Sourdough Pfefferneusse Cookies

Make a big batch of these not-too-sweet cookies this weekend. They will last all through the holidays.

pepper nut cookies

It’s interesting how many of our Christmas traditions originated in Germany. The Christmas tree, marzipan, and these delightfully spicy cookies known as “pepper nuts.”

I am not a big cookie eater. In fact, I’ve been known to say that I could go the rest of my life without another cookie and be just fine. But I’ve always had a soft spot for anything made with ginger or anise.

I also had some extra sourdough starter itching to be used. Sourdough plus molasses and anise sounded like a good idea and worth the experiment.

I imagine that not every cookie recipe would lend itself to the addition of sourdough. Light and delicate cookies could easily become overwhelmed by the sourdough acidity. But there are enough spices in Pfefferneusse to hold their own. Here the sourdough enhances rather than overwhelms.

These cookies are super simple to make and are even better after sitting for a few days. I made one batch and mailed them all to family on the east coast, so I’ll be making another batch for us soon.

Sourdough Pfefferneusse Cookies
Make a big batch of these not-too-sweet cookies this weekend. They will last all through the holidays.
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 7 dozen
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
  • ¾ cup molasses
  • ¾ cup honey
  • ½ cup butter
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • ½ cup sourdough starter
  • 4 ¼ cups flour
  • 1 ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 tsp ground mace
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp anise seed
  • Powdered sugar
  1. Add molasses, honey, and butter to a small saucepan. Cook over low heat until the butter has melted. Set aside and let cool to room temperature.
  2. Stir in eggs and sourdough starter.
  3. In a large bowl or stand mixer bowl sift together flour, baking soda, and spices.
  4. Pour liquid mixture into flour mixture. Stir to combine. Chill for at least 2 hours. (This step is to help make the dough more manageable.)
  5. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Roll into small balls and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees.
  6. Remove from oven. Immediately roll cookies in powdered sugar and let cool.
  7. Makes about 7 dozen cookies.


Note: Learn how to make your own sourdough starter from scratch here.

gifts from the kitchen bookDon’t have any extra starter? Make Pfefferneusse cookies without sourdough. You will find the recipe in my newest cookbook, Holiday Gifts from the Kitchen. Now available in both print and digital!

by Renee Pottle

Renee Pottle, a freelance writer and Home Economist, is fanatic about all things food. She blogs about canning and food preservation at Find her professional food writing info at

December 22, 2017

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