Farmers Almanac
The Farmers Almanac
Order your copy today!

What is Pfeffernüsse?

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Pinterest Share on LinkedIn Subscribe by Email Print This Post
What is Pfeffernüsse?

To many cultures, the holidays wouldn’t be complete without festive pfeffernüsse (pron.: fef-fer-noos-a). This tempting, traditional, tiny spice cookie appears in profusion just around the time the snow flies in Germany, Denmark, and The Netherlands, as well as in and around Mennonite communities in North America.

What is Pfeffernüsse?

Popular since the 1850s, pfeffernüsse , also called pepernoten in Dutch, is linked to the December 5th feast of Sinterklaas in The Netherlands, when children receive gifts from St. Nicholas. It is celebrated the following day in Germany and Belgium. The word means “pepper nuts,” mostly because the piquant cookies are not much bigger than nuts, though they do not always contain them.

In the 19th century (and sometimes even today), connoisseurs incorporated potash, or potassium carbonate, into the dough, as well as ammonium carbonate, which acted as leavening agents to achieve the right consistency. While there are some variations on the theme—including the addition of anise, molasses, honey, nuts, nutmeg, ground black pepper, cardamom, rum, candied fruit, and powdered sugar for dusting— typically flour, sugar, brown sugar, cloves, and cinnamon are the more conventional ingredients. The flavor reportedly deepens with the passage of time, so many bakers prepare batches of them at the outset of the holiday season, relishing them throughout the month of December.

Why not herald the holidays and treat your family to this sweet, spicy, crunchy delicacy with the recipe below? Who knows, pfeffernüsse could become a much-anticipated holiday tradition in your house too!

Traditional Pfeffernüsse

Yield about 45 balls


1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cups white flour
1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
2 large eggs
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1/3 cup powdered sugar for rolling


Preheat oven to 375º F. Prep 2 cookie sheets by spraying with cooking spray or lining with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, stir together dry ingredients: cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, black pepper, ginger, cardamom, baking soda, white flour, and wheat flour.

Using an electric mixer set on medium speed, beat together brown sugar and eggs until light and fluffy, about four minutes. Reduce the speed of the electric mixer to low. Gradually add the dry ingredients and beat until completely blended. Batter will be very dry and crumbly.

Slowly add in the chopped walnuts and beat until combined. Using damp hands, pinch off dough in tablespoon amounts; roll into 1-inch balls. Arrange balls 1 1/2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets.

Make sure your hands have water on them while rolling the balls – it will help to bind the dough together. Bake for 11 – 14 minutes, or until just starting to become golden.

Transfer sheets to a wire rack to cool, about 15-20 minutes. Working in batches, carefully roll cookies in powdered sugar until covered completely. Let cool completely on wire rack. Store in an airtight container.



1 karin hart { 12.16.15 at 8:46 pm }

Can pecans be used instead of walnuts?

2 Susan Higgins { 12.11.15 at 9:37 am }

Hi De kuehl, you can use equal parts cinnamon and nutmeg in place of cardamom.

3 De kuehl { 12.10.15 at 11:41 pm }

What would you recommend in place of cardamom? I did notice that your recipe did not include Anise. Please comment. Thank you.

4 Mr Lou J Apa { 12.02.15 at 10:38 am }

ATTENTION: Mr. Charles; You are asking about “sevil cookin stuff”, well just do a search with this phrase and find a lot of listings on sevil!
Good luck……

5 kckoehn { 12.02.15 at 10:25 am }

A very interesting article about “our” family tradition! We do have some variations: 1.) cinnamon and anise (seed, preferably, or oil) are the spices, and 2.) We refrigerate the dough, roll it into long “snakes” about an inch in diameter, freeze, and then slice off 3/8-inch slices to lay flat on a baking sheet for baking. They disappear fast!

6 Susan Higgins { 12.04.15 at 2:31 pm }

Hi Charles, try this site for different Dutch and German cookies, maybe one of them ring a bell?

7 Charles { 12.02.15 at 5:57 am }

Beth, I don’t have the correct spelling but am looking for a recipe pronounced like “sevil (as in evil) cookin’ “. Its german or dutch or something close to that. Thanks

8 Jennifer { 12.02.15 at 5:50 am }

I can’t wait to try this recipe today!

9 Susan Higgins { 12.04.15 at 2:28 pm }

Carl V Pellonpaa, no bother at all! Glad you approve. We appreciate it

10 Carl V Pellonpaa { 12.02.15 at 5:42 am }

For someone almost 85 years old, you provide poor examples of Directions to Follow!
I won’t bother you again! Hei Hei

Leave a Comment

Note: Comments that further the discussion of the above content are likely to be approved. Those comments that are vague or are simply submitted in order to promote a product, service or web site, although not necessarily considered "spam," are generally not approved.

If you notice a hole in the upper left-hand corner of your Farmers' Almanac, don't return it to the store! That hole isn't a defect; it's a part of history. Starting with the first edition of the Farmers' Almanac in 1818, readers used to nail holes into the corners to hang it up in their homes, barns, and outhouses (to provide both reading material and toilet paper). In 1919, the Almanac's publishers began pre-drilling holes in the corners to make it even easier for readers to keep all of that invaluable information (and paper) handy.

Spring Is Here – Sign Up Today!

The Farmers' Almanac is a gardener's best friend. Get 365 days of access to our online weather and gardening calendars + a copy of the 2017 Almanac
for only $13.99 $11.99!

Subscribe Today »