Cookies, Desserts

Cookie Days #2: Pfeffernusse

Yesterday, we went with a new twist on a traditional Christmas munchie; today, we are going way, way back. Back to to old Germany, in fact!I was first introduced to the Pfeffernusse [rhymes with beetlejuice] by Ben. Apparently they are a Christmas tradition in his family. I had never heard of these peppery, licorice-y, spicy hard cookie treats before the first Christmas we were married and when I tried it, I spit it out–I hated it. It was the most disgusting cookie ever!

Or so I thought. Turns out there’s more than a few ways to make a Pfeffernusse [as with most old recipes, the “original” tends to vary by region/family/etc.], and when I realized this, I promptly found a version without anise extract to make with Ben. Surprisingly, as I researched recipes, I realized that it probably wasn’t the pepper flavor that turned me off [literally Pfeffernusse means “pepper nut”], but it was the anise–licorice. My most dreaded flavor ever!

If licorice is your thing, feel free to stir in a teaspoon or so–I won’t tell! Ben would have been thrilled to have that flavor party with the gingerbread-y spices too, but we didn’t have any at home [I wonder why, licorice-hater that I am] and we were too lazy unwilling to let that scent/taste in my kitchen to run to the store to get some. So, this Pfeffernusse must sadly go without–but you don’t have to be sad like the Pfeffernusse because these cookies are made up of pretty simple, classic ingredients that I bet you have in your pantry right at this very moment. Enjoy! One more cookie recipe to come tomorrow!

P.S.  My apologies for the photo repeat… the light is not my friend this time of year!

Pfeffernusse Cookies [from Comfortably Domestic]
printable version


  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom [I substituted allspice]
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper [white is preferred, but black works too]
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1 egg
  • powdered sugar


In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, cardamom, and pepper. Meanwhile, in the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar. Add molasses and beat well, then add egg and do the same. Next, fold in flour mixture gradually and beat until just combined. Remove bowl from mixer and cover, placing in the refrigerator to chill for at least 2-3 hours [or up to one week].

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare baking sheets by lining with parchment paper or a silpat. Roll dough into one inch balls and place about 1-2 inches apart, spacing evenly.

Bake for 12-14 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes [cookies will continue to cook a little, and will become harder as they cool, so don’t bake too long]. Remove to wire rack and immediately roll in powdered sugar. If you like a lot of powdered sugar, roll again after cookies have cooled completely. Store in an airtight container.

Time: 4 hours.

Yield: 5 dozen.

Notes: Original recipe advises that cookies can be frozen, just roll in powdered sugar again after they are thawed.


6 thoughts on “Cookie Days #2: Pfeffernusse”

  1. Hehe…anise “the most dreaded flavor ever.” I find that it is very polarizing – I personally LOVE it, but seems like if you don’t love it, you most likely hate, Hate, HATE it! Ironically, I found your post after googling “pfefferneusse recipe with anise.” 😛


    1. haha too funny! polarizing is a great way to describe this. my husband made these cookies again this year, but added 1 teaspoon anise to the batter with the egg. he loved them. me, on the other hand….i was just glad he made them for a cookie exchange! 🙂


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