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Top 13 German Cookies: German and Christmas Favorites

Top 13 German Cookies: German and Christmas Favorites

Germany is a country that loves its biscuits. The proof of this is the large catalog of different biscuits this Central European country offers. Although hard to choose from so many, in this article, we’ve compiled a list of our top 13 favorite German biscuits (we've picked a few out of many beloved biscuits worldwide). Our first article about favorite biscuits from various countries was about top 13 British biscuits, which proved to be a really interesting article. Similarly, we wanted to see and share with you the most popular and tasty German biscuits. You'll see that most of them are Christmas biscuits, the reason being that Germany is well known for its Christmas biscuits above any other kind. We would want to clarify that you are free to eat them whenever you want, because who says that you can’t!

This list is comprised of some of the most well-known German biscuits. The rankings are based on the popularity of the biscuits or what German biscuits are the most famous, how interesting their back story is, and their importance in the German culture. So, let’s begin!

13 Heidesand: Nature Inspired

We’re starting off the list with a simple, yet tasty traditional German biscuit  – Heidesand. This biscuit is a shortbread biscuit made with brown butter, which gives it that velvety butter flavor. Heidesand biscuits are easy to make and simple, but really tasty. Because they are so simple you can easily add a few ingredients to make the recipe more interesting.

Heidesand is a pastry-like biscuit beige in color. The color is reminiscent of sand, which is exactly why the biscuit is called Heidesand – the word means “heath sand” and alludes to the Lüneburger Heide, a heathland in northern Germany, where the biscuit comes from. The land in this area is covered with sand and beautiful purple heather. The area is popular for tourists and photographers because of the pretty vegetation. Heidesand biscuits made their way on this list because of this connection they have with Germany’s geography and culture.

12 Bettmänchen: A Product of Respect and Delicious Marzipan

Bettmänchen is a biscuit considered a specialty of the German city of Frankfurt. They are shaped in small balls of dough garnished with three almonds on the sides. Bettmänchen is made with marzipan, rosewater, flour, sugar, eggs, and other tasty ingredients, all of which make for both a chewy and firm biscuit  – chewy on the inside, firm and crispy on the outside. The core element of the biscuit is definitely the famed marzipan.


What is marzipan?

Marzipan is essentially a paste made out of sugar and almonds that is used in desserts to add the nutty, almond flavor or as fondant on cakes. Marzipan is often a part of recipes in Europe but less so in America, where people use almond paste instead. As you can probably guess, the two are not the same.

Almond paste vs. marzipan

Generally, marzipan is sweeter and smoother than almond paste because the former having additional ingredients like sugar and eggs. The difference in ingredients makes for a slightly different flavor as well.

Almond paste is less smooth, actually being firm in texture, which makes it particularly good for filling baked goods but hard to shape or manipulate. Marzipan is easily shaped and molded to create different ornaments on cakes.

The History behind Bettmänchen

The name of the biscuit is tied to its origin. Bettmänchen was created in 1838 in Frankfurt by a Parisian chef Jean Jacques Gautenier, who cooked for the influential German family – the Bethmann family. The chef invented the biscuit made out of marzipan and topped it with four almond halves, supposedly to honor Bethmann's four sons – Karl, Moritz, Alexander, and Heinrich. The biscuits are named after them, too -  Bettmänchen meaning “little Bettmann's“. Now you might wonder how come the cook placed four almond halves, while it was stated earlier that you usually put three almonds on the biscuit. There is a legend that says Heinrich died a few years after Gautier invented the biscuits and since then the Bettmänchen were decorated with one almond less.

Bettmänchen is very popular in Germany as it is made in many homes and sold in many bakeries.

11 Spritzgebäck: Swirls of Fun and Sweetness

Spritzgebäck is the name of a simple pastry with a fun swirly shape made by spraying the dough through a piping bag or something similar. Their name comes from the German word spritzen which means “to squirt/spray” and Gebäck, meaning “a pastry”, referring to their method of making.

