Traditional German Christmas Cookies Recipes

We've gathered recipes for many popular German Christmas Cookies here for you. We've got recipes for traditional German Christmas Cookies like Pfeffernüsse (also spelled pfeffernuesse in English), Leckerle, Lebkuchen, Honey Gingerbread, and more.

German cookie recipes are abundant and varied and the flavors of vanilla, cinnamon, and anise are common, making them perfect for the holidays.

Many of these cookies are best when allowed to sit for several days to allow their flavors to develop and mellow, before eating, so you'll want to take that into consideration when planning your Christmas cookie baking.

But before you begin, are your spices fresh?

You want to use fresh spices for the best flavor in all your homemade cookies.

Check the expiration date, open the jar and take whiff.

Your cinnamon should smell strongly like cinnamon, not like stale dry air!

Same for all your other spices. If they aren't fresh, toss them out and purchase new jars.

German Honey Gingerbread Recipe

Honig Lebkuchen or Honey Gingerbread, is one example of the many spiced cookie doughs that are popular in Germany and throughout Western Europe.

Since there is no butter in this cookie dough, these gingerbread cookies are exceptionally chewy.

This recipe dates back to the fourteenth century, when honey was the common sweetener. These gingerbread cookies are best when allowed to age for a few days before enjoying.

For the cookies:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon Ground Cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon Ground Ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon Ground Cardamom
  • 1/2 cup blanched almonds, finely ground in a food processor
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped mixed candied fruit
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 1 large egg

For the glaze:

  • 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Almond Extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons hot water, as needed
  1. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, spices, ground almonds, and candied fruit until well blended.
  2. In a large bowl beat the brown sugar, honey, and egg with an electric mixer on medium speed until well blended.
  3. With the mixer on low speed, add about 1/3 of the flour mixture. Once it has been blended, gradually beat in the remaining flour mixture until moist clumps form.
  4. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, at least one hour, or longer.
  5. When you are ready to bake your cookies, preheat the oven to 350F degrees and line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  6. Place the dough on a piece of lightly floured parchment paper. Sprinkle the dough lightly with flour and place another piece of parchment paper on top of the dough.
  7. Roll the dough between the parchment paper until it is about 1/4-inch thick.
  8. Gently peel off the top layer of parchment paper.
  9. Cut cookies into desired shapes with floured 2-inch cookie cutters.
  10. Place cookies at least 2 inches apart on the cookie sheets.
  11. Bake until the cookies are light golden around the edges and slightly puffed, about 13 minutes.
  12. Remove from the oven and transfer cookies to racks to cool for 5 minutes.
  13. While cookies are cooling, prepare the glaze by stirring together the sugar, flavorings and enough water to make a thin glaze that can be brushed onto the cookies.
  14. Brush the cookies with glaze while they are still warm.
  15. Cool cookies completely before storing in airtight containers.

This recipe makes about 4 dozen 2-inch German Honey Gingerbread Cookies (Honig Lebkuchen).

Source: Baker's Field Guide to Christmas Cookies

Lebkuchen Recipe

These German honey cakes, or gingerbread, are delicately spiced with a mild honey flavor. They are soft and chewy at first and then become firm as they age. This dough needs to chill for at least 6 hours before being rolled out so you will want to build that time into your cookie baking schedule. These cookies are also best when allowed to mellow for several days before serving.

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons Ground Cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons Ground Allspice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Ground Nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon Ground Cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 6 tablespoons finely chopped Candied Citron
  1. Stir together the flour, spices and baking soda in a medium sized bowl until well blended. Set aside.
  2. Combine the honey and brown sugar in a large bowl and beat until well blended.
  3. Add the egg and beat well.
  4. Stir in the lemon juice.
  5. Add the flour mixture to the honey mixture and beat well.
  6. Stir in the citron.
  7. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours.
  8. When you are ready to bake your lebkuchen, preheat your oven to 350F and line your cookie sheets with parchment paper or lightly grease them with shortening or nonstick cooking spray.
  9. Place one half of the dough on a lightly floured surface. (Place the remaining dough back in the refrigerator so it stays cold.)
  10. Roll the dough into a large rectangle about 1/4-inch thick. (Sprinkle flour on top of the dough as necessary to keep it from sticking.)
  11. With a sharp knife, cut the dough into 1 1/2-inch by 2 1/2 inch rectangles. Place the rectangles about 1 inch apart on the prepared cookie sheets.
  12. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the cookies edges are slightly colored. (While the cookies are baking you can repeat rolling and cutting the remaining half of dough.)
  13. Remove from the oven when done and gently transfer the cookies off the sheets and onto wire racks to cool completely.

If you want, you can brush the warm Lebkuchen with a simple clear sugar glaze made by stirring together 1 cup confectioner's sugar and 2 tablespoons of water until it is smooth and runny.

Store in an airtight container for several days so the cookies can mellow before serving.

This recipe makes about 60 Lebkuchen cookies.

Source: The Fannie Farmer Baking Book

Date Lebkuchen Recipe

This is a quick and easy version of Lebkuchen that are baked in a pan like bar cookies, instead of being rolled and cut out. They bake up moist, dense and delicious. If you don't already own a Microplane Zester, you may want to invest in one before making these cookies. It makes zesting citrus rinds quick and easy!

