mix in flour, salt, and vanilla until well combined.

chop pecans and add to batter

Chop pecans in a chopper or food processor until very finely chopped. Mix chopped pecans into the flour mixture.

drop pecan thumbprint cookies onto cookie sheet

Drop cookie dough onto ungreased cookie sheets by teaspoonfuls. 

If you have a small cookie dough scoop, it will cut your time in half. If not, do it like I have every other year but this one and just measure out a teaspoonful and roll it into balls before putting it on the cookie sheet.

dip thumb into flour and make a print in each pecan thumbprint cookie

For authentic thumbprint cookies, dip your thumb into flour and press it into the center of each cookie before baking. 

pecan thumbprint cookies ready to go in the oven

Here is a pan of thumbprint cookies ready to go into the oven.

baked pecan thumbprint cookies

Bake at 300 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes until lightly brown.

Let them sit on the cookie sheet for a couple of minutes to cool and then remove them to wire racks to cool completely before icing.

make the icing

Now make the icing! Mix together the confectioner’s sugar, extract, and enough water to make a nice consistency for icing.

divide icing into two parts

Divide icing into two parts for adding coloring.

spread a small amount on each cookie

Spread a small amount of icing on each cookie in the thumbprint indention. Then add sprinkles of your choice.

pecan thumbprint cookies

Aren’t they the cutest little things? They are the most delicious cookies I have ever come across and are really quick and easy to make while looking very impressive.


  • Store leftover cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days or in the fridge for up to 1 week.
  • You can freeze cookies with or without icing and the unbaked cookie dough for up to 3 months. Thaw at room temperature before serving/baking.

Recipe Notes

  • My main tip is to use a small scoop like I am showing so that they are all uniform in size. 
  • The other tip is to dip your thumb in flour before pressing it into each cookie. Otherwise, they stick to your thumb and won’t leave an indention. 
  • However, instead of your thumb, you can use the end of a wooden spoon or a thimble to avoid the cookie dough sticking to your thumb.
  • If you don’t like or have almond extract, feel free to replace it with vanilla. In my opinion, the almond is divine in these cookies but Christy doesn’t like the taste of it so sometimes I switch it up.
  • You can also use whichever color you want for the cookies. They are really pretty in pastel colors for baby or wedding showers.
  • Speaking of the icing, an easier way to disperse it is to add it to a ziplock bag, snip off the end, and squeeze the frosting into the indent this way.
  • If you like, substitute the white sugar for brown sugar.

Pecan Thumbprint Cookies: Recipe FAQs

What else can I add to the indent in my thumbprint cookies?

There are so many different varieties of thumbprint cookies, so here are some suggestions:

What can I substitute for the pecans?

Walnuts are always an easy substitute for pecans. However, if there’s a nut allergy involved and you want nut-free thumbprint cookies, simply omit the pecans. This will make the cookies basically taste like buttery shortbread cookies.

You may also like these cookie recipes:

Southern Plate’s Must-Make Christmas Cookies

Italian Sugar Cookies

Butter Pecan Shortbread Cookies

Pecan Snowball Cookies

Cranberry Pecan Lace Cookies Recipe

Thumbprint Cookies with Jam or Preserves

pecan thumbprint cookies

Pecan Thumbprint Cookies

These pecan thumbprint cookies are shortbread cookies bursting with pecan flavor, with Christmas-inspired icing added to the thumbprint.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Course: Dessert, Snack
Cuisine: American
Keyword: cookies, pecan
Servings: 36 cookies
Calories: 180kcal


  • 2 sticks unsalted butter or margarine
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup finely chopped pecans


  • 1 cup confectioner's sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • red and green food coloring


  • Cream butter and sugar with a handheld or electric mixer.
    2 sticks unsalted butter or margarine, 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • Mix in flour, salt, and vanilla.
    2 cups all-purpose flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Stir in nuts.
    1 cup finely chopped pecans
  • Drop teaspoonsful of the cookie dough 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.
  • Make an indent in each cookie with your thumb (dip your thumb in flour before pressing into the cookie so that it doesn't stick).
  • Bake at 300 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Cool for 2 minutes and then remove the cookies to a wire rack to finish cooling.


  • Mix the confectioner's sugar, almond extract, and enough water (approximately 1 teaspoon) to make a glaze in a bowl.
    1 cup confectioner's sugar, 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • Divide into 2 equal parts and place in separate bowls.
  • Add 2 drops of red food coloring or the color of your choice to the first bowl of glaze.
    red and green food coloring
  • Add 2 drops of green food coloring to the second bowl of glaze.
    red and green food coloring
  • Mix the glaze well until food coloring is incorporated.
  • Spoon a small amount of glaze into the center of each cookie and add sprinkles if desired.


Calories: 180kcal
Tried this recipe?Mention @southernplate or tag #southernplate!


 “Sometimes me think, ‘What is friend?’.

And then me say ‘Friend is someone who share last cookie with you.'”

~Cookie Monster

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  1. These remind me of cookies my mom made years ago. I love just about anything made with pecans! I would love to have a pecan tree in my yard. My choice is always to use pecans over any other kind of nut in my baking. Thanks for a great reminder of these cookies.

  2. For years as a child we would go to Silvers Bakery in Kentucky. They are now closed but they made this cookie with finely chopped peanuts. They were my Sister and I’s favorite cookie. They are wonderful for a High Tea also.

  3. These cookies are awesome! I made a batch Saturday after seeing the post & we ate them all!! (The almond extract in the icing is a must!) YUM!!

  4. I have not done this for a few years but in the past (in the fall) Ayers on the parkway would take bags of pecans and crack them for you. Then you had to pick the meet out of the shells. It costs by the pound. Not much for them to roll your pecans. — Saved many hours of labor. Just a suggestion for mama. (Oh, Merry Christmas)

  5. So I run across these yesterday in my email,and I wanted to try them out because they don’t call for eggs and we got none in the house.
    So my daughter wanted mint chip cookies,she ran across some in the freezer earlier,and I said,there’s a recipe here.So I modified them,I added 2 tbsp.cocoa,made the sugar be 1/2 cup,and a bag of Andes peppermint crunch chips.I rolled them into bitty balls,flattened them with me thumb and baked them at 300°for 20 minutes.They came out just awesome,not too sweet,and very minty.
    When I can spring for the pecans,I’m gonna make those too.
    Y’all have an awesome Xmas and Happy New Year!!

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