German Christmas Cookies Pfeffernusse

German Christmas Cookies Pfeffernusse
Santa Claus Southern California

Experience the festive flavors of German Christmas Cookies Pfeffernusse. These traditional holiday treats are bursting with warm spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, enveloped in a rich molasses and honey-infused dough. Each bite delights the palate with a perfect balance of sweetness and spice, leaving a lingering aroma of holiday cheer. With their distinct texture and traditional dusting of powdered sugar, Pfeffernusse cookies are a delightful addition to any holiday gathering or a cozy treat enjoyed by the fire with a cup of hot cocoa. Transport yourself to the enchanting world of German Christmas traditions with these delectable Pfeffernusse cookies.

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. The Erfurt Christmas Market is one of the largest in Germany.

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 German Pfeffernusse recipe. It’s great to know this is also an excellent 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 German spice cookies that are traditionally made and served 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 German Christmas Cookies 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.

While you enjoy every nibble, check out our article about Christmas Traditions in Germany!

Be599a Ed5cba89071344439e69a43ac746b8b8mv2 Scaled

German Christmas Cookies (Pfeffernusse)

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!
5 from 3 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Dessert, Snack
Cuisine: German
Keyword: german christmas cookies, german Pfeffernusse
Prep Time: 18 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 24 cookies
Calories: 96kcal
Author: S. Claus


  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • ¼ cup stick butter
  • 3 TBS honey
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp star anise
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cardamon
  • ½ tsp allspice
  • ½ tsp cloves
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • ½ tsp black pepper, ground
  • ½ tsp powdered ginger
  • ¼ cup confectioner’s sugar icing sugar


  • Preheat the oven to 350 °F
  • Melt together the butter, honey, and molasses in a small pot over medium heat. The mixture should not bubble; just melt together and then remove it from the heat.
    ¼ cup stick butter, 3 TBS honey, ¼ cup molasses
  • Once the mixture has cooled, beat in the egg. Stir and set aside.
    1 egg
  • Mix up all the remaining ingredients, other than the icing sugar, in a large mixing bowl, with a wooden spoon.
    2 cups flour, 1/3 cup sugar, ¼ cup brown sugar, 1 tsp star anise, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp cardamon, ½ tsp allspice, ½ tsp cloves, ½ tsp nutmeg, ½ tsp black pepper, ground, ½ tsp powdered ginger
  • Add the cooled butter mixture to the flour mixture. Stir the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients until everything comes together.
  • Form the mixture into a ball and cover it with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for an hour.
  • Line baking sheets with parchment paper. After the dough has chilled, roll the cookies out into balls (about 1 inch/2.5 cm).
  • Bake the cookies for 12 minutes and, after the cookies cool, roll them in the icing sugar.
    ¼ cup confectioner’s sugar
  • These cookies will last up to a week in an airtight container.


Calories: 96kcal | Carbohydrates: 19g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 2g | Saturated Fat: 0.4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 0.3g | Cholesterol: 7mg | Sodium: 65mg | Potassium: 76mg | Fiber: 0.4g | Sugar: 10g | Vitamin A: 11IU | Vitamin C: 0.1mg | Calcium: 15mg | Iron: 1mg