Traditional Swedish Pepparkakor Recipe

This traditional Swedish Pepparkakor Recipe makes deliciously crisp spice cookies with ginger, cinnamon, cardamom and clove. They’re a Scandinavian Christmas tradition and they’re absolutely fabulous!

Pepparkakor Cookies on a baking tray.

Have you ever seen a cuter Christmas cookie?

This recipe comes from the Nordic Baking Book by Magnus Nilsson. Nilsson runs the famed restaurant Fäviken, in Sweden. The book is a fascinating, well-researched collection of traditional Nordic baking recipes from breads to cakes and cookies.

I think cut out cookies are a must, at least once during the holidays. This pepparkakor recipe is lighter in color and flavor than my Easy Gingerbread Cookies with Royal Icing recipe. The paler cookies lend themselves to a fun Scandinavian modern theme and they’re a nice change from tired old gingerbread men 😉

A bowl of decorated Pepparkakor Cookies.

What are Pepparkakor? (peh-par-KAH-kor)

Pepperkaker in Norway, Piparkakut in Iceland, Brunkager in Denmark, Piparkokur in Iceland

Pepparkakor, or pepper cookies in Swedish, are spiced ginger cookies. They come under the general heading of gingerbread cookies, and are traditionally baked for St Lucia’s Day (December 13th.)  They’re also eaten at Christmas and make beautiful rustic ornaments for the Christmas tree.

Want to make pepparkakor ornaments?

Use a small straw to pierce a hole in the cookies before baking. If the hole fills in during baking, pierce again just after the cookies come out of the oven. When cool, thread a thin ribbon or string through the hole for hanging.

 

Pepparkakor Cookies on a white wooden background.

Ingredients in pepparkakor

  • flour
  • butter
  • golden syrup (sirap) or honey
  • milk
  • spices ~ cinnamon, clove, ginger, and cardamom. I used freshly ground cardamom because I was low on the pre-ground stuff, which resulted in a distinctive flavor that I really enjoyed.

What is golden syrup?

  • Golden syrup (sirap) is a kind of sugar syrup that is common in Scandinavian baking. It’s used the same way that molasses is used in gingerbread cookies, but it is much lighter in color and flavor.
  • Many stores in the US do carry imported golden syrup, so definitely use it if you have it! You can also substitute honey like I have here, or even maple syrup.

 

Rolling out dough for Pepparkakor Cookies and cooling cookies on a baking rack.

I rolled these cut out cookies out a bit on the thicker side, so they bake up somewhere between soft and crunchy. This way I can package them as gifts for friends without worrying about breakage. You can roll them out thinner for more of a crisp cookie if you like.

My reindeer, Dala horse, and moose cookie cutters are perfect for pepparkakor

Pepparkakor cookies can be cut in simple hearts or star shapes, or made in any shape you like. I used simple Scandinavian modern horse, reindeer, and moose cutters.

Decorated Pepparkakor Cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

How to get soft, unique colors from a basic box of food coloring

Don’t settle for the brash boring colors that come out of the little bottles, here are some easy tips for mixing truly beautiful, custom shades that take your cookies to the next level.

  • To get pastel shades, especially when coloring small amounts of glaze, don’t add full drops of color, which can be too intense. I sometimes put a drop of coloring on a small plate, and use a toothpick and add small amounts to my glaze. Be sure to mix in thoroughly before adding more, it takes time for the coloring to get fully incorporated. Remember, soft colors are generally more appetizing then deep dark colors when it comes to frostings and glazes.
  • To create subtle color variations try adding a small touch of the opposite color in the color wheel. For reds, add a tiny touch of green, for blues, add orange, for purples add yellow ~ and vice versa.

No food coloring? Try these natural food coloring ideas 

  • Matcha powder makes a pretty green
  • Freeze fried berries like blueberry and raspberries (Trader Joe’s carries them) can be pulverized into a fine powder and used for pretty pinks and purples.
  • Ground turmeric and saffron make glorious yellows.

Decorated Pepparkakor Cookies on parchment paper.

How to do simple decorations on gingerbread cookies

Decorated Christmas cookies don’t have to be complicated to be gorgeous, and you definitely don’t have to be an artist to pull it off!

  • You can coat these cookies with a layer of frosting, or decorate the plain cookies for a rustic look, both are beautiful.
  • To make simple white designs on your pepparkakor put your glaze or icing into a small baggie, twist the frosting down into one corner, and snip off a tiny bit from the very tip of the corner of the bag. Pipe dots and lines onto the cookies by gently squeezing and twisting the bag. You can also use a store bought tube to do this, there’s no shame in that! Use these photos as a guide to inspire your simple decorations.
  • Accent your designs with a touch of color using sprinkles like colorful balls and simple shapes like the holly leaves, below. A red nose on the reindeer is always fun.

