Prep 40m Cook 45m Additional 25m Ready In 1d 1h 50m
Servings 52 cookies Calories 67.7

The name “Pfeffernüsse” translates to pepper-nut, even though these cookies don’t contain either. Back in the day, “pepper” was a generic name for any type of spice, and these were were called “nuts” because they looked like nuts! Misleading names aside, I think this is the best Christmas cookie of all time. They’re soft and chewy with a thin, crisp icing and the perfect combination of warming winter spices. Pack up a tin and share these delicious cookies with family and friends!

Recipe Ingredients

  • ⅓ cup white sugar
  • ¼ cup packed brown sugar
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¾ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ⅓ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • ½ tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice

Cooking Directions

  1. 1 Combine white and brown sugars in a saucepan with honey, water, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, and cayenne pepper. Place over medium heat and whisk until the sugars dissolve and it just starts to simmer, 1 to 2 minutes. Immediately remove from the heat and let cool for 4 to 5 minutes.
  2. 2 Add salt, baking soda, heavy cream, and egg and whisk until thoroughly combined. Add flour and stir together with a wooden spoon until everything comes together as a dough.
  3. 3 Transfer dough to a piece of plastic wrap. Press into a ball and wrap tightly. Place in the refrigerator and let rest for 1 to 2 days.
  4. 4 When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  5. 5 Remove dough from the refrigerator and scoop into rounded teaspoons. Roll each one into a smooth ball if desired, and place on a prepared baking sheet.
  6. 6 Bake in the center of the preheated oven until cookies are perfectly dome-shaped with light golden brown bottoms, 9 to 10 minutes; don't overbake. Let cool on the pan all the way down to room temperature, 20 to 30 minutes.
  7. 7 While the cookies are cooling, repeat Steps 5 and 6 to shape and bake the remaining cookies.
  8. 8 Make icing by placing powdered sugar in a bowl. Stir in lemon juice, a few teaspoons at a time, until icing is very thick, but still slightly runny.
  9. 9 Dip the top of each cooled cookie into the icing. Let it drip, then flip it over and place on a wire rack set over a piece of parchment paper and let harden.

Nutrition Facts

  • Calories 67.7
  • Carbohydrate 15.6 g
  • Cholesterol 4.4 mg
  • Fat 0.4 g
  • Fiber 0.2 g
  • Protein 0.8 g
  • Saturated Fat 0.2 g
  • Sodium 81.8 mg

Chef's Notes

You can substitute whole milk for heavy cream; Feel free to bake these right away, but for best results, let rest in the refrigerator for at least 1 day; If you want something a little more festive, shake some sprinkles over the cookies when the icing is still wet.


  1. Very simple recipe, John. So delicious and chewy as well — good call on the honey.
  2. This is a great recipe. I made it exactly by the instructions and it came out perfect.
  3. We tried this recipe the day we watched Chef John's video on it! They turned out fantastic, and were our favorite cookies out of the four kinds we made. We did make two changes, 1) we didn't have ground clove so we did not include it, and 2) I added orange zest to the icing - Read more ...
  4. Came out doughy and started to burn on the outside before it was cooked through. Not as flavorful as I'd like either. Could be user error but I feel like I did follow everything correctly.
  5. As an inexperienced baker I found these easy to make. Be careful not to pack the flour - in fact I found 2 1/4 cups to give a better result. I rounded all the spice amounts up a little but pretty much used the recipe as is. I made mine with a weight of 15 - Read more ...
  6. Loved the recipe, the flavor is fantastic. The only problem I ran into was the first batch was crumbly and dry. I adjusted by adding 3 more Tbsp of heavy cream. The cayenne really makes these cookies. It's not spicy in the cookies but it really brings out the flavors of the other spices. Overall, - Read more ...
  7. I followed the recipe exactly and I am not sure where I went wrong. It was like eating a ball of spiced flour with some delicious frosting. They were very dry. I've made pfeffernusse before and these were nothing like them.
  8. I just made this recipe and it turned out pretty well. Some changes I would recommend: 1 tsp of this cookie dough is 0.30 oz on a food scale. I had extra dough even after I'd made 52 cookies (making them at 0.30, 0.35, and 0.40 weight) so if you have a food scale, I - Read more ...
  9. Loved the idea of the of the lemon confectioners icing. I usually just used confectioners sugar to make them look like snowballs. Thanks, Chef! Another winer.

Add review

We use cookies and similar methods to recognize visitors and remember their preferences. We also use them to measure ad campaign effectiveness, target ads and analyze site traffic. Learn more