For the cookies:

  • Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • Grated zest and juice of 1 orange
  • 1 pound of dates, pitted and chopped
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 cups packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons Ground Cinnamon
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts

For the glaze:

  • 3 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon butter, melted
  • 1 cup or more confectioner's sugar
  1. In a bowl, combine the zest and juice of the lemon and orange with the dates and let marinate for 1 hour, stirring them several times.
  2. Preheat oven to 375F degrees. Grease a 12x15-inch baking pan with butter, shortening, or nonstick cooking spray.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the eggs with an electric mixer, until light.
  4. Gradually add the brown sugar, flour, salt, coffee, baking powder, and cinnamon and beat until the mixture well blended.
  5. Stir in the dates and walnuts.
  6. Spread the batter evenly into the pan.
  7. Bake for 30 minutes.
  8. Remove from the oven and allow the slab of cookies to cool in the pan.
  9. While the cookies are cooling, make the glaze by combining the orange juice and melted butter and then stirring in the confectioner's sugar until it is the consistency of soft butter.
  10. Spread over the cooled lebkuchen and cut into 1 1/2-inch squares.

This recipe makes about 80 small squares of Soft Date Lebkuchen.

Source: The Fannie Farmer Cookbook: Anniversary

Leckerle Recipe

Luscious, crisp, mildly spiced German Christmas cookies you are sure to love this holiday season. This dough needs to chill for several hours before rolling, cutting, and baking. You also will want to let the baked Leckerle sit for several days in airtight containers to mellow before serving.

  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup confectioner's sugar
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped Candied Citron
  • 2 teaspoons Ground Cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground Ground Cloves
  1. In a small saucepan, combine the honey and orange juice. Bring to a boil over medium high heat and then remove from the heat and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the eggs. Continue beating as you slowly add the sugar.
  3. Stir in the flour, baking soda, and salt and mix until well combined.
  4. Add the citron, spices, and reserved honey mixture and stir until well combined.
  5. Cover the dough and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours until thoroughly chilled.
  6. When you are ready to bake your Leckerle, heat the oven to 350F and line your cookie sheets with parchment paper. (Alternatively, use ungreased cookie sheets.)
  7. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and sprinkle the top of the dough with a little flour.
  8. Roll the dough to 1/4-inch thickness.
  9. Cut into desired shapes using 2-inch cookie cutters.
  10. Place the cookies 1 inch apart on the cookie sheets.
  11. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the cookies are slightly colored around the edges.
  12. When the cookies are done, remove from the oven and transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool.
  13. While the cookies are still warm, brush them with Clear Glaze.
  14. Store in airtight containers for several days to mellow before serving.

For the cookie glaze: In a small bowl, stir together 1 cup confectioner's sugar and 2 tablespoons water until smooth and runny. Spread on cookies while still warm.

This recipe makes about 5 dozen 2-inch German Leckerle Cookies

Source: The Fannie Farmer Baking Book

Linzer Schnitten Cookies Recipe

This traditional recipe makes very good, spicy jam topped cookies. Please note that the dough needs to rest at room temperature for one hour before baking.

  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons Ground Cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon Ground Cloves
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs, divided use
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar, divided use
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, melted
  • Grated rind and juice from 1 lemon
  • 1 cup apricot preserves
  1. In a bowl, stir together the flour, spices, baking powder, and salt until well blended.
  2. In a large bowl, beat 2 of the eggs with an electric mixer on medium speed for a few minutes until they become light in color.
  3. Gradually add 1 1/2 cups of the sugar and the butter and blend well.
  4. Stir the flour mixture into the egg mixture and mix until blended.
  5. Stir in the lemon rind and juice.
  6. Scrape the dough out onto a floured board and knead until smooth.
  7. Cover the dough with a bowl and let it rest for one hour.
  8. When you are ready to bake the cookies, preheat your oven to 375F degrees and line your cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  9. Roll the dough out into a 1/2-inch thick rectangle.
  10. Cut into 1 1/2-inch by 10-inch strips and place them about 2 inches apart on the cookie sheets.
  11. Make a groove down the center of each strip with the handle of a wooden spoon.
  12. Fill the grooves with apricot preserves.
  13. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until lightly browned.
  14. Remove from the oven and place cookie sheet on a wire rack.
  15. Beat the remaining 1 egg and 3/4 cup of sugar together and brush the mixture over the baked strips while they are still hot.
  16. Cut immediately into diagonal pieces.

This recipe makes about 40 Linzer Schnitten Cookies.

Source: The Fannie Farmer Cookbook: Anniversary

More Traditionally German Christmas Cookies

Pfeffernusse (also spelled Pfeffernuesse in English) are spicy dome-shaped German cookies that can be iced or coated with confectioner's sugar. Pfeffernusse translates to "Peppernuts" and contain either black pepper or white pepper in the dough. They are a classic Christmas Cookie in Germany.

We have two different recipes for you to choose from. The first is more traditional, made without butter, they are very dry and will keep for ages when stored in an airtight container. The second recipe is a more modern variation, which is softer, thanks to the addition of butter.

