Pepper nuts (or pfeffernuesse) cookies are a fixture in my bag when I’m in the woods pursuing fur-bearing animals. These crunchy cookies are a German holiday specialty. For some notes and potential substitutions, scroll down to the bottom of the recipe.
Pepper nut recipe
- 1/2 cup Molasses
- 1/4 cup Honey
- 1/4 cup Butter
- 1/4 cup Shortening
- 2 Eggs
- 1 1/2 tsps. Powdered star anise
- 4 cups Flour
- 3/4 cup White sugar
- 1/2 cup Brown sugar
- 2 tsp. cinnamon
- 1 1/2 tsp. Baking soda
- 1 teaspoon Ginger
- 1 tsp. Nutmeg
- 1 tsp. Cloves
- 1/2 tsp. White pepper
- 1/2 tsp. Salt
Step 1: Add molasses, honey, butter, and shortening to a small sauce pan or saucier over medium heat. Stir frequently until melted. Remove pan from burner and allow mixture to cool to room temperature. Then, add the eggs.
Step 2: In a separate bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients. Once combined, slowly add the mixture from the pan you set aside and continue stirring.
Step 3: Cover the bowl and place in refrigerator for a minimum of two hours.
Step 4: When ready to bake, pre-heat your oven to 325° F and grease your cookie sheets.
Step 5: Roll dough into thin logs and then cut into roughly one-inch pieces. Roll each piece into a small ball and place on cookie sheet.
Step 6: Bake for 13-15 minutes. Remove cookies from oven and transfer to cooling rack.
I was first introduced to these cookies a few years ago during gun deer season. The landowner offered some up during lunch and explained that these bit-sized treats are a family recipe. He was kind enough to pass that recipe along to me.
Besides the subtle sweetness, what draws me to these cookies is how durable they are. I can put some in my pocket while out on a squirrel hunt or put a bag of them in my deer hunting backpack without having to worry about them breaking or crumbling. Food just tastes better when it’s enjoyed outdoors and these crunchy cookies are a perfect snack. When the weather gets colder, they pair perfectly with a thermos of coffee.
As I have researched these treats I’ve come to find there are countless ways of preparing them. Each family seems to have their own approach.
In that spirit, over time, my mom and I have both made our own versions of these cookies (mine is the one listed above).
Tips and substitutions
This recipe yields roughly 10 dozen cookies, making it ideal for sharing.
If you are flying solo on most of your hunts, halving the recipe is certainly an option. Though, we have found that these cookies will keep in the freezer if you have extras.
To make sure I get the crunch I’m looking for, I move the cookies to the top rack of my oven during the last two minutes of baking.
Due to the lack of moisture, these won’t get “stale,” per se. I even leave mine on the counter overnight to let the air get at them. This helps solidify the texture I desire.
Now, this brings us to the potential substitutions. Many pepper nut recipes I’ve seen include some form of dairy. The original version I was given included buttermilk. Some have a few splashes of cream. It’s all about what you’re after.
If you want something a little softer, I recommend the addition of dairy and shortening the baking time slightly.
While this recipe features a multitude of spices, you can simplify or expand on them. Cardamom can be a wonderful addition. Some recipes substitute black pepper for white pepper. Others forgo the molasses.
For added sweetness, you can dust the warm cookies with powdered sugar as soon as they come out of the oven.
Play around with it, that’s part of the fun.