Authentic German Gingerbread Cookies (Lebkuchen)

Searching for that perfect holiday cookie? German gingerbread cookies are definitely a top contender!

With so many different German cookies and types of gingerbread, there’s no shortage of amazing and authentic German gingerbread recipes!

Our go-to German gingerbread recipe is for delicious German Lebkuchen – more specifically Elisenlebkuchen.

Topped with simple icing or chocolate, these soft and chewy cookies are loaded with nuts and candied citrus. Oh, and don’t forget the homemade gingerbread spice!

german gingerbread cookies lebkuchen on plate with cookies on rack behind
Look at those German gingerbread cookies!

Interestingly enough, there are actually many different kinds of Lebkuchen in Germany. For example, Aachen (in western Germany) is known for its Aachener Printen. This is a type of Lebkuchen we got to know quite well since we used to live close to Aachen for a few years.

Our recipe is for a type of gingerbread called “Elisenlebkuchen”. They are originally from Nuremberg, a city in the northern part of the German state Bavaria.

Fun Fact: This is actually the part of Germany that Lisa grew up in… so she has enjoyed Elisenlebkuchen every year since she was a child.

Of course, many parts of Germany have a history of producing spiced cookies (especially around the holidays) but, again, different regions make and enjoy different cookies.

german gingerbread cookies lebkuchen on cooling tray
German Lebkuchen – topped in chocolate or a simple icing!

While we’re talking about German holiday cookies, it’s important to note that these gingerbread are different from other “spiced cookies” like Pfeffernüsse.

These kinds of cookies might share similar ingredients and spices, but they are not the same. However, both kinds of cookies are popular around Christmas and can be found at German Christmas markets!

Make Your Own German Christmas Food and Drinks at Home with our recipe collection!

You’ll also notice that our Lebkuchen recipe is going to produce very different gingerbread cookies than you might be used to if you are from North America.

stack of german gingerbread cookies on plate with lebkuchen behind
A beautiful stack of German gingerbread cookies – ready to be eaten!

The classic “gingerbread man” with the ginger spice, cute little buttons, and typical dark color is good and tasty.

However, we much prefer these German gingerbread cookies for their rich, nutty texture and zesty, sugary notes that come through with each bite!

Let’s just say Lebkuchen will definitely give that gingerbread man a run for his money.

How to Make German Gingerbread Cookies – Step-by-Step

If you’d like to make this German gingerbread cookie recipe, you can check out the recipe card at the bottom of this post.

For those who want to see all the steps as you go, you can follow the Lebkuchen process photos with instructions below. This way, you’ll know whether or not you’re on the right track as you bake!

This gingerbread recipe seems like it has many, many steps but it’s actually pretty easy. The trickiest part is getting the right ingredients together in advance.

You can make some of the ingredients used in this recipe beforehand if you don’t/can’t buy them. We’ll point out which “special ingredients” you can make at home in the steps below and link to the recipes to make them!

measuring cup of whole almonds pouring into food processor
Add the nuts first…

We’ll start by chopping up the nuts as well as orange and lemon peel. This works best if you have a food processor or mixer that can handle nuts.

If you don’t have a food processor, you could also buy pre-ground nuts and chop the lemon/orange peel with a knife.

The texture would be slightly different, but it should still work – just remember to use slightly less (approx. 1 cup each) when using already ground nuts! Disclaimer: We’ve not tried it with pre-ground nuts yet – so let us know how it goes if you do!

Start by adding the nuts into your food processor.

candied orange in measuring cup pouring into food processor
…then the candied peels.

Also add the candied orange and candied lemon peels. These are two of the ingredients that you can either buy in-store (if you can find them) or that you can make at home (we think it tastes better that way).

For those located in Canada: You can often find candied peel at Bulk Barn.

If you want to make the candied peel yourself at home, you can follow our candied lemon peel recipe and candied orange peel recipe to see exactly how we made ours.

In just a few steps, it’s actually really easy to candy the peels on the stovetop. It does take a while for the peels to dry though, so keep that in mind!

full food processor with nuts and fruit inside
Put the lid on and chop!

Once you have added the hazelnuts, almonds, candied lemon peel and candied orange peel, put the lid on and chop everything.

ground nuts and fruit on food processor on counter
This is the consistency we are going for…

Make sure that there are no overly large pieces of nuts or peel left – but you don’t have to chop it overly fine. See the photo above for reference.

