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Gluten free pfeffernüsse cookies recipe

Gluten free pfeffernüsse cookies recipe

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  • Recipes
  • Dish type
  • Biscuits and cookies

These gluten free cookies are treacly, spicy and delicious. Makes 4 dozen cookies, depending on size.

3 people made this

IngredientsMakes: 4 dozen cookies

  • 430g gluten free plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon gluten free baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 25g lard or vegetable shortening, cubed and softened
  • 55g unsalted butter, cubed and softened
  • 60g soft dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg (62-70g weighed in shell)
  • 95g golden syrup
  • 120g dark treacle
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • icing sugar, for dusting

MethodPrep:40min ›Cook:15min ›Ready in:55min

  1. Put the flour, baking powder and spices into a medium bowl, and mix with a fork. Get a sieve ready.
  2. Whisk the lard, butter and sugar in a large bowl on medium-low speed until creamy. Add the egg and whisk on medium speed until well combined. Manually stir in the golden syrup and treacle, mixing thoroughly.
  3. Add a couple of drops of warm water to the bicarb and stir until fully dissolved; add to the fats/sugar bowl with the lemon zest, and stir well.
  4. Sift the dry ingredients in, and stir manually until fully combined. Pull the dough into a ball (it will be very soft now), flatten it into a thick disc, and tightly wrap in clingfilm. Put into the fridge to firm up overnight.
  5. When ready to bake, preheat your oven to 165 C / Gas 2-3. Line two baking trays with baking paper.
  6. You can roll small balls of dough about 15g each between your palms (it helps to flour your hands first). Or, roll out the dough onto a heavily floured surface to about 3mm thick, and use any cookie cutter you have. Place the cookies onto the lined baking trays, and put remaining dough back into the fridge.
  7. Bake for around 15 minutes, until browned and a light finger tap shows them to be firm. Remove the trays from the oven and leave the cookies for 5 minutes before removing them to a cooling rack. Let the trays cool for 5 more minutes before loading up again with remaining dough, and baking.
  8. Once all cookies are fully cooled, dust with icing sugar for serving.

Cook's notes

Using dark muscavado or molasses sugar will make them even richer.
If you only have whole cardamom pods, use 5 to 6 whole green pods, seeds removed and heartily crushed.

See it on my blog

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10 Delicious German Christmas Cookies [+Recipes]

For us, nothing says “the holidays are here” as a fresh batch of German Christmas cookies!

And from hard German Christmas cookies to soft cookies, classic Pfeffernüsse to Lebkuchen and butter cookies, there is definitely no shortage of great German Christmas cookie recipes!

Aside from societal importance of holiday cookies, German Christmas cookies are a big part of celebrating the holidays with friends and family.

Many of these cookies are relatively easy to make so they can be whipped together in large batches and shared in cookie tins between households. Lisa’s family used to do this.

Looking for more cookies for the holidays? Check out these European Christmas cookies!

So, if you’re looking to create some traditional German Christmas cookies, check out our cookie recipes below. You’ll find a mix of different cookie types and flavors that you can create.

These recipes don’t have any crazy fancy ingredients or tools used which means you can bake Christmas cookies without any added stress. Have fun and let us know which holiday cookies you enjoy the most!

Carol Fenster’s Gluten Free Vegan Ginger Molasses Cookies

I got this recipe from Carol Fenster from Carol Fenster Cooks.

This was Recipe #4 in the "Gluten Free Baking With KitchenAid" event.

This recipe published here with permission from 125 Gluten-Free Vegetarian Recipes by Carol Fenster (Avery/Penguin Group, 2011)

As Carol says, "These cookies are moist and very flavourful and are perfect for dessert. But you can also process them into crumbs in a food processor for a pie crust (about 1 ½ cups for a 9-inch crust). Adding the optional black pepper turns them into Pfeffernüsse, a traditional German treat served during Christmas holidays."

Get to know Carol Fenster through her blog, her weekly menu recipe planner on GFree Cuisine.

Check out Carol's Books: 125 Gluten-Free Vegetarian Recipes, 100 Best Gluten-Free Recipes, 1,000 Gluten-Free Recipes, Gluten-Free 101, Gluten-Free Quick and Easy, Cooking Free, Wheat-Free Recipes and Menus, Special Diet Celebrations, and Special Diet Solutions.

Ingredients You'll Need

1 cup sorghum flour
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
½ cup garbanzo (chickpea) flour
½ cup vegan buttery spread (I used Earth Balance) or you could use butter
¼ cup molasses (not blackstrap)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
½ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp xanthan
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp Celtic sea salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper (optional see note at bottom)
**2 Tbsp evaporated cane juice or sanding sugar, for rolling


Place a rack in the lower third of the oven.

