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The snowy sugar surface of Pfeffernussen contrasts with the peppery flavor of these German cookies.

  • Yield: Makes 3 dozen

Source: Holiday Baking 2002, Special Issue Holiday 2002


  • 1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 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 freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the confectioners' sugar in a brown paper bag.

  2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, pepper, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, cloves, and baking soda. Set aside.

  3. Place butter, brown sugar, and molasses in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in egg and vanilla. With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture; beat until just combined. Pinch off dough in tablespoon amounts; roll into 1 1/4-inch balls. Arrange balls 1 1/2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. (Dough can be frozen at this point, covered tightly with plastic wrap, up to 1 month.)

  4. Bake until cookies are golden and firm to the touch with slight cracking, about 15 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Transfer sheets to a wire rack to cool slightly, about 10 minutes. Working in batches, place cookies in paper bag; shake until well coated. Let cool completely on wire rack. Store in an airtight container.

Reviews (36)

  • ljwaldron 12 Nov, 2013

    Tried this recipe, easy to assemble, taste is good; just not as spicy as I thought they would/should be. I should have read the reviews first and realized anise was the missing ingredient. Other than that, they are good. I had intended to give as a gift, but think I will make a second batch and put in anise. I didn't find mine to be dry, just not spicy enough.

  • Marilyn Todd 24 Dec, 2012

    This is not a true Pfeffernuet cookie - they need anise seed, anise oil, molasses, honey - and shapped into a roll, refrigerated and then baked. They are meant to be a cookie for dunking.

  • Barbara Bowen 23 Dec, 2012

    I thought these cookies were a little on the dry side and not very spicey as I'm accustomed to. My husband recognized what was missing right away. The cookies need anise. So I'm putting in a tsp. of anise extract in my second batch.

  • Kornelia Santoro 17 Oct, 2012

    The proper name for this recipe is Pfeffernuesse and they don't look right. The original Pfeffernuesse, a German Christmas cookie I have grown up with, are not covered in icing sugar. They should get a kind of foot during baking and they should spring open in the middle.

  • carliebrary 10 Dec, 2011

    I used 1tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ginger, and 1/4 tsp cloves, and they were so yummy I know I'll make them again and again over the holidays!

  • yooperchicks 5 Dec, 2011

    A bit dry and the spice flavor is too subtle. I would add a bit more of all the spices and a few T less flour. You also won't need 1 1/4 cup 10x sugar. I probably used about 1/2 cup, and as another reader suggested, tossed them in a small plastic bag.

  • ajjavila 11 Nov, 2011

    Looks like a Sandie! Does it have a similar taste/texture?

  • fefee4 22 Dec, 2010

    I agree with the comment below that the cookies should be made on the small side--less than a tablespoon each.

  • fefee4 22 Dec, 2010

    I made this cookies because of all of the positive comments. I thought they were good, but not great.

  • ZamoraDa 4 Dec, 2010

    These cookies are absolutely delicious. The molasses flavor is only intensified by the confectioners' sugar and it lingers! A definite must try and excellent addition to any well versed cookie collection.

  • lj2140 11 Nov, 2010

    A gallon ziplock bag works well instead of a paper bag. Put the cookies and sugar in and close the bag with some air inside, then shake it around.

  • lovetoknitandread 7 Jan, 2010

    One word: FANTASTIC! You must make these cookies. They have a wonderful old-fashioned homemade taste. Everyone raved about these; they are now in my Christmas must bake file.

  • IzziGirl 20 Dec, 2009

    These are really good! My grandmother's recipe had very finely chopped nuts in them, not sure what they were, but this recipe is very good, too. It tastes a lot like gingerbread, actually.

  • MrsBee 19 Dec, 2009

    The proper spelling is Pfeffern?

  • chefette86 4 Jan, 2009

    The molasses used for baking is unsulfured because it is lighter and has a cleaner sugar-cane flavour. Do not use blackstrap molasses as it is bitter.

  • gaylecady 31 Dec, 2008

    This is a very good, spicy cookie. I think I made them a bit too large. They are rather dense and would be better smaller- about 1 inch diameter.

  • Iness 26 Dec, 2008

    Another winner from Martha! Love the cookie! Very easy to make.

