Pfeffernusse cookies are chewy traditional German cookies that were mostly served around the holidays. Over the years, they’ve become popular across Europe as Christmas cookies with several variations. Regardless of where they are made, these cookies are full of spice and traditionally even included black pepper!
They’re most commonly compared to ginger cookies, but have a deeper flavor profile than most traditional gingerbread cookies. I love the warmth from the spice blend. Pfeffernusse makes me want to curl up in front of a fire with a cup of cider and watch holiday movies!
Let’s head to the kitchen and start baking!
Pfeffernusse recipes have been around for generations- and for good reason! Here are a few of my favorite things about them!
- The spice blend
- Perfectly sweetened so you can still taste the spices
- Very easy to make
- Makes plenty to share
Melting the butter – You want the butter to be warm when you add the spices. This will bring out the spices’ flavors. It doesn’t need to be boiling hot, though. It should be cooled completely, so you don’t scramble the egg!
No food processor – If you don’t have a food processor, you can still make these Pfeffernusse cookies. You’ll need to chop the almonds and candied orange peel with a knife as finely as you are able. Your cookies might have a slightly different consistency but they’ll still taste great. You could consider using almond meal if you have it instead of the slivered almonds to save yourself some chopping.
Chill time – Don’t skimp on the time in the fridge. It’s essential to allow the butter to harden and the spices to bond.
Cardamom – This is one of the secrets to the success of these cookies. I think the depth of flavor from cardamom is amazing, and it works hand in hand with all the other spices. I know it can be a bit pricey, but for these cookies, it’s totally worth it. Check out international grocery stores, particularly those that cater to Indian foods, for the best prices.
You can also buy it in the pod a bit cheaper than the ground. It’s easy to grind yourself if you have a coffee or spice grinder. You’ll need approximately 6 pods for the 1 tsp needed here.
As with all cookies, a well-sealed container is a must when storing this pfeffernusse recipe. Also, be sure that the cookies are completely cool before you tuck them away.
Can You Freeze This?
Both the dough and the cookies freeze well. Roll the dough into balls and put them on a cookie sheet. Freeze uncovered on the cookie sheet for a couple of hours. Transfer the dough balls into a freezer bag, and they should hold for about 6 months, according to food handling guidelines.
The baked cookies can be frozen in a freezer bag for up to 6 months. Individually wrap the cookies in cling wrap before freezing to maximize their freshness.
Make Ahead Tips
You can make this dough several days ahead of time. Just pull it out of the fridge, roll into balls, and bake!
How Long Can You Keep This In The Fridge?
The dough for this Pfeffernusse recipe will hold for about 2 days in the fridge.
Since they’ve been around for so long, many variations of this Pfeffernusse recipe exist. Here are some ideas on how to change it up a bit.
Can I Add Almonds?
This Pfeffernusse recipe already includes almonds, but if you’re looking for another hard to pronounce European holiday treat, try Vanillekipferl! These almond crescent cookies are simply full of nutty goodness!
Another almond option is almond shortbread cookies with their melt in your mouth texture and buttery, nutty flavor.
Can I Add Chocolate?
I can’t think of a cookie that isn’t better with chocolate. You could definitely try adding some mini chocolate chips to the dough. I suggest dark chocolate to compliment the spices. Of course, there are lots of chocolate Christmas cookies to choose from.
Can I Make This Recipe More Italian?
If you’re looking for a bit more of an Italian feel, consider Italian fig cookies with their sweet figgy filling. I also love Italian Christmas cookies. These festive little bites of deliciousness have a big almond taste that matches their colorful presentation.
Can I Turn These Into Butter Cookies?
Butter cookies focus their flavor on sweet, creamy butter. This recipe is all about the spice, so I don’t think it would make a good butter cookie recipe. However, for fantastic Christmas butter cookies, look no further than another German creation.
What Other German Cookies Can I Make?
My hat’s off to the legions of German grandmothers who created this Pfeffernusse recipe and so many other fabulous German cookies. The list is long, but one that always stands out is the fancy shortbread cookie, Springerle. Their presentation and taste are stunning!
Windmill cookies and Lebkuchen are both spice cookies that will appeal to any gingerbread lover.
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/3 cup molasses
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup blanched, slivered almonds
- 1/4 cup candied orange peel
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, more if needed.
- In a small skillet set over medium-low heat, melt butter. Add cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, and ginger and cook for 15 seconds, whisking constantly.
- Pour butter mixture into a large mixing bowl and stir in molasses and brown sugar until combined. Set aside and allow to cool completely.
- Add flour, almonds, orange peel, baking soda, and salt to the bowl of a food processor and process (using pulse method) until mixture is finely ground.
- Whisk the egg into cooled butter mixture then whisk in flour mixture just until incorporated. Shape the dough into a disk, wrap with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until dough is firm, about 2 hours minimum.
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Using a small cookie scoop, scoop the dough and then roll to form balls. Arrange on prepared baking sheets 1 inch apart.
- Bake in the preheated oven for about 10 minutes or until just set and the edges are lightly golden. Let cookies cool a few minutes then roll in confectioners' sugar while they're still warm. Set on a wire rack and cool completely. When completely cool, roll again in confectioners' sugar.
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Pfeffernusse cookies will make an excellent addition to your Christmas Cookies recipes! Here are a few more to round out a truly showstopping Christmas treat tray!
- Reindeer Nutter Butter Treats – Easy and adorable
- Polar Bear Paws Candy – caramel and peanuts wrapped in sweet white chocolate
- Crockpot Candy – Incredibly easy and amazingly delicious
- Biscoff Cookies – Just like the classic Lotus brand cookies
- Reindeer Oreos – Super cute, easy, and delish
I love the way my house fills with the smell of spices when I make this Pfeffernusse recipe. This chewy, moist cookie will definitely find its way into your cookie rotation. Be sure to let me know how it works for you. Leave a comment below!
Source: Adapted from The Perfect Cookie