One of the reasons I’m looking forward to Christmas is because it means I’ll get to eat lots of cookies. When I was a child, my grandmother would bake Christmas cookies for us, and she had a whole range of traditional German recipes that she used.
These days, I bake my own cookies. Plus, I still get cookies from my mum when I go home for Christmas, and I buy a selection in supermarkets. The packages usually appear in the shelves mid-autumn, and I always grab a bag of gingerbread cookies as soon as they’re available.
If you travel to Germany in December, you have the chance of trying most traditional German Christmas cookies yourself. The selection can feel overwhelming at first, but there’s something for everybody. Here’s an overview of the cookies you need to try:
Our Favourite Traditional German Christmas Cookies
We call gingerbread Lebkuchen here in Germany, and you can find lots of variations all over the country. Depending on the mixture used for the dough, the result will range from soft and fluffy to crunchy and hard. A great example of the latter is the gingerbread hearts you can buy at every Christmas market.If you visit Germany in December, you must visit at least one Christmas market. Find out what you
My favourites are small, soft gingerbread hearts, which you’ll often find filled with jam. Those are all over the supermarkets at Christmas, so you should have no trouble finding them.
Another popular variety is called “Oblatenlebkuchen“. These are round and flat and have a thin wafer underneath. As they are made mostly with nuts, they have a very different taste to the soft ones. Try to find Elisenlebkuchen, which are usually high in quality.
The best place to try German gingerbread cookies is in Germany. But if you can’t travel right now and want to get a taste of German Christmas, then you can buy an assortment of different types of gingerbread (click here for Amazon UK) or a package of Oblatenlebkuchen (click here for Amazon UK) online.
These cookies are Daniel’s favourite, and I also love them. That’s why I always bake lots of them in December.
Vanillekipferl are crescent moon-shaped cookies with lots of powdered vanilla sugar on top. They seem to have originated in Vienna in Austria, but they are immensely popular in Germany as well. If you visit at Christmas, you will see them in supermarkets, bakeries and also at Christmas markets.
The dough contains ground nuts. I’ve always made them with almonds, but I know a variation with walnuts exists. The nut flour makes the cookies crumbly so that they almost melt when you put them into your mouth.
Buy them online if you can’t make it to Germany for the holiday season.
These cookies are such a classic that I am sure most German kids have made them at one point in their life. The German word ausstechen means to cut out cookies.
Ausstechplätzchen are basic cookies made with cookie cutters. Usually, we use a simple dough for preparing them, made with flour, butter, eggs, sugar and a bit of baking powder. The real fun comes after baking when you can then decorate them with whatever you like.
If you visit a German supermarket in autumn, you will find lots of decoration ingredients there, from colourful sprinkles to edible silver decorations. It’s fun to go wild while making those.
Spekulatius are another favourite that we love to eat every year at Christmas. These cookies are not just popular in Germany but also in the Netherlands and Belgium, where they might have originated. And you can even find them in Indonesia, where they’re called speculaas.
Spekulatius are famous both for their shape and their flavour. The dough is seasoned with spices like cinnamon, cardamom and cloves. Back in the day, when spices were expensive, children would receive Spekulatius as a special treat on St Nikolaus in early December.
The shape comes from using special moulds before baking the dough. My grandma would always make Spekulatius for us and had a large collection of moulds that my mother now inherited. It might not look that hard, but removing the dough from the moulds without destroying the shape can be quite a challenge!You can find multiple variations of Spekulatius in Germany. Gewürzspekulatius will be seasoned with more spices, while Mandelspekulatius have a milder taste and contain almonds.
If you want to taste a bit of German Christmas flavour, you can buy Spekulatius online (here if you’re in the UK). Or buy a mould and make your own. Or just come to Germany so that you can try all of the variations here.
Spritzgebäck, or Spritz cookies in English, are another classic you will find in many German households at Christmas.
The dough is relatively simple to make, but these cookies get their fame for their shape. Instead of rolling the dough and cutting it out, or shaping it by hand, you need to use a piping bag. That means that you can turn the dough into whatever shape you like and even write letters with it!
I add almonds to the dough, which gives them a more nutty taste. Most people, though, use a simple buttery dough which gives it a fine and crumbly consistency. Spritz cookies often have a partial chocolate icing, although this is not mandatory.
Even though Spritzgebäck is popular in Germany, it’s not always easy to find in shops. We recommend searching for it either in German bakeries or at the Christmas market.
#6 Linzer Plätzchen
Technically, these cookies come from Linz. That’s where the name originated, which literally translates to “cookies from Linz”.
We still decided to include them on this list as they’re very popular in Germany. Linzer Plätzchen consist of two cookies with jam in the middle, like a sandwich. The upper cookie has a hole in the middle so you can see that delicious layer of red jam.
Linzer cookies are so popular in Germany that you can buy special cookie cutters in supermarkets here in December.
In some regions of Germany, these cookies also go by the name of “Spitzbuben” or “Hildabrötchen”. So don’t be confused if you find them under lots of different names.
Makronen, or macaroons, are a classic German Christmas cookie for which you can find lots of recipes. These cookies are not to be confused with macarons, the colourful French sandwich-like cookies. Makronen are far less delicate and easier to make.