  • Wishintobemartha 23 Dec, 2008

    I just finished baking these cookies and the house smells wonderful! They were very easy and taste delicious. Kind of like a ginger snap covered with powdered sugar. If you use dark baking sheets make sure to adjust the baking time by 2-3 minutes less. Fabulous!

  • bryonsbimbo 21 Dec, 2008

    My husband hates sweetes. I thought he would hate these when I tried this recipe. He can't stop eating them! Martha you are a genious!!

  • BMercer 19 Dec, 2008

    Easy to make. And very tasty I love them!

  • sexyLAMBCHOPx 16 Dec, 2008

    Are these cookies similiar to those white powered cookied from Greece?

  • Mamaquad 16 Dec, 2008

    This is unbelievable! I just bought a small container of these cookies at the supermarket and they tasted amazing. I was thinking that I'd like to find a recipe after all these years of loving them. I grew up in an Italian home but my mom or sister would buy these each year anyway. Can't wait to try this recipe. Thanks!

  • girlwithacurl 16 Dec, 2008

    These cookies also look super-cute on the roof of your gingerbread house--the white powdered sugar is snowy!

  • turtlegrins 16 Dec, 2008

    Wow!! I was just thinking this morning about my friend from elementary school and how she and her mom would bake these every year. Ever since I was little I tried to remember what they called them, thinking surely my memory of "pepper nuts" couldn't be correct... and here they are! Yippiee! Can't wait to try them!

  • LoloMarie 16 Dec, 2008

    Since I moved from PA to AZ 25 years ago, I haven't been able to find a decent Pfefferneussen cookie! I'm so happy to see this recipe today.....

  • giniana 16 Dec, 2008

    Why does the molasses have to be unsulphured?

  • Tenderheart 16 Dec, 2008

    MY High School my friend Lois and her Mom made these cookies in the fall and stored them in a gallon Jar and let then age until Christmas time.
    It is a family tradition I started at age16 and passed it down to my daughter.
    It just so happens my husband is German this impressed my hard to please German Mother In Law. Don't worry the cookies do not get hard they stay soft /medum . Be careful they disappear fast so make sure you make a double batch.

  • 6mustang6 16 Dec, 2008

    The ground pepper in these cookies blends with the spices to give them a nice sharp taste. We always make our dough and refridgerate it overnight so the flavours can blend before they are baked.

  • mch1943 16 Dec, 2008

    My Mother was German ~ she and my Grandmother made these delicious cookies every year at Christmas. Mom always called them Pfeffernusse(n)(pl) meaning "Peppernuts". I notice there are many different recipe versions of these but I liked her's best!

  • christmascorgi 16 Dec, 2008

    Can't wait to try these! I usually buy the Stella D'Oro Pfeffernusse.

  • Grandmomofseven 16 Dec, 2008

    Why does the recipe have ground pepper?

  • elven1 16 Dec, 2008

    Actually, 1 cookie is a Pfeffermusse. A batch of them are Pfeffermussen. As For the rotating, I do both, switch the rack the sheet is on and rotate them around.

  • Rocco220 16 Dec, 2008

    To rotate the sheets if using one sheet it means to turn around. If use two sheets it means to take the bottom one to the top, and the top one to the bottom and put the front to the back as if it was one sheet being used. This was done because older ovens and even newer ones do not heat evenly. Check your oven. Do cookies brown faster in the front or back,, if so you have uneven heating in your oven. If you are lucky to have a convection oven or a fan in your oven this is not necessary....

  • namadadi 16 Dec, 2008

    Shame on Martha's research department. The correct spelling of these delightful little German cookies is Pfeffernusse, not Pfeffernussen.

  • ariley0929 16 Dec, 2008

    I am pretty sure rotate baking sheets means using 2 baking sheets at once, and moving the bottom sheet to the upper rack and the upper sheet to the bottom rack. i dont see why turing 1 baking sheet around would make a difference unless your oven doesnt heat things all around.

  • bavariabarb 16 Dec, 2008

    I've never been able to figure out what "rotating sheets halfway through" means. Does it mean I can put in multiple baking sheets at once, and need to move one sheet up and the other down? Or should I only have one baking sheet in at once and turn it front to back during the baking process? Thanks!!!

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