Pfeffernüsse (German Spice Cookies)

Pfeffernüsse – Also Called German Spice Cookies – Are A Classic Holiday Cookie!

Of all the tastes of the holidays we can thank Germany for, German spice cookies – or Pfeffernüsse – are an absolute classic!

Made with fragrant spices like cinnamon, cloves, and actual ground pepper, these bite-sized cookies are perfect with or without their simple glaze.

german spice cookies with glazing on festive plate
Pfeffernüsse with a simple glaze!

Luckily, our Pfeffernüsse cookies recipe is easy to make with a handful of simple ingredients.

This means that you can whip up a batch of spice cookies to put out on that holiday dessert plate – or just enjoy them yourself!

Spice cookies are a traditional taste when it comes to holiday time in Germany. Lisa grew up eating these cookies with friends and family.

They also carry with them a familiar smell and flavor that you can typically find at German Christmas markets.

glazed german spice cookies on clear plate with cinnamon stick
German spice cookies don’t usually last long on the plate.

The cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and pepper just ooze thoughts of winter celebrations kind of like gingerbread does.

While we’re talking about German cookies, German Pfeffernüsse are actually different than Lebkuchen, the classic German gingerbread.

The difference lies in the fact that Pfeffernüsse are rolled into a ball and include actual ground black pepper in the ingredients. In contrast to Lebkuchen, Pfeffernüsse are also not placed onto “Oblaten” which are very thin wafers.

Looking for more holiday cookies to make? Try our German hazelnut cookies, vanilla crescent cookies, easy butter cookies, spritz cookies, and cinnamon stars!

clear plate of german spice cookies with cinnamon stick closeby
Spice cookies taste great glazed or unglazed!

Even thought the recipe for Pfeffernüsse might look complicated at first glance, it’s actually not difficult at all. There are just a few ingredients.

When making German spice cookies, it’s important to have at least ground pepper and cinnamon on hand. This is because the different spices really give the cookies their unique flavor.

We also like adding nutmeg and clove spice, but you could also add ground ginger and/or ground anise if you like those flavors.

As for storage tips, be sure to keep Pfeffernüsse cookies in an airtight container. Stored correctly, they will last for around four weeks.

So you can really whip up a batch in advance of any special holiday event/day and you’ll have German spice cookies ready to go!

german spice cookies with glazing on festive plate

Pfeffernüsse (German Spice Cookies)

Yield: 60
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

Pfeffernüsse - or German Spice Cookies - are a classic holiday cookie. These delicious cookies are made with a number of fragrant spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ground pepper. Glazed with a simple icing, these bite-sized cookies make a great addition to any holiday cookie plate.

Ingredients

The Dough

  • 4 tablespoons honey
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup ground almonds
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon clove spice
  • a pinch of salt

The Glaze

  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 2-3 teaspoons lemon juice or water

Instructions

  1. Melt the butter and the honey on low heat in a small pot on the stove. Stir constantly and remove the pot from the stove as soon as the honey and butter are melted. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the egg and the sugar with the normal beater attachment of your electric mixer until they have a creamy consistency. Add the butter-honey mixture and mix again until everything is combined.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine flour, ground almonds, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper, clove spice, and a pinch of salt. Use a spoon to stir everything around.
  4. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the large bowl with the wet ingredients while using your electric mixer on the lowest setting. The mixture will be slightly crumbly at first. Set your mixer aside and use your hands to form a ball of dough - make sure everything is well combined.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line your baking sheet with parchment paper.
  6. Use a small teaspoon to separate a bit of the dough and use the palm of your hands to form a small ball. The ball should have a diameter of just under 1-inch since it will get slightly bigger in the oven. Form balls of roughly the same size with all of the dough and place them on the parchment paper with some space in between.
  7. Bake the Pfeffernüsse in the oven for approximately 15 minutes. Ours were done at exactly 15 minutes, but since every oven is different your baking time might be slightly shorter or longer.
  8. Remove the cookies from the oven and transfer them to a cooling rack to fully cool.
  9. Once the Pfeffernüsse have cooled sufficiently, prepare the glaze by whisking powdered sugar and lemon juice or water together. You can either dip the top of the cookies into the glaze or brush the glaze onto the top of the cookies. Let the glaze harden. You can also leave some of the cookies without a glaze.

Notes

  • If you don't have all the spices mentioned on hand, don't worry. It's okay to skip some. However, we would really recommend that you add the pepper and the cinnamon. If you want, you could also add (or substitute) ground anise and/or ground ginger.
  • You can store the cookies in an airtight container with a lid where they will stay fresh for around four weeks.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 60 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 47Total Fat: 2gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 6mgSodium: 26mgCarbohydrates: 7gFiber: 0gSugar: 4gProtein: 1g

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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