Traditional Pfeffernüsse Recipe

These spicy and very dry cookies can be made ahead because they will keep for a long time. These cookies need to sit out for several hours or overnight to dry before baking.

For the cookies:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon Ground Cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons Ground Cardamom
  • 3/4 teaspoon Ground Cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black or white pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped Candied Citron or Candied Lemon Peel
  • 1 tablespoon Aniseed (optional)

For the glaze:

  • 3/4 cup confectioner's sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cold water
  1. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices. Stir with a whisk or spoon until the spices are well distributed throughout the flour.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the eggs with an electric mixer on medium speed.
  4. Slowly add the sugar and continue beating until the mixture is pale yellow and thoroughly blended.
  5. Add the lemon zest.
  6. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and beat until thoroughly blended.
  7. Add the citron and aniseed, if using, and mix well.
  8. In a small bowl, stir together the confectioner's sugar and water until you have a thin runny glaze.
  9. Roll small amounts of dough into 3/4-inch balls.
  10. Dip the top of each ball in the glaze and place on the lined cookie sheets, spacing them 1-inch apart.
  11. Let the unbaked cookies rest on the cookie sheets uncovered, for about 6 to 8 hours, at room temperature to dry out.
  12. When you are ready to bake the cookies, preheat your oven to 350F.
  13. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the glaze is shiny and the cookies have puffed up a little bit.
  14. Remove cookie sheets from the oven and transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool completely.
  15. Let the baked cookies dry uncovered at room temperature for a day and then place in an airtight container.

This recipe makes about 5 dozen Pfeffernüsse Cookies.

Source: The Fannie Farmer Baking Book

Modern Pfeffernüsse Recipe

A more modern version of Pfeffernuesse that makes a less dry cookie thanks to the addition of butter in the dough. These cookies have a shorter shelf-life than more traditional Pfeffernüsse. They can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for about 1 week.

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon Ground Allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground Ground Cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated Nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1 1/4 cups confectioner's sugar for coating cookies
  1. Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a bowl, stir together the flour, pepper, spices, and baking soda until well blended.
  3. In a large mixing bowl beat the butter, brown sugar, and molasses with an electric mixer on medium speed, until well blended, about 3 minutes.
  4. Beat in the egg and vanilla.
  5. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture and beat just until combined.
  6. Roll small portions of dough into 1 1/4-inch balls and arrange them about 2 inches apart on cookie sheets.
  7. Bake about 15 minutes, or until they are golden with slight cracking on top and firm to the touch.
  8. Remove from the oven and place cookie sheets on wire racks to cool for about 10 minutes.
  9. Place confectioner's sugar in a small paper bag.
  10. Place cookies, a few at a time, in the bag of confectioner's sugar and shake until well coated with sugar.
  11. Let cookies cool completely on wire racks.
  12. Store in airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

This recipe makes about 3 dozen Modern Pfeffernüsse Cookies.

Source: Martha Stewart's Cookies: The Very Best Treats to Bake and to Share

Modern Zimsterne Recipe - German Cinnamon Star Cookies

These cookies are traditionally baked into star shapes used for decorating the Christmas tree. This cookie cutter dough needs to chill at least 1 hour before being cut and baked.

  • 2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Ground Cinnamon
  • 1 cup ground blanched almonds or almond flour
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened
  • 1 cup confectioner's sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1 teaspoon Almond Extract
  • Confectioner's sugar for rolling out cookie dough
  • 1 large egg white, whisked with a pinch of salt for brushing on top of the cookies
  • Granulated sugar for sprinkling on top of cookies
  1. In a medium size bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and ground almonds.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugars with an electric mixer on medium speed until they are smooth and light colored.
  3. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. (Stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula if necessary to make sure everything gets incorporated.)
  4. Stir in the vanilla and almond extracts.
  5. Stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture, just until blended.
  6. Shape the dough into a flat disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.
  7. When you are ready to bake the cookies, heat the oven to 350F degrees. Line cooking sheets with parchment paper. Alternatively, lightly grease the cookie sheets with shortening or nonstick cooking spray.
  8. Sprinkle a clean work surface with confectioner's sugar and roll the cookie dough out to a 1/8 to 1/4-inch thickness. (Use additional confectioner's sugar as necessary to prevent sticking.)
  9. Use a 2-inch star cookie cutter (or your own favorite size and shape cookie cutter) to cut out the cookie dough.
  10. Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheets at least 2-inches apart because they will puff and spread as they bake.
  11. Gather up the scraps of cookie dough, press together, re-roll and cut out more cookies, repeating until the dough is used up.
  12. Brush the cookie with beaten egg white and sprinkle with granulated sugar.
  13. Bake the cookies until they are lightly browned, about 12 minutes.
  14. Remove from the oven. If you plan to use them as ornaments, immediately poke a hole in the top of each one with a drinking straw or skewer.
  15. Transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool completely.

This recipe makes about 8 dozen 2-inch Zimsterne (German Cinnamon Star Cookies).

Source: The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion: The Essential Cookie Cookbook

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