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Pfeffernuesse (Peppernuts)

Christmas is around the corner and it's time to be thinking of making Pfeffernuese. This is a great recipe to make with a friend.  It takes half the time and is twice the fun.

There's a bit of history to these tiny spiced cookies.
 I remember being told that Mennonite grandmothers used to keep a few peppernuts in their purses during church services. When the children would become a bit noisy or restless, they would pop one of these hard nuggets into their mouths and the necessity of sucking the hard cookie and the surprising spiciness would distract the child and silence was achieved.
There are many recipes for Peffernuesse but this is my favourite.  I make them at the beginning of November so they have time to ripen.
They are always number one on the list of Christmas favourites at our house and are a bit addictive.
It's a big recipe and I have often only made half of it.  However if you make the whole recipe, you can pack the Pfeffernuesse in pretty Christmas tins to give as gifts.

    Here is the recipe I use - it is easily halved if the whole amount is intimidating.
      Be sure to read the recipe through before starting.

  • 4 cups Roger's Golden syrup (this is different than corn syrup)
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 2 cups margarine or butter
  • 2 cups milk
  1. Combine the above ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to a boil.
  2. Let mixture cool completely before continuing.
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 tsp. peppermint extract (use the clear extract not the green tinted one)
  1. Beat eggs in a small bowl and add extracts. Set aside.
  • 12- 14 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground star anise (not anise seed)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  1. Place 7 cups flour in a large mixer bowl.
  2. Add spices and baking powder and stir until completely blended with flour.
  3. Add syrup mixture to the flour, stirring well until blended.
  4. Add beaten egg mixture and continue to stir until blended.
  5. Continue to add flour until dough thickens but remains sticky. You will still be able to stir it with a wooden spoon however it will take a bit of strength.The amount of flour may vary depending on your flour and the amount of humidity. Please note that the dough will harden considerably once it has been refrigerated so be careful not to add too much flour.
  6. Refrigerate dough overnight or for several days.
  7. Prepare cookie sheets with parchment paper. These cookies will stick to the pan however if you use parchment paper, they will just slide right off and you can reuse the paper.
  8. Using a tablespoon (from your cutlery drawer), spoon out a good handful of the dough.
  9. Sprinkle a little flour on your counter and roll the dough into a long rope about the thickness of your ring finger.
  10. Using a bench scraper or pizza cutter, cut the rope into 1/2 inch pieces and place on your prepared pans. (I get 99 cookies on each large cookie sheet)
  11. Bake at 350º F  for about 15 minutes or until cookies just begin to brown. This is where having a convection oven comes in handy as you can bake 2 or 3 cookie sheets at a time.
  12. Remove from pan and cool. Store in ice cream pails in a cool place.
  13. The Pfeffernuesse will keep for a long time - at least 6 months - but only if you hide them..


  1. I've been making peppernuts for many years and always enjoy reading a new recipe. It seems to me that four cups of syrup is a lot. Is that the correct amount? Thanks for the website. I read it every day.

    Norma M.

    1. It is a lot of syrup but it is a large recipe. Feel free to halve the recipe if you like. They really are not very sweet when baked.

  2. Rosedale swing company site???
    Are they still in business? Won't load... Thanks

  3. Oh the memories. My grandmother used to make these but I don't have her recipe. Since I can't buy Rogers Golden Syrup down here is it okay to substitute light corn syrup instead? Would I need to make some kind of change to the recipe? 4 cups of sugar and 4 cups of syrup. I don't remember my grandma's being very sweet. I think that is why I loved them, kind of like shortbread instead of a sweet cookie. You have stirred up the memories with this one.

    1. If you can find some kind of cane syrup, that would be the best substitute for the Roger's Golden syrup.
      As I replied to first comment, it's a large recipe which is easily halved and the baked cookies are not overly sweet.

    2. Thanks. Sometimes when you girls list possible Canadian ingredients I want to make sure there isn't some really strange difference. I always thought it strange that I liked these as I don't like licorice, but I can't wait to try these.

    3. FYI - Pam, if you live in the US - I just had my first try with Pfeffernuesse, and living here in the US I could not find Rogers Golden Syrup. But I did find Lyle's Golden Syrup. Apparently our US common corn syrup is not really the same thing as cane (Rogers, Lyles) syrup. Happy hunting, if you decide you want to try or try again? They really are so cute and festive and tasty.

