• SClaus

German Christmas Cookies (Pfeffernusse)

Pfeffernusse, German Christmas Markets, And A Rumbling Tummy

I wandered about Erfurt’s Christmas Market one Christmas Eve, seemingly unnoticed by the crowd.


Ah, what a site this market is; it’s no wonder it’s considered one of the most beautiful Christmas markets in all of Germany. Imagine the scene of a beautifully laid out market, buzzing with Christmas anticipation and perfectly positioned with St. Mary’s Cathedral and St. Severus Church behind it.


Erfurt, Germany. Christmas market at Domplatz on the background of St Mary's Cathedral and Church of St Severus in twilight.
Erfurt, Germany. Christmas market at Domplatz on the background of St Mary's Cathedral and Church of St Severus in twilight.


Beneath a 39-foot-high Christmas tree is a Nativity scene made up of life-size figurines. Every corner and crevice a-glow with Christmas. You really need to see it!


As I made my way through the market, I caught a whiff in the air of something quite marvelous. A hint of gingerbread. A tickle of spice. Eventually, my nose (and tummy) led me to them, Pfeffernusse!


I have to admit that I ate more than one. But that’s okay; my tummy is much like my sack of Christmas gifts, bottomless.


Here is a delicious recipe for Pfeffernusse. It’s great to know that this is also a great option for a Christmas cookie without nuts, so dive in!


Substitutions And Variations For Pfeffernusse

  • Black pepper: you can absolutely swap the black pepper out for white. White pepper is also traditionally used in this cookie recipe.

  • Molasses: can’t find any? Not a problem. Try treacle, honey, or maple syrup (it might change the flavor slightly). Anything dark, sticky, and syrupy sweet will do the trick. Just not blackstrap molasses.

  • Butter: you can substitute butter for margarine if you like.

  • Spices: you can play around with the mix of spices, although this recipe is designed to balance them nicely. For example, you can add a little more cinnamon in place of cloves.


Storage And Shelf-life For Pfeffernusse

The cookies can be stored for up to a week in an airtight container, either in the refrigerator or in a cool part of your kitchen.

They are also freezer-friendly, which is great if you’re planning to prepare in advance for this festive season. Place them in a freezer-safe plastic bag and lay pieces of parchment paper between the cookies to prevent them from sticking to one another.

You can safely store them this way for about four months.

You can also make the dough in advance, roll it into balls and keep them in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. This raw cookie dough can also be stored in the freezer for around 4 months.


Erfurt, Germany. Christmas pyramid at Christmas market on Domplatz (Cathedral Square) in night. St Mary's Cathedral is visible in the background. Church of St Severus is hidden by the Christmas tree.
Erfurt, Germany. Christmas pyramid at Christmas market on Domplatz (Cathedral Square) in night. St Mary's Cathedral is visible in the background. Church of St Severus is hidden by the Christmas tree.


What Are Pfeffernusse?

Pfeffernusse are richly flavored and fragranced spice cookies that are traditionally made and served in Germany during the festive season. The word “pfeffernusse” means “peppernut,” which refers to the peppery spice the cookie is flavored with. Despite the word “peppernut,” these cookies are nut-free.

These beautiful cookies are made with a combination of wintry spices that talk to the Christmas-time mood and feeling.

They are said to have been invented by a confectioner, Johann Fleischmann, in 1753, in Offenbach am Main.


How To Serve Pfeffernusse

Pfeffernusse can be enjoyed in a few different ways. They can be eaten while fresh and stored in a container as suggested here. The alternate way to serve them is to allow them to dry out and then dunk them into a cup of tea or coffee. Similar to the South African rusk or Italian biscotti.


Pfeffernusse Spices And Their Health Benefits

What a joy to know that these cookies are jam-packed with lovely healthy spices. Here are a few of their benefits:

  1. Star anise: this spice has terrific anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties.

  2. Cinnamon: rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. This spice is also linked to managing healthy blood sugar levels.

  3. Cardamon: aids digestive problems and treats infections. Cardamon is also used as an anti-inflammatory treatment.

  4. Allspice: combats nausea and inflammation.

  5. Cloves: Improves liver and bone health. It assists in regulating blood sugar and fighting infection.

  6. Nutmeg: is used to relieve pain, aid digestion, and maintain a healthy immune system.

  7. Black pepper: high in antioxidants and used to treat arthritis.

  8. Ginger: helps with nausea, digestion, and the quality of one’s skin.


A plate of pfeffernusse surrounded by pine cones, green garland and gold Christmas ornaments.
Filled with the spices of the season, these sweet and crunch cookies are a delight for every cookie connoisseur!


Wrapping It Up

Ah, what a joy it is to share this cookie recipe with you, friends. They are every inch of the Christmas cookie, deeply layered in spicy flavor and aroma.


Enjoy making them as much as you enjoy eating them. They look beautiful, served on a little plate with a cup of coffee. They are drenched in icing sugar with a dark little surprise center.


You could even serve these alongside a dessert like ice cream, just a spicy little sidekick to something sweet.


Enjoy every nibble!

10 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All