Pfeffernüsse / Peppernuts

by Lynda Ollenburger Sangster
(Powder Springs, Georgia, USA)

Pfeffernüsse – Marie Ollenburger's Peppernuts via Lois Ollenburger and her daughter, Lynda.

Marie was my dad’s mother, my grandmother, and at our house, her daughter-in-law, my mother Lois, baked these every Christmas. I was told this recipe was actually my grandmother’s mother-in-law’s recipe, which places it in the mid-1800s.

My dad’s favorite way of eating them was to float them in a cup of coffee and spoon them out. Milk worked for us kids. Some Pfeffernüsse recipes yield a frosted cookie. In our house, these were never frosted. They were little cookie bites, like nuts.

Yields several hundred 1” cookie bites

  • 1 c. shortening
  • ½ c. sorghum syrup
  • ½ c. molasses (dark syrup/honey or a combo of any/all OK)
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. each: cloves, allspice, ginger, nutmeg, black pepper
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 4-5 c. flour (Lynda's note - more than 6 cups used)
  • ¼ c. water
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • Grated rind of 1 orange


  1. Put the syrup & shortening in a dish and melt. While it is heating, mix sugar and egg in mixing bowl and add syrup and shortening mixture. Be careful not to curdle the egg with hot syrup/shortening.
  2. Sift the spices with some flour (altogether, it will take about 5 cups, but start out with 3 or 4.) Add the flour mixture to syrup/shortening.
  3. Stir in the baking soda dissolved in the water, and orange peel. Add enough flour to make a rolled cookie dough. Roll a bit of the dough -- if it holds its shape pretty well, it's ready to bake. If not, add more flour. Best to make the dough one evening, cover the dish and leave in a warm room overnight. Then bake the next day.
  4. Roll the dough out into ropes, the thickness of your pinkie, sausage-fashion, cut in 1/3" pieces with a knife, place about 1” apart and bake about 350° (7-10 minutes) only light brown.


  • Wonderful results using baking stone & parchment paper.
  • Heat the shortening/syrup mixture in the microwave until shortening just melts. The warming of the syrup/shortening is the secret to the perfect cookie texture.
  • Measure out the spices onto a plate beforehand, to make avoid forgetting any.
  • A microplane makes quick work of the orange peel.
  • A 76 oz./9.5 cup plastic container with snap-on lid makes a perfect overnight dough-keeper and helps keep the batch fresh as it's being worked.

Comments for Pfeffernüsse / Peppernuts

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German cookie recipe
by: Anonymous

I'm of German descent living in North Dakota. Our family recipe for Pfeffernusa cookie is way different. We end with a powder sugar covered soft cookie ( anise flavored)

Pfeffernusse recipe
by: Thomas Tarnowski

This is almost the same recipe handed down from my Great-great grandmother Christina Wolters who emigrated from Enschede (Dutch town on German border) in the second half of the 1800 to Iowa. Hers has no egg, but says to add flour as much as it will take up to 6 cups and to roll the dough as thick as your finger. It also uses sorghum.

Nuts 🤪for Pfeffernusse😍
by: Robin

Our tradition at Christmas passed on through my great grandmother made slightly different ingredients but very much the same way by rolling and cutting.
I haven’t found anyone else who made them like our family.
We love the little crunchy pfeffernusse.

If they’re rolled a little bigger then they will be a little softer but for us we like them like a crunchy little nut.
Thank you for sharing 🙏🏻❤️

by: Anonymous

I love dunking these in milk. My husband wants them by the handfuls.

We made these growing up
by: Jan

Growing up we made these every year but roll out the dough really thin and cut with mini cookie cutters. I remember that we had 13 cups of flour and there were 6 kids and we had to roll and cut all day. My Daddy loved them because he could put a handful or two in his pockets as he headed out to work. We would have 3 gallons of cookies and they would only last until January. Love Pfeffernusse!

by: Anonymous

Soda as in baking soda or club soda?

Reply to soda query
by: Anonymous

Baking soda. Thanks for asking.

* * * * *
I've edited the recipe to correct that.
~ Oma Gerhild :)

Finally Pfeffernusse without frosting!
by: Jennifer

My mom always made pfeffernusse for Christmas, but they were little balls rolled in powdered sugar. I've been looking for a recipe that wasn't the flat frosted type. Thank you!

Used. Cn
by: Anonymous

The pfefferrnuese. That e. Dedham citron in it and was rolled in sugar. There are such differences in recipes. Is that a difference in the area of the country? My grandparents came from Germany i. 1875.

by: Anonymous

My recipe is from my mother's family. They are shaped in the same fashion but they are flavored with cinnamon and anise. Her family came from northern Germany so I think they are more of a Dutch variety.

by: Meech Bandov

Even my 2 yo loves these!
Next year I will put in anise as I’ve seen in another recipe
I love extra licorice kick, but these are also perfect as is!

Black pepper
by: CarolC

My grandma used black pepper and this is the first recipe I have found that calls for black pepper. Thank you so very much!

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