Pepparkakor cookies on a baking sheet

More Scandinavian recipes from the archives ~

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4.78 from 18 votes

Swedish Pepparkakor Cookies

This traditional Swedish Pepparkakor Recipe makes deliciously crisp spice cookies with ginger, cinnamon, cardamom and clove.  They're a Scandinavian Christmas tradition and they're absolutely fabulous!
Course Dessert
Cuisine Swedish
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
chilling 12 hours
Yield 24 cookies
Author Sue Moran

Ingredients

For the cookies

  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey, scant (100 ml)
  • 1/2 cup milk, scant (100 ml)
  • 9 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1.5 tsp ground clove
  • 1.5 tsp ground cardamom
  • 3 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1.5 tsp ground ginger
  • 4 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1.5 tsp baking soda

For the icing

  • 3-4 cups powdered sugar, or more if planning to cover the whole cookie.
  • water, to thin
  • a few drops food coloring (optional)
  • pearl sprinkles (optional)

Instructions

For the cookies

  • Add the sugar, honey, and milk to a small saucepan. When measuring a "scant" cup of the honey and the milk, you want to it to be just under 1/2 cup, but not closer to 1/3 cup. If you can measure in milliliters, its exactly 100 milliliters.
  • Bring to a boil then turn off the heat and let cool slightly.
  • Add the butter and the spices to a mixing bowl, and pour the warm syrup mixture over them. Mix until the butter is melted and everything is combined.
  • Sift the baking soda, salt, and flour together, and then add to the butter and the syrup mixture. Mix until everything is evenly incorporated.
  • Shape the dough into a flat disk, and chill in the fridge overnight or up to 48 hours.
  • Preheat oven to 350F. Roll out dough to about 3/8" thick and cut out using cookie cutters.
  • Arrange cookies on a baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes, until slightly puffed and golden.
  • Allow to cool completely before icing.

For the icing

  • Mix the powdered sugar with just enough water to make a smooth but thick glaze. Divide the icing into smaller batches if you want to make different colors. You can also flavor the icing with a little vanilla extract or almond extract if you'd like. For pipping lines and small designs, keep your icing pretty thick so that it won't spread, there should be a little resistance when mixing it with a whisk. For covering the entire cookie like the green and blue reindeer, add a bit more water to the icing so that it goes on smoothly and is easier to cover the whole cookie before it starts to dry and crack. Try some icing on a test cookie if you're not sure about the texture!
  • For the light blue color I used, add 2-3 drops of food coloring to 1 cup or so of glaze.
  • For the darker green/blue color, add a couple drops of green and blue, and a tiny touch of red to tone the color down a bit.
  • Place the icing in ziplock bags or a piping bag fitted with a very small tip. Cut a tiny corner off of the ziplock bags if using. Decorate, and allow to harden completely before moving or stacking.

notes and variations

I didn't make many changes to the original recipe, except to divide it in half (it still makes a good sized batch of 2 dozen or so cookies), and I was out of golden syrup so I used honey. The original recipe used metric measurements, so that's why some of the amounts aren't perfectly round.
 
Recipe lightly adapted from The Nordic Baking Book
The nutritional information for recipes on this site is provided as a courtesy and although theviewfromgreatisland.com tries to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.

 

Pepparkakor Cookies pin.

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22 Comments

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    Please rate this recipe!




  • Reply
    Freya
    January 10, 2021 at 11:04 pm

    Hi! Thank you for the recipe! Both my boyfriend and I tried the recipe and we both had difficulties getting the dough to come together. It was very crumbly and needed extra milk to make it workable. Are the quantities of liquid correct?

  • Reply
    Heidi
    December 24, 2020 at 7:21 pm

    3 stars
    These were just okay. I used golden syrup instead of honey and feel like all the spice flavors got sucked into that and disappeared. They hold their shape beautifully, but just zero flavor.

  • Reply
    Fjaril
    December 23, 2020 at 2:36 pm

    5 stars
    I can’t thank you enough for posting this recipe! I like exploring my Swedish roots through food. I had never worked with a dough like this; it was an adventure and easy enough to roll after it had warmed up a few minutes out of the frig. I use an idiotic amount of cardamom in any recipe it calls for, and I threw in an extra half teaspoon here, too. They turned out fragrant and delicious. I am going to practice my frosting skills and make these again next year.

  • Reply
    Melissa
    December 19, 2020 at 6:39 pm

    3 stars
    The dough was way too crumbly, I had to add water and work the dough a lot to get it to roll out. And after all the work, the flavor is was unfortunately kind of bland.

