Real Recipes From Real Home Cooks ®

pfeffernusse (pepper nuts) "the german christmas cookie"

(5 ratings)
Blue Ribbon Recipe by
Sarah Prieb
Auburn, CA

This is a VERY spicy version of this cookie! If you like less spice, start with a quarter of the spices and add to taste. This cookie seems difficult, but if you prep everything ahead, then all you have to do is throw it in the bowl. So, candy the orange peel, zest and juice the lemon, measure the spices, and use a food processor or nut grinder to get the nuts to a coarse grind before you begin.

Blue Ribbon Recipe

These Pfeffernusse cookies are a little bit of prep and work but trust us, they are worth it. Lemon and candied orange peel give these soft and tender cookies a delicious citrus note that is a nice contrast to the spices. Cinnamon and cloves are noticeable and the pepper lingers just a bit. They remind us of Christmas. Since the cookie itself is not overly sweet, the glaze adds a welcome bit of sweetness.

— The Test Kitchen @kitchencrew
(5 ratings)
yield 35 -50 cookies
prep time 9 Hr 45 Min
cook time 20 Min
method Bake

Ingredients For pfeffernusse (pepper nuts) "the german christmas cookie"

  • 3
  • 1/4 c
    water, plus more for boiling
  • 1 c
  • 1 c
  • 1/2 c
  • 1
  • 2 Tbsp
  • 1/2 Tbsp
  • 1 lg
    lemon (zest + juice)
  • 3 tsp
  • 1 tsp
    ground cloves
  • 2 tsp
    ground pepper
  • 2 tsp
  • 2 3/4 c
    all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp
    baking soda
  • 1 c
    walnuts or almonds, coarsely ground
  • 2 Tbsp
    lemon juice, more or less to taste
  • 1 c
    powdered sugar

How To Make pfeffernusse (pepper nuts) "the german christmas cookie"

Test Kitchen Tips
We added a few tablespoons of sugar while processing the orange peel to help grind them. We suggest preparing the candied orange peel the day before to allow it to completely dry. Also, these do have a peppery kick to them. You can definitely reduce the amount of ground pepper to 1 tsp and still have a flavorful cookie.
  • Peel removed from oranges.
    To candy the orange peel, cut the top and bottom off the oranges so they can sit flat. Using a knife or vegetable peeler, cut the skin off the orange so that it has as little pith as possible.
  • Orange peel run through a food processor.
    Pulse the peels in a food processor until they are coarsely ground. To make the peels less bitter, add them to a pot of boiling water. Boil for 1 minute. Let stand for 10 minutes. Strain through a sieve.
  • Peel boiling in sugar and water.
    Bring the sugar and water to a low boil. Add the peel and simmer for 3 mins.
  • Orange peel drying.
    Strain through a sieve and spread the peels out on some waxed paper. Let dry.
  • Butter, sugar, and egg combined in a bowl.
    To make the cookie, cream the butter, sugar, and egg together.
  • Molasses and vanilla extract added to the butter.
    Add the molasses and vanilla; stir to combine.
  • Candied orange peel, lemon zest, juice, and spices added to bowl.
    Add 1/2 cup candied orange peel, the lemon zest, juice, and spices; stir to combine.
  • Flour, baking soda, and nuts added to the bowl.
    Slowly add the flour, baking soda, and nuts. Mix until just combined. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  • Balls of dough on a baking sheet.
    The next day, preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Shape the dough into 3/4-inch balls (or scoop with a small cookie dough scoop) and drop them onto a greased or parchment-lined cookie sheet.
  • Baking the Pfeffernusse cookies.
    Bake for 15-18 minutes. until cookies are set and bottoms are a LIGHT golden brown. They will firm as they cool. Overbaking will result in a hard cookie. Let cool on a cookie sheet for a minute then place on a cooling rack that is over a sheet of foil.
  • Lemon juice and confectioners' sugar in a bowl.
    To make the glaze, mix the lemon juice and powdered sugar until smooth and has the consistency of warm honey.
  • Dipping cooled cookies in the glaze.
    Hold each still slightly warm cookie by the bottom and dip the top portion in the glaze. Place it back on the cooling rack to finish cooling.