CookiesCourseCuisinesDessertsEuropeanGermanHoliday

Traditional PFEFFERNÜSSE COOKIES (Peppernut Cookies)

 This recipe makes traditional German cookies (Pfeffernüsse Cookies) that are small, crunchy, spicy, slightly sweet and very tasty! These cookies are a wonderful gift for giving during the holidays!

Pfeffernüsse Cookies in a white bowl

My husband is from Kansas and in the community where he lived there was a significant amount of German Mennonites. They brought this traditional German cookie recipe with them and it is very popular at holiday get togethers.

Here is the original Mennonite Peppernuts recipe card that was his mother’s card. You can tell the age with it being written on a typewriter and having darkened with age and baking stains. This is a well-loved recipe! We have improved the instructions that are quite lacking in this card as well as the baking temperature and time, so use the updated recipe at the end.

Old Original Peppernuts recipe card

What are Peppernuts?

Peppernuts are small spice cookies from Germany and also called German crunch cookies by some. In Germany they are known as Pfeffernüsse. They are called Pebernødder in Danish, Pepernoten in Dutch, and pfeffernuesse or peppernuts in English.

These cookies are small and crunchy like a nut, hence their name. They are crunchy, just slightly sweet and so easy to eat by the handful. And then another handful. Okay, just one more, maybe! They are so yummy and a wonderful Christmas treat!

Peppernuts cookies in a white bowl

You might notice the anise oil in the recipe. That is the flavor of black licorice, but don’t let that scare you. I don’t like black licorice, but I love the taste of these cookies.

The cinnamon and cloves add the spice to these cookies and the molasses also adds to the flavor.

One of the best things about these cookies is that they keep for a month and are best when they have had some time to dry out and get crunchier. So, these are often made a month before Christmas and stored in metal tins to age. Being in Texas, when my husband was growing up they often received a Collin Street Bakery DeLuxe Fruitcake in a holiday tin like the one shown below. These they saved and reused to store the Peppernut cookies and we continue that tradition today.

Holiday Tin

This pfeffernüsse cookie recipe makes a lot of these little cookies, but don’t even think about halving this recipe. You are going to want to give some of these as gifts. They make great gifts for friends, family and school teachers. You can find small jars to put these in and decorate them up with Christmas colors.

These look so festive!

Peppernuts cookies in a jar and spilling out of a jar onto red paper

How to Make Pfeffernüsse Cookies

Here is how to make these delicious Peppernuts cookies.

1. First, get your ingredients together. There are a few more ingredients to these cookies than most, but that is okay, it is what makes them so tasty.

Ingredients for peppernuts cookies recipe in bowls on a table

2. In a large mixing bowl (preferably a Kitchenaid stand mixing bowl), add the butter, brown sugar, white sugar, molasses, and cream and mix well.

wet ingredients for cookies in a mixing bowl

3. Add the eggs, salt, ground cinnamon, ground cloves, anise oil, baking soda and baking powder and mix well.

dry ingredients added to cookie batter in mixing bowl

4. Add one cup of flour at a time.

Adding flour to cookie batter in mixing bowl

5. Mix until the flour is absorbed into the dough. You do not have to over mix it. Note that the dough gets very stiff and can easily burn out hand mixer motors. For this reason, you should use a heavy duty stand mixer. In either case, if your mixer is struggling, then stop using the mixer and mix in the rest of the flour by hand. It can be quite a workout!

Peppernuts cookie batter in a mixing bowl

6. Put the bowl of dough into the refrigerator for 30 minutes and allow the dough to get a little stiffer.

Cookie batter in a mixing bowl cooling in the refrigerator

7. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. If you have a double oven, then preheat both ovens.

8. Lay out aluminum foil for the baked cookies to cool on.

Foil for cooling the cookies after they are baked

9. Tape wax paper to the top of your table, counter, island, or other kitchen work area.

wax paper on a table for rolling out cookies with cookie batter in a bowl with a spoon in the bowl

10. Scoop out a lemon-sized amount of dough.

lemon sized cookie dough on spoon over bowl of dough

11. Roll it into a ball in your hands.

ball of cookie dough on a hand

12. Place the dough ball onto the wax paper and use your palm and fingers to roll it out into a thin rope of dough ¼ inch in diameter. The key is to be consistent and make these all the same size so they will cook in the same amount of time. If the dough balls are sticking to the wax paper, then sprinkle a small amount of flour on the wax paper to prevent this.

