This traditional Lebkuchen recipe is easy to make from scratch and loaded with nuts, candied fruit, and flavorful spices. Elisen Lebkuchen (German Gingerbread) are one of the most famous German Christmas cookies with their moist and soft interior and make a great edible gift during the Holiday season!
There are many different varieties of German Christmas Cookies like Vanillekipferl, Nut Corners, and Cinnamon Stars but these traditional Nuernberger Elisen Lebkuchen are a Christmas favorite!
Lebkuchen are the most famous German Christmas Cookies! German Gingerbread is soft and moist, unlike the hard gingerbread that is known in North America. It is made with nuts and a special spice mixture called Lebkuchen spice that is similar to Pumpkin Pie Spice and gives them their unique flavor. The best thing about these treats is that can be made weeks before Christmas because they keep fresh and moist for a long time stored in a cookie tin in a dry and cool place!
What are Lebkuchen?
Lebkuchen are traditional German Christmas cookies that somewhat resemble gingerbread. There are different varieties of Lebkuchen, Oblaten Lebkuchen and Elisen Lebkuchen, which are made with different amounts of nuts but the main ingredients are always a mixture of nuts, candied orange and lemon peel, eggs, sugar or honey, and sometimes marzipan. What makes the famous Elisen Lebkuchen so special is that they contain no flour!
These are my favorite Christmas cookies! A few years ago I started to make them myself after finding out how easy it is. This recipe makes a big batch of Lebkuchen, enough to share with friends and family.
Tips on how to make the best German Gingerbread Cookies
- Instead of buying ground almonds and hazelnuts, use whole nuts and process them in a food processor until they resemble coarse crumbs. In my experience, this makes the best Lebkuchen because the nuts taste fresher and are moister.
- Candied fruit is not everyone’s favorite but this adds flavor and moisture. Don’t leave it out!
- You can buy the baking wafers online or in Specialty Food Stores that carry German food. They are very similar to Communion Wafers which you get in church and are called “Backoblaten” in Germany.
- If you can’t find the wafers you can make these cookies without wafers. Use a silicone baking mat instead of parchment paper and place the batter with an ice cream scoop directly onto the mat. Use a wet knife or bottom of a glass dipped in water to flatten the batter. Dip the bottom of the Lebkuchen in Chocolate after they are cooled completely.
- There is no substitution for the Lebkuchen Spice Mixture! It is easy to make your own just follow my recipe.
- Lebkuchen keep fresh for about 3-4 weeks stored in an airtight cookie tin in a cool and dry place.
How to make Lebkuchen
Start with beating the sugar and eggs together until they are light and fluffy. The color of the mixture will get paler and the volume of the mixture will double while you mix it. A stand mixer works best for this! Then add all the other ingredients and mix until well combined. The German Gingerbread Spice Mix is very easy to make yourself but you can also buy it in some Specialty Food Stores that carry German food. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge overnight.
After resting in the fridge for at least ten hours, the Lebkuchen batter will be thick and have a texture like really thick porridge. It should be spreadable and keep its shape when you scoop it into balls.
There are a few ways of shaping the German Gingerbread. The easiest way is to use a “Lebkuchen Bell” or “Lebkuchen Mill”, but you can only get it in Germany so if you ever visit Germany during Christmas time definitely buy one at the Christmas Market. But you can also use a dough scraper or knife. Put a glass that has about the same diameter as the Oblaten (Buy them here) upside down, put one of the baking wafers on top and scoop about 3 Tablespoons of batter on it and use a knife or dough scraper to shape the Lebkuchen. Watch the video below to see how I do it!
The dough should be thicker in the middle and thin out to the edges. Dipping the knife or scraper in water helps if the batter starts to stick. If you can’t get your hands on Oblaten use a silicone baking mat instead of parchment paper and place the batter with an ice cream scoop directly onto the mat. Use a wet knife or bottom of a glass dipped in water to flatten the batter. It’s a bit more difficult but can be done.
Bake them for about 22 minutes, they should only barely brown on the edges and be soft in the middle. You want the Lebkuchen to be soft and moist and not hard and dry.
After they have cooled completely decorate them with a glaze. In Germany, you can get them without any glaze, with a dark chocolate glaze, or with a sugar glaze. My favorite is the sugar glaze but the chocolate glaze is the most popular. You can also press some blanched whole almonds into the glaze.
Melt 4 ounces quality dark together with 1 Tbsp coconut oil in the microwave or in a metal bowl set over some simmering water. Use a brush to coat the cooled Lebkuchen with the melted chocolate. Let the chocolate dry completely before putting them into a cookie tin.
Combine 1 cup sifted powdered sugar and 2-3 Tbsp of water in a small bowl and whisk until smooth. Use a brush to coat the cooled cookies with the sugar glaze. Let it dry before putting them in a cookie tin.
Tools and Ingredients used for making this Lebkuchen recipe
Wafers (Oblaten): You need about 40 of these for the Lebkuchen! They keep for a long time.
