December 20, 2010


Finished bowl of Pfeffernusse cookies on a poinsettia tablescloth.

These German Christmas cookies are full of warm spices and are a perfect cookie to add to your holidays this year. Pfeffernüsse cookies are a family favorite and one that we end up making over and over. 

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Pfeffernüsse means "pepper nut" in German because these cookies contain a bit of ground black pepper. The black pepper adds an extra kick of warmth to these flavorful Christmas spice cookies. 

Don't let the black pepper scare you away; it's only a small amount and they are delicious. They are not hot and they are not savory.

The black pepper is combined with several other warm spices including cinnamon, ginger, allspice, nutmeg, and cardamom. Some recipes use other spices like anise and cloves as well. You can certainly adjust the spices to your liking and use more or less.

Some recipes replace a bit of the flour with ground almonds to add a bit more texture. I use all flour in this version, but may try that in the future. 

You can also coat the cookies in a powdered sugar icing. I prefer the powdered sugar because it's simpler to make and I feel like they last longer with the powdered sugar coating, which can sometimes get damp when stored.

The inside and side view of a Pfeffernusse cookie showing the brown colored inside.

I always like to have a spice cookie or two around for Christmas. I love how they provide a flavor contrast to other very sweet cookies and desserts. Spice cookies feel like winter to me.

I find the warm spices to be so inviting and these kind of cookies make a lovely dessert with coffee or tea, or a terrific addition to any holiday cookie tin or platter.

These cookies get better with age as the spices really sit and permeate all through the dough. So when they are ready and cooled, I suggest putting them in a cookie tin and trying to forget about them for at least a day or two, and then bring them out to enjoy.  

Pfeffernüsse are such a special cookie to add to your holiday celebrations. Give them a try this season and they may just become one of your family's favorites, too.

Bowl of finished Pfeffernusse cookies coated in powdered sugar.
Yield: about 30 cookies
Author: Amy (Savory Moments)


These German Christmas cookies are full of warm spices and are a perfect cookie to add to your holidays this year. Pfeffernüsse cookies are a family favorite and one that we end up making over and over.


  • 2-1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (finely ground)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup powdered sugar, for coating


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
  2. Place the powdered sugar in a brown paper bag or a plastic container with a lid.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (flour through salt).
  4. In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment or in a large bowl using a hand mixer, beat together the butter, brown sugar, and molasses on medium speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the egg and vanilla until combined.
  5. Turn the mixer to low speed and slowly add the flour mixture until it is all combined.
  6. Scoop the dough in tablespoon amounts using a cookie scooper. Place the dough about 1/2 inch apart on the baking sheets.
  7. Bake until the cookies are golden and slightly firm to the touch, about 15 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through. Repeat until all the dough has been used.
  8. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool slightly, about 15 minutes. Then, working in batches, place a few cookies in the paper bag or container with lid on. Shake lightly and gently to coat the cookies with powdered sugar. Place back on the racks to fully cool.
  9. Store in an airtight container. The cookies are best after they have sat for a day or more.

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The spice blend for these cookies is based on the spices in the pepper nut cookies in the classic The German Cookbook. These Pfeffernüsse do not contain anise, or star anise. If you'd like you can add 1/4 teaspoon of ground anise to your spices.

I hope you give these Christmas cookies a try! Let me know in the comments below.

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Finished Pfeffernusse cookies in a red poinsettia bowl.

This recipe was originally published in 2010 and was updated in 2020 with new photos, text, a recipe card and more to improve reader experience.

Check out these other Christmas cookie recipes: 

Pistachio Cardamom Crescent Cookies

Cranberry Cornmeal Cookies

Chewy Molasses Spice Cookies 

Mexican Wedding Cake Cookies


  1. I have been meaning to try making these! Thanks for the reminder

  2. WHAT. WHAT IS THIS. I grew up eating these important from Germany and I looooove them. But they were like... a super special treat. And now you give me a RECIPE. Dear God, this is dangerous. I was going to make gingerbread for Christmas, but I might be making these instead....

  3. You are giving me too many delicious ideas!


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