Soft German gingerbread cookies made with hazelnuts, almonds, citrus peel, and lots of spices. This traditional Lebkuchen recipe is perfect for the holiday season.
The German gingerbread cookies or Elisenlebkuchen are an inherent part of traditional German Christmas baking. Just like the Vanillekipferl (actually Austrian, but hugely popular here as well), Spitzbuben, or German Butter Cookies, this is a traditional cookie we bake every single year in December. Check out our collection of the Best German Cookies.
The delicious German Lebkuchen is soft, spicy, chewy, and flavorful due to all those nuts, spices, and sweet peel. As a bonus, the cookies are covered in chocolate. And you will not need any flour to bake them.
You could also try our Gingerbread Cookies without Molasses.
What is Lebkuchen?
There are two types of Lebkuchen in Germany: Brown gingerbread made with flour, honey, or Zuckerrübensirup (molasses). The dough is heavy and kneadable, the kind of dough you can use to make gingerbread men, hearts, houses, or honey cake.
And then there are these Oblaten or Nürnberger Lebkuchen that don’t contain any flour, just ground nuts, eggs, and sugar. The dough is soft, cannot be shaped, and is meant to be scooped onto the Oblaten.
The German gingerbread cookies or Elisenlebkuchen are some of the finest German Christmas treats. They were invented sometime during the 14th century in German monasteries in Nürnberg. The Catholic monks used their Eucharist wafers (communion wafers) as a base for the soft gingerbread dough and added lots of warming spices to it.
As the town was such an essential medieval trade town, all the ingredients, like nuts and spices, that might have been more difficult to find elsewhere were integrated into the Oblaten Lebkuchen recipe.
- Nuts: An equal amount of ground almonds and ground hazelnuts.
- Spices: Traditionally, you would use Lebkuchengewürz, a typical German spice mixture used in any gingerbread recipe. However, as that is probably not available outside Germany and some other German-speaking European countries, I combined the spices to make my own Lebkuchengewürz or gingerbread spice mix.
- You will need cinnamon, all-spice, ground cloves, nutmeg, ground ginger, salt, and ground black pepper.
- Candied citrus peel: I used lemon peel and orange peel. They come already chopped in small packages, and they are sweeter and less citrusy in taste than you might expect. I mention that in case you are worried that you might not like a too-intense citrus peel flavor.
- Oblaten or Backoblaten: You can get them in three sizes: 90 mm, 70 mm, and 50 mm. I usually use the medium ones (70 mm) and get 20 Elisenlebkuchen from this recipe. You can also use white communion wafers if you cannot find them.
- Other ingredients: Three large eggs at room temperature, light brown sugar, and one tablespoon of clear runny honey.
- Glaze ingredients: Semisweet chocolate or/and white chocolate. You will also need a small amount of coconut oil. In Germany, you will need Palmin, coconut fat typically used for this purpose.
- Optionally, you can glaze the Lebkuchen with a simple sugar glaze. However, chocolate-glazed cookies are better. You can also top each one with three whole-blanched almonds if you like.
How to make German gingerbread cookies?
You will need a stand mixer with a paddle attachment or a regular electric mixer.
- Preheat the oven to 300°F/150°C. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Lebkuchen spice mixture: Mix all the ground spices in a small bowl. Set it aside.
- Candied peel: Place it in a food processor and pulse it a few times to make it finer. It should not become a puree, but the pieces should be finer (1). Alternatively, you can chop the peel by hand using a large chef’s knife.
Dough: Beat the eggs, brown sugar, and honey in a large bowl until light, fluffy, and creamy (2). Add all the ground nuts, spices, and chopped candied citrus peel. Mix until the dough is thoroughly combined (3).
- Scoop the mixture evenly onto the Oblaten and smooth it. Ensure that the nut mixture is spread evenly on the wafers; it should not be thicker in the middle and thinner around the edges but entirely even all over (4).
- Bake: Place them on the prepared baking sheet and bake them for about 20-25 minutes until they are golden brown (5).
- Let them cool before glazing them with chocolate.
- Glaze: Chop the chocolate finely. Place it in a heatproof bowl and add the coconut oil.
- Bain-marie: Find a pot large enough to allow the bowl to sit on top of it. Fill it about halfway with water. Place the bowl with the chocolate on top. Place it on the stovetop on medium heat and melt the chocolate at bain-marie, often stirring. Don’t let the water get too hot, or the chocolate will become grainy.
- If using two kinds of chocolate (dark and white), melt them separately.
- Dip the cooled Lebkuchen cookies in the chocolate, let the excess glaze drip off, and place them on a wire rack (6).
- Once all the gingerbread cookies are glazed, use the chocolate rests to decorate them. Use a teaspoon and sprinkle the dark chocolate cookies with white chocolate glaze and the other way around.
