10 German Christmas cookies you have to bake this winter

Fire up your ovens and get ready to bake - here are 10 festive German cookies and pastries that'll give you yuletide joy.

10 German Christmas cookies you have to bake this winter
A woman samples handmade Vanillekipferln. Photo: DPA

 1. Vanillekipferln (vanilla crescents)

Photo: Astrid Kopp / Flickr

These delightful little crescent-shaped biscuits just melt in your mouth. They are normally made from ground almonds or hazelnuts, and then given a heavy dusting of vanilla sugar. More-ish is an understatement – you’ll easily devour a whole plate of these.

Here’s a recipe to try. 

2. Springerle

Photo: Frank C. Müller / Wikimedia Commons

Traditionally anise-flavoured, bakers create the intricate designs by using a special rolling pin printed with images. The first German examples of such prints were in the 15th century and designs have been evolving ever since.

Ken Hamilton calls himself “The Springerle Baker” and provides a pretty comprehensive recipe.

3. Pfeffernüsse (pepper nuts)

Photo: Dan Phiffer / Wikimedia Commons

Despite the name, these cookies don’t necessarily contain nuts – it depends on what recipe you use. Traditionally, a Pfeffernuss is baked with honey and spiced up with ground cloves, cinnamon and allspice.

There’s a recipe here to get you going.

4. Lebkuchen

Photo: Silar / Wikimedia Commons

German gingerbread comes in several forms, though its often glazed with either a thin icing or chocolate. It’s less crispy than a gingerbread man and definitely more, well, bread like. There’ll be no shortage of these at the Christmas markets, as you’ll see hundreds of different designs hanging from stalls.

They come in all shapes and sizes, but here’s a BBC recipe to try out.

5. Berliner Brot (Berlin bread)

Photo: Julian Schüngel / Flickr

Another nutty treat, these brownie look-a-likes are harder to find than the Lebkuchen. They also combine the delicious flavours of hazelnut, almond, cinnamon and sugar, and are well worth a try.

Try out the recipe here, and see how long they last in your kitchen.

6. Bethmännchen (little Bethman)

Photo: Astrid Kopp / Flickr

Most commonly found in Frankfurt, these Christmas pastries are made mainly from marzipan, rosewater and sugar, and are normally decorated with almonds around the outside. These tiny mouthfuls of joy will impress everyone at your Christmas party.

German-born food blogger, the Daring Gourmet has a great recipe for the treats here.

7. Heidesand (heather sand)

Photo: Thomas Kohler / Flickr

These Lower-Saxon crumbly biscuits have an addictive buttery flavour. Traditionally just made from a light-coloured cookie-dough – that’s why they’re named after sand – there are now many different variations on the recipe, such as the chocolatey ones pictures above.

The Daring Gourmet also has a recipe with step-by-step pictures for a more traditional Heidesand.

8. Zimtsterne (cinnamon stars)

Photo: Winfried Mosler / Flickr

We wouldn’t dare make a list of cookies and not include these beauties. “Cinnamon stars” are made from egg whites and almonds and a whole lot of cinnamon, resulting in a sweet cookie with a kick.

The BBC has a four-step recipe to try out here.

9. Printen

Photo: DPA

Alright, some people might point out that Printen are a type of Lebkuchen, and they’re right, but we feel they warrant their own spot on our list. Originating in Aachen, these cookies are sweetened with honey or sugar beet syrup. Some bakeries offer versions covered in nuts, coated in chocolate, or blanketed with marzipan.

Check out this recipe and make your own Aachen Printen this winter.

10. Haselnussmakronen (hazelnut macaroons)

Photo: DPA

Egg whites, ground hazelnuts and sugar are all you need to produce these chewy delights. Top them with a hazelnut or a candied cherry and then dip them in chocolate – you can’t go wrong. Though, come to think of it, you also couldn’t go wrong by applying all three techniques to one cookie.

This recipe adds a raspberry twist to the Haselnussmakronen, and it’s apparently so easy – “you just throw the dough together, heat up some jam and you’re almost there.” 

Member comments

  1. Hello – great list thanks. But…any chance there is a link to recipe for Vanillekipferln that isn’t behind a paywall on a UK news website? Seems like not directing readers to subscription only or paywall sites might be a good rule of thumb.

  2. Hello – great list thanks. But…any chance there is a link to recipe for Vanillekipferln that isn’t behind a paywall on a UK news website? Seems like not directing readers to subscription only or paywall sites might be a good rule of thumb.

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


How to master second-hand shopping like a German

From strict recycling rules to selling on clothes or other items, Germans love to get the most out of goods. Zazie Atkinson explains how to dig around for second-hand treasure.

People walk at the Mauerpark flea market in Berlin in summer 2020.
People walk at the Mauerpark flea market in Berlin in summer 2020. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jörg Carstensen

If there’s one thing people tend to associate with Germany, besides beer and cars, it is that it has a reputation for being a green country.

People in Germany love to recycle (hence the seemingly dozens of different bins to separate their rubbish into – and the angry reactions if you do it wrong), and the nation is generally considered to be taking the fight against climate change seriously. 

