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Vegan Pfeffernüsse: German Pepper Nut Cookies

Traditional German Pfeffernüsse made vegan! A soft and chewy cookie packed full of warming spices like cinnamon, cardamom, and allspice, they are a Christmas cookie favorite that I like to make all winter long. 

A pile of many frosted vegan pfeffernusse cookies. The one in focus has a bite taken out of it so you can see the chewy texture of the inside.
A close up on a pile of vegan pfeffernusse cookies with a bite taken out of one.

Why You’ll Love Vegan Pfeffernüsse

Have you ever had a pfeffernüsse before? They are a small spice cookie from Germany but there are regional variations all over Denmark and the Netherlands. This vegan version draws inspiration from the traditional German version.

Tip! Pfeffernüsse is said in English like Feffer-noose. It will rhyme with zephyr goose! 

Pfeffernüsse is so soft, chewy, and perfectly spiced with all of my favorite Christmas cookie spices: Cinnamon, Ginger, Cardamom, Allspice, Cloves, and the all important Black Pepper. Think of them like the cousin to vegan gingerbread men

My family loves these cookies and I hope they become a holiday tradition for your family as well! 

Ingredients 

For the full recipe, complete with measurements, please see the recipe card below. 

Ingredients for the vegan pfeffernusse cookies in various glass bowls on a wood table. A blue plate holds all the spices. Black and white labels have been added to name each ingredient.
All the ingredients measured out and placed in bowls ready to be mixed together.
  • Spices: You can’t make Pfeffernüsse without the spices! They have a similar taste to gingerbread cookies, but with the addition of cardamom and black pepper, they have an even more warming flavor profile. In my opinion, they really do taste like the holidays.
  • Molasses: Make sure that you use unsulphured molasses and NOT blackstrap molasses. My favorite brand is Grandma’s for a rich taste that isn’t overwhelming. 
  • Sugar + Brown Sugar: This combo really enhances the spices of the cookies and makes them sweet without being over sweet. 
  • Heavy Cream: Don’t skimp on this vegan heavy cream as this is the main source of fat in these cookies. I use soy creamer most often, but have also made them with a dairy free heavy whipping cream. I try not to use coconut milk as that would have too much of a coconut flavor and overwhelm the cookies. 
  • Flour + Baking Soda: Easy all purpose flour is all you need to make these chewy cookies. A bit of baking soda helps them to get a good shape in the oven. 
  • Flax Egg: A simple flax egg helps to hold the cookies together without imparting a taste. 

Variations

  • If you love nutmeg, add ¼ teaspoon of nutmeg to the spices in this cookie. However, if you have a dog who loves cookies, don’t give them nutmeg as it is toxic to pups!
  • You can replace the vanilla extract with a ¼ teaspoon of ground star anise for a more licorice flavor. 
  • In place of white icing on top, you can roll the baked cookies in powdered sugar! 
  • Some recipes also use the zest of half an orange in the dough for an even more Christmas vibe. Add the zest when you add the vanilla extract if you would like to try out that variation! 

Instructions 

Make sure to check out the recipe card below for the full recipe and ingredient list.

These cookies come together pretty easily and in 4 major steps: Making a sugar mixture, making the dough, baking, and frosting. 

Tip! A stand mixer or hand mixer is strongly recommended for these cookies. While you can make them by hand, the dough is really thick and sticky. I find that I get the best results with the help of a stand mixer and a paddle attachment. But if you just have a wood spoon, you can totally count making these cookies as your workout for the day! 

In a small pot on the stove, melt together the sugar, brown sugar, molasses, and one tablespoon of water. Whisk it together for about 4 minutes over a medium-low heat. You don’t need to boil the sugar together, just get everything mixed together and happy. 

A white sauce pot is filled with the melted sugars and molasses mixture. A blue whisk is stirring the mixture.
Melting the sugars and molasses together but not boiling the sugar.

While it cools, make your flax egg in a separate small bowl. Let it stand for about 5 to 10 minutes to get really gel-like. 

Tip! Different flax seeds will take different times. For example, Bob’s Red Mill flax seeds will come together in about 5 minutes, while the 365 brand takes closer to 10 minutes.

Let it cool slightly before adding in your spices to the hot sugar mixture. I find that adding the spices now helps to bring out their flavors. 

A silver mixing bowl filled with the spices and hot sugar mixture.
Adding the spices to the hot sugar mixture really helps the spices to bloom in the batter.

Now add the rest of the wet ingredients, giving it a good final whisk. 

Finally, add the flour and baking soda. Mix this until your dough forms. It will be soft and a bit sticky. 

The finished cookie dough in a silver mixing bowl on a wood tabletop.
The finished dough is soft and a bit sticky/tacky.

Use a 1 tablespoon scoop to measure out each cookie and roll the dough in your hands to get a cookie dough ball. You can lightly spray your hands with a neutral oil to help prevent the dough from sticking to your hands. 

Place the cookies on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 12 to 14 minutes in a 375F/190C oven. 

The rolled and shaped cookies on a parchment lined baking sheet before baking.
The cookie dough balls before baking.
The cookies on a baking tray after baking.
The cookie dough balls after baking, they puff up a bit but don’t spread out much so you can fit many on a tray.

