These polvorones cookies are some of my favorite Christmas treats! Spanish cookies with an unexpected lemon flavor.
What are polvorones?
Probably the best-known kind of Spanish cookie. They are a variety of mantecados, which are shortbread pastries made with lard and which can be flavored with different ingredients like lemon, chocolate, cinnamon, and so on.
Unlike mantecados, polvorones contain ground almonds and are made with roasted flour. Traditionally, they are also made with pork fat – lard. The name comes from polvo – powder and refers to the crumbly texture of the pastry and the fact that it is covered in powdered sugar.
They come in different shapes and sizes. They can be ball-like, round but flat, very large, or very colorful.
Disturbing story: during the Spanish Inquisition, it was decreed that pastries should only be made with pork fat. It was a way for the inquisitors to spot Jews or Muslims (who would refuse to eat the pork fat polvorones) living in the South of Spain and arrest them. 🙁
They originate in Andalusia, Spain, but they are very popular in many other parts of the world. You can find them in Mexico (that version is also known as Mexican wedding cookies) or the Philippines, and they are often baked in parts of Texas, apparently.
What do you need?
- Flour, ground almonds, salt, cinnamon, sugar, lemon zest and juice, lard, and powdered sugar.
- The lard can be replaced with shortening or butter for a pork-free, vegetarian version of the cookie. But I do recommend using good-quality, pure lard. And you can be sure that the polvorones will not taste of pork.
- And if you have some lard left, try the Apricot Jam Cake or the Hungarian Beigli.
How to make polvorones cookies?
- Start with toasting the flour in a large, non-stick pan. It should only be lightly colored, not too dark. Stand by and stir often. Transfer immediately to a large plate and let cool. (1)
- Mix the almonds, salt, cinnamon, and sugar in a large bowl.
- Add the flour, lemon zest, and juice, and soft (but not almost liquid) lard. Mix well. (2)
- Form the balls; they should be about as large as a walnut. Place on the baking tray (lined with baking paper) or large plates.
- Refrigerate for about 30 minutes; this will help the polvorones cookies hold their shape during baking.
- Bake in the preheated oven for about 12 minutes.
- Sprinkle immediately with powdered sugar and let cool.
Make ahead and store
The dough can be made up to 3 days ahead. Keep refrigerated in an airtight container. Keep the pastries in airtight containers at room temperature. They will be fine for about one week.
You can also freeze the formed unbaked balls. Place them on a tray, freeze them until solid, then transfer them to freezer bags or containers. They can be frozen for up to 2 months. Bake from frozen and add a few minutes to the baking time.
You can also freeze the dough without forming the balls first. Wrap well in plastic foil/cling film and place in a freezer container.
The baked Spanish cookies can be frozen as well. Let them cool completely, but don't sprinkle them with powdered sugar. Freeze for up to 6 weeks and only sprinkle with sugar after thawing them.
More cookies from around the world
Polvorones Cookies Recipe
- 75 g all-purpose flour ⅔ cup
- 50 g ground almonds ⅓ cup + 1 tablespoon
- pinch of salt
- 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
- 75 g granulated sugar ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons
- grated zest of ½ lemon
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 50 g lard scant ¼ cup, room temperature
- powdered sugar
- Roast flour: Heat a pan on medium heat. Add the flour and roast it lightly, stirring very often, until slightly colored. Stir well, and don't let it burn. Immediately transfer to a large plate and let cool.
- Dough: Mix the ground almonds, salt, cinnamon, and sugar in a bowl. Add the roasted flour, lemon zest, lemon juice, and lard. Mix well but don't overwork the dough.
- Form walnut-sized balls out of the dough and place them on the baking tray (already lined with parchment paper) or some large plates. Refrigerate for half an hour.
- Bake: In the meantime, preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius/ 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake the cookies on a baking tray lined with baking paper for about 12 minutes.
- Sprinkle with icing sugar and let cool.