Once you are happy with the consistency of your nut and fruit mixture, set the container aside.

four eggs in clear mixing bowl on counter
Crack the eggs…

Crack the eggs into a large mixing bowl.

eggs and dry ingredients in clear mixing bowl on counter
Add the sugar and honey.

Then add the sugar and honey. Mix everything with the normal hooks of your electric mixer until you have a creamy mixture that has some bubbles and is less yellow in color.

gingerbread cookie batter in mixing bowl with gingerbread spice
Time for spices!

Once you’re happy with the consistency, set your mixer aside. Now it’s time to add the cinnamon and gingerbread spice.

You can buy gingerbread spice at the store, but depending on where you live it might be difficult to find – or quite expensive.

It’s actually not difficult to make your own gingerbread spice at home. You can give it a try with our gingerbread spice mix recipe!

german gingerbread cookie batter mixing into bowls on counter
Also fold in the chopped nuts and fruit.

Also add the chopped up fruit and nuts and fold them into the egg mixture using a spatula or large spoon.

german gingerbread cookie batter mixed in bowl with spatula
Mix, mix, mix!

Mix until everything is well combined.

At this time also line your baking sheets with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

gingerbread cookie dough on parchment paper in circle
Shape your gingerbread cookies.

Now it’s time to place your dough onto the parchment paper. Use one heaping tablespoon of dough per gingerbread cookie. Then take two spoons to shape the dough into a flat circle.

Make sure to leave some space between the cookies as they will expand slightly in the oven.

german gingerbread cookies on cooling rack
Freshly baked gingerbread cookies…

Bake your cookies on the medium rack of your oven for around 15-20 minutes.

They should be slightly brown at the top but also still slightly soft to the touch. This way they will be soft and chewy on the inside once cooled.

Once your cookies are done baking, remove them from the oven and place them on a cooling rack to fully cool.

package of melting chocolate for baking on counter
We use semi-sweet baking chocolate for our chocolate glaze!

When your gingerbread cookies are fully cooled, you can prepare the glaze. We usually like to cover half of the gingerbread cookies with chocolate and half of the cookies with a white icing sugar.

For the chocolate glaze we like using a semi sweet baking chocolate to give the cookies their rich chocolatey coat.

cubes of melting chocolate in white bowl on counter
Met the chocolate…

Melt your baking chocolat ein a shallow, wide bowl in the microwave. We like using a shallow bowl that is a bit wider because that makes it easy to dip the top of the cookies in later.

If you don’t have a microwave, you can also heat the chocolate on low heat in a pot on the stove.

dipping german gingerbread cookie in chocolate in bowl
Gingerbread cookies getting coated in chocolate.

Once your chocolate is melted, take a gingerbread cookie and dip the top into the chocolate.

You might want to move the cookie around slightly to make sure that the whole top is covered.

german gingerbread cookie with fresh chocolate topping beside rack of cookies
A chocolate dipped gingerbread cookie!

Then carefully turn the chocolate covered cookie over and place it back on the cooling rack.

We’d recommend placing some parchment paper under the cooling rack so you can easily capture any drips!

cooling rack with german gingerbread cookies with chocolate topping
Let the cookies sit until the chocolate glaze has fully hardened.

Then repeat the process until you have coated as many gingerbread cookies in chocolate as you want.

The amounts in the recipe card below are for 9 chocolate covered cookies. So if you want all of your gingerbread cookies to be covered in chocolate (and spic the icing sugar glaze), then you’d obviously need slightly more baking chocolate!

white bowl of white icing with spoon inside
This is the icing sugar glaze!

For the white glaze, mix powdered sugar with a bit of water and mix everything with a spoon until there are no more lumps.

You’ll want the consistency to be quite thick so that the cookies will get a nice glaze.

german gingerbread cookie dipped in white icing in bowl
Dip the cookies into the glaze.

Then, similarly to the chocolate coat, dip the top of the gingerbread cookies into the glaze and move them around a bit until the whole top is covered.

german gingerbread cookie held in hand with white glaze icing
A gingerbread cookie with a white glaze!

