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Pfeffernüsse, by Aldi
Alternative namesPeppernuts
Place of originDenmark, Germany, Netherlands
Main ingredientscardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, black pepper, mace, anise, sugar, butter, eggs, flour

Pfeffernüsse are small spice cookies, popular as a holiday treat with Germans and ethnic Mennonites in North America.[1][2] Similar cookies are made in Denmark, and The Netherlands, as well. They are called Pfeffernüsse (plural, singular is Pfeffernuss) in German, pepernoten (sing. pepernoot) in Dutch, päpanät in Plautdietsch, pfeffernusse or peppernuts in English, and pebernødder in Danish.


Johann Fleischmann, a confectioner from Offenbach am Main, created the recipe in 1753.[3][4] Goethe praised the pastries.[5][6] Felix Mendelssohn went to Offenbach am Main especially to buy them.[7][8][6] The state of Hesse has served it at state receptions.[7][9]

In 1820, the Brothers Grimm warned their sister Charlotte (de) against excessive consumption: "Don't eat too much of the pepper nuts, they are said to cause a lot of heat!" At that time, nutmeg was considered an aphrodisiac, and cardamom as invigorating as caffeine.[7][10][11]

In Germany, Pfeffernüsse are associated with Christmas. The cookie has been part of yuletide celebrations since the 1850s.[12]

The name literally means 'peppernuts', and does not mean it contains nuts. The cookies are roughly the size of nuts and can be eaten by the handful, which may account for the name.[13][14] They are named for the pinch of pepper added to the dough before baking.[15]


Though Pfeffernüsse cookie recipes differ, all contain aromatic spices – most commonly cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, black pepper, mace, and anise.[16] Molasses,[citation needed] sugar, and honey are used to sweeten the cookies. Some variations are dusted with powdered sugar, though that is not a traditional ingredient.[17] The dough is butter, shortening, or margarine, eggs, and flour.[18]

Leavening agents such as baking powder, baking soda, potassium carbonate, or ammonium carbonate get the sticky and dense consistency of the original mixture. It is then kneaded either by hand or through the use of an electric mixer.[19]

German varieties[edit]

  • In northern Germany, Pfeffernüsse are a hemispherical pastry up to two centimetres in diameter and of firm consistency.[citation needed]
  • The northern Moppen variant are larger[20] and softer, based on a gingerbread-like dough, and have an icing glaze.
  • In southern Germany, the dough is made with candied lemon peel or orange peel, orange zest, lemon zest, and often also almonds.[21]
  • In Saxony, they are about three centimetres, uncoated and angular.[citation needed]
  • There are some recipes passed down by families of German Mennonite origin that call for peppermint extract rather than the traditional spices, making for a light minty flavor. These cookies are cooked to be soft and coated in powdered sugar. Specific origin of this variation is unknown.[citation needed]

Dutch variation[edit]

The Netherlands gives the name kruidnoten to the small, brown, round cookies,[22] while pepernoten concerns a chewy snack that is lighter in color and has a chunky, angular appearance.[22][23] Even though they are perceivably different, some Dutch residents mistakenly call kruidnoten pepernoten and online stores list them under this category as well.[citation needed]

Both are holiday-exclusive snacks and available in any store that sells food around Sinterklaas time. Pepernoten are one of the earliest Sinterklaas candies, yet have become relatively rare, as most children do not prefer them.[citation needed]

Meanwhile, the kruidnoten recipe has become the subject of experimentation and been heavily expanded on throughout the years. Besides the regular variant and packages that include gummies and sugar candies, kruidnoten can be covered with a layer of (white/milk/pure/truffle) chocolate – which is one of the earliest and most loved variants – but also strawberry, caramel, stroopwafel, coconut, coffee, bubblegum, cake (any), etc.[citation needed]

Commonly mistaken for Pfeffernüsse[edit]

Pfeffernüsse are commonly mistaken for kruidnoten or spice nuts in English. While they are both famous holiday cookies, kruidnoten are harder, have a darker brown color, and have a different shape. Their ingredients are more similar to those used in speculaas.