Candied Citrus Peel: Candied Citron and Candied Orange Peel are super important for this recipe! You can also make your own Candied Orange and Lemon Peel.
Gingerbread Spice: Gingerbread Spice is like the German version of Pumpkin Spice. I recommend that you make your own which is easy and much cheaper than buying a mix.
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German Lebkuchen Recipe
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 5 large eggs
- 1 3/4 cups ground hazelnuts
- 1 3/4 cups ground almonds
- 1/2 cup candied citrus peel, pulsed in a food processor
- 1/2 cup candied orange peel, pulsed in a food processor
- 3 tbsp German gingerbread spice
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 30-40 wafers, with a 70mm diameter (Oblaten)
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the eggs and sugar. Beat for about 15 minutes at medium speed until white and fluffy.
- Add the ground hazelnuts, ground almonds, finely chopped candied orange peel, finely chopped citrus peel, gingerbread spice and lemon zest. Whisk until combined then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the batter rest in the fridge overnight or for at least 10 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 320° F (160° C), line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Scoop the mixture with a spoon or an ice cream scoop onto the wafers (Oblaten) and smooth down the top until the very edge of the wafer with a wet knife. The dough should be thicker in the center and thinner on the edges. Set them on the lined sheet.
- Bake for about 22 minutes, or until the Lebkuchen are set but still soft in the middle and have barely started to brown around the edges. Leave them on the tray to cool down completely.
- Once the Lebkuchen are cooled, place a wire rack over a baking sheet (to catch the drippings). Dip the Lebkuchen in the chocolate glaze and let the excess drip back into the bowl. Then place the Lebkuchen on the wire rack. Let them dry completely and store them in an airtight container.
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years ago I went on a short trip to Switzerland around Christmas with my sister. The family that hosted me served leibkuchen for desert. my sister and I agreed that they tasted just like Christmas. these taste exactly like those cookies in Switzerland!
Can you recommend a good German cook book?
Hello, I was wondering – if less sugar is used, will this alter just the sweetness level or the actual structure of the cookie? And do you have a measure substitute to use honey in place of the sugar? TIA :)
Julia Foerster says
Sorry, Anne, I have never made this recipe with just honey or used less sugar than the recipe called for so I can’t give any advice. I would not recommend using a lot less sugar because it will change the batter and structure of the lebkuchen.
R Reed says
Absolutely delicious. So happy with the way they turned out.
70 cookies 😳 the Oblaten I could get was 50mm. My sister used the same recipe without Oblaten much bigger 18 cookies.
I haven’t baked cookies for years. Your recipe turned out to be easy with the help of your video and instructions. That was a big plus for me. .
We can buy German cookies at Christmas in our shops. They do not compare to your recipe.
Do you have alternative ingredients we could use for e.g. cherries and chocolate in the cookie dough. I remember eating a cookie with those ingredients in Nuremberg. I’m nervous to replace ingredients in case the recipe doesn’t work out.
Many thanks from Namibia
I have a question, could I use like 25 percent lightly toasted oat meal to the other nut meals just because hazelnuts are impossible to find.
Julia Foerster says
I would recommend using ground walnuts or pecans if you can’t find hazelnuts. I think oatmeal will soak up too much of the wet ingredients and make the Lebkuchen dry and hard to shape. Hope this helps!
Sylvia Yau says
I’m back to confirm my 5-star rating after baking and sampling the cookies, Thank you for a very clear recipe, and especially the photos and video. Your tip about using the bottom of a glass under the Oblaten to shape the dough was genius. My whole house smelled of sweet spice as the cookies baked.
Sylvia Yau says
I spent a few days in Nuremberg this past June with my family and, on the last day, bought a tin of Lebkuchen. Two days later, in Rothenburg, I finally opened the package and tasted my first one. I was hooked, and since then I have planned to bake these myself. First I shopped for the best recipe–to me, that meant no flour; hazelnut and almond meal seemed the most authentic. Then I made candied lemon and orange rind from scratch (and for good measure, some grapefruit rind as well) while I shopped for all the spices I didn’t already have. These I ground myself. Today, finally, I put together the batter and they are about to go into the fridge for their rest. I snuck a taste of the batter, and it’s divine! Tomorrow I’ll be able to report on how the baking went. Thanks for the recipe and for bringing back fond memories!
I went to Switzerland as a teenager with my sister and dad. Our hosts there gave us some cookies they called “Swiss Christmas cookies” which were absolutely delicious. The second my sister bit into these, she said that they’re exactly like those Christmas cookies – and I agree. They’re so special and fragrant. I’ve been bugged to make them again ever since.
I just made the batch and put in the fridge. However, I beat sugar and eggs for 15 minutes but with the yolks it did not turn white or get fluffy as just egg whites would. It looks just like the picture so I will bake tomorrow with fingers crossed. Can ÿou use swerve in this recepie?
If it looks like the picture it should be alright! Room temperature eggs work best, the mixture should increase in volume and get lighter but it won’t get white like egg whites. I don’t think swerve will work.
