Russian Spice Cookies (Pryaniki)

Russian spice cookies pryaniki recipe

The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 12 mins
Refrigeration time: 60 mins
Total: 87 mins
Servings: 20 servings
Yield: 3 to 4 dozen
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
183 Calories
4g Fat
34g Carbs
3g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 20
Amount per serving
Calories 183
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 4g 6%
Saturated Fat 2g 12%
Cholesterol 37mg 12%
Sodium 95mg 4%
Total Carbohydrate 34g 12%
Dietary Fiber 1g 2%
Total Sugars 19g
Protein 3g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 50mg 4%
Iron 1mg 6%
Potassium 38mg 1%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

A pryanik (pryaniki is plural) is a Russian spice cookie (also known as honey bread) that is indispensable anytime tea is served, which is all the time, but especially at Christmas.

The simpler ones look like round mounds slathered with a flat icing, while more elaborate varieties, like the famous tula pryaniky, often were made in loaf form (thus, the term "honey bread") and stamped with a wooden press to produce an embossed decoration.

Russian spice cookies or honey bread have been made since the 9th century, originally with rye flour, honey, and berry juice. Over time, other natural ingredients were added to the mix, but it wasn't until trade began with the Middle East and India in the 12th and 13th centuries that spices were added. Typically, the cookies were laced with cloves, ginger, citrus fruits, pepper, nutmeg, mint, anise, ginger, and many other flavorings, giving them the name pryanosti or well-spiced.

Formerly, pryaniki held special significance and were baked for births, funerals, weddings, holidays, and any festive occasion. Newly married couples took a special pryanik to the bride's parents several days after their wedding.

Pryanik-making became such an art form and were in such demand that special craftsmen—pryanishniki—closely guarded their family recipes and passed them down from one generation to the next.

As you might imagine, recipes, flavors, shapes, and styles abound. Most often they are seen as cookies pressed into a mold, rolled and cut, or dolloped into mounds.

They are drizzled with thin flat white, pink, or chocolate icing and sometimes decorated with berries, nuts, or candied citrus peel, and some are filled with jam. Today, these fancier cookies are round with a stamped decoration and often filled with jam.

Don't forget to serve pryaniki with tea from a samovar for a traditional experience or that traditional Russian wintertime beverage known as sbiten.

"These were tasty little spice cookies, and they baked perfectly. The cookies do spread a bit, so make sure to leave 2 inches between them. I added a few drops of vanilla to the glaze mixture, and the cookies were delicious. " —Diana Rattray

Pryaniki: Russian Spice Cookies/Tester Image
A Note From Our Recipe Tester


For the Cookie Dough:

  • 3 cups (374 grams) all-purpose flour

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, optional

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice, optional

  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

  • 2 large egg yolks

  • 1 large egg

  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar

  • 3 ounces (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted

  • 3/4 cup (265 grams) honey, or ​agave syrup

  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the Glaze:

Steps to Make It

Note: this pryaniki recipe is broken down into two steps—making the dough and making the glaze—to help you better plan for preparation and cooking.

Make the Cookie Dough

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for Russian spice cookies
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga
  2. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, optional nutmeg, optional allspice, and salt. Set aside.

    Sift flour
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga 
  3. In a large bowl, beat together the egg yolks, the whole egg, granulated sugar, butter, honey or agave syrup, and vanilla. If using agave syrup, bake 25 degrees lower (325 F) because the cookies will brown faster.

    Egg yolks
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga
  4. Mix in the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until well combined. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

    Mix in dry ingredients
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga
  5. Position a rack in the upper and lower portion of the oven and heat to 350 F. Using a 1 tablespoon cookie scoop, portion out mounds of dough and roll them in your hands until they are a completely smooth ball. Place 2-inches apart on parchment-lined cookie sheets. They will flatten out somewhat as they bake but still retain a domed shape.

    Cookies on tray
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga
  6. Bake until just golden, rotating the sheets halfway through for even baking, 10 to 14 minutes. Cool on the sheets until the cookies firm slightly. Transfer to racks to finish cooling.

    Bake cookies
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

Make the Glaze

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Make glaze
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and enough water to form a thin icing.

    Whisk confectioner's sugar
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga
  3. Spread on cooled cookies with a pastry brush.

    Spread on cookies
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga
  4. Allow icing to harden before serving.

    Icing on cookies
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

Recipe Variations

Pryaniki with lemon glaze: Make the glaze with lemon juice and a dash of finely grated zest instead of water.

Glaze the cookies with royal icing or an icing made with egg white powder.

How to Store Pryaniki

  • Store pryaniki in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.
  • To freeze unglazed, completely cooled pryaniki, arrange them on a baking sheet. Place them in the freezer for a few hours. Once the cookies are frozen solid, transfer them to zip-close freezer bags or a freezer container. Label the container with the name and date and freeze the cookies for up to 2 months. Defrost the cookies on the counter at room temperature and ice them as directed.

Fun Fact

  • Tula, a half-day's drive from Moscow, became the pryaniki-making capital of Russia (much like Toruń in Poland). The Tulsky Pryanik museum still stands in Tula today.