Cookie dough rolled out into a rope with a hand over the rope

13. Use a knife to cut the rope into small nut sized pieces of dough.cookie dough rope cut into cookie sized pieces

14. Place them on a baking sheet where they are not touching and there is room for them to grow as they bake so that the baked cookies won’t be touching each other.Pfeffernüsse cookie dough pieces on a baking sheet

15. Place the baking sheet in the preheated oven and bake at 375 degrees F for 8-12 minutes until they are a golden brown color. Check them at eight minutes and bake them longer if needed. Make sure that you do not bake them too long or the underside will burn.

Peppernut cookies on a baking sheet after baking

16. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking pans for 5 minutes, then transfer them to the aluminum foil. The cookies will be a little soft when they first come out of the oven but will become very crunchy as they cool.

Pfeffernüsse cookies cooling on a piece of aluminum foil

17. Repeat rolling the dough, cutting the dough, loading the baking sheets and baking the cookies until all of the dough is used. This is a fun activity to get your whole family involved in for baking these holiday cookies.

Pfeffernüsse Cookies in a jar and spilling out of a jar onto red paper

18. After the cookies have completely cooled, store pfeffernusse cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 month. If the cookies are not quite crunchy, you can leave the lid off of the container for a few hours and they will get crunchy.

This Peppernuts recipe makes traditional German cookies (Pfeffernüsse Cookies) that are small, crunchy, slightly sweet and addictive cookies!

Pfeffernüsse Cookies Recipe (Peppernuts Cookies)

This Peppernuts cookies recipe makes traditional German cookies (Pfeffernüsse Cookies) that are small, crunchy, spicy, slightly sweet and very tasty! These cookies are a wonderful gift for giving during the holidays!
4.6 from 46 votes
Pin Rate
Course: Desserts
Cuisine: German
Prep Time: 1 hr
Cook Time: 2 hrs
Total Time: 3 hrs
Servings: 25 cups
Calories: 96kcal
Author: The Wanderlust Kitchen
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Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter - room temperature
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon anise oil
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 level teaspoons baking powder
  • 8 cups of all-purpose flour

Instructions

  • In a large mixing bowl (preferably a Kitchenaid stand mixing bowl), add the butter, brown sugar, white sugar, molasses, and cream and mix well.
  • Add the eggs, salt, ground cinnamon, ground cloves, anise oil, baking soda and baking powder and mix well.
  • Add one cup of flour at a time and mix until the flour is absorbed into the dough. You do not have to over mix it. Note that the dough gets very stiff and can easily burn out hand mixer motors. For this reason, you should use a heavy duty stand mixer. In either case, if your mixer is struggling, then stop using the mixer and mix in the rest of the flour by hand. It can be quite a workout!
  • Put the bowl of dough into the refrigerator for 30 minutes and allow the dough to get a little stiffer.
  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. If you have a double oven, then preheat both ovens.
  • Lay out aluminum foil for the baked cookies to cool on.
  • Tape wax paper to the top of your table, counter, island, or other kitchen work area.
  • Scoop out a lemon-sized amount of dough and roll it into a ball in your hands.
  • Place the dough ball onto the wax paper and use your palm and fingers to roll it out into a thin rope of dough ¼ inch in diameter. The key is to be consistent and make these all the same size so they will cook in the same amount of time. If the dough is sticking to the wax paper, then sprinkle a small amount of flour on the wax paper to prevent this.
  • Use a knife to cut the rope into small nut sized pieces of dough and place them on a baking sheet where they are not touching and there is room for them to grow as they bake so that the baked cookies won’t be touching each other.
  • Bake at 375 degrees F for 8-12 minutes until they are a golden brown color. Check them at eight minutes and bake them longer if needed. Make sure that you do not bake them too long or the underside will burn.
  • Allow the cookies to cool on the baking pans for 5 minutes, then transfer them to the aluminum foil. The cookies will be a little soft when they first come out of the oven but will become very crunchy as they cool.
  • Repeat rolling the dough, cutting the dough, loading the baking sheets and baking the cookies until all of the dough is used. This is a fun activity to get your whole family involved in for baking these holiday cookies.
  • After the cookies have completely cooled, store them in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 month. If the cookies are not quite crunchy, you can leave the lid off of the container for a few hours and they will get crunchy.