  4. I think these are a Manitoba or western provinces cookie because my mother never made them but when I went to Wpg it was the thing to make at Christmas. Many recipes where exchanged and all different. I called them peppernate loaded with pure anise (licorice like) not extract.

    1. I grew up with these in Ontario - my Grandmother who made them, lived in Hepburn SK prior to moving to Ontario. I know different families have different traditions - I have run into a number of Mennonite recipes that were unfamiliar to my Mennonite family.

    2. Love the cookies make these every year =) I live in Warman, Sk.

  5. I added the ground star anise to the recipe as I love that licorice flavour together with the black pepper and the peppermint.

  6. I love these but have never made them - thanks for our recipe Bev!

  7. This recipe is very close to the one my mother use to make. I now have the recipe and have passed it along to my children. Thank you for sharing your recipe.

  8. These are so close to the recipe that I have. It is interesting to see all the variations of this recipe.

  9. Do you boil the syrup mixture for any amount of time or just take it off as soon as it starts to boil (and is that a rolling boil or just when it starts to bubble at the edges)? Thank you, can't wait to try these!

    1. I just bring it to a nice bubbling boil and then take it off the heat. Hope you enjoy them!

  10. Dear Bev - I've got a question... In 2011 November, you posted your recipe for Pfefferneusse. Now, in 2014, all your liquid (or at least *kind of* liquid) ingredients are precisely double your previous recipe, but your flour is essentially the same as the previous recipe, with no specific mention that one may wind up with as much as twice the flour, to get the right consistency. Is there anything you could do to set me loose from my newbie confusion here? I am so looking forward to making these. Thank you for taking the effort to post the recipe. Now I just need your fine-tuning I think. Thanks. Diane

    1. Diane, Thanks for bringing this to my attention.
      My original recipe is the one you see and it called for 10 cups flour. However the first time I posted the recipe I had halved it. For half the recipe it called for 6 cups of flour and I found it needed closer to 7- 8 cups flour.

      For the whole recipe you will use roughly 12-14 cups. It's the pesky thing about flour, The amount you need will vary with the humidity and type of flour you are using. As the recipe says, the dough will be sticky and will need some strength to stir it but it hardens in the fridge so you don't want it to be firm before refrigeration.

    2. Thank you so much Bev. I appreciate your taking the time to reply to my newbie reply. Can you hear the drum roll? I take it there's a certain amount of playing this one by ear, right? Well, for my maiden voyage I'll be satisfied if no one needs dental work after enjoying the spicy tasty bits! Thanks again. Diane

    3. You're so welcome Diane. Good luck and let us know how they turned out.

    4. Hi, Bev - 'Nuesse Newbie went perfectly! We are enjoying the pfeffernuesse - a lot. I did wind up using almost all 14 cups, even though we are definitely in winter mode here, and not much humidity lurking. We're about 500 miles southeast of Winnipeg, so I'm guessing our flour is totally USA wheat - but your instrux were just what I needed. Thanks for your help. And now I've got the ham and cheese cut for your pinwheels - will be making them tomorrow I hope. Thanks again, Bev. Blessings to you and your dear ones. Diane

  11. My neighbour made these cookies most Christmas's but other times during the year as well. Her family originally came from Russia when a large number of Brethren Mennonites left to leave the to stop persecution. Many moved into Southern Alberta, Canada. I remember going to her home and seeing all of these tiny dark hard cookies cooling on her table. Her husband absolutely adored them. They were great with tea. You could put one in your mouth and then have a sip of tea. YUM!

  12. Been making my mother-in-law's recipe for 30 years. Her recipe is to take 4 cups brown sugar with 5 cups of water and boil down to 4 cups. I am always tempted to cut that corner somehow, but have continued to do it. Fresh peppernuts baking in the oven as I write this!

  13. Growing up peppernuts were always peppery spiced sweet buns topped with Christmas red course sugar. Our first experience with this version of peppernuts went like this.....One day the kindly spinster Mennonite sisters from across the road called and asked if my new husband and I would like some peppernuts for our first Christmas together. We excitedly agreed and eagerly awaited the arrival of our favourite Christmas treats. After working all day, my husband & I came home and found a tin on the doorstep. We quickly opened it up and our faces fell as we figured they had decided to bring up treats for our dog instead. It wasn't until we talked to my MIL that I realized this was what most Mennonites think of when they talk of peppernuts. LOL


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