Zimtsterne (Cinnamon Stars) are classic German Christmas cookies made from ground nuts that are chewy and naturally gluten-free!
Just like our Vanillekipferl (Almond Crescent Cookies) and Lebkuchen (German Gingerbread), these German Cinnamon Star cookies are perfect for the holidays and a favorite German tradition in our house.
These cinnamon-spiced star cookies are a delicious cross between a macaroon and a meringue. With their nutty flavor and chewy texture, Zimtsterne make a tasty addition to every advent cookie platter!
The unique thing about these cookies is that the snow-white glaze gets added before baking, not after, and because these cookies get baked (or better dried) at a low temperature, the glaze stays snow-white.
This recipe is a bit labor-intensive but well worth it, and if you follow my tips and tricks, you will master this classic recipe like a German Oma!
Why you’ll love this recipe
- Made with only 5 simple ingredients
- A beautiful addition to your cookie platter. These cookies look pretty and taste delicious!
- Authentic German recipe made without lemon juice, butter, or flour
- Eggs – You need 3 egg whites for this recipe. I always use large eggs.
- Sugar – This recipe is made with powdered sugar or icing sugar. For the best texture, sieve it before adding it to the eggs. You will need a bit more for rolling out the cookies.
- Vanilla – Traditionally these cookies are made with vanilla sugar, but you can also use vanilla extract or vanilla paste.
- Cinnamon – Ground cinnamon gives the cookies their distinctive flavor.
- Nuts – It’s a personal preference which nuts to use. You can use hazelnuts or almonds or a mixture of both. Make sure to use whole nuts or ground nuts made from whole nuts. The skin of the nuts adds color and flavor.
How to make this recipe
Detailed measurements and instructions can be found at the bottom of the page on the printable recipe card.
- Prep: Preheat the oven and line a baking tray with parchment paper.
- Mix: Beat egg whites until stiff, then mix in powdered sugar. You can use a stand mixer or an electric mixer. Set aside 1/3 cup for the glaze.
- Combine: Add vanilla extract, cinnamon, and ground nuts.
- Roll out: Dust the work surface generously with powdered sugar and roll out the dough to 0.4 inches (1 cm) thickness.
- Glaze: Transfer stars to the baking sheet and spread the reserved meringue on top of each cookie. Put a little bit in the middle of each cookie and spread it finely with a small knife or pastry brush.
- Bake: Bake cookies in the lower third of the oven for about 15 minutes. The meringue top needs to stay white, and the cookies should still be soft and look slightly wet on the bottom.
- Cool: Let them cook on a wire rack.
Expert Tips for success
- Whole nuts: It’s important to use ground whole hazelnuts or almonds for the best taste and texture. Almond flour isn’t a good substitute because it’s made from blanched almonds.
- Sticky: The dough will be sticky but it should be workable. Adding a few more tablespoons of ground nuts usually helps to bring the dough together.
- Sprinkle the work surface and dough with powdered sugar (icing sugar). You can also dust the rolling pin and dip the star cookie cutter in it. Don’t use flour.
- Rolling out: Placing the cookie dough between 2 layers of clingfilm makes it easier to roll it out.
- Cookies cutter: Using a star-shaped cookie cutter that has less pronounced points makes cutting out shapes easier.
- Rest: Some recipes also recommend letting the dough rest for 1 hour or more after mixing before rolling it out. This will make the dough less sticky but is not necessary, in my opinion.
Like Marzipan, Linzer Cookies, Lebkuchen, and Pfeffernusse, Cinnamon Stars are classic Christmas cookies in Germany. But they are also popular in other European countries, especially Austria, Alsace (a region of France), and Switzerland. The word Zimtsterne is a combination of the German words for cinnamon (Zimt) and stars (Sterne).
Cinnamon Stars or Zimtsterne are traditional German Christmas cookies made from ground nuts, usually hazelnuts or almonds, that have a meringue glaze on top that hardens during baking.
They’re also known as Erstesternen (first stars) and are eaten by German Jews as part of the first meal after the Yom Kippur
Almond flour doesn’t work well in this recipe because it is too fine and usually made from blanched almonds. You want these Cinnamon Star cookies to have a coarse texture and darker color, which they get from the skin of the nuts.
I like to use a mixture of ground almonds and ground hazelnuts. You can buy ground almonds or almond meal in the baking aisle of many grocery stores or natural food stores, but you can also make it at home in a mixer or food processor.
The dough might be very sticky depending on the size of the eggs and the kind of nuts you use. Freshly ground almonds or hazelnuts are moister than the packaged type, and the humidity in your home is also an influential factor.
The dough should be a bit sticky but workable. Check out the tips section of the post where I share a few tips for rolling out Zimtsterne which I’ve learned over the years.
How long to bake
These cookies will not change color while baking. The meringue top should stay snow white, but it will harden during baking, similar to meringue cookies. The cookies should still be soft and look slightly wet on the bottom. It’s important not to overcook them! They will firm up while cooling down and then get chewier after a few days.
You might wonder how long cinnamon star cookies are good. These cookies keep for about 3-4 weeks, stored in metal tins, this is the preferred storage way in Germany, or in an airtight container. You don’t need to store these cookies in the refrigerator! They get chewier as time passes and are a perfect Christmas cookie to make ahead.
More German Christmas Recipes to Try
Zimtsterne (Cinnamon Star Cookies)
- 3 egg whites
- 2 cups powdered sugar, sieved plus more for rolling out
- 1 tsp vanilla sugar, or vanilla extract
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 4 cup ground almonds, or hazelnuts or a mix
- Preheat oven to 280 degrees F (140 degrees C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites at high speed until soft peaks form. Add powdered sugar and mix until smooth. Set aside 1/3 cup of the meringue for glazing the cookies.
- Switch to the paddle attachment and add vanilla sugar, cinnamon, and 3/4 of the ground nuts. Beat until combined, then add as much of the remaining ground nuts so that the dough hardly sticks anymore.
- Dust the work surface generously with powdered sugar and roll out the dough to 0.4 inches (1 cm) thickness. Dust top with powdered sugar if needed. Cut out cookies with a star-shaped cookie cutter, and dip the cookie cutter in powdered sugar in between.
- Transfer stars to the baking sheet and spread meringue on top of each cookie. Put a little bit in the middle of each cookie and spread it finely with a small knife or pastry brush.
- Bake cookies in the lower third of the oven for about 15 minutes. The meringue top needs to stay white, and the cookies should still be soft and look slightly wet on the bottom.
- Pull cookies with the parchment paper onto a cooling rack and let them cool completely.