My boyfriend is German so I made this. So easy AND DELICIOUS
I just made these, the last batch is in the oven as I type. What can I say? Wow! These cookies are what Christmas tastes like. Christmas in every bite! The flavors are perfect, not overpowering. I have made these before with another recipe about eight years ago but this is THE recipe. The batter came out amazing, just like you said it would and the wet knife now makes complete sense. It was nice and firm after the chill and it did not spread in the oven. In my eagerness I ordered the wrong size Oblaten, 50 mm instead of 70mm, but I just adapted and they are still delicious. The other recipe also did not have Oblaten but I love the texture of it and how it holds the cookie together. Tomorrow the donning of the chocolate. Thank you again for this amazing recipe. Tomorrow is also my attempt with the Vanillekipferl.
Candis Angle says
I was wondering if there is a recipe for the white glaze? Thank you for sharing your recipe!
Julia Foerster says
The white glaze is a sugar glaze, you can find the instructions for it in the post just above the last picture.
I just made up my batter and put it in the refrigerator. It is pretty runny. Will it get thicker over night? My eggs were white but never very fluffy. I used the whole egg, not just the whites. Is that correct? Super excited to try these!! Thank you
Yes, it will get thicker overnight and have a consistency like really thick porridge. And yes, using whole eggs is correct. If the batter is not thick enough after being in the fridge overnight (never had that problem) you can add more ground nuts. – Julia
Margaret Mannix says
As the writer above reported, my cookies definitely spread when baking. The consistency looked the same, I did not have wafers and I baked on a silicone mat. They were also quite difficult to get off the matt. I am very fond of these cookies as we always had them at Christmas- my mom bought them commercially from a German baker. I have lost the closest recipe that I found and am continuing to try to find. The taste of these are quite close but I am not sure why they spread.
Mmh I never had this problem so I can only guess but whipping up the eggs with the sugar until the mixture is thick and has doubled in volume is really important, another thing that could make them spread is if the batter gets too warm. I made a batch myself yesterday that I will bake today and the dough was already pretty thick when I put it in the fridge yesterday but I will experiment a bit today to see if I can recreate your problem to fix it. – Julia
Rebecca Kitzmann says
Mine are turning out great! Batter sat overnight and was thicken enough to spread on the oblaten. They smell delicious. I’m going ice with chocolate and white glaze. Thanks for the recipe!
So happy to hear that, Rebecca!
I love this recipe! It worked so well for me and I covered them in dark chocolate. They taste better the more they age too!
I have to ask, where did you get (or who makes) the cute little Swiss chalet mug in the background of your first pic? So cute!
Hi, I made your Elisenlebkuchen today because my kids love the store bought from Germany. But, my batter, even after resting over night in the fridge, was not holding its shape on the silicone mat. It was not runny but it was not a stable texture. I tried to flatten them with wet knife but they still didn’t look like yours. Any advice? Thanks.
I’m sorry the recipe didn’t work for you, Dita! I’ve never had this problem before but if the batter is too runny even after resting in the fridge I would recommend adding about 1/4 cup (or more) ground nuts (or flour) to thicken the texture until you have the right consistency. – Julia
If I make my own homemade wafers (Oblaten), can you give me a weight of how much I would need to use in the recipe since I can’t go by number of wafers any longer?
100 2.75-inch (7cm) wafers weigh 71g. I’ve never tried making my own wafers so I don’t have any tips but I’ve tested this recipe without wafers and the lebkuchen turned out great. – Julia
I just got back from a week in Germany, including a visit to Nuremberg…and their outdoor market, where I bought the BEST Elisenlebkuchen! I just got the wafers from Amazon today and got all of the spices at our local food co-op to make the gingerbread spice. I’m excited to make the cookies this weekend…and will save them for Thanksgiving. Thanks for the authentic recipe!
I wonder, where did you add the flour?
On the ingredients list you don’t have it, nor on the instructions, so, why when a click on the link for getting the ingredients the flour appears as part of one of the ingredients…I’m confused!
I’m so sorry for the confusion but there really is no flour in this recipe! I don’t know why Chicory shows flour as an ingredient, sometimes these plugins make mistakes and confuse ingredients. The only ingredients used in this recipes are the ones listed on the ingredients list. Have a great weekend! – Julia
FLOUR – The oblaten wafers that you form the cookies on are made of wheat flour and starch. They become part of the cookie when you bake them. My niece cannot eat wheat so I’ll make a few for her without the wafers. The recipe looks yummy. Looking forward to baking them. I have had authentic lebkuchen from Nuremberg and they do have the wafers on the bottom and chocolate coating. I have most of the spices but will need to order the missing few and the wafers online. Thanks!
How do you make the chocolate glaze?
I use about 3 ounces quality dark chocolate and 1 tbsp coconut oil to make my glaze. Melt the chocolate and oil together in a small bowl in the microwave (or use a double boiler)
while stirring occasionally, until melted. Happy Holidays!