  • Reply
    DaniiG
    December 19, 2020 at 1:04 pm

    5 stars
    I love these cookies so much so I’m making them for the first time for a Christmas gift! Question, is the dough suppose to be crumbly? When rolling out the dough, should I use water to keep the dough together?

    • Reply
      Sue
      December 19, 2020 at 1:39 pm

      The dough should not be crumbly, and depending on your flour, or how you measure it, etc, you may need to add a touch more milk to bring the dough together.

  • Reply
    Sara
    December 3, 2020 at 7:43 am

    Hola Sue!!!
    I would like to know if I can use mellasses (melaza) and if I can use in the same cantity of golden syrop…? last week I try mellases (the first time in my life) it was too sweet, may be too much so I am afraid if I will cook this cookies and I will make bad. I am sorry, my english is level 0 🙂 I prefer don ´t use google translate ( I am not myself)…
    Felices fiestas 😀

    • Reply
      Sue
      December 3, 2020 at 7:54 am

      Hi Sara! You can use molasses, I would use a light molasses (but not blackstrap molasses, which is very strong and bitter.) The cookies will be darker, and more like gingerbread. You can also use golden syrup. Hope this helps.

  • Reply
    Laurie A Garner
    November 15, 2020 at 11:15 pm

    5 stars
    These cookies are beautiful and I love how you made the vine decoration on the reindeer antlers! However, I followed the link for the cookie set, and it seems to feature the moose, the dala horse, and a heart shape. I couldn’t find any cookie sets that feature the actual reindeer. Is it possible it came from a different set? I just wanted to let you know because you linked to it in the actual post and then again in the comments, but it doesn’t actually feature the deer, as far as I can tell.

    • Reply
      Sue
      November 16, 2020 at 6:09 am

      Yes, it’s a small company and I think they must have changed out their offering. I’ll do some checking today and see if I can find my set and link to that.

  • Reply
    Phoebe
    November 14, 2020 at 6:17 am

    5 stars
    Hey Sue,

    I made these cookies recently and absolutely loved them, as did everyone in my household (even though I made them a bit too chunky). I did however find that trying to roll the dough out after being in the fridge almost impossible, I had to leave the dough out for a few hours before being able to effectively roll it. I’m just wondering if it would be ok to leave the dough in the fridge for less time, or omit the step completely? Any advice is welcome!

    • Reply
      Sue
      November 14, 2020 at 7:46 am

      Yes, you can refrigerate for less time. It’s common to have to let dough sit out a bit after chilling, it’s just one of those baking annoyances. But feel free to refrigerate just long enough so the dough is firm enough to roll. Glad you liked them!

  • Reply
    Michele
    December 21, 2019 at 4:57 am

    Hello Sue – how far apart do you space the unbaked cookies on the baking sheet? Thanks!

    • Reply
      Sue
      December 21, 2019 at 6:54 am

      These don’t spread, but I always give cookies at least an inch or two.

      • Reply
        Michele
        December 21, 2019 at 11:47 am

        Great, thanks for your quick and helpful reply Sue!

  • Reply
    Colleen
    December 10, 2019 at 7:22 am

    Sue, these really caught my eye with the pastel colours. So pretty! I like the deer shaped one. Any particular name it goes by? Or where did you get it?

    • Reply
      Sue
      December 10, 2019 at 7:27 am

      Hi Coleen, I link to the set I used in the post, it’s a cute Scandinavian set, and you can find it on the Internet, here

  • Reply
    Inger @ Art of Natural Liivng
    December 10, 2019 at 4:41 am

    5 stars
    So cute! I may have to break down and try some piping again!

  • Reply
    Michele
    December 9, 2019 at 3:10 pm

    5 stars
    Hello Sue – these are really lovely cookies, I love the subtle colours too! And that there is a good amount of cardamom.

    I am definitely going to try out the recipe this coming weekend – how long will the cookies last in an airtight container?

    Your blog is great, I always enjoy looking at the recipes and reading your notes.

    Thanks!

    • Reply
      Sue
      December 9, 2019 at 3:26 pm

      Thanks so much Michele, and yes, these kinds of cookies keep really well, I’d be comfortable with up to a week. You could also freeze the undecorated cookies.

  • Reply
    2 Sisters Recipes
    December 9, 2019 at 3:39 am

    5 stars
    These are beautiful spice cookies Sue!! Love the pastel colors too! Your holiday treats are always an inspiration for us to get started with our baking.

    • Reply
      Sue
      December 9, 2019 at 6:52 am

      Thanks so much, these were such fun to make!

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