This gingerbread cookies recipe is the number one cookie eaten in Germany at Christmas time. It's a spiced almond and hazelnut cookie that is super popular for its soft center and sugar-glazed or chocolate-covered outside.
Why I love them
I grew up with gingerbread cookies in Germany, where they have been made since the medieval ages. They bring back the most warming Christmas memories and besides eating these cookies, we also love making gingerbread houses and gingerbread hearts with icing messages (sold at Christmas markets).
The spiced cookies are covered in either sugar- or chocolate glaze, are chewy and so delicious. The most famous cities for authentic German gingerbread are Nürnberg (Elisen Lebkuchen) and Aachen (Aachener Printen).
Many other German cities have their specialty versions of this famous cookie.
While in Germany, it's easy to find high-quality German gingerbread at bakeries and local stores, I've struggled to find authentic gingerbread cookies since moving abroad to the United States.
After trying several German recipes over the years, I've finally created my gingerbread cookie version using simplified ingredients.
I love to eat them while enjoying a nice cup of coffee. If you're looking for a durable coffee maker, this insulated steel French press comes in 6 fun colors (I have it in the Snow White color pictured below).
I am impressed with the non-existent coffee sludge I often find at the bottom of my coffee cup thanks to a super innovative integrated filter, and the no drip pouring spout. It's designed by the German-owned company Frieling and makes the perfect gift for anyone missing Germany (along with a bag of German-roasted coffee of course).
For more German cookie recipes, check out my top 5 German Christmas cookie recipes.
Feel like buying them instead? Leckerlee makes authentic, small-batch German Lebkuchen in Colorado.
Gingerbread Cookies Ingredients
Here is the simplified ingredient list for my gingerbread cookies.
- Orange peel and juice. In Germany, candied orange is used, but since it's hard to find in the United States, I went a different route. Instead, I found the use of orange peel and juice to be a great substitute. I adjusted a few of the other ingredients to make this work.
- Lemon peel and juice. Candied lemon is also harder to find abroad, so I also substituted lemon peel and juice instead.
- Eggs. You could easily use an egg substitute in this recipe to make the cookies vegan.
- Brown sugar. There is no molasses in German gingerbread cookies. Instead, we use brown sugar.
- Almond flour. Use either ground almonds (with skin on) or almond flour (with the skin off and typically ground a little finer).
- Ground hazelnuts. I buy them whole with skin on, then grind them myself using a food processor. You could also buy hazelnut flour, but it tends to be a lot harder to find. Have leftover hazelnuts? Try my Vanillekipferl (vanilla bean cookies) using ground hazelnuts instead of ground almonds, or make my German nut bars (Nussecken) dipped in chocolate. SO GOOD!
- Baking powder. Just a tiny bit to add some volume.
- German gingerbread spice (Lebkuchengewürz). This one's an important one. I make my own, super fragrant gingerbread spice blend (which makes for a great gift as well), but I also found this seemingly authentic mix (American gingerbread spice does not have the depth and variety of ingredients as German gingerbread spice).
- Cookie wafers (Oblaten). Another important ingredient to have. They're thin wheat and starch wafters (kind of like rice paper), cut into different sizes of rounds. I use the same ones in a smaller size for Kokosmakronen (German coconut macaroons).
- Powdered sugar. You'll need it if making the sugar glaze for your gingerbread cookies.
- Blanched almonds. I add these before baking my glazed cookies, but they're optional.
- Chocolate chips. I use semi-sweet chocolate chips to make a chocolate glaze for half of my gingerbread cookies, but feel free to use any other chocolate you love.
It's not much you'll need to make gingerbread cookies, but a few essential tools are nice and handy to have.
- Parchment paper. This eco-friendly parchment paper made in Germany has a thin silicone coating, so you can reuse it. Also comes in precut sheets that perfectly fit your baking sheet. How genius.
- Cookie scoop. For scooping the wet cookie dough onto the Oblaten wafers.
- Cake Decorating Spatula. For spreading the cookie dough onto the Oblaten and forming mounds. You could also use a butter knife.
- Food processor. If you're using any whole nuts, this will come in handy to make your nut flours. I use mine frequently for making nut flours, dressings, hummus, and more.