Russian tea cakes are also confused with pfeffernüsse, especially when dusted in powdered sugar.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Pfeffernuesse (Peppernuts)". Retrieved 15 December 2017.
  2. ^ "Food". 12 February 2014. Retrieved 15 December 2017.
  3. ^ Spillner, Michelle (24 December 2015). "Leckeres Vermächtnis (Delicious legacy)". Frankfurter Neue Presse (in German). Retrieved 21 December 2020.
  4. ^ "Pfeffernüsse Package Label". Archived from the original on 2015-12-31. Retrieved 21 December 2020.
  5. ^ Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von (1832). Sämtliche Werke (Complete Works) (in German). G. Müller. p. 4. Retrieved 21 December 2020.
  6. ^ a b "Offenbacher Pfeffernüsse – A forgotten treat". BUKECHI (in German). 12 November 2020.
  7. ^ a b c Reckmann, Madeleine (20 November 2014). "Bekannt wie Nürnberger Elisen". Frankfurter Rundschau (in German). Retrieved 21 December 2020.
  8. ^ "Ich kann das Düsseldorfer Musikfest nicht dirigieren, weil ich mich ausruhen und nach Soden ziehen muss, fahre mit Frau Bernus nach Offenbach, um Pfeffernüsse zu kaufen." ("I can't conduct the Düsseldorf Music Festival because I have to rest and move to Soden, I'm going to Offenbach with Ms. Bernus to buy Pfeffernüsse.")
  9. ^ "Offenbacher Pfeffernüsse neu entdeckt". Stadtverwaltung Offenbach (in German).
  10. ^ Jansen, Christian [in German]. "Rezension von Ewald Grothe (Hrsg.), Briefwechsel mit Ludwig Hassenpflug". (in German).
  11. ^ "Forschungsstelle Humboldt-Universität Berlin" (in German). Archived from the original on 2007-11-19. Retrieved 21 December 2020.
  12. ^ "National Pfeffernüsse Day - December 23". National 3 November 2021. Archived from the original on 24 December 2022. Retrieved 19 January 2023.
  13. ^ Blackstock, Carolyn (2012-09-26). "Day 271 Pepper Nuts". Retrieved 3 January 2016.
  14. ^ Rathman, H.; Graber, A. (1906). "Pepper Nuts". In The Ladies of Berlin, Waterloo and Friends Elsewhere (ed.). The Berlin Cook Book. Berlin, Canada: The News Record Print Shop. p. 225 – via, Canadian Research Knowledge Network.
  15. ^ Stewart, Martha. "German Spice Cookies (Pfeffernusse) Recipe". Retrieved 21 December 2020.
  16. ^ "Pfeffernusse Cookies". Allrecipes. Retrieved 21 December 2020.
  17. ^ Caruso, Aimee. “Pfeffernusse: Spicy Holiday Cookies.” Retrieved 21 July 2013
  18. ^ Segarra, Jessica (5 December 2018). "Pfeffernusse Cookies". Imperial Sugar. Archived from the original on 2020-12-09. Retrieved 21 December 2020. They are similar to American gingerbread cookies, but are filled with extra spices and tossed in powdered sugar.
  19. ^ Broyles, Addie (December 11, 2012). "Relish Austin: Pfeffernüsse, a quirky Christmas cookie and so much more". American Statesman. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 7 January 2014.
  20. ^ Gaspari, Adam Christian (1820). Vollständiges handbuch der neuesten erdbeschreibung (in German). p. 720. die großen Pfeffernüsse Moppen oder Moffen heißen
  21. ^ "Pfeffernusse Cookies Recipe". Chowhound. 23 September 2021. Adapted from "Great Cookies: Secrets to Sensational Sweets" by Carole Walter
  22. ^ a b "Difference between Pepernoten (Peppernuts) and Kruidnoten (Spice Nuts)". Cakies by Rachel. 2 December 2016.
  23. ^ Kleijn, Alexandra (2010). "Zähe Nikolauskost: Pepernoten und Taaitaai". Burr Taal (in German). Klein describes old Dutch pepernoten as tougher than German pfeffernüsse, but contrasts them with crisp kruidnoten.

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