Pfeffernusse ~ German Pepper Nut Cookies

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Have you heard of Pfeffernusse? These cookies are a popular holiday treat in Germany, Denmark, and The Netherlands. Pfeffernusse are small, round cookies filled with ground spices, molasses, and brown sugar.

Until last week, I had never heard of these German cookies.

Pfeffernusse ~ German Pepper Nut Cookies recipe by Barefeet In The Kitchen

I was chatting with my friend Wendy one night last week and she asked if I knew how to make pfeffernusse cookies.

Thanks to a quick Google search and a tiny bit of further research, I’m happy to say that I now know how to make them. (And there is a package making its way to her now!)

Pfeffernusse Cookies

Similar to a gingerbread cookie in fragrance, the anise in these cookies is the dominant flavor, with the cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, allspice, cloves and black pepper vying for the next spot in line.

Also called Peppernut Cookies, the pepper doesn’t make these cookies spicy, but it is definitely present. Not all recipes include the pepper, but it was a fun ingredient to work with, so I chose to include it.

A note about all the spices: if you have a store near you that sells spices in bulk, I recommend buying just the tiny amounts needed.

I picked up a teaspoon or so of both the cardamom and the anise for about $.10 and I still have some left in the spice cupboard. If you have a Sprouts Farmers Market near you, that’s a great place to look.

Like any great cookie recipe, there are endless variations. Some people like to eat these cookies while they are still crisp on the outside and chewy inside, other people choose to let them harden for a week (similar to biscotti) and then dunk them in coffee before eating them.

Pfeffernusse ~ German Pepper Nut Cookies recipe by Barefeet In The Kitchen

Pfeffernusse are some of the most richly fragrant and flavorful cookies I have ever made.

These heavily spiced cookies are so beloved in many European countries, there is a National Pfeffernusse Holiday celebrated in their honor on December 23rd.

If you are a fan of black licorice, you just might fall in love with these cookies. Licorice happens to be one of my least favorite flavors and these cookies didn’t tempt me at all.

However, my husband loved them and told me repeatedly that they were better than any he remembered from his childhood.

When I asked on the Facebook Page if you had ever heard of Pfeffernusse, the response was overwhelming.

What other cookies should I know about? I’d love to hear about your family’s favorite holiday treats!

Pfeffernusse cookies in jar - get the recipe at barefeetinthekitchen.com

Pfeffernusse Cookie Recipe

  1. Combine the butter, brown sugar and molasses in a large mixing bowl and beat until smooth. Add the egg and beat to combine. Whisk together the flour, baking soda and all of the spices.
  2. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and beat to combine. Chill the dough in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Scoop about 2 tablespoons of cookie dough and roll into a ball between your palms. Place the dough balls on a parchment or silicone lined baking sheet.
  4. Bake for 13-14 minutes, until firm to the touch. Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool on the sheets for 3 minutes.
  5. Place the powdered sugar in a medium-sized container with a lid. Drop a few cookies at a time into the powdered sugar. Cover with a lid and shake gently to coat.
  6. Transfer the coated cookies to a wire cooling rack and let cool completely. Repeat with all the cookies. Store in an airtight container.

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Pfeffernusse cookies in jar - get the recipe at barefeetinthekitchen.com

Pfeffernusse ~ German Pepper Nut Cookies

4.8 from 15 votes
Recipe slightly adapted from and with thanks to Food.com
Pin Print Review
Servings: 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients 

  • 1/2 cup butter softened
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon anise seed as finely crushed as possible
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Instructions

  • Combine the butter, brown sugar and molasses in a large mixing bowl and beat until smooth. Add the egg and beat to combine. Whisk together the flour, baking soda and all of the spices. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and beat to combine. Chill the dough in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Scoop about 2 tablespoons of cookie dough and roll into a ball between your palms. Place the dough balls on a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet. Bake for 13-14 minutes, until firm to the touch. Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool on the sheets for 3 minutes.
  • Place the powdered sugar in a medium sized container with a lid. Drop a few cookies at a time into the powdered sugar. Cover with a lid and shake gently to coat. Transfer the coated cookies to a wire cooling rack and let cool completely. Repeat with all the cookies. Store in an airtight container. Enjoy!
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{originally published 9/26/13 – recipe notes and photos updated 11/27/18}

