Pepernoten (Dutch Honey-Anise Sinterklaas Cookies)

Traditional pepernoten recipe

The Spruce / Nita West

Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 30 mins
Resting Time: 24 hrs
Total: 24 hrs 50 mins
Servings: 15 servings
Yield: 3 dozen
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
124 Calories
1g Fat
27g Carbs
3g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
×
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 15
Amount per serving
Calories 124
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 1g 2%
Saturated Fat 0g 1%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 141mg 6%
Total Carbohydrate 27g 10%
Dietary Fiber 3g 10%
Total Sugars 10g
Protein 3g
Vitamin C 0mg 1%
Calcium 65mg 5%
Iron 1mg 5%
Potassium 100mg 2%
*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.)

This easy recipe—from Amsterdam's most famous patissier, Cees Holtkamp—delivers a fragrant batch of homemade pepernoten, the old-fashioned Dutch anise and honey cookies that are traditionally enjoyed as part of Dutch Sinterklaas festivities.

Even though the Dutch themselves struggle to keep it straight, pepernoten should not be confused with kruidnoten. In fact, aside from their confusingly similar names and the fact that both cookies are consumed in the weeks surrounding St. Nicholas Day, they are nothing alike.

Pepernoten is made with honey and ground aniseed and have a chewy texture, a subtle licorice flavor, and a rustic rusk-like shape. Kruidnoten are tiny, round crunchy cookies similar to gingerbread and are flavored with a heady blend of spices, including cinnamon, mace, white pepper, cardamom, cloves, and nutmeg.

The following recipe is from Koekje cookbook and has been translated from the original Dutch and published here with the permission of the publisher. While we've converted the recipe to U.S. measurements, this is a patissier's recipe and you'll get the best results using a digital kitchen scale and the original European measurements.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup honey

  • 1/4 cup water

  • 1/2 cup bruine basterdsuiker (see note below)

  • 3 1/3 cups rye flour

  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

  • Sunflower oil

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons ground aniseed

  • 1 tablespoon baking powder, sifted

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for pepernoten
    The Spruce / Nita West
  2. In a saucepan, heat honey with 2 3/4 tablespoons of the water and the sugar until mixture reaches 194 F on a candy thermometer.

    Heat honey
    The Spruce / Nita West
  3. Remove saucepan from heat and mix in rye flour and salt using a hand mixer with a dough hook attachment (or pour mixture into bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment and knead dough that way).

    Blend
    The Spruce / Nita West
  4. Knead dough thoroughly. Grease some plastic wrap with sunflower oil and cover dough with plastic wrap. Allow dough to rest for one day at room temperature.

    Knead the dough
    The Spruce / Nita West
  5. The next day, preheat oven to 340 F. Add ground anise, remaining 1 1/3 tablespoons water, and baking powder to dough. Knead well.

    Dough on cutting board
    The Spruce / Nita West
  6. Rub a little sunflower oil into your hands and roll little balls, roughly the size of a marble.

    Rub sunflower oil on hands
    The Spruce / Nita West
  7. Place the balls into a round spring form cake tin. The cake tin may be densely packed, it doesn't matter if the pepernoten touch each other.

    Place balls in cake tin
    The Spruce / Nita West
  8. Bake pepernoten for 20 minutes, until golden brown. When you lightly press down on the cookies, they should bounce back a little.

    Bake pepernoten
    The Spruce / Nita West
  9. Take tin from oven, invert over a dish, and separate pepernoten. Allow to cool and keep in an airtight container.

    Traditional pepernoten
    The Spruce / Nita West

Tips

  • Basterdsuiker is a typical Dutch product and cannot be substituted easily. It is manufactured by adding invert sugar and other ingredients to fine white refined sugar. This mixture helps to achieve certain textural structures and keeps baked goods moist. There are three varieties, white, brown and dark brown, called witte basterdsuiker, (licht)bruine basterdsuiker or gele basterdsuiker and donkerbruine basterdsuiker. It is widely available at Dutch supermarkets and from some Dutch groceries on the internet.
  • Pepernoten should be baked in a spring form tin so that the edges don't bake too quickly or they will get too hard.
  • Because ground anise loses its flavor quickly, we advise buying this spice whole and crushing them just before you need them. Use a spice grinder, a mortar and pestle or place the spices in a bag and bash with a rolling pin. Sieve and use only the fine powder in this recipe.