Christmas in Germany cannot be celebrated without Lebkuchen. They are  a traditional German cookie that is a bit like gingerbread, but usually has a bit more substance added to the dough like carrots, raisins and nuts. They were originally created by Medieval monks in Franconia, Germany in the 13th century and bakers in Nuremberg were recorded baking them as early as 1395. Nürnberger Lebkuchen are now some of the best known, and often most highly regarded, Lebkuchen around.


lebkuchen recipe

I always imagined that it would be rather difficult to make Lebkuchen, but aside from the fact that they take a while to make (about 4 hours with all the various steps), they really are quite simple. Having some good helpers in the kitchen is crucial though!

And I found that although the Lebkuchen you buy in the stores tend to dry out fairly quickly, the ones you make at home only get better and moister as the weeks pass. So these are a perfect gift to make at the beginning of December, mail to friends and family, and still know that they will be fresh and delicious even after Christmas has come and gone…assuming they make it that long.

You’ll often find a thin white wafer under the cookies called Oblater, which the monks used to keep the cookies from sticking. But since that’s not an ingredient you’ll readily find in the US (and because we didn’t find any that would be nearly large enough for our cookies which are bigger than the palm of your hand), this recipe doesn’t need them.

Pack the cookies in tins or wide-mouth glass jars to turn them into really cute gifts. I used 1 liter Weck jars to package up some of the cookies to give to our favorite neighbors, and secured the lids with tape since they otherwise just sit on top.

lebkuchen recipe

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Cuisine German
Cuisine German
  1. In a medium pot, combine honey and sugar. Stir at medium-high heat until the sugar begins to dissolve. It will be a thick paste-like consistency.
  2. Remove it from heat and melt in butter or margarine. Add cinnamon and cloves. Let cool for about 15 minutes.
  3. Wash raisins in a colander and let dry off. (Yes, I know it sounds strange and I’ve definitely never washed raisins before. But there are often little bits of stuff in the package that you just don’t need in your cookies.)
  4. In a large bowl (bigger is better, you’re putting a bunch of stuff in there), combine flour, cocoa and baking powder. Add carrots. Mix in honey mixture. Combine as well as you can and then add raisins, almonds and eggs. Combine well. Chill the dough for 3 hours.
  5. If you’re short on space in the refrigerator and it’s cold out, just cover the bowl and set it outside. But make sure it get it back in should it start snowing! True story.
  6. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).
  7. Now you need to form the cookies. The dough is going to be extremely sticky so now you have two options: use your hands or use two spoons.
  8. Hands on: Wet your hands and take small balls (about two tablespoons full) of dough. Form them into little cookie patties. Flatten the dough slightly on top. Place on baking sheet covered with parchment.
  9. Spoon method: This is a bit tricky since the dough is so sticky, but it will save you from getting messy. Grab a bit of dough between the spoons and place it onto the baking paper. Having a helper to hold the paper in place is useful because getting the dough off the spoons can be complicated…especially when you try to flatten the dough.
  10. The dough will spread quite a bit as it bakes, probably just about doubling in diameter. Try to leave about 2 inches of space between the cookies.
  11. Bake in preheated oven for about 30 minutes. The cookies will spring back when you touch them.
  12. Remove from the oven and cool on a baking rack.
  13. Once the Lebkuchen have cooled (about 10 minutes), they’re ready for decorating.
  14. Lebkuchen can be found with many different coatings on top to add to their calorie content. Each cookie probably has about 400 calories when all is said and done — so you definitely don’t need many of these to snack on. Glazing made from powdered sugar (125g / about 9 tablespoons) and 1-2 tablespoons water is very common — just mix the two ingredients together in a small bowl or glass and brush it on or drizzle. But our favorites usually involve lots of chocolate.
  15. Melt the chocolate and it with a spoon, drizzling and spreading it over the top of the cookies as you like. Or put the chocolate in an icing bag that you’ve purchased or made yourself. A plastic sandwich baggie with one corner cut off works great. Or use powdered sugar and stencils to add other unique touches.
  16. We ended up with about 7 different kinds, just using the chocolate we had left over from the chocolate bark and a few chopped almonds. You can also leave them plain for more of a gingerbread flavor.
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