Pfeffernüsse (German Spice Cookies)

Pfeffernüsse are small spiced German cookies commonly seen during the holiday season. Translating to "pepper nut," the aromatic cookie gets its name from the pinch of pepper added to the dough—here, we use white and black pepper for a punch of flavor. The sweet orange glaze helps balance the pepperiness of the cookie's spices. Serve with a cup of warm mulled wine.

a recipe image of the Pfeffernnuse
Photo: William Dickey
Active Time:
25 mins
Total Time:
55 mins


  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger

  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice

  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves

  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

  • ¼ teaspoon ground aniseed

  • teaspoon ground white pepper

  • teaspoon ground black pepper

  • ½ cup packed brown sugar

  • ¼ cup canola oil

  • ¼ cup carob molasses (see Tip) or dark honey

  • 1 tablespoon whiskey or rum

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour

  • 1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1 teaspoon cocoa powder

  • ¼ teaspoon salt

  • 1 - 4 tablespoons water

  • ½ cup confectioners’ sugar

  • 1 tablespoon orange juice

  • Grated orange zest for garnish


  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

  2. Toast cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves, nutmeg, aniseed, white pepper and black pepper in a small skillet over medium heat, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add brown sugar, oil, carob molasses (or honey) and whiskey (or rum); cook, stirring, until the mixture is warm (do not boil), about 1 minute. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes in the pan.

  3. Meanwhile, whisk all-purpose flour, pastry flour, baking powder, cocoa and salt in a large bowl. Add the spice mixture and mash together with a wooden spoon, adding 1 tablespoon of water at a time as needed, until a soft, sticky dough forms.

  4. Roll the dough into 1-inch balls, about 1 tablespoon for each cookie. Place the balls on the prepared pan about 1 inch apart. Bake until the cookies are slightly puffed and cracked, rotating the pan from back to front halfway through, 8 to 10 minutes.

  5. Meanwhile, combine confectioners' sugar and orange juice in a small bowl; whisk until smooth.

  6. Let the cookies cool on the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. Brush the cookies with the glaze; sprinkle with orange zest, if desired, and let cool completely, about 15 minutes.

To make ahead

Store airtight at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.


Parchment paper


Carob molasses is made by cooking the fruit from carob pods in water, then straining the liquid and reducing it into a syrup. It is dark and viscous like regular molasses, with coffee and cocoa undertones. Use it up: Mix with an equal amount of tahini for a PB&J-like dip; swap for regular molasses.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

108 Calories
3g Fat
20g Carbs
1g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 24
Serving Size 1 cookie
Calories 108
% Daily Value *
Total Carbohydrate 20g 7%
Dietary Fiber 1g 4%
Total Sugars 10g
Added Sugars 10g 20%
Protein 1g 2%
Total Fat 3g 4%
Vitamin A 2IU 0%
Vitamin E 1mg 4%
Folate 16mcg 4%
Sodium 46mg 2%
Calcium 20mg 2%
Iron 1mg 6%
Magnesium 10mg 2%
Potassium 45mg 1%

Nutrition information is calculated by a registered dietitian using an ingredient database but should be considered an estimate.

* Daily Values (DVs) are the recommended amounts of nutrients to consume each day. Percent Daily Value (%DV) found on nutrition labels tells you how much a serving of a particular food or recipe contributes to each of those total recommended amounts. Per the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the daily value is based on a standard 2,000 calorie diet. Depending on your calorie needs or if you have a health condition, you may need more or less of particular nutrients. (For example, it’s recommended that people following a heart-healthy diet eat less sodium on a daily basis compared to those following a standard diet.)

(-) Information is not currently available for this nutrient. If you are following a special diet for medical reasons, be sure to consult with your primary care provider or a registered dietitian to better understand your personal nutrition needs.

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