These light, crisp butter cookies are flavored with a splash of bourbon and topped with candied pecans made in the microwave.

Bourbon pecan butter cookies on a napkin with Christmas table decorations in the background.

We find the subtle oak, caramel and vanilla flavors in bourbon make it the perfect liquor to bake with, particularly when you pair it with another favorite Southern ingredient like pecans.

What Type of Butter Is Best for Butter Cookies?

It may seem inconsequential, but the type of butter you use in your baking can have a big effect on the finished product.

Salted vs. Unsalted Butter

We always recommend using unsalted butter for any type of baking for two reasons:

  1. The amount of salt in salted butter varies from brand to brand and can cause issues with flavor.
  2. Salted butter has a slightly lower percentage of butterfat than unsalted and this can affect texture and browning.

Note: We actually don’t use salted butter in our kitchen at all, even for savory dishes, because we prefer to have complete control of the amount of salt in our cooking.

American vs. European Butter

The minimum amount of butterfat allowed in American butter differs slightly from the European standard and that is due to the method of production.

American butter contains 80% butterfat. It has a mild flavor and is generally less pricey than its European counterpart.

European butter includes added cultures and is churned longer to achieve a minimum butterfat content of 82%. Although the difference in fat content seems minimal, European butter is richer and more flavorful butter than the American style.

We do feel European butter is a better choice for baking, so if your budget allows, look for brands like Plugra and Kerrygold on your grocer’s shelves.

This recipe is featured in both our Christmas cookies category and Our Best Holiday Cookies roundup which includes ideas for hosting a cookie exchange.

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Bourbon Pecan Butter Cookies

Bourbon-Pecan Butter Cookies

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These light, crisp butter cookies are flavored with a splash of bourbon and topped with candied pecans made in the microwave.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), see notes
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons bourbon
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour

For the candied pecans:

  • 1 cup pecans
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons water
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  • Prepare the candied pecans first. Combine the light brown sugar, water and salt in a 2-cup, microwave-safe glass measuring cup. Add the pecans and stir to coat.
  • Microwave on high for 1-1/2 minutes, stir and return to the microwave for an additional minute.
  • If necessary, continue microwaving the nuts in 10 second increments until the sugar has developed a thick, taffy-like consistency. Do not overcook!
  • Transfer the nuts to a parchment-lined plate and use two forks to separate them. The coating will harden as the nuts cool.
  • To make the cookies, use an electric mixer on medium speed to cream the butter and sugar together in a large mixing bowl.
  • Add the egg yolks and bourbon and continue mixing until smooth.
  • Stir in the flour until well blended, then gather the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  • Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll into a log about 1-3/4 inches in diameter by 10 inches long. Wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.
  • Preheat the oven to 400°F and line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  • Remove the cookie dough from the refrigerator and using a sharp knife (not serrated), cut into 1/4-inch thick slices.
  • Place the slices 2 inches apart on the parchment-lined sheets and bake until the cookies are set but not browned, 8 to 9 minutes,.
  • Remove from the oven and gently press a candied pecan into the center of each. Carefully transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool completely.

Tips for Making This Recipe

We always recommend using unsalted butter for any type of baking for two reasons:
  1. The amount of salt in butter varies from brand to brand and can cause issues with flavor.
  2. Salted butter has a slightly lower percentage of butterfat than unsalted and this can affect texture and browning.
Calories: 55kcal, Carbohydrates: 7g, Protein: 1g, Fat: 3g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Cholesterol: 15mg, Sodium: 12mg, Sugar: 4g
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