As a result, there is a huge second-hand culture in Germany – the turnover of goods sold in second-hand retail outlets increased from €1.9 million in 2012 to almost €2.2 million in 2020. 

And what has become increasingly noticeable in recent years, is that the former stigma and shame around buying second-hand clothing has largely been replaced – it’s now viewed as being stylish and caring for the environment. 

READ ALSO: The complete guide to recycling in Germany

So how do you go about finding second-hand goods in Germany?

There are many in-person stores, ranging from flea markets, charity shops, vintage stores and other second-hand shops. A lot of these are independent stores so you’ll also be doing your bit to support local businesses. Keep a look out (or search online) for ‘An-und-Verkauf’ – by and sell – stores. 

In terms of chains, you’ll find Humana, Germany’s biggest second-hand retailer that raises money for social causes, and Re-Sales dotted around the big cities, such as Berlin, Cologne, Leipzig, Hamburg and Nuremberg. Humana’s stores are often pretty big, and you won’t necessarily find high fashion brands, but if you rifle through the many racks of clothes, you’re sure to find good deals and sometimes even vintage pieces. 

Pick’n’Weight stores have also been gaining popularity in recent years across the globe, with vintage clothes being sold by the kilo. 

Second-hand clothes being sold in Karlsruhe.

Second-hand clothes being sold from the Badisches Staatstheater’s trove in November 2021 in Karlsruhe. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Philipp von Ditfurth

Familiar charity shops such as Oxfam can also be found across Germany, from Hamburg to Stuttgart, Düsseldorf and Dresden, as well as German Red Cross stores, or RotkreuzLaden

It’s also worth digging around for second-hand jewellery shops where you can find some great deals and unique pieces. 

And if it’s a used bike you’re after, look no further than the big second-hand bicycle markets that tend to spring up in German cities throughout the year. In Berlin, you can find a huge collection of bargain bicycles at specialist flea markets in Moabit, Kreuzberg and Prenzlauer Berg, while in Munich, you can find 1,000s of used bikes at an annual flea market in Zenith. Events are often advertised on Facebook and on the state government website, so be sure to keep an eye out for the next one near you!

The second-hand trend has also made its way into department stores; the Berlin Senate for example voted to open a number of second-hand department stores across the city, hoping to rival the popular Galeria Kaufhof or Karstadt.

The B-Wa(h)renhaus opened in September 2020, with Berlin’s State Secretary for the Environment and Climate Protection Stefan Tidow claiming he wanted to bring second-hand initiatives out of the niche and into the mainstream for all Berliners. Unfortunately, due to coronavirus restrictions, the store had to shut, however it is hoping to reopen by February 2022, so make sure you keep a lookout.

READ ALSO: Five ways living in Germany makes you greener (without even realising it)

Go online

There are apps specifically created to re-selling and buying second-hand items. Particularly during previous Covid lockdowns, many people turned to online shopping to buy everything from groceries to clothes and more. Luckily, there are now a number of websites and apps to buy and sell used items. 

Among the most widely used in Germany are Vinted (formerly known as ‘Kleiderkreisel’) and Zalando Zircle. Anyone with a smartphone can download these apps and buy and resell used clothing and accessories, a lot of the time at just a fraction of the original price. 

Another popular app in Germany is Ebay Kleinanzeigen, where you will also find used furniture, cars, books, appliances and even apartments, as well as Facebook Marketplace, which you might be familiar with. 

The Ebay Kleinanzeigen app.

Ebay Kleinanzeigen is popular among Germans for selling and buying used items. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Catherine Waibel

Alternatively, there are also apps and websites made for renting clothes, such as CLOTHESfriends, a Munich-based startup.

Another handy website to check out if you live in Berlin is the A-Gain Guide, which is a digital map that can help you upcycle your own pieces across the city. Users can search for alteration tailors, second-hand stores, designers, collection points, cobblers and other initiatives to give their clothes a new life. 

‘Zu verschenken’

Something that I’ve also noticed since moving to Berlin is that many people leave their old clothes or books on their doorstep, on the side of the street or in apartment stairwells for neighbours to take. They are usually in a box with the tag ‘zu verschenken’ – to give away. 

While it is of course recommended to wash or clean any items first, it is a great way to avoid old clothes ending up in landfill and adds to the community feel of Berlin. As an anonymous user on a forum querying what to do with unwanted furniture said; “bring it to Berlin and leave it here – someone will take it.”. 

Sometimes people also leave furniture on the street. If it’s in a good condition, it’s another way to decorate your home without spending money, and doing your bit for the planet. 

By shopping second-hand, you can shop both sustainably, and cheaply. And it seems in recent years, second-hand shopping has slowly moved into the mainstream, not just for those in need or the more environmentally conscious.

Useful vocabulary

Flea market – (der) Flohmarkt

Charity shop – (der) Wohltätigkeitsladen

To buy second hand/used – gebraucht kaufen or Second-Hand kaufen

An-und Verkaufläden – Buy-and-sell shops (An-und-Verkauf is typically seen on signs on many second hand shops)

Jewellery shops – (die) Schmuckgeschäften

We’re aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.