No Christmas cookie spread is complete without my Lebkuchen recipe! These German cookies are a marriage of gingerbread and cake, with a creamy glaze over a beautiful almond design. If you like cinnamon cookies — if you like cookies in general — these are a must-try!
My Lebkuchen recipe is a bit involved, but for holiday baking, it’s not unheard of to go the extra mile — especially when the result is gingerbread that people will eat (rather than that cardboard stuff from the store).
Roll up your sleeves, tie on that apron, and let’s get baking!
Spices. Holiday coziness. Chewy treats. Lebkuchen is Christmas embodied!
- The soft, fluffy texture
- Extra time to make only = extra TLC!
- Multicultural decadence
- Perfect ginger flavor!
Lebkuchen has ancient origins. Also known as Lebkuchen Nuremberg or Nürnberger Lebkuchen after the city most famous for exporting them, they contain an ingredient known as the nectar of the gods: honey. These “honey cakes” grew over time to be the worldwide favorite almond cookies we know today, with lebkuchen hearts born in the iconic design on each treat.
Want to dive deeper into this dessert’s history? You can read more about Lebkuchen here.
For now, let me walk you through this tasty, historic treat!
Vinegar? Yes, vinegar! Part of what makes my Lebkuchen recipe so fluffy and soft is the addition of vinegar to activate the leavening agent. Using vinegar in baking is almost as ancient as these cookies themselves!
Almond Flour: These cookies may be most famous for their lebkuchen spice taste, but what really sets them apart is their use of almond flour. If you only use the regular flour, you’ll be missing out on the nutty, hearty taste that almond flour gives to these cookies!
Candied Peels: It may seem daunting to use candied citrus peels in a recipe (something about them seems so FANCY!), but they’re easier than you’d think! And if making them yourself really feels too intense, you can easily pick these up at most grocery stores.
But if you prefer to DIY, you can! Just cut the peels into quarter-inch strips, and boil them for about twenty minutes. Rinse and drain. While the peels are boiling, mix equal parts sugar and water (about two cups each), and bring the mixture to a boil.
Add the peels and simmer for close to an hour. Lay the peels out to dry. Leftovers can be frozen for several months!
Sweet Sugar: For my Lebkuchen recipe, you can use either honey or molasses. I know a lot of people who opt for molasses, loving the richer, earthier taste — but just as many people pick molasses, think it’s healthier. Molasses, while classified often as “natural” sugar, is actually a byproduct of the sugar-making process.
Meanwhile, honey is definitively natural sugar, and brings its own rich flavor profile. Plus, it’s divine!
Blanched Almonds: Blanched almonds may sound fancy — but they’re just raw almonds with the skin removed! So many intimidating parts of baking are just sneakily named.
To blanch your own almonds, put them in boiling water for one minute, drain, and rinse with cool water. The skin will easily come off!
One thing I always tell people who first make my Lebkuchen recipe is to make sure the glaze is dry before you store them! There’s nothing worse than the delicious, velvety glaze ripping off because the cookies were wet when you stacked them.
Another trick is to divide your cookies between layers of wax paper or parchment paper. You’ll still want to go in with dried cookies, but the layers will help prevent glaze-transfer if the container gets warm for some reason.
Can You Freeze This?
My Lebkuchen recipe is very freezer-friendly! Place the cookies in an airtight container, making sure to separate the cookies between layers of wax paper. They’ll stay delicious for up to a year!
If you are planning to freeze them, I’d suggest withholding the glaze. The glaze will be fine with freezing, but sugar always tends to go goopy on me in the freezer. Thaw, then glaze — you’ll also retain a better flavor!
Make Ahead Tips
Christmas cookies are all so make-ahead friendly! You can whip up the dough (through Step 6) ahead of time, and freeze the dough in individual balls by plopping onto a cookie sheet, covering, and setting in the freezer until firm. Then store in a ziploc bag until you need them!
You can also bake the cookies ahead of time and freeze for later use as well. Again, I recommend withholding the glaze until you’re ready to serve.
How Long Can You Keep This?