Let the cookies cool on the hot tray for about an hour before frosting. Serve them and enjoy!! 

Do I need to chill the dough?


This is where I’m going to get controversial. 

Traditionally, this dough is chilled at least 4 hours, if not overnight or longer. This is so that the flavors can blend together and produce a more spicy cookie.

In my recipe testing, I found no difference on day 2 between those cookies I let sit overnight in the fridge, and those I baked immediately after mixing and then letting them sit on the countertop overnight. 

In my experience, the flavor development happens either way if you let the raw dough rest or let the baked cookies rest. 

So, that’s why my recipe has you bake them right away but for the full flavor of the cookies to develop, they will taste best on day 2 and in the days after until about day 6 when they start to dry out. 

Many frosted vegan pfeffernusse cookies on the countertop and on a white plate. A small bowl of frosting and a small silver spoon coated with frosting are next to the cookies. Cinnamon sticks and star anise are scattered in the cookies.
You can coat these in powdered sugar right when they come out of the oven, or, dip the tops in icing. The icing is my favorite way to eat these!

How to Store 

Countertop: Store leftover cookies in an airtight container on the countertop for up to a week, if they last that long! 

Freezer: Store fully baked and cooled cookies in a freezer safe container for up to 2 months. You can store them with or without icing. Allow cookies to thaw on the countertop for a few hours before serving after having been frozen.

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If you try these out, please leave a comment below! This provides helpful feedback to both me and other readers. And if you want more delicious, vegan friendly recipes you can subscribe to the newsletter. Did you make these? Please tag me on Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest! I love to see your creations!

A pile of many frosted vegan pfeffernusse cookies. The one in focus has a bite taken out of it so you can see the chewy texture of the inside.

Vegan Pfeffernüsse: German Pepper Nut Cookies

Traditional German Pfeffernüsse made vegan! A soft and chewy cookie packed full of warming spices like cinnamon, cardamom, and allspice, they are a Christmas cookie favorite that I like to make all winter long.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Baked Goods
Keyword: cookies, dessert, holiday, vegan baking
Servings: 24 cookies
Calories: 110kcal

Equipment

  • Small cooking pot
  • Baking sheets
  • parchment paper
  • Mixing bowl
  • mixing spoon
  • measuring cups
  • Measuring spoons
  • Stand mixer or hand mixer recommended

Ingredients

Cookies

  • cup white sugar
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup unsulphured molasses
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • ½ teaspoon cardamom
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons vegan heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon flaxseeds
  • 3 tablespoons hot water
  • 2 cups all purpose flour

Icing

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  • Melt the sugars. In a small pot on the stove over medium-low heat, combine the white sugar, brown sugar, molasses, and water. Whisk together until the sugars have melted, but don’t bring this to a rolling boil. Set aside to cool slightly.
  • Make the flax egg. While the sugar mixture is cooling, in a separate small bowl, combine the flaxseeds with the hot water. Whisk and set aside to gel up for 5 minutes.
  • Make the dough. Transfer the sugar mixture into a large bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer. Add the spices: Cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, allspice, cloves, black pepper, and salt. Whisk to combine. Add the flax egg and mix well again. Add the vanilla and heavy cream. Finally, add the flour and baking soda and mix until the dough is combined. It will be soft and a bit tacky but not overly sticky. You can add a few spoonfuls of flour if your dough is very wet.
  • Roll the cookies. Using a 1 tablespoon scoop, roll the cookies between your hands to get cookie dough balls. You should get 23 to 24 cookies. Optional: You can chill the cookies now for up to 24 hours.
  • Bake the cookies. Bake the cookies on one cookie sheet for 12 to 14 minutes. The cookies will be set and have puffed up slightly. Remove from the oven and do not touch them – let them cool on the hot tray for an hour.
  • Frost the cookies. After the cookies have cooled, it’s time to frost. Combine the powdered sugar and water in a bowl until a thick icing is made. Dip the top of each cookie into the frosting. Place the cookies on a wire rack to allow for any drips. Serve and enjoy!

Notes

  • Variations 
    • If you love nutmeg, add ¼ teaspoon of nutmeg to the spices in this cookie. 
    • You can replace the vanilla extract with a ¼ teaspoon of ground star anise for a more licorice flavor. 
    • In place of white icing on top, you can roll the cooked cookies in powdered sugar! 
    • Some recipes also use the zest of half an orange in the dough for an even more Christmas vibe. Add the zest when you add the vanilla extract if you would like to try out that variation!
  • How to Store 
    • Countertop: Store leftover cookies in an airtight container on the countertop for up to a week, if they last that long! 
    • Freezer: Store fully baked and cooled cookies in a freezer safe container for up to 2 months. You can store them with or without icing. Allow cookies to thaw on the countertop for a few hours before serving after having been frozen.

Nutrition

Calories: 110kcal | Carbohydrates: 26g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 0.3g | Saturated Fat: 0.04g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.05g | Sodium: 73mg | Potassium: 73mg | Fiber: 0.5g | Sugar: 17g | Vitamin A: 5IU | Vitamin C: 0.1mg | Calcium: 15mg | Iron: 1mg
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