(Redirected from Pepper nuts)

Pfeffernüsse are tiny spice cookies, popular as a holiday treat in Germany, Denmark, and The Netherlands, as well as among ethnic Mennonites in North America.[1][2][3][4] They are called Pfeffernüsse (plural, singular is Pfeffernuss) in German, pepernoten (sing. pepernoot) in Dutch, päpanät in Plautdietsch, pfeffernuesse or peppernuts in English, and pebernødder in Danish.

German-American peppernuts
Alternative namesPeppernuts
Place of originDenmark, Germany, Netherlands
Main ingredientsFlour, brown sugar, sugar, cloves, cinnamon


While the exact origin of the cookie is uncertain, the traditional Dutch belief links the pepernoten to the feast of Sinterklaas, celebrated on 5 December in The Netherlands and 6 December in Germany and Belgium. This is when children receive gifts from St. Nicholas, who is partially the inspiration for the Santa Claus tradition. In Germany, the pfeffernuss is more closely associated with Christmas. The cookie has been part of European yuletide celebrations since the 1850s.

The name peppernut (Pfeffernüsse, pebernød etc.) does not mean it contains nuts, though some varieties do. The cookies are roughly the size of nuts and can be eaten by the handful, which may account for the name.[5]


Throughout the years, the popularity of the pfeffernüsse has caused many bakers to create their own recipes. Though recipes differ, all contain aromatic spices - most commonly cinnamon, cloves, mace, nutmeg, cardamom, and anise. Some variations are dusted with powdered sugar, though that is not a traditional ingredient. Molasses and honey are also used to sweeten the cookies.[6]

For the dough, most versions still use 19th century ingredients such as potassium carbonate and ammonium carbonate as leavening agents to get the sticky and dense consistency of the original mixture. It is then either kneaded by hand or through the use of an electric mixer.[7]

Regional variationEdit

  • In northern Germany, pfeffernüsse are a hemispherical pastry up to two centimetres in diameter and of firm consistency.
  • The northern Moppen variant are larger[8] and softer, based on a gingerbread-like dough, and have an icing glaze.
  • In southern Germany, the dough is made with lemon and orange peel, often also almonds.
  • In Saxony, they are about three centimetres, uncoated and angular.
  • The Netherlands has two styles. Kruidnoten are round and hard[9]; pepernoten are angular and chewy.[9][10]
  • 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 powered sugar. Specific origin of this variation is unknown.

Kruidnoten and Russian Tea CakesEdit

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

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

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Pfeffernuesse (Peppernuts)". Retrieved 15 December 2017.
  2. ^ "Mennonite Monday - Peppernuts". Retrieved 15 December 2017.
  3. ^ "Food". 12 February 2014. Retrieved 15 December 2017.
  4. ^ Mosher, Terry (6 November 2013). "There's a Hippy in the Kitchen: Christmas Peppernuts". Retrieved 15 December 2017.
  5. ^ Carolyn (2012-09-27). "Day 271 Pepper Nuts". Retrieved 3 January 2016.
  6. ^ Caruso, Aimee. “Pfeffernusse: Spicy Holiday Cookies.” Retrieved 21 July 2013
  7. ^ Broyles, Addie (December 11, 2012). "Relish Austin: Pfeffernüsse, a quirky Christmas cookie and so much more". American Statesman. Retrieved 7 January 2014.
  8. ^ Gaspari, Adam Christian (1820). Vollständiges handbuch der neuesten erdbeschreibung (in German). p. 720. die großen Pfeffernüsse Moppen oder Moffen heißen
  9. ^ a b "Difference between Pepernoten (Peppernuts) and Kruidnoten (Spice Nuts)". Cakies by Rachel.
  10. ^ 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.

External linksEdit