Macaroons consist of egg whites, beaten to a stiff, meringue-like texture. I love using my grandma’s recipe, which then adds almond flour and pieces of chocolate, but using hazelnut flour is also very popular in Germany. I also have a recipe that uses pieces of dried apricots and even one for cinnamon macaroons.
Macaroons are not easy to buy in Germany as most people will bake them. You might get lucky searching for them in a bakery or at a Christmas market.
Dominosteine are very funny Christmas cookies that look like small blocks covered in chocolate. They consist of multiple layers, with a base layer of German gingerbread at the bottom. Next follows a layer of jelly, which can vary in flavour. The ones I bought this year had apple jelly, but you can also find cherry or apricot jelly. On top, you’ll find a layer of marzipan.
Dominos originally come from Dresden, where a chocolatier named Herbert Wendler came up with the recipe in 1936. In the beginning, the sweet was one of the cheapest chocolates in his store, affordable for everyone. Now, it has turned into a popular Christmas sweet.
In Germany, you can buy these cookies in every supermarket. Sales usually start in autumn and go on until Christmas. Or you can buy Dominosteine on Amazon (or on Amazon.co.uk) if you cannot travel this winter.
I have to admit, we are both not big fans of these cookies. Zimtsterne translates to cinnamon stars, and you might wonder, what could be wrong with cinnamon cookies?
I find them a bit too dry and a bit too strong. We still include them on this list as most Germans love them and will eat them in December. Plus, we’ve only ever tried the storebought ones, and I’m sure they’d be better if we had made them ourselves.
Zimtsterne usually come with sugar icing on top. They have a long tradition, and you can find written records dating back to 1538 that already mention them. If you want to try them, you can find them in supermarkets in Germany, but you might also get lucky in a bakery or at the Christmas market.
Anise is a classic Christmas spice in Germany, and therefore it is no surprise that anise cookies have made it on this list. Various recipes exist in Germany, but in general, these cookies should be sweet and fluffy. The good ones almost melt in your mouth when you eat them.
You can often find anise cookies in supermarkets in Germany. Baking them takes time as a lot of recipes ask for you to dry the dough overnight and only bake it the next day. This special technique helps the cookies retain their shape.
Remember the Linzer Plätzchen from further above, the ones filled with jam? Engelsaugen are a bit similar and also have jam inside. Except the shape is different. Instead of making a sandwich cookie, if you make Engelsaugen, you will make a round cookie with jam at top.
These cookies also go by the name of “Husarenkrapfen” and are very popular at Christmas. We made them using only red jam, but you could use any variety of jam: apricot tastes pretty well, or even orange marmalade.
As they are best when they’re fresh, you won’t easily find Engelsaugen in supermarkets. Your best bet is to buy them either in a bakery or at the Christmas market.
Florentine biscuits likely originated in France, but have turned into a popular Christmas treat in Germany. They usually consist of nuts and almonds with chocolate at the bottom.
Sometimes, you’ll find variations that include dried or candied fruit. As we are both not huge fans of any candied fruit, we always look for the ones without it.According to German food laws, florentines are made without flour. If they contain more than 5% flour, they cannot be called florentines anymore.
Florentines are not always available in supermarkets in Germany, so you might have to search for them. We’ve also found them in bakeries, so you can try your luck there.
When I was a child, my grandma would always bake Wundernüsschen for us. Those cookies are not as well-known throughout Germany, but they’re delicious and worth eating if you have the chance.
Wundernüsschen use a dough based on egg whites beaten stiff, similar to the macaroons. They’re made with lots of hazelnut flour and then dried in the oven at a low temperature. We like putting a hazelnut on top, to make them taste even nuttier.
In December, these black and white cookies will pop up in bakeries everywhere in Germany. Many families also have their own recipes for baking them, although my attempts never looked as perfect as the professional ones in the picture above.
Black and white cookies are made by mixing cocoa powder into half of your dough and combining the two doughs to create a pattern. Round cookies are popular, with sheets of dark and light dough rolled up. You can also find checkerboard patterns, and I’ve even seen them star-shaped before.
As we already said, you can find them mostly in bakeries. Sometimes, you’ll also see them in supermarkets, although the bakery ones usually taste much better.
I have to admit, these are not my favourite. A lot of people love them, though, so we decided to include them on the list.
Rumkugeln are rum balls coated with chocolate sprinkles. They’re not completely made of rum, of course, but of a dough flavoured with rum and chocolate. Often, bakers use only rum aroma so you can find them without any alcohol.
Even if it’s just rum aroma, it usually tastes strong enough that people will like or hate the Rumkugeln. You can buy them in supermarkets, chocolate stores or at the Christmas market.
If you’re visiting Germany in winter, you can find lots of amazing cookies. For those of you who can’t make it, we have included links to buy German Christmas cookies online whenever available. Or you can bake some of the cookies. You can easily find recipes online for most of them.
If you are still looking for Christmas gifts, we have a whole post about the best gifts from Europe. You’re sure to find lots of inspiration there.
For planning your trip to Germany, we have a few resources that you should check out:
- Everything you need to know about German Christmas markets
- Your complete guide to the Frankfurt Christmas market
- Neuschwanstein Castle is magical in winter – find out how to visit
- See all of our posts about Germany
- Get inspired by discovering Europe’s best Christmas markets
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