- Pastry brush. For brushing on the sugar glaze or chocolate coating after the cookies are baked.
How To Make Lebkuchen
Making Lebkuchen or gingerbread cookies is not hard. After you have gathered your ingredients (making sure to make or order your Lebkuchen spice first and order Oblaten), simply mix the dough in a couple of steps. Then let it sit for 15-ish minutes, so nut flours can better soak up the wet ingredients.
Scoop the dough onto wafers (it's wet and sticky and needs something to attach to) and shape little mounds using a small decorating spatula or a butter knife. Make the glaze while the cookies are baking. Then glaze them a few minutes after they come our of the oven, and you're ready to enjoy homemade German gingerbread cookies!
Storing Gingerbread Cookies
I store my gingerbread cookies like I would any other cookie. By keeping them in a cookie jar, they don't dry out as easily and keep moist for longer. Gingerbread typically stays good for several weeks (if you will let it last that long).
Want to see just how easy it is to make my gingerbread cookies recipe at home? Then watch this 21-second video.
German Gingerbread Cookies Recipe (Lebkuchen)
- Parchment Paper This eco-friendly parchment paper made in Germany has a thin silicone coating, so you can reuse it. Also comes in precut sheets that perfectly fit your baking sheet. How genius.
- 1 Cookie Scoop For scooping the wet cookie dough onto the Oblaten wafers.
- 1 Cake Decorating Spatula For spreading the cookie dough onto the Oblaten and forming mounds. You could also use a butter knife.
- 1 Food Processor If you're using any whole nuts, this will come in handy to make your nut flours. I use mine frequently for making nut flours, dressings, hummus, and more.
- 1 Pastry Brush For brushing on the sugar glaze or chocolate coating after the cookies are baked.
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon orange zest
- 40 milliliters orange juice
- 2 eggs
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 200 grams brown sugar
- 150 grams almond flour ground almonds with or without skin on
- 140 grams ground hazelnuts either buy it ground (harder to find) or grind your own using a food processor
- ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- 1 Tablespoon gingerbread spice I mix my own German gingerbread spice (makes great gifts as well) OR you can buy it here online
- 24 cookie wafers called Oblaten (an edible paper-like bottom for the Lebkuchen cookies, I order mine online)
Sugar Glaze (makes enough for 12+ cookies)
- 130 grams powdered sugar
- 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 Tablespoons water
- Grate the lemon and orange zest until you have about 1 teaspoon each. Juice the orange and reserve around 40 milliliters (2 ½ Tablespoons). Juice the lemon and reserve 2 to 4 Tablespoons for the sugar glaze (if making).1 teaspoon lemon zest, 1 teaspoon orange zest, 40 milliliters orange juice
- Beat the eggs on the highest setting of your mixer for about 1 minute.2 eggs
- Add the sugar, vanilla and gingerbread spice and beat for 2 more minutes.2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract, 200 grams brown sugar, 1 Tablespoon gingerbread spice
- On the lowest setting, add in the remaining ingredients. Allow to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes, so that the wet ingredients can soak into the dry ingredients and thicken the mixture.150 grams almond flour, 140 grams ground hazelnuts, ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- Preheat your oven to 285° Fahrenheit (140° Celsius) using your non-convection setting aka conventional setting.
- Onto each Oblate, place one tablespoon of Lebkuchen dough (easiest to use a cookie scoop), and distribute onto the Oblate, forming a slight mound towards the center of each cookie.24 cookie wafers
- Bake on parchment paper covered baking sheets for 25 minutes.
- While your gingerbread is baking, prepare the glaze. Either make both or just one of them (double the recipe for either if you're just making one of them).
- For the sugar glaze, combine the powdered sugar, water and lemon juice and warm in the microwave for 30 seconds.130 grams powdered sugar, 2 Tablespoons lemon juice, 2 Tablespoons water
- For the chocolate glaze, combine chocolate chips and oil and microwave in 30 second increments until melted (stir in between).
- Remove your baked gingerbread from the oven and allow to cool for just a couple of minutes.
- Brush on the glaze and allow to set up (this can take up to 2 hours at room temperature or about 30 minutes in the fridge or in a cold garage).