Polvorones, Spain’s Traditional Christmas Cookies

Ever heard of the Spanish Christmas cookies known as polvorones? If not, you’re probably missing out.

 These delicious cookies are quite popular in Southern Spain. Mostly, people love them for their crumbly texture, softness, and the fact that they’re really easy to make.

Now, ready to know all about Spanish polvorones? We’d be glad to be your guide.

The Secret Behind the Name

In Spanish, ‘polvo’ means dust, which is enough to explain why polvorones have this name. If you ever try to put one of these cookies in your mouth, you’ll find out that it crumbles into what feels like dust.

‘Polvo’ can also mean powder in Spanish.

The History of Spanish Polvorones

Polvorones, Spanish Christmas Cookies
Polvorones, Assorted Spanish Christmas Cookies

Like all human creations, it can be pretty hard to determine the first people who introduced the idea of polvorones.

Yet, many scholars believe that these Spanish cookies were an upgrade of an earlier version created by Arabs.

Some historians claim that, when the Moors came to the peninsula, they brought along the first spark of what later became polvorones.

Of course, the original recipe didn’t include pork lard since Muslims don’t consume it.

Later, and because there was an abundance of pigs in the land, people included lard in the recipe to make use of the resources.

In fact, some historians believe that replacing the milk or oil with lard was intentional when the Spanish Inquisition was a thing. This was to identify secret Muslims or Jews to be persecuted.

Others believe that polvorones had nothing to do with the Moors whatsoever. Instead, these scholars argued that they were purely a Spanish creation developed in Andalusia, Spain. Yet, some say they were first made in Estepa or Antequera.

To this day, these three regions still dispute over the origins of polvorones.

Polvorones and Mantecados

Spanish Polvorones and Mantecados Christmas Desserts
Spanish Polvorones and Mantecados Christmas Desserts

If you do some research, you’ll find that polvorones and mantecados are associated with each other.

They’re both popular Spanish shortbreads that were invented around the same time.

Mantecados are available all year round, while polvorones are more popular at Christmas time.

The origins of mantecados are the same as those of polvorones. In fact, both can be considered the same thing. Still, you’ll find out that the two recipes might have some differences.

For instance, mantecados always contain pork lard because ‘manteca’ means lard in Spanish.

On the other hand, polvorones can be made with butter, milk, or oil. The lard only exists in the traditional version.

Therefore, not all mantecados are polvorones, but polvorones can be mantecados. We hope that makes sense!

Spanish Polvorones vs. Mexican Polvorones

Just like all Spanish food, polvorones eventually found their way to Mexico when it became under Spanish control. People adored polvorones to the point of adding their own touch and making adjustments.

As a result, these polvorones became traditional Mexican cookies.

You’ll find them in abundance around Christmas time, which is also the case in other Spanish-speaking countries. For example, Cuba and the Philippines share the love for these cookies as well.

There aren’t many differences between Spanish and Mexican polvorones, maybe except for the name. Polvorones are often called Mexican Wedding Cookies, but the strange thing is that they aren’t served at weddings!

Even though they’re available all year round, they mostly bring families together at Christmas.

Yet, in Mexico, you’ll find other variations of polvorones to be more popular. For instance, cookies made with almond and/or orange have a huge fan base there.

Now, if you’re excited to make these delicious shortbreads at home, we’d be glad to help you out on this mission.

Your Step-By-Step Guide to the Perfect Polvorones

Assorted Polvorones from Spain
Assorted Polvorones from Spain

As we’ve previously mentioned, there are many versions of polvorones that people can choose from to match their taste.

So, we’ve decided to include a recipe that we’re pretty sure you’ll fall in love with.

In fact, the best thing about polvorones is that anyone with minimal culinary experience could make them.

We personally think that the whole process is a piece of cake!

Now, let’s dive into this polvoron recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1 ⅔ cups of all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup of almond flour
  • 1 cup of softened butter
  • 1 ½ cups of icing sugar
  • ½ cup of lightly toasted, chopped almonds
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • ½ cup of water
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • Icing sugar (for the purpose of decoration)

Preparations

For the best results, you can prepare the flour mix the day before you’re to bake the polvorones. Simply, sift the all-purpose flour and almond flour on a baking sheet. Then, put them in the oven preheated at 250 F.

Toast the flour, stirring them every few minutes, until 30 minutes have passed. By then, the flour mix should have a light brown color.

Recipe

  • Put the water in a pot and let it boil, then add the cinnamon sticks to it
  • Leave the cinnamon for 30 minutes, then turn off the heat
  • Add the icing sugar and the chopped almonds to the flour that you’ve prepared the night before
  • Mix the previous ingredients well
  • In another bowl, whip the butter until it becomes frothy
  • Add the mixture of flour, sugar, and almonds to the butter
  • Stir all the ingredients together
  • Add the cinnamon-flavored water and vanilla extract to the previous ingredients
  • Mix thoroughly until a dough forms
  • Put the dough in the refrigerator for about 2 hours
  • Take the dough out and let it rest at room temperature
  • Shape the polvorones

Of course, there are several ways you can shape your polvorones. We’ve picked two options that you can choose from.

Using a Rolling Pin

Being by sprinkling some flour on your counter. Next, place the dough on it and use a rolling pin to spread it to a thickness of about ¾ inch. Then, use a cookie cutter to cut out small circles of the dough.

After that, simply lay these circles on parchment paper for baking.

Making a Cylinder

If the first method doesn’t work for you, you can try making the dough into a cylinder instead. Remember that the diameter should be only 1 inch.

Next, use a knife to cut ¾ inch sections of the dough, then lay these pieces on parchment paper.

In some cases, the dough might feel extra soft, which makes forming a cylinder a bit challenging. If you face this issue, you can try leaving the dough in the freezer for 30 minutes to make shaping and cutting easier.

Baking

Remember to preheat the oven to 480 F for about 15 minutes. Once you put the dough into the oven, lower the heat to 350 F and bake the cookies for 10-15 minutes.

When they’re done, leave the polvorones at room temperature until they’ve completely cooled down. Don’t try to handle them when they’re still hot as they’ll fall apart pretty easily.

Finally, dust your delicious creations with icing sugar before sharing them with your loved ones.

Final Words on Polvorones

Spanish Polvorones Christmas Cookies
Spanish Polvorones Christmas Cookies

Whether you think of them as Mexican wedding cookies or Spanish Christmas delicacies, polvorones are a wonderful dessert.

With their crumbly texture and sweet but not overpowering taste, they’ve captured the heart of anyone who tasted them.

Hopefully, after looking at our recipe, you could make them any time of the year.

For more Spanish desserts, read 13 Spanish Desserts That Transcend Your Tastebuds. Or to expand your Christmas menu, check out 15 Spanish Christmas Foods To Celebrate the Holidays.

And as always shop for Polvorones and order Spanish foods and drinks at our online store, Feliz Navidad!

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