Pfeffernusse Cookies

Pfeffernusse Cookies, also called German peppernut cookies, are small spice cookies full of molasses, brown sugar, and warm spices.  They’re incredibly fragrant, flavorful, and perfect with a hot cup of tea.

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Pfeffernusse cookies ring in the holidays every bit as much as pumpkin spice welcomes Autumn.  I love them.   Growing up, my mom made them every year.  Her recipe produced rock hard cookies that she would then store in a coffee can with a slice of apple in the bottom.  By the time Christmas came about, they were soft and delicious.  I looked forward to her Pfeffernusse each year.

Pfeffernusse Cookies - a German spice cookies dusted in powder sugar on a wooden board.

In my single days after my mom passed, I resorted to buying the Archway brand of Pfeffernusse, and they were really good.  Not as delicious as mom’s, but definitely acceptable.

Since those days, I’ve tweaked several recipes to come up with one that is softer than mom’s and even better than the store-bought cookies.  Make a double batch, because you’ll find yourself grabbing one or two each morning with your coffee or tea.


  • Melt shortening, butter, molasses, and honey together, and then when that cools, stir in eggs and anise extract.
  • Whisk together flour, brown sugar, white sugar, spices, baking soda, white pepper, and salt in a bowl.  Then combine the dry and wet ingredients.
  • White pepper will give the cookie a kick without being too ‘hot’ or ‘spicy’.  Black pepper can be used but it has more of a ‘bite’ to it.
  • Chill the dough, roll into balls, and bake. 
  • Then roll the cookies in powder sugar, twice.

Pfeffernusse Cookies - a German spice cookies dusted in powder sugar on a wooden board.



  • If you don’t use a lot of these spices, find somewhere that you can buy them in bulk.  That way you only buy what you need. There is a product called Gingerbread Spice that has all the spices in it.  I like being able to add more of the spices that I like, but I’ve used the Gingerbread Spice in a pinch and it was very good.  This stuff is also amazing sprinkled on oatmeal or toast.
  • By using both butter and shortening, it keeps the cookies softer than using only butter.  Using all shortening makes the cookies spread too much.
  • A cookie scoop will make uniform cookies and pretty balls when you roll them.
  • Take the time to coat the cookies twice in powder sugar – once while warm and once again when cool.  This creates the pretty white ‘shell’.

Here are a few more cookie recipes:

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Pfeffernusse Cookies - a German spice cookies dusted in powder sugar on a wooden board.



A German spice holiday cookie, these Pfeffernusse Cookies are richly fragrant and flavorful, perfect for your morning coffee or tea.



½ cup molasses

¼ cup honey

¼ cup shortening

¼ cup butter

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons anise extract

4 cups all-purpose flour

¾ cup granulated sugar

½ cup dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon allspice

1 ½ teaspoons cardamom

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon ground cloves

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 ½ teaspoons baking soda

1 ½ teaspoons white pepper

½ teaspoon salt

1 ½ cups powdered sugar


In a saucepan over medium heat, stir together the molasses, honey, shortening, and butter.  Cook, stirring constantly until well combined and the shortening and butter have melted.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

When the mixture is cool, whisk in the eggs and anise extract.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, both sugars, cardamom, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, pepper, and salt.

Add the molasses mixture and stir just until combined and no streaks of flour remain.  

Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or a Silpat mat.

Use a small cookie scoop to remove the chilled dough and roll into balls.  Place on the prepared baking sheet at least 1-inch apart.

Bake for 10 – 15 minutes or until the cookies feel firm to the touch.  Allow to cool on the baking sheet until you are able to handle them.

Meanwhile, dump the powdered sugar into a large ziplock bag.

Add a few of the warm cookies to the bag and shake to coat completely.  Place them on a wire rack to cool completely.  Continue with the remainder of the warm cookies.

When the cookies are completely cool, shake them again in the powdered sugar.

  • Prep Time: 20 minutes + chilling time
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Category: Desserts
  • Method: Bake
  • Cuisine: German

Keywords: pfeffernusse cookies, German food, Christmas cookies, dessert recipes, spice cookies

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