Then carefully flip the cookie over and place it on the cooling rack.

german gingerbread cookies with chocolate topping and icing topping
Be patient until the glaze has hardened!

Now you just have to be patient and wait until the glaze has fully hardened. And then enjoy your German Lebkuchen!

These cookies probably won’t last long, but we’d still recommend that you store them in an airtight container with a lid a cool and dry place (for example your garage or basement).

german gingerbread cookies lebkuchen on plate with cookies on rack behind

German Gingerbread Cookies (Lebkuchen)

Yield: 18
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes

These German gingerbread cookies - called Elisenlebkuchen - are a classic German holiday cookie. Made with lots of nuts, gingerbread spice, and candied citrus, this cookie is soft and chewy yet perfectly sweet and nutty. Dip Lebkuchen in a simple icing or chocolate for the perfect sweet finish!

Ingredients

The Cookies

  • 1 1/2 cups almonds, whole
  • 1 1/3 cups hazelnuts, whole
  • 1/3 cup candied orange peels (see notes)
  • 1/4 cup candied lemon peels (see notes)
  • 4 medium-sized eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon gingerbread spice (see notes)
  • a pinch of salt

The Glaze

  • 6 ounces semi-sweet baking chocolate (for chocolate glaze)
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar + 1 1/2 tablespoons water (for white sugar glaze)

Instructions

  1. Put the whole hazelnuts, almonds, candied lemon peels, and candied orange peels into your food processor and chop them up until the mixture is loose and coarsely grated. The texture doesn't have to be super finely ground - but there should be no overly large chunks of nut remaining.
  2. Crack the eggs into a large bowl and add the sugar as well as the honey. Mix everything together with your electric mixer until you have a creamy mixture that has some bubbles. Set your electric mixer aside.
  3. Fold the gingerbread spice, cinnamon, and the content from your food processor into the egg mixture in small increments. This works best with a spatula or a large spoon. Mix until everything is well combined.
  4. Line your baking sheets with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
  5. Place the gingerbread cookies onto the parchment paper using one heaping tablespoon of dough per cookie. Use two spoons to shape the cookies into a flat circle. Leave enough space between the cookies since they will expand slightly in the oven when they cook.
  6. Bake your cookies for 15-20 minutes on the middle rack. The top should be slightly brown but also still slightly soft to the touch. They will harden up a tad as they cool.
  7. After you take the gingerbread cookies out of the oven, remove them from the parchment paper and place them on a cooling rack to fully cool.
  8. Once the gingerbread cookies have fully cooled, prepare the glaze. For a chocolate glaze, heat your semi-sweet baking chocolate in a flat bowl in the microwave until melted. Take the chocolate out every 30 seconds and give it a good stir. For a white glaze, mix powdered sugar with water in a flat bowl. Dip the top of your gingerbread cookies into the glaze, then place them back on the cooling rack and let the glaze harden.

Notes

  • You should store your gingerbread cookies in an airtight container with a lid in a cool and dry place (for example your garage or basement).
  • You can buy candied orange and lemon peel at the store (if you're in Canada, you can usually find it at Bulk Barn). However, you can also make your own with our candied orange peel recipe and candied lemon peel recipe!
  • You can buy pre-mixed gingerbread spice but it can be difficult to find (or be quite expensive). The good news is that it is quite easy to make your own. You can give it a try with our gingerbread spice recipe here.
  • If you don't have a food processor, you could also buy pre-ground nuts and chop the lemon/orange peel with a knife. The texture would be slightly different, but it would still work - just remember to use slightly less (approx. 1 cup each instead of 1 1/2 and 1 1/3 cup) when using already ground nuts!
  • Usually, the gingerbread cookie dough is placed onto baking wafers called Oblaten but these can be quite difficult to find in North America. That's why we usually make them without baking wafers when we are in this part of the world - and also don't include any baking wafers in this recipe. We have never had any issue with the gingerbread cookies sticking to the parchment paper or the bottom being too brown.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 18 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 303Total Fat: 19gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 13gCholesterol: 37mgSodium: 82mgCarbohydrates: 28gFiber: 4gSugar: 20gProtein: 7g

This nutritional information has been estimated by an online nutrition calculator. It should only be seen as a rough calculation and not a replacement for professional dietary advice. The exact values can vary depending on the specific ingredients used.

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