VIDEO

NOTES

You can make this cookie dough up to 3 days in advance and store it in the refrigerator until you are ready to bake.
Nutrition Facts
Pfeffernüsse Cookies Recipe (Peppernuts Cookies)
Serving Size
 
1 cup
Amount per Serving
Calories
96
% Daily Value*
Fat
 
3
g
5
%
Saturated Fat
 
2
g
13
%
Polyunsaturated Fat
 
1
g
Cholesterol
 
11
mg
4
%
Sodium
 
46
mg
2
%
Carbohydrates
 
16
g
5
%
Sugar
 
8
g
9
%
Protein
 
1
g
2
%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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This Peppernuts recipe is also called by these names: Mennonite peppernuts recipe, peppernuts anise cookies recipe, German pepper nut cookies recipe, pepper nut cookie recipe, pepper nuts recipe, and German pfeffernusse recipe.

About the Author

Linda

Hi, I'm Linda! Welcome to The Wanderlust Kitchen, where I share recipes and travel adventures from all around the world. Here you'll find a world of recipes you can have confidence in. These recipes celebrate authentic food heritage as well as modern techniques and ingredients. Be adventurous and try a new recipe and travel somewhere you have never been before.  Bon Appétit! Bon Voyage!  

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Comments:

  1. 5 stars
    Utterly delicious. I can’t stop snacking on these little bites of heaven! Pfeffernusse are my favorite cookie, but store-bought ones are always so sweet and, after a few days, get dried out once the package is opened. I decided to try making these this year, and aside from a highly time-consuming recipe in terms of rolling, cutting, and baking all the dough off, it was worth it. You’re not lying when you say the recipe makes 25 cups of cookies. I used a pizza cutter to cut the dough snakes. I’d line up 5-6 snakes and run the pizza wheel through them all at once. At the start, I was measuring every single cut. After about the 3rd round, I just eye-balled it. Some were smaller, some were larger, and some I had to reform a bit. I did find that when the cookies came out of the oven if I pressed them down ever so slightly with the back of a spatula to flatten them, I ended up with a little crispier outside (which I love). Everyone I gifted these to loved them as well. Will make these annually now!

    And yes, my Kitchen Aid struggled with 8 cups of flour too!

  2. I have sorghum and I see the original recipe calls for that. What difference would there be by adding that with the sugars?

    1. Hi Lavon, yes, you can use sorghum instead of molasses. It has a slightly more sour taste than molasses, but I’m not sure if you would notice the difference in the cookies. We have always used Grandma’s Original Unsulphured Molasses.

  3. i’m not sure about the measurements given here but I think its got to be wrong. I have a kitchen aid stand mixer and my bowl will not hold all of the recipe

    1. Hi Mike, Kitchenaid makes different size stand mixers and bowls. Ours is a 5 quart and it works fine, but gets very full. If you have a 3.5 or 4.5 quart, then you might have to half the recipe and mix two halves.

  4. These look delicious like my mom used to make. But this style is actually Dutch. German pepper nuts are usually a little bigger and then dipped in powdered sugar or a glaze. Mostly the same. But German from Germany and Dutch from Holland. Not sure when the German Mennonite’s would have adopted this little modification. Probably simply because they’re better this way!! 😉

  5. I’m hoping these are like my grandma’s. She was Mennonite, also from Kansas. Sadly, I never got her recipe before she passed away. These were my favorite!

  6. I make pepper nuts similar to these I got from my husband’s great aunt in Newton, Ks. Except her recipe omitted the anise and added groundup fruitcake fruit. It is my favorite and so good.

  7. I finally found the recipe that I remember making every Christmas with our neighbors whose family roots were German Mennonites. The recipes I’ve made were never firm enough. They would cook into a flat cookie mess. These are exactly what we would eat! I’m the only one of my family that still makes them it brings back such wonderful childhood memories rolling out the dough ! Thank you!

  8. I’m pleased that I have found this recipe. My Grandparents were German Mennonites. Grandmother would make them for us when we were children. As youngsters we would spend summers on the ranch. With few in our pockets we could do our chores and run wild until supper time. My wife and I are looking forward to baking some for our grandchildren. Danka

    1. Hi Larry,

      So fun to hear about your summers on the ranch and Peppernut cookies in your pockets! I love it!

      – Linda