Pfeffernusse (a.k.a. German Pepper Nut Cookies) - get the recipe at barefeetinthekitchen.com

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Mary Younkin

Mary Younkin

Hi, I’m Mary. I’m the author, cook, photographer, and travel lover behind the scenes here at Barefeet In The Kitchen. I'm also the author of three cookbooks dedicated to making cooking from scratch as simple as possible.

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  1. Kate says

    I adore German cookies…I bought some of these while in Germany last October…they are soooo delicious. Thanks for the recipe. This has been on my to do list!

  2. Jamie says

    Ran across your recipe for Pfeffernusse and so glad I did! Threw away the other recipe I had been using for years. These are the BEST! Thanks 😀
    5 stars

  3. Manall says

    Made these after seeing them on Pinterest, they were Fantastic! Next cookies to try are your Italian almond cookies. Thank you for the posts!5 stars

  4. Janice McMahan says

    So glad to find this recipe. Mother made these before each holiday season. The only difference that I can see/ remembered is that
    she formed the balls (about golf ball sized) placed them on baking sheets then placed them on the dining room table for 24 hours before baking. Yum!

  5. Anthony Allen says

    These are wonderful cookies. I loved the taste and that they stayed soft! They will stay on my list of cookies to make each Christams. Thanks for your recipe and wait a new your post!!5 stars

    • Mary says

      I didn’t name this recipe. It’s a very old recipe for German Peppernut Cookies aka Pfeffernusse. Although there are no nuts in the recipe, it’s always been called a peppernut cookie.

    • Brian says

      I have read it’s because they were traditionally smaller and looked a little bit like a nut. Just a cute name for them.

  6. Karen says

    These are great. A couple of notes: I shaped mine around the size of a ping pong ball (1 TBL not 2) and still only got 2 1/2 dozen. They are still bigger than I remember. Baked for 13 minutes. I used the freshly ground anise but would prefer ven more anise flavor. May add a couple of drops of th flavoring next time. Thanks!5 stars

  7. Julia Scherer says

    These were fantastic!! My very-picky German-American family gave them a big thumbs-up.

    I tried them several times with small variations to see what came out best and ended up liking them all (1/2 butter, 1/2 shortening; 1/2 tsp anise oil rather than ground anise; white pepper rather than black pepper). We like maximum spiciness, so in my last batch, I used half again as much anise and rounded rather than flat measuring spoon amounts of the other spices.

    One change that I definitely prefer is smaller-sized cookies. What worked best for me was to use a tablespoon-sized measuring spoon to form the cookies. This was very quick and created a nice, flat bottom and uniformity in the finished product. I got at least 40 cookies per batch when using this method (I did count but failed to write it down and have now forgotten, haha.)

    I have been putting these in clear Christmas gift bags and giving them as hostess gifts during the holidays and people are going nuts over them. Will definitely bake every Christmas from now on!5 stars

  8. Kathleen says

    I’ve made these cookies from a different recipe in the past and have not enjoyed them as much as I like the store-bought version. (I know! That’s a sacrilege. This is the only type of cookie I have ever said that about.) This recipe is the real deal. I added half a teaspoon of ginger, changed all the spices to half a teaspoon, added the zest from a Satsuma and opted for dark brown sugar. They are the bomb!!5 stars

  9. Karl A Petersen says

    Norway might like these on Lille Yule Aften (23) but their Fattigmande are the magic Yule treat. I must know your reaction when you discover these.

  10. elizabeth straub-legare says

    your recipe for pfefferneusse looks wonderful, bringing me back to earlier years. I am looking forward to making them for my grands.
    happy holidays
    namaste5 stars