Pfeffernüsse or German Spice Cookies from Grandma

Pfeffernüsse nach Omas Rezept

Have you ever heard of Pfeffernüsse aka German spice cookies? I live in the south of Germany in the city Munich. Once I asked in a bakery whether they sold any and they look at me as if as were from Mars. So I checked, since there are so many German dialects, maybe they use another word in Bavaria, but no, I quickly learned that they are also called Pfeffernüsse here. However, they seem to be more common in the north of Germany, the Dutch and Danish also have similar versions. The handwritten recipe book from my grandma contains about ten different recipes. Many of her recipes contain peppermint extract and this one is closer to gingerbread or German Lebkuchen. Pfeffernüsse literally translates as “pepper nuts”, probably they are called “nuts” because they are the size of walnuts. At least the ones I grew up with are rather small.

Pfeffernüsse nach Omas Rezept

In the end I decided to loosely base my spice cookies on a recipe, which is titled “Jewish Pfeffernüsse” in her book. Honey, molasses, and brown sugar are heated up before you add the spices and flour, which is similar to German gingerbread. My grandma’s instructions are close to inexistent, for example, her recipe does not even tell you how much flour to use, the only indication is “until you have a workable dough”.  Also, you may get cinnamon listed as an ingredient, but then is goes on with “and further spices”. So a lot is left for the imagination. Obviously no baking times or temperatures are listed either. But I have gotten used to this, the only way to go about this is to simply give it a go. Trial and error. I have to say, I am very proud of my final result. Even though this recipe doesn’t mention a glaze, I decided to dunk the cookies in some lemon glaze. I find the acidity the perfect companion for all these spices. My husband says he prefers the plain version, but he doesn’t like any decorated cookies, so I guess I will not glaze all of them in the future.

Pfeffernüsse nach Omas Rezept

Pfeffernüsse oder German Spice Cookies from Grandma

Serves: About 30-40 cookies, depending on size
Prep Time: 20min preparation + chilling Cooking Time: 7-9min Total Time: 1hr 30min

Pfeffernüsse or German spice cookies from grandma heats honey, molasses and sugar before adding spices and flour.


  • Pfeffernüsse
  • 70 grams of honey
  • 70 grams of molasses
  • 70 grams of brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons of water
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon of aniseed
  • 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger
  • 1/2 TL teaspoon of ground cloves
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 350 grams of all-purpose flour

  • Glaze
  • 75 grams of icing sugar
  • 1-2 tablespoons of lemon juice



For the Pfeffernüsse combine honey, molasses, sugar, and water in a pot and simmer until the sugar has dissolved. Mix in the spices and let cool off. Mix in the egg, then add the baking soda and flour. Chill covered for an hour or overnight.


Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll them into balls the size of walnuts, don't place too close to each other as they will grow a bit. Bake for about 7-9 minutes, depending on size.


For the glaze combine the sugar with the juice until you have a thick consistency. Dunk the cookies in this or brush the cookies with it. Let dry and enjoy.


If kept in an airtight container, they will keep at least for a week.

My next task is going to find some peppermint extract to try some other recipe. Most likely I am going to do another mix of recipes again. Grandma, I am proud of these spice cookies, I wish I could have you try them and tell me what you think. These are for you. In loving memory.

Pfeffernüsse nach Omas Rezept

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  • Reply
    Thursday January 11th, 2024 at 06:05 PM

    Ich habe sie vor Weihnachten gebacken; die Rückmeldung kommt etwas spät 😉
    Den Zuckerrübensirup habe ich durch Birnel ersetzt, sonst habe ich mich ziemlich ans Rezept gehalten. Uns hat’s gut geschmeckt, nicht so süss wie die meisten anderen Plätzchen und sehr interessant im Geschmack. Ich werde sie wieder machen, geht ja recht schnell und einfach. Etwas luftiger werde ichs versuchen, vielen dank für die Recherche im Rezepteheft deiner Grossmutter!

    • Reply
      Thursday January 11th, 2024 at 06:09 PM

      Hi Nina, was ist denn Birnel? Luftiger wird schwierig, das sind definitiv eher festere Pfeffernüsse. Grüße, Jenny

  • Reply
    Monday January 22nd, 2024 at 07:50 PM

    Hi Jenny, Birnel ist Birnendicksaft, die offizielle Definition musste ich grad suchen: “Birnel ist reiner, konzentrierter Birnensaft, der als Brotaufstrich oder zum Süssen von Gebäck und Getränken verwendet wird.” Hört sich nun etwas an wie Werbung, ist wohl nur in der Schweiz lokal bekannt. Ich benutze es gerne für Lebkuchengebäck.
    Fluffig sollen sie nicht werden, aber nicht gaanz so kompakt. Und wenn ist auch nicht schlimm, wir mochten sie alle 🙂
    Liebe Grüsse

    • Reply
      Monday January 22nd, 2024 at 09:07 PM

      Ok, sowas aber auch, kannte ich noch nicht.
      Vielleicht musst du dann Backpulver hinzugeben?

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