Line a 9x13-inch metal baking sheet (not nonstick) with parchment paper.

In the bowl of your stand mixer, beat the buttery spread, molasses, brown sugar, and vanilla on low speed until well blended.

Add the sorghum flour, garbanzo flour, ginger, cinnamon, xanthan gum, nutmeg, cloves, baking soda, salt, and black pepper (if using) and beat until well blended.

With a #50 (1¼ tablespoon-size) metal ice cream scoop, shape 9 balls, roll each into a smooth ball with your hands, and roll each in the evaporated cane juice.

Place them at least two inches apart on the baking sheet.

Bake until the cookies look firm and began to show little cracks on top, about 8 to 10 minutes. Do not overbake.

Cool the cookies on the baking sheet on a wire rack for about 5 minutes, then transfer to the wire rack to cool completely.

Repeat with the remaining dough.

**You can process these cookies into crumbs in a food processor for a pie crust (about 1 ½ cups for a 9-inch piecrust)

**Adding the optional black pepper turns them into Pfeffernüsse - a traditional German treat served during the Christmas holidays.

Questions, Comments & Reviews

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Preserve (and even sell) your recipes. Great for groups, fundraising, book previews, bridal gifts & more. Makes the perfect sentimental gift.

Gluten-free pepernoten

These treats take me right back to my childhood, when I spent every Christmas in Denmark with my family. I remember going from shop to shop with my mum, doing the last little bits of Christmas shopping, and almost every shop would have a little bowl of these tasty, spicy treats. Taking a few from every shop we went into, I’d invariably give myself a tummy ache. Of course, I hadn’t been diagnosed with coeliac disease back then, so there was probably more than one reason for the tummy ache!

The nice thing about living in the Netherlands is that they share some of the food culture with Denmark, and that includes these little biscuits. The Dutch call them pepernoten, the Germans say pfeffernüsse, the Danish say pebernødder, and if the English were enlightened in the way of tasty seasonal treats, they would call them peppernuts. But really, that’s not very exotic sounding, is it?

These treats are super simple to make, and great fun for kids to get involved with as well!

This recipe was taken from the blog and the original uses Lisa’s choice flour. It’s a very nice flour to bake with, but if you can’t get hold of it where you are, I would recommend Dove’s Farm plain white gluten-free flour.

A note on speculaas spice mix – this is a specialist Dutch ingredient that is quite similar to pumpkin spice mix. There are a million different variations, but most involve a combination of cinnamon, cloves, mace, ginger, coriander, cardamom, anise seeds and nutmeg (phew!). The most important parts are the cinnamon, cloves, mace and ginger. This recipe by Kayotic Kitchen is a good place to start if you want to make your own.

Gluten free pfeffernüsse cookies recipe - Recipes

December 23rd is National Pfeffernüsse Day, celebrating a traditional German Christmas cookie: rounded, spicy and coated in powdered sugar.

Pronounced FEH-fehr-NEE-suh, the word means “pepper nuts.” The “nuts” refer to the nut-like hardness of the cookie there are no nuts in the recipe.

Rather, these cookies are laden with gingerbread spices (anise, cloves, nutmeg), and pepper, plus citron*,candied lemon peel and/or candied orange peel. The black pepper adds to the spiciness without adding heat. The result is sweet pepperiness.

The recipe below doesn’t use candied citrus peel, but here’s one that does. Another variation: pfeffernusse topped with royal icing and cubes of candied citrus peel.

Pfeffernüsse are similar to lebkuchen, flat spice cookies that some people think are gingerbread, but they’re different†.

Instead of powdered sugar, they can be iced or dipped in chocolate. In photo #4, the baker did both!

To soften the bite, the traditional versions without powdered sugar are often dunked in a sweet wine, similar to the Italian practice of dunking biscotti in vin santo.


This recipe is from Pillsbury. Grinding whole spices provides more exciting flavor than using pre-ground spices. Here’s more about it.

You’ll love the aroma that wafts through the house as the cookies bake.



1. COMBINE in large bowl the butter and brown sugar beat until light and fluffy. Stir in the molasses and water. Lightly spoon the flour into a measuring cup and level off. Add the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, anise seed, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom and pepper blend well. Stir in the nuts. Cover with plastic wrap refrigerate for 2 hours for easier handling.

2. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Shape the dough into 1-inch balls place 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets.

3. BAKE for 9 to 12 minutes or until the bottoms are golden brown. Immediately remove from the cookie sheets and roll in powdered sugar.


The exact origin of the pfeffernüsse is uncertain: The cookies have long been a holiday treat in Belgium, Denmark, Germany and The Netherlands.

