German Pfeffernusse Cookie Recipe (Gluten Free)

German Pfeffernusse Cookie Recipe Favorite Family Recipes This gluten-free pfeffernusse recipe is my adaptation of a traditional pfeffernusse recipe. 

In German, pfeffernusse means “pepper nuts,” even though my husband refers to them as “frosted reindeer droppings”! Either way, they are super yummy.

Although I substitute gluten-free flour in this pfeffernussen recipe, ground spices may contain traces of gluten. McCormick brand spices are reportedly gluten free, but read the labels and do your own research if you must avoid gluten in your diet. Gluten-free suggestions are provided in the links. Despite the name, no nuts are used in this recipe
I have substituted butter for the margarine-shortening mixture in an authentic pfeffernusse recipe that would have been prepared in the 1950s.



1/2 cup molasses

1/4 cup honey

4 oz (one stick) butter

2 eggs

4 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour 

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

1-1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom 

1 teaspoon allspice* 

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg or grated nutmeg 

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves 

2 teaspoons anise extract*

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon 

1 teaspoon ground ginger 

1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup confectioner’s powdered sugar (to dust pfeffernussen after they are done)

I like the flavor that allspice imparts to this traditional Christmas cookie pfeffernusse recipe, but if you don’t have allspice, you may double the nutmeg and ground cloves to 1 teaspoon each to make up the difference.

*Anise extract is a lightly licorice-flavored essence. Don’t skip or substitute for anise extract or the recipe will not turn out right.

Have ready:

Two (nonstick or aluminum) cookie sheets, and nonstick parchment baking paper cut to size of cookie sheets


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. 
  2. In a saucepan over medium heat, stir together molasses, honey, butter over medium heat. Cook and continue stirring until butter is melted and the mixture is creamy. Remove the saucepan from heat and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes. Add in the eggs and whisk well into the mixture. 
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, brown and white sugar, and all spices: cardamom, allspice, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, as well as baking soda, ground pepper, and salt. Whisk thoroughly to mix dry ingredients. Add anise extract and whisk again until well mixed.
  4. Add the molasses-sugar-egg mixture and mix well with a sturdy wooden spoon or mixing spoon until blended. Be sure to blend edges and under and over the dough. Put the bowl into the refrigerator and refrigerate at least 2 hours.
  5. Remove the dough mixture from the refrigerator and set out on the workspace with the cookie sheets which have been covered with parchment. 
  6. Using a teaspoon, scoop a small amount of dough from the bowl and roll between your palms into acorn-sized balls. Arrange the balls on the lined cookie sheets and place into the oven on the middle rack. Bake for 10 minutes and remove immediately to cool. When they are cooled, dust pfeffernussen with confectioner’s sugar.

    Once the pfeffernusse cookies are allowed to cool completely, 
    they can be stored in festive cookie containers. Makes a great gift!


      Since spice cookies are so expensive to buy ingredients for (and who uses allspice except on Christmas!), you might want to throw a cookie baking party with friends and have each person bring a spice to the party.

      Leave a comment

      Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *