Pfeffernusse are deliciously glazed German spice cookies that are popular during the holidays! Also called pepper nut cookies, these cookies are loaded with spices, brown sugar, and honey!
The first time I had Pfeffernusse cookies was at the Wrocław Christmas Market in Poland in 2016. I had thought I was purchasing iced gingerbread cookies, but after one bite, I knew there was something different and special about them.
Having not been able to travel to the Christmas markets the last couple of years, I decided to reach out to a German friend to share her traditional German recipe for Pfeffernusse with me (and you) to bring a little bit of that Christmas magic into my holidays at home.
She did not disappoint! These cookies are pure perfection and laced with all kinds of delicious spices! And I really think you’re all going to love them just as much as I do!
This German cookie recipe is made with honey, dark brown sugar, flour, egg, lemon zest, and baking powder. It gets the rest of its flavor from the spices which include cinnamon, ginger, white pepper, cloves, star anise, nutmeg, mace, cloves, cardamom, and allspice.
This glaze is a simple two-ingredient recipe made with water and powdered sugar.
RECIPE NOTE: These cookies are dairy-free so they are great for sharing with dairy-sensitive friends during the holiday season!
How To Make Pfeffernusse Cookies
Melt the honey and dark brown sugar in a small saucepan until the sugar has fully dissolved then allow the temperature to cool at room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and lemon zest and set aside.
Once the honey mixture has cooled to below 140 degrees F, quickly stir in the spices and egg.
RECIPE NOTE: Mixing in the egg before the honey cools down enough could cause the egg to curdle. Use a kitchen thermometer to be sure.
Pour the honey mixture into the flour mixture and mix quickly with a wooden spoon to combine.
Use a medium cookie scoop to portion out the dough and roll it into balls. Place the balls on the prepared baking sheet about 1-inch apart – they don’t spread much. Bake and then allow the cookies to cool completely on the pan.
Prepare the glaze by whisking together the water and confectioners sugar in a bowl. Then dip or brush the cooled cookies with glaze and place on a wire rack to set.
These cookies date back to the 1800’s and are popular not only in Germany, but also in Denmark and The Netherlands. Each region has their own spin on the classic, but this is a very easy version that can be made in any American kitchen!
How To Serve
These cookies can be enjoyed on their own or as part of cookie tins or trays. Many like to let them dry out a bit and dunk them in coffee like you might with biscotti.
How To Store
These cookies should be stored in an airtight container and are good for up to 7 to 10 days depending on how you like them.
These cookies also freeze really well. Simply prepare the cookies according to the recipe and then bag them up into freezer bags and freeze for up to 3 months.
If you love a hint of spice in your holiday season, then I highly recommend my Gingerbread Whoopie Pies and Gingerbread Truffles – they are both so delicious and make great gifts too! My Gingerbread Spiced Pecans are also a delicious snack you won’t want to miss!
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Pfeffernusse German Spice Cookies
- ½ cup honey
- ½ cup dark brown sugar packed
- 2½ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- zest of half a lemon
- 1 large egg room temperature
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon ground white pepper
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¼ teaspoon ground star anise
- ¼ teaspoon ground mace
- ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
- ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 3 to 5 tablespoons water
- In a small pot, cook the honey and the sugar over medium-low heat until the sugar has dissolved (do not bring to a boil). Remove from heat and stir occasionally to let the mixture cool down to less than 140°F
- Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.
- In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and lemon zest; set aside.
- Once the honey-sugar mixture has cooled down enough mix in the egg and all of the spices and stir quickly to combine.
- Pour the honey mixture into the flour mixture and mix using a wooden spoon or a rubber spatula until a ball of dough forms.
- Use a medium cookie scoop to form small balls of about 1½-inches each and set on the baking sheet.
- Bake for 13 to 15 minutes until the cookies lightly brown. Then let them cool completely on the pan.
- Make the glaze by combining the powdered sugar and 3 tablespoons of water in a medium bowl, add more water if needed until you have a thick paste.
- Then either dip the pfeffernüsse cookies into the sugar glaze or spread the glaze with a brush onto them and let them dry completely on a cooling rack.
- You can use either white or black pepper, take what you have at hand. But white pepper is the more traditional ingredient.
- Mixing in the eggs too early might cause them to curdle, so it’s essential that you let the mixture cool down enough.
- The cookies can stick a bit to the parchment paper when still warm, they will move easily when cooled down.
- Ground anise and mace can be hard spices to come by. Look for them at your local holistic grocery stores or online. If you cannot find them, they can be omitted and the cookies will still be delicious. They will just miss the signature anise flavor, which some may prefer them without anyway. You could also use a drop or two of anise extract which should be near the vanilla extract in the baking aisle at most grocers.
- Powdered sugar may also be used as a coating instead of the glaze if desired.