Lebkuchen cookies will be delicious at room temperature for up to three months. The glaze might get sticky, but the taste will still be delicious!
Can I Add Chocolate Chips To This Recipe?
What CAN’T you add chocolate too?
Chocolate and German cookie recipes go hand in hand. Just look at chocolate chip shortbread cookies, or an American favorite, double chocolate snowballs. If you want to go full chocoholic, check out my Christmas crack recipe. The name is enough.
Can I Add Chocolate To This Recipe?
On the cocoa side of things, give chocolate spritz cookies a try! Who doesn’t love this easy Christmas classic, these iconic designs, this buttery flavor? Speaking of buttery — double shortbread cookies will disappear from the tray before you can even set it down!
But if you’re looking for a classic, you can’t go wrong with chocolate Christmas cookies. All the flavor of the traditional favorite with CHOCOLATE!
Can I Make This Recipe With Italian Twist?
Mama mia, yes! Italian Christmas cookies are just as delicious as Lebkuchen. If you want to truly celebrate all Italy has to offer, might I direct you towards Italian fig cookies? Yes, fig! I know a lot of people wrinkle their nose at this fruit, but trust me, it goes so well with the hearty spices of the holidays.
What Other Desserts Can I Make With Almonds?
Almond crescent cookies. Almond shortbread cookies. Almonds dipped in chocolate. Almonds dipped in chocolate and rolled in coconut. Almonds, almonds, almonds — there’s no wrong way to eat them when it comes to dessert!
What Other Gingerbread Cookies Can I Bake?
Hankering for more spices? Gingerbread man cookies are a classic for a reason — that ginger bite, yum! But if you want a cookie that won’t chip your tooth, try my soft gingerbread cookies!
Or if you want to keep the cultural twist, check out marranitos! This Mexican classic combines two of my favorite things: gingerbread and pigs!
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup almond flour
- 1/4 cup minced candied orange peel
- 1/4 cup minced candied lemon peel
- 1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon ground allspice
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups dark brown sugar
- 1/2 cup vegetable shortening at room temperature
- 1/2 cup unsulfured molasses
- 1/3 cup blanched whole almonds
- 2 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar sifted
- 5 tablespoons whole milk
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment; set aside.
- Mix cream and vinegar in a small bowl and let sit until thickened, about 30 minutes.
- Whisk together the all-purpose flour with the almond flour, candied orange and lemon peels, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, baking soda, nutmeg, and salt, in a medium mixing bowl.
- In a large mixing bowl, cream together the brown sugar, shortening, and molasses on medium speed for about 3-4 minutes, or until the mixture is light and fluffy.
- Pour in thickened cream and mix until smooth.
- Gradually add the flour mixture, and beat on low speed, until just combined.
- Using a 1/4 cookie scoop shape the dough into mounds, placing on prepared baking sheets, 3 inches apart. Arrange 3 whole almonds in a star pattern on the top of each cookie. Gently, slightly flatten the cookies with your hand.
- Bake the cookies in the preheated oven, until lightly brown, about 15 minutes. Let the cookies cool on baking sheets for 10 minutes, then remove them to a wired rack to cool completely.
- When cookies are completely cool, make the glaze. Add confectioners sugar and milk to a small mixing bowl and whisk until smooth.
- Dip the tops of each cookie into the glaze, allowing excess to drip off, then set on a wire rack to allow the glaze to set.
Need to fill your holiday tray with more tasty treats? I’ve got you covered, friend!
- Lemon Ricotta Cookies –. Creamy, tart, perfect!
- Banana Oatmeal Cookies – The best of breakfast in a cookie.
- Strawberry Chocolate Chip Cookies – Berries + chocolate = heaven
- Orange Creamsicle Cookies – Childhood in a cookie!
- Fruitcake Cookies – The Christmas dessert people will actually eat!
If you want to wow a crowd. If you want to add a twist of German heritage. If you want to celebrate almonds. Then my Lebkuchen recipe is the cookie you’ve been looking for!
What country has your favorite holiday treats? Let me know in the comments!
Source: Adapted From Food and Wine