Everyone with German or Mennonite Heritage has fond memories of these cookies; especially at Christmas. There must be as many ways to make these as there is to make borscht. For instance, this recipe was in my mother's recipe box yet I only remember my paternal Grandmother's "peppernuts" which were much dryer and hard....cut from a 'snake' or roll..and were more like nuts. These are delightfully soft but the taste is the same. This makes a huge batch...about six to seven dozen depending on how small you make them but they last for long time in a cookie jar on your kitchen counter. This will fill your house with the smell of cinnamon and nutmeg...perfect for Christmas.

  • 2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup shortening
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp cinnamon (I used 3 with a pinch of nutmeg too)
  • flour as needed to make pliable dough (I used five cups)
Cream together sugar and brown sugar. Mix the baking powder, cinnamon and flour in separate bowl. Add to creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk. Add flour if needed to make pliable dough. Form into a small ball about the size of a quarter. Place on parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake at 375F for 10 to 12 minutes. Don't worry if it appears will harden on the outside and have a soft centre...perfect for tea.


  1. Look scrumptious Trish..have to admit I have been snacking on peppernuts this afternoon..they are so good! Addictive too..everything that tastes good is!

  2. I'm not sure whether to cry or kick something. I missed adding the cup of milk to the melting margarine, sugar and syrup that my recipe called for, and then stirring in 6 cups of flour was nigh-on impossible.

    I valiantly tried to salvage something out of it by forcing the stiff dough into a pan and trying to bake it into a magnificent new recipe. No such luck.

    Now my recipe is lost in my house somewhere, it's likely the mercy of God that has made it disappear. If it resurfaces, I will feel obligated to try again... Christmas ain't Christmas without peppernuts. Nuts.

  3. I didn't grow up with peppernuts but I've had them (the hard ones) and they are a nice nibbly snack.
    I'm wondering where the pepper is?

  4. Although some recipes might call for ground pepper...this recipe of my mother's does not. I guess the spice from the cinnamon and nutmeg was often considered spice enough...interesting the variations though, right?

  5. It's interesting to see other people's peppernut variations. Ours have an anise flavour, along with just about every other spice in the cupboard! (but still no pepper).

    Ours are the hard round ones, but some years they're softer (I think it depends on how long we bake them and the amount of flour added). We make a 1/4 batch of the recipe, and it's still about 8 dozen (at least!)

    But Christmas isn't Christmas without them!! (although only my mom and sisters and I like them) I suppose they're an acquired taste :)

  6. I'm not sure about the 'acquired taste'...because my DIL had never heard of pfeffernuesse and quite likes them. I make the tiny ones (medium hard), but there are many variations. My grandmother made soft ones....that all joined together in the oven. We would take a big piece and break off little 'little peppernuts'. Oh...the memories!

    My recipe does include pepper.

  7. those are always a favorite at our house....Can't get enough of them.
    My recipe is slightly different...but they sure are good.
    I cut out long snakes with my grandson and he gets to cut and roll.

  8. Oh! I love cinammon and brown sugar. Since these resemble the annual russian tea cakes I make for Christmas... I know this recipe will be a keeper. Thanks!

  9. Interesting how different these recipes for "pepper nuts" are. The pfeffernuese I grew up with and still make almost every Christmas is a molasses cookie with LOTS of spices and a full teaspoon of black pepper for a VERY large batch. They start out relatively soft when made the size of a very large marble and then keep, getting spicier and better as they sit, though they do get crisper as time goes on.

  10. I think Peppernuts should have pepper in them. My recipe includes black pepper and has a nice spicy bite. In the oldest recipes, only “Pfeffer” is listed which probably referred to a spice blend that included star anise which was grown in South Russia along with black pepper, ginger, and any other of these expensive ingredients that were available.

    Peppernuts (Pfeffernusse) by Ken Graber - Adapted from a Traditional Mennonite Recipe
    1 1/2 Cup Dark Brown Sugar
    1/2 Cup Butter
    1 Lg Egg
    1/2 Cup Dark Corn Syrup
    1 tsp Cinnamon
    1 tsp Nutmeg
    1 tsp Star Anise
    1/2 tsp Black Pepper, (or more, I usually use a full tsp)
    1/2 tsp Cloves
    1/2 tsp Ginger
    1/2 tsp Cardamom
    1 tsp Baking Powder
    1/2 tsp Salt
    3 Cup Flour
    1. Cream sugar and butter, add egg and corn syrup and mix well.
    2. Blend in the ground spices.
    3. Sift in baking powder, salt, and flour; knead stiff dough into a ball and refrigerate.
    4. Roll dough in finger-size ropes, cut off small marble-size pieces, place on cookie sheet.
    5. Bake for 8 minutes in preheated 350º oven until rich brown in color.
    6. Store in an airtight container.

  11. KenG -
    Thank you for your recipe! My mom used to make peppernuts every Christmas and when she passed away in 2010, I spent a long time trying to find the recipe that matched her cookies. Yours is it!! I made a batch this Christmas and immediately they brought back memories of my mom. Thank you! I will carry on Mom's tradition with the help of your recipe.