[1] Classic pfeffernusse. Some cookies are flatter, some rounder, depending on the consistency of the dough. Here’s the recipe from Mildly Meandering.

[2] If you don’t want a lot of powdered sugar, sift it over the cookies instead of rolling them in the sugar. Here’s the recipe from McCormick.

[3] Instead of powdered sugar, use royal icing. This version tops it with candied citrus peel. Here’s the recipe from Chatelaine.

A Dutch belief links pepernoten (pfeffernüsse) to the feast of Sinterklaas (St. Nicholas), celebrated on December or 5th or 6th in The Netherlands and December 6th in Germany and Belgium. On this holiday, children receive gifts from St. Nicholas, who is partially the inspiration for the Santa Claus tradition.

In Germany, pfeffernüsse has become a traditional Christmas cookie [source].

In the 19th century, bakers incorporated potash or potassium carbonate (the primary component of potash), into the dough, along with ammonium carbonate. These acted as leavening agents to achieve the right consistency.

The recipes became more sophisticated over time. The conventional ingredients—flour, sugar, brown sugar, cloves, and cinnamon—have been expanded over the years to include some of the following: anise, black pepper, candied fruit, cardamom, honey, molasses, nutmeg, nuts, rum, and powdered sugar for dusting [source].

*Citron is a large, fragrant citrus fruit with a very thick rind. There is little fruit inside, and its main contribution is candied peel. It is one of the four original citrus fruits—along with mandarin, papeda and pomelo—from which all other citrus types developed through natural hybrid speciation or artificial hybridization. Here’s a photo.

†Lebkuchen and gingerbread are both spice cookies, but lebkuchen has more layers of flavor and is softer/chewier.
Lebkuchen spices include aniseed, cardamom, cloves, coriander, ginger, nutmeg and black pepper or paprika. Candied citrus peel—lemon and orange—are added. These spices are also used in pfeffernüsse.

Vis-a-vis gingerbread, lebkuchen cookies use almond and hazelnut flours instead of wheat flour, and brown sugar instead of molasses. A classic lebkuchen cookie is gluten-free. Here’s a recipe and more about lebkuchen spices, Lebkuchengewürz in German.

The name of the cookie is uncertain. Kuchen is the German word for cake, but the “leb” portion might be any (or none) of the following: the Germanic words Laib (loaf), Lebbe (very sweet), or an old term for crystallized honey, Leb-Honig, that cannot be used for much beside baking. There’s also Leibspeise, favorite food.

Pfeffernusse – German Gingerbread Cookies

Only 8 days ’till Christmas. Have you been counting? I sure have been. To celebrate, and as part of the December SABH hosted by Christina, I made Pfeffernüsse to hand out to our friends and neighbours as a little treat. Loosely translated as Peppernuts they also contain a mixture of lovely gingerbread spices that when baked, fill the house with Christmas cheer!

Traditionally they are iced, covered in chocolate or dusted with a thick coating of icing sugar. The un-iced Pfeffernüsse cookies are a much healthier alternative though and safe for most little visitors as they are gluten-free, nut-free, egg-free, dairy-free and soy-free. To healthy them up even more – since we all know there will be plenty of other food indulgences at the Christmas table, they are sweetened with rice malt syrup and rapadura sugar. If you would like to ice them make sure to check out my older post for traditional gingerbread icing .

Best of all you can make them into more traditional festive shapes using cookie cutters. Poke a hole in each using a drinking straw, bake, thread a piece of string through the hole and you have instant edible Christmas tree decorations!

As a bonus, any leftover scraps can be baked and made into Gingerbread ice cream! *spoken in a German accent:* Good, no?

So, tell me, what is your favourite Christmas food indulgence? Is it sweet or savoury?

Steps to make Easy Pfeffernusse Cookies

Combine the honey and butter

Place a pan over a medium heat. Add the honey, molasses, margarine and shortening and heat until melted and creamy, stirring continuously.

Add the eggs

Take the pan off the heat and allow the mixture to cool to room temperature. Once cooled, stir in the eggs.

Combine the dry ingredients

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugars, spices, baking soda, salt and pepper.

Combine the wet and dry ingredients

Pour the honey mixture into the flour and fold together until well mixed.

Chill the dough

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to chill for at least 2 hours.

Heat the oven and prepare a baking sheet

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Shape the cookies

Take teaspoonfuls of the dough and roll them into 1 inch balls. Place the balls on the baking sheet at 1 inch intervals.

Bake the cookies

Bake the cookies for 10-15 minutes.

Cool and dust with sugar

Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool, before dusting with the powdered sugar to serve.

Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool, before dusting with the powdered sugar to serve.

