Say what?  Pfeffernusse is German for “pepper nuts.”  Originally, I was intending on making pepparkakor, which is a Norwegian pepper cookie, but I decided to go with my German heritage this time. (Partially because Scandanavians have this thing about making 7 cookies during Christmas time, and I just don’t have the time this year…) Plus, every time I say “kake” or “kakor” people look at me funny….so Pfeffernusse it is!

Back to wtf a “pepper nut” is: it is a spicy cookie shapped like a little nut. Not too complicated. But it literally has pepper in it! It’s sort of like a ginger cookie, but with more stuff in it and a much cooler name.

Directions: In a medium saucepan, mix together the molasses, honey, shortening, and butter. And here is a little hint for measuring viscous liquids like honey and molasses: coat the measuring cup with cooking spray or butter. The honey/molasses will slide off the cup much more easily than normal.

Cook over medium heat until smooth, ~5 minutes. Remove from heat and cool until at room temperature, ~50 minutes. Add the eggs and mix. (Make sure it’s at room temp…otherwise you’ll have scrambled eggs in your molasses.)

It will look bubbly while it's cooking, but will turn to a smooth dark brown when it's cooled.

Combine the flour, sugar, brown sugar, baking soda, salt, and all of the spices in a large bowl. I used freshly grated nutmeg and freshly ground cardamom, but everything else I just had pre-ground. I know it’s a lot of spices, but trust me, it’s a lot of cookies.


Add the molasses mixture and the anise extract to the flour-spice mixture. Stir until well combined. This dough comes together very slowly and it’s a bit stiff. You’ll probably need to help it along by pressing the unincorporated flour into the dough with your hands. If it just isn’t happening, try adding some vegetable oil to help things come together. Refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours or overnight.

It's a bit crumbly and stiff, but do your best to combine

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 325°F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Use your hands to roll the chilled dough into acorn- or hazelnut-sized balls of dough. If the dough is crumbling, press it together and try re-rolling.


Now for the options…I did some reading online, and there seem to be 3 ways folks dress the cookies: (1) a light dusting or coating of powdered sugar after baking; (2) a thick coating of powdered sugar before baking; or (3) an egg white glaze on baked cookies.  I was thinking of trying all 3 methods, but then I realized I didn’t have enough bowls…so I stuck with just the powdered sugar varieties.

When you’re ready to bake, bake 10-15 minutes. (Mine were perfect at 12′.)

Here is what the coated before baked cookies look like…

Fill a shallow dish with powdered sugar, and just roll the balls to get a nice thick coat.

Arrange at least 1" apart.

Because the cookies expand and crack while cooking, you get a cool texture to the cookie

Or if you want a fully coated cookie, you should wait until after baking to roll the cookies in the powdered sugar.

Just bake the balls as-is.

Coat the cookies when they are still warm but cool enough to handle.

It looked like it snowed on the cookies!

The big difference in the two types of coating is just appearance. I think the fully coated cookies look a bit prettier, but it was a bit faster to roll the cookies before baking.

These cookies are delightfully spicy, but not toooooo spicy. And the outside of the cookie has a nice crunch, while the inside of the cookie remains soft. They are truly a German Christmas miracle. I hope you have time to try this recipe this year because it’s a big ol’ winner!

Guess Santa came early this year!

Just be ready to clean up a giant powdered sugar mess. You’ll probably want a mop and a vacuum close by.

Merry Christmas and Enjoy!


2 thoughts on “Pfeffernusse

  1. Ps…clean up all that powdered sugar as soon as you’re done. It makes a big ol’ mess. I left it overnight, and we got ants! 😦

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