This simple recipe for Lebkuchen will help you make these classic and traditional German Christmas cookies! They are soft, cake-like cookies full of warm spices and molasses and covered in a bright lemon glaze.
What Is Lebkuchen?
If you’re not familiar, lebkuchen is a German specialty that goes back centuries. These gingerbread-like treats are traditionally baked in Germany during the winter holiday season.
German lebkuchen cookies are sweetened with honey and molasses and feature the warm spicy flavors of nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice.
Various types of lebkuchen exist in Germany, and the recipes change based on the region. The lebkuchen we’re making today is typically referred to as “braune lebkuchen” and is a mix between a cake and cookie, often cut into shapes and topped with a zesty lemon or ginger glaze.
I think it’s so fun to make traditional Christmas recipes from other countries! When you’re finished trying these German gingerbread cookies, move on to my recipes for Italian Ricotta Cookies or Polish Kolaczki cookies next.
Why You Will Love This Recipe
The best part about homemade lebkuchen cookies is their intense flavor. Every bite is just bursting with rich sweetness from honey and molasses and a spicy kick. In Germany, they use a special spice blend called lebkuchengewürz, but if you’re anywhere else, that will be difficult to find. Instead, we’ll use common pantry spices to give the same delicious effect.
Just like gingerbread bars or gingerbread cookies, lebkuchen actually gets better with age. If stored properly, these cookies can last for up to two weeks! And every day that passes, the flavor of the cookies intensifies.
These cookies are moist and decadent without any butter or oil, which is impressive! The only fat in this recipe comes from the egg yolk.
Complete list of ingredients with quantities and instructions is located in the recipe card below
- Molasses: Be sure to buy unsulphered molasses or old-fashioned molasses rather than blackstrap molasses. That type isn’t well suited to baking and will ruin the recipe.
- Baking Soda: This adds rise to the dough, making the cookies fluffy and cake-like.
- Honey and Brown Sugar: For sweetness and flavor.
- Spices: A combination of ground spices including cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and allspice gives lebkuchen their traditional spicy flavor.
- Powdered Sugar and Lemon: Mix the sugar with the juice and zest from a lemon and 1 egg white to make a yummy hard icing for the cookies.
How To Make Lebkuchen Cookies
- Mix the Dry Ingredients: In a mixing bowl, combine the flour with baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice. Set aside.
- Mix the Wet Ingredients: In a separate bowl, beat the egg and brown sugar together until fluffy. Then mix in the honey and molasses.
- Combine to Make the Cookie Dough: Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, and mix until combined. If you’d like to add slivered almonds or candied fruits, now is the time to do that!
- Chill the Dough: Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for a minimum of two hours, but preferably overnight.
- Roll and Cut: Once chilled, roll the dough on a floured surface to ¼ inch thickness and cut out shapes with cookie cutters, or use a knife and cut into 3 x 2-inch rectangles. Place cut-outs on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
- Bake: Bake the cookies in a preheated 350°F (180°C) oven for about 12 minutes. Let the lebkuchen cool for a few minutes on the pan, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool while you make the icing.
- Ice the Cookies: While the cookies are still warm, combine the egg white, lemon juice, grated lemon zest, and a dash of salt in a bowl. Mix until smooth. Use a pastry brush to brush the glaze over the warm cookies, then let them dry before enjoying.
- Choose simple shapes: These cookies will spread and puff up while baking, so any detailed cookie shapes won’t work well. Try using a heart, star, snowflake, or circle cutter with lebkuchen.
- Add more icing: You can do more than one layer of lemon icing if you’d like. Let the first layer dry, then go back with more icing for the second round.
- If you’d like to add piping designs, try my royal icing recipe instead.
- Try chocolate: Dip the tops of the cookies in melted dark chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate to make them extra decadent.
How to Store Lebkuchen
There’s a trick to storing lebkuchen so they stay soft, even for weeks at a time! And you’ll want to make these cookies at least a few days before you need them because the flavor gets better with age.
The key is to place the cookies in a tin or another airtight container along with a slice of an apple! You could also use an orange peel. The cookies will absorb as much moisture as they need from the fruit.
Be sure to place layers of parchment paper in between the cookies so they don’t stick to one another.
After a few days, I suggest replacing your apple slice with a fresh one.
Other Holiday Cookies To Bake
- Gumdrop Cookies
- Gingerbread Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Pecan Tassies
- Chocolate Chip Snowball Cookies
- Candy Cane Cookies
Or check out all of our fun Christmas Cookie Recipes in the recipe index!
Is it OK to use raw egg whites in icing?
This icing is traditional, and as long as your eggs are fresh, I wouldn’t worry too much about it. For extra precaution, be sure to use pasteurized eggs.
Are There Nuts in German Lebkuchen Cookies?
Many recipes for lebkuchen call for chopped nuts to be added to the dough. To this recipe, you can add slivered or chopped almonds. You can also use the almonds as a decoration on top of the cookies, after icing them.
Is Lebkuchen the same as Pfeffernusse?
While both are similar in flavor and often made for Christmas, pfeffernusse are generally small rounded cookies, while lebkuchen are larger cutout cookies.
Have you made my Lebkuchen recipe? I’d love it if you left a comment to let me know what you think! And don’t forget to share this German cookie recipe with your friends so they can enjoy making it too.