Pepernoten are little spiced cookies made with speculaas spices and brown sugar. This authentic pepernoten recipe is easy to make and the perfect fall cookie to bake with children.
You can't celebrate St. Nicholas without pepernoten. What Dutchman hasn't grown up eating and sprinkling these tasty little cookies?
Baking your own peppernoten is really fun to do and with this easy recipe you will bake about 70 of them. Children also really enjoy helping to bake these spicy cookies.
But wait, there are many more Sinterklaas treats! You should also try speculaas and marzipan or, even better, speculaas filled with almond pasta for the real Sinterklaas experience.
What are pepernoten?
Pepernoten are small cookies made with brown sugar, butter, and speculaas spices. They are eaten around December 5 during St. Nicholas Day.
Pepernoten or kruidnoten
I think everyone in the Netherlands has talked about it by now, and yet the discussion comes back every year. Should we call them pepernoten or kruidnoten?
Proponents of the kruidnoot believe that only the soft chewy cookie should be called pepernoot and the hard variety kruidnoot. Opponents believe it makes no difference.
I however will always call them pepernoten and continue to do so but I will explain why.
Where did it all start
The term kruidnoot was not actually used before the 1970s. According to Oscar de Lange of the pepernotenfabriek, it was mainly used to distinguish between the different kinds.
In old cookbooks, the name pepernoot is also used for both kinds. Of course, at first only for the "taai taai-like" chunks, but after sugar became more available, the name was used for all varieties.
The first pepernoten recipe
The oldest recipe I could find comes from 1771 and was made with sugar as we still make it today.
In the end it doesn't really matter so much what they are called as long as we all know what is meant right?
Brown sugar - dark brown sugar gives the dough a caramel flavor and a deep brown color. If light brown sugar or even white sugar is all you have, you can certainly use that, but it will affect the color and flavor.
Flour - regular all-purpose flour is what you need. You can substitute the flour and baking powder for self rising flour to make this recipe.
Speculaas spices - a spice mix made with cinnamon, cardamom, pepper, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, anise seed, and mace. I have a recipe for speculaas spices on this website!
Butter - use unsalted cold butter for this recipe. If you use salted butter, make sure you leave out the salt in this recipe.
You can find the complete ingredient list and instructions on the recipe card below!
How to make pepernoten
1: Add all the ingredients to a large bowl and knead them together with your hands until you can form a ball. Don't overwork the dough. We want crispy cookies!
2: Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and place it in the fridge for at least an hour.
3: Roll out your dough and form little balls. They should be about ⅔ an inch.
4: Place them on a baking tray lined with parchment paper and bake them for about 15-20 minutes.
Tip: leave your dough in the fridge for at least.1-2 hours, giving the spices a chance to develop their flavor!
Baking with kids
kids love to help in the kitchen, and why not? It's a great way to build their confidence, and it's a fun way to develop their fine motor skills.
Because pepernoten are so easy to make, this is the perfect recipe to make with the kids. You can let them weigh the ingredients and knead the dough. They also love rolling the little balls!
Obviously, you keep them far away from sharp knives and the hot oven!
And of course, they are the first to be assigned the most important job… TASTING
Lactose free or vegan
Sometimes you have to adjust a recipe a little bit because you have to take into account a diet.
- Butter - instead of cream butter, you can of course use margarine or vegetable butter.
- Milk - replace milk with a vegetable milk or water.
- Flour - you can easily replace flour with oat flour or gluten-free flour types.
Make filled pepernoten by rolling out the balls and fold in a little almond paste.
Dip the pepernoten in some melted chocolate for chocolate pepernoten!
Tools you'll need
Pepernoten are super easy to make, but there are a few tools that can make it even easier!
- Bowls - use a large mixing bowl for kneading the dough.
- Kitchen scale - I know most of you use cups to measure their ingredients, but you get better results with baking recipes using a scale, especially when baking.
You can store the uncooked dough in the fridge for about a week and in the freezer for three months!
You can keep baked pepernoten for a week in an airtight container.
This recipe is made without eggs or alcohol so perfect for kids.
Freezer: You can also freeze pepernoten or the unbaked dough very well. In the freezer it will keep for about three months.
- Leaving the dough in the fridge for 1-2 days gives the spices a chance to develop their flavor.
- Traditional recipes for pepernoten and speculaas don't include baking powder or baking soda.
- The warmth of your hands should be enough to soften the butter and form the dough. If your dough is too dry, you can add 1-2 tablespoon of milk or water.
More easy speculaas recipes
- 240g (1 cup) flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 140g (5 oz.) cold butter
- 120g (⅔ cup) dark brown sugar
- 2 tablespoon speculaas spices
- A pinch op salt
- A pinch op salt
- In a large bowl mix all the dry ingredients together.
- Add the butter and knead the dough until you can form a ball.
- cover with clingfilm and let it rest in the fridge for at least 1 hour but it is best to leave it in the fridge for 1-2 days.
- Preheat your oven to 175˚C (350˚F).
- Take your dough out of the fridge, roll the dough into small balls, and place them on a baking tray lined with baking paper.
- Place your baking tray in the middle of the oven and bake your pepernoten for 15-20 minutes.
- If your dough is still a little dry you can add one tablespoon of water or milk.
- Leaving the dough in the fridge for 1-2 days gives you a better flavor.
- (small) children love to help you make pepernoten.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 70 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 34Total Fat: 2gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 4mgSodium: 15mgCarbohydrates: 4gFiber: 0gSugar: 2gProtein: 0g