Lebkuchen are the perfect Christmas treat. These tasty spiced German cookies are delicious as a snack or even as an edible Christmas present!
When I was a student I lived in Germany for a year, working in a school as an English assistant. One of the things I fell in love with while I was there was lebkuchen. I don't think I'd ever had them before I went to Germany and they were unlike any of the Christmas cookies I'd had in the past.
What are Lebkuchen?
Lebkuchen are spicy gingerbread biscuits which are eaten a lot at Christmas time in Germany and often given as gifts. They are small and bite-sized and usually covered in a thin glaze, often flavoured with lemon. They are quite easy to find in the shops here now at Christmas but 20 years ago they were quite new to me.
Memories of Lebkuchen in Germany
The warming spices in these lebkuchen remind me of my time in Germany. I loved visiting various Christmas markets, drinking warming spicy glühwein and of course eating Christmas cookies like these.
I have to say, I'm getting quite nostalgic thinking back to my time in Germany. There are so many other recipes from my time there that I'd love to recreate. Whenever I visited German friends they invariably had a delicious selection of cakes on offer and would serve them with strong fresh coffee. By the way, I love eating one of these lebkuchen with my afternoon coffee. It's the perfect treat when I get back from the school run!
Ingredients for lebkuchen
To make these lebkuchen you'll need:
- Honey - Clear runny honey is best for these
- Butter - Salted or unsalted is fine.
- Plain flour - I usually use plain white flour but I'm sure you could add in a little wholemeal flour if you wanted.
- Ground almonds
- Spices - ground ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and black pepper
- Baking powder
- Bicarbonate of soda
- Lemon zest
To make the glaze you'll need:
- Lemon juice - I prefer to use the juice of a freshly squeezed lemon but you could use bottled lemon juice.
- Icing sugar
How do you make lebkuchen?
Lebkuchen are easy to make but they can take some time as it's best to make the dough one day and then leave it overnight and bake the cookies the next day.
Basically you melt the butter and honey in a saucepan. Put all the other ingredients in a bowl. When the butter and honey have melted you pour them onto the other ingredients and stir to form a stiff dough.
Put this dough in the fridge and leave overnight.
When you are ready to make the lebkuchen, divide the dough into about 15 balls and put them on a baking tray, leaving a space between each cookie. Bake.
When they are ready, let them cool on a wire rack. Whisk the icing sugar into the lemon juice and dip the top of each lebkuchen into the glaze.
Can you adapt this Lebkuchen Recipe?
If you want to make any variations to the recipe you could switch in different spices or spice blends.
You could also use orange zest instead of lemon zest.
If you don't have much time or want to avoid refined sugar then you can leave these cookies unglazed. I usually glaze half the batch and leave the rest plain as my daughter doesn't like icing. If you do glaze them it definitely makes them into more traditional German Christmas cookies. They also make a great Christmas gift!
How long can you store lebkuchen?
Lebkuchen are a great Christmas recipe for making in advance as they store very well. If you keep them in an airtight container they should last for at least 2 weeks although in our house they are usually gone in a couple of days!
Can you freeze them?
Yes you can although if you know you won't want to eat them all immediately I would advise you to freeze the uncooked dough rather than the baked lebkuchen. You can freeze the dough in balls ready to take straight from the freezer and bake from frozen.
Lebkuchen: German Christmas Cookies
- 100 ml clear runny honey
- 40 g butter
- 125 g plain flour
- 45 g ground almond
- 2 teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- Pinch ground cloves
- Pinch nutmeg
- Pinch black pepper
- 1 lemon zest use the zest of 1 lemon
Ingredients for the glaze
- 1 lemon juice
- 3 tablespoon icing sugar
- Put the honey and butter in a pan over a low heat and leave to melt.
- Put all the other ingredients in a bowl.
- When the butter has melted, pour into the bowl and mix well. It should all form one ball of fairly solid dough and come away from the sides of the bowl.
- Cover and leave to cool. Ideally leave overnight. I waited 24 hours before moving onto making the biscuits.
- Preheat the oven to 180°c. Line a baking tray with baking parchment.
- Roll the dough into about 15 balls about 3cm wide. Squash so they are a little flatter. Put them on the baking tray.
- Bake in the oven for 15 minutes at 180°c. Leave to cool on a wire rack.
- Make the glaze by whisking the icing sugar into the lemon juice. Dip the biscuits into the glaze then return them to the wire rack.
Pin for Later
More Christmas Recipes
Why not try one of these Christmas recipes?
If you are having Christmas pudding then do take a look at my rum sauce recipe too!