Pfeffernüsse cookies are a traditional German holiday cookie that translates to “pepper nut." They don't contain nuts, though they do contain white pepper!
They also contain a blend of warm wintry spices, which are sometimes sold in Germany under the name lebkuchengewürz. Think of it like a German version of pumpkin spice blend. Since lebkuchengewürz is difficult to source outside of Germany, and the actual contents of the spice blend varies, I’ve listed the individual spices below.
If you don’t have all the spices or have an aversion to some of the spices, feel free to play around and substitute for what you have in the pantry.
However, the one spice that is fairly consistent with most pfeffernüsse recipes is the white pepper, so it might be worth tracking down some for this cookie if you want the authentic experience. (White pepper is also good with fish and potato-based dishes.) Otherwise, an easy substitution of black pepper will work just fine.
- 1/4 cup (70 g) dark molasses (not blackstrap)
- 1/4 cup (70 g) honey
- 6 tablespoons (75 g) white granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoon whole milk, cold from the refrigerator
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 large egg, cold from the refrigerator
- 2 1/2 cup (350 g) all-purpose flour
For the glaze:
- 1 cup (115 g) powdered sugar, sifted
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon water
1 Preheat your oven to 375ºF and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicon baking mat.
2 Make the cookie dough: Warm the molasses, honey, and sugar in a medium-sized saucepan, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved.
Remove the pan from heat and stir in the spices and salt. Stir in the milk, baking soda, and egg. Add the flour and stir until most of the flour is absorbed. Using your hands, knead the dough until the remaining flour is incorporated.
3 Shape the cookies: Pinch off about a teaspoon of dough and roll a 1-inch ball. Place on the prepared baking sheet and repeat with the remaining dough, spacing the balls of dough 1-inch apart from each other.
4 Bake in the oven for 9 to 11 minutes, or until the bottom of the cookies are just starting to brown.
5 Stir together the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and water to make the glaze.
6 Glaze the cookies: Once the cookies are done baking, pull the pan out of the oven and brush the hot cookies with the glaze, making sure to cover as much of the tops and sides as possible. Don’t worry if some of the glaze drips onto the baking sheet.
Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet until the glaze is dry to the touch, then move to a cooling rack. The cookies improve (the spices mellow and the texture softens) after a day or two in a sealed airtight container.