- Oblaten: they are always used for this lebkuchen recipe in Germany. However, should you not find them, you can still bake the cookies without them. I baked half a batch without Oblaten, and the cookies were just as delicious. They will be a bit softer and more delicate but will hold their shape.
- They will also stick slightly to the baking paper, so be careful when you remove them from the tray. Let them cool and firm up on the baking tray and use a large spatula to unstick them and lift them from the tray.
- Spice mixture: If you plan to make other cookies using Lebkuchengewürz in the following weeks, make a double or triple batch of the spice mixture and keep it in a jar; it will be great for at least 4-6 weeks.
- You can also double the entire recipe and make a big batch of cookies for the Christmas season; they keep well for several weeks.
- Easy clean-up: When glazing the cookies, place the wire rack on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper; you can use the same baking paper used for baking the cookies. This way, the excess glaze will drip off on the paper, making cleaning easier.
Pre-cut edible paper (rice or oblaten-paper) that is used as a base for baking cookies, like Lebkuchen or Nussmakronen. They are very common in Germany; you can buy them anywhere. Otherwise, you can find them online or in a German deli.
They are a part of the traditional German gingerbread cookie recipe, and they help stabilize the cookies during baking. However, I baked half a batch without using them to see how it worked. It worked!
They keep for at least two weeks, and the flavor and texture improve the longer they sit. Please keep them in an airtight container.
More German cookies
German Gingerbread Cookies (Lebkuchen Recipe)
- Stand mixer with a paddle attachment or electric mixer.
Spice mixture (Note 2):
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon all-spice
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
- ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
- ⅛ ground black pepper
- 1 pinch fine sea salt
- 100 g candied lemon peel 3 ½ oz
- 100 g candied orange peel 3 ½ oz
- 3 eggs large
- 90 g light brown sugar ½ cup
- 1 tablespoon clear honey
- 125 g ground hazelnuts 1 1/3 cup
- 125 g ground almonds 1 ¼ cup
- 20 Oblaten 70 mm diameter, Note 3
- 100 g semisweet chocolate 3 ½ oz, Note 4
- 100 g white chocolate 3 ½ oz
- 2 teaspoon coconut oil divided, 1 teaspoon for each chocolate sort
- Preheat the oven to 300°F/150°C. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Spice mixture: Mix all the ground spices in a small bowl. Set it aside.
- Candied peel: Place the peel in a food processor. Pulse it a few times to make it finer. It should not become a puree. Alternatively, chop it by hand using a large chef’s knife.
- Dough: Beat the eggs, brown sugar, and honey in a large bowl until light, fluffy, and creamy. Add all the ground nuts, spices, and chopped peel. Mix until thoroughly combined.
- Scoop the mixture evenly onto the Oblaten and smooth it with a spoon. Ensure that the nut mixture is spread evenly on the wafers; it should not be thicker in the middle and thinner around the edges.
- Bake the gingerbread for about 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Let them cool before glazing.
- Chop the chocolate finely. If using two sorts of chocolate, place them in two heatproof bowls, add 1 teaspoon of coconut oil to each bowl and melt them separately.
- Melt chocolate: Find a pot large enough to allow the bowl to sit on top of it. Fill it about halfway with water. Place the bowl with the chocolate on top and ensure the water doesn’t touch the bowl. Place it on the stovetop on medium heat and melt the chocolate at bain-marie, often stirring. Don’t let the water get too hot, or the chocolate will become grainy. Alternatively, use the microwave.
- Glaze cookies: Dip the cooled cookies in the chocolate, let the excess drip off, and place them on a wire rack (Note 5). Once all the Lebkuchen are glazed, use the chocolate rests to decorate them. Use a teaspoon and sprinkle the dark chocolate cookies with white chocolate glaze and the other way around.
- Optional: As soon as you glaze the cookies, place three blanched whole almonds on top of each one. In this case, don’t sprinkle the Lebkuchen with the extra chocolate glaze.
- Always use a digital kitchen scale in baking; it guarantees the best results (Amazon affiliate link).
- Lebkuchengewürz: You can make a double or triple batch and keep it for future use. Store in a jar in the cupboard for up to 6 weeks.
- Oblaten: You can also use white communion wafers of a similar size. You can make the cookies without Oblaten; they will keep their shape. However, they will be more delicate and stick slightly to the parchment paper. Once cool, unstick and remove them carefully using a large spatula.
- Chocolate: You can use only one kind of chocolate. Dark chocolate is traditional, but if you like white chocolate as much as we do, use it.
- Easy clean-up: Place the wire rack on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper; you can use the same baking paper used for baking the cookies. This way, the excess glaze will drip off on the paper, making cleaning easier.