This holiday season try baking some Pfeffernusse Cookies and fill your kitchen with Christmas spirit! These cookies are pretty as a picture, so don’t forget to take a snap and tag #cookmerecipes in your post!

Bethany is very passionate about maintaining a healthy lifestyle and clean diet. She’s trying to cut meat out of her diet as much as possible and focuses on cooking vegetarian food and fish. Bethany gets a kick from finding ways to add new twists to classic dishes. What’s more, thanks to her Asian roots, she’s great at combining different cuisines to come up with something extraordinary. Bethany’s recipes will inspire you to add new colors and flavors to your everyday meals.

Teffernüsse (German spice cookies made with teff flour)

Amaranth, barley, millet, spelt and teff — you’ve probably seen these or other whole-grain flours showing up on store shelves as we become increasingly familiar with them and as they become more widely available. These are flours with distinct characters and subtle flavors, and they’re great to play with, especially during the holiday baking season. Baking cookies with whole-grain flours doesn’t have to mean wreaking havoc to family favorites, but rather adding new recipes to your repertoire. Here are recipes for three holiday classics — biscotti and thumbprint cookies, and a riff on the German spice cookie pfeffernüsse — each recalibrated for spelt, barley and teff flour, as well as a primer for baking with whole grains, to get you started.

Spelt, an ancient wheat variety with a subtle nuttiness, is a wonderful flour to try in cookies. In my holiday spelt biscotti, you will be rewarded with an alluring aroma and a crisp crunch. In my native Germany, spelt has been used for centuries in traditional baked goods. The nutritious flour is lower in gluten and thus has to be handled a bit gently. It works well in a fruit and nut-studded biscotti, adding an extra boost of nutty flavor.

Barley is another terrific holiday baking flour because it adds hints of malt and a natural sweetness to your treats. In the barley thumbprints with honey and hazelnuts, the whole-grain flour is combined with toasted hazelnuts, honey and citrus zest, all of which give you a supremely fragrant cookie. This fiber-rich flour is also lower in gluten, so I recommend you only use barley to replace up to 25% of all-purpose flour by weight in your favorite recipes.

Teff, a traditional Ethiopian grain flour, has a dark hue and notes of cocoa. It’s beautifully suited to holiday baking, particularly in pfeffernüsse, a type of German gingerbread. I make a variation with teff that I call “teffernüsse” — the flour contributes a smooth, almost truffle-like richness to the classic cookies. Teff is also gluten-free (as are millet and amaranth), so be sure to replace only about 20% of your total flour by weight in a recipe if you want to avoid making the baked goods too heavy.

Tips and tricks for baking with whole-grain flours include adding more liquid to the dough. Another thing that helps is to give the dough time to rest so that the bran in the flour can absorb that extra liquid — this can be extra water, milk or buttermilk — which makes for a softer and more appealing texture. It’s also worth investing in a basic digital scale with a tare feature. Measuring your ingredients by weight, rather than with unwieldy measuring cups, reduces uncertainties that can derail a baking project. (Different bakers may pack a cup differently, even when following the same instructions.) Weighing is especially important with whole-grain flours, where too much flour can result in dense, heavy baked goods. And why grams rather than ounces? There’s a reason why most bakers around the world use grams to scale recipes: It’s just easier. Try doubling or tripling 1 3/4 ounces of sugar or 5 3/8 ounces of flour, then do the math for tripling 50 grams of sugar. Because if you’re doing a lot of baking this time of year, worrying about math is not nearly as much fun as making, decorating — or eating — your holiday cookies.

Maria Speck is author of “Simply Ancient Grains” and “Ancient Grains for Modern Meals.”

Recipe Summary

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup butter, softened
  • 1 ¼ cups packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ¾ cup finely chopped almonds (Optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine dry ingredients and set aside.

In a separate bowl, beat butter and sugar together until light. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Stir in dry ingredients 1/2 cup at a time. Add almonds, if desired.

Roll into one inch balls and arrange 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheet. Bake 11 to 14 minutes.

Baking Instructions Authentic German Pfeffernusse Recipe

– Combine butter, honey and sugar, warm it until it has melted.
– Mix flour, egg, Hirschhornsalz and spices, add honey dough and knead it thoroughly with a hand mixer using the kneading hooks (or the hands).
– Form balls out of the dough and bake them on 190 C or 375 F for 12 minutes.
– Bake next portion only for 10 minutes.
– Make the glaze out of powdered sugar and rum and a bit of water by mixing all ingredients well until smooth.
– Spread glaze over the cooled off cookies and let them dry.
– Keep them at least 2 days in a tin box with a piece of bread or a piece of apple aside this will make the cookies soft.

If you like you can make a dark chocolate glaze and spread it on half of the cookies, and have the other half side white.