They’re made out of simple ingredients like flour, butter, sugar, and eggs. These tasty buttery biscuits are very popular in Germany, especially around Christmas time when many families gather around and make them. Spritzgebäck isn’t too sweet or strong, making it an ideal light snack to be eaten with tea or coffee.  What is always great about simple biscuits, like these, is that you can make many variations and add different ingredients to make something more interesting, exciting. This is why a popular variation is chocolate-dipped Spritzgebäck with the ends of the biscuit dipped in flavorful dark chocolate. Chocolate makes the biscuit richer in flavor and visually more appealing. Some like to put jam or jelly inside of the biscuits for a fruitier taste, while some mix certain spices and ingredients like vanilla, orange/lemon zest, or cocoa into the pastry to create a new flavor. With or without these extra ingredients, Spritzgebäck is delicious, buttery, and crunchy which provides for a fun little treat to snack on.


10 Wibele: The Sweet Vanilla Swabian Specialty

Wibele is a sweet biscuit made out of flour, powdered sugar, egg whites, vanilla sugar, and vanilla flavorings that is shaped like the figure-eight or a shoe sole. It is the traditional biscuit of the region Baden-Württemberg in Germany (the Swabian region) and its specialty, which is why it's rare to come across this treat elsewhere. Wibele is made in Swabian homes and in confectioner's shops, bakeries, delicatessen stores, etc. Germans like to eat Wibele with mulled wine or as an accompaniment to coffee. Because of the inclusion of vanilla sugar and vanilla flavorings, the biscuits carry a strong aromatic vanilla flavor that satisfies the taste buds so easily.

The History of Wibele Biscuits

Wibele is supposedly first made in 1763 in Langenburg and its creator is thought to be Jakob Christian Carl Wibel, the court confectioner to the Prince of Hohenlohe-Langenburg. Wibele came up with the recipe in order to please the prince.

Another notable date for Wibele is the year 1965 when the British monarch, Queen Elisabeth visited Germany and was given Swabian Wibele as a present.

9 Glühweinplätzchen: Like Fine Wine

Number nine on this list are Glühweinplätzchen, delicious biscuits made out of butter, eggs, flour, mulled wine, jelly, and other lovely ingredients. Strong and aromatic, the biscuits remind of a warm home, Christmas, and that intoxicating mulled wine taste.

Glühweinplätzchen is a pastry-like biscuit with the inner part filled with the mulled wine extract and jelly, which give it a strong flavor and coloring. The biscuits are tasty and attractive. We love them for their flavor and connection to mulled wine.

Glühweinplätzchen, Mulled wine cookies

What is the Difference between Wine and Mulled Wine?

Mulled wine, also known as spiced wine, is a beverage usually made with red wine and various mulling spices, and sometimes raisins. It is served hot or warm and is alcoholic, although there are non-alcoholic versions of it as well. Mulled wine is usually made and drunk at Christmas time and is served at Christmas markets throughout Europe. Spices used in mulled wine are numerous, the prominent ones being: cinnamon, honey, star anise, slices of oranges, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, and others. The spices give the wine a more exotic, richer flavor.

Mulled wine is very popular in Europe, especially in Germany, the Netherlands, Scandinavian countries, as well as in the UK.

Mulled wine is different from regular wine because the regular wine isn’t cooked or spiced the way mulled wine is. Also, regular wine is most of the time drunk cold, while mulled wine is drunk hot or warm, making the latter particularly fitted for wintertime.

8 Anisplätzchen: Biscuit Full of Spicy Flavor

Anisplätzchen are traditional German biscuits whose flavor, smell, and appearance definitely stand out. This is because of the key ingredient that makes the biscuits super spicy – aniseed. It enriches the flavor and smell of a usually simple biscuit made with simple ingredients like eggs, flour, and sugar. However, the special appearance of Anisplätchen is not a result of the aniseed but of the preparation technique used to make them. You see, when the dough is prepared it's not immediately baked, rather left to 'rest' for some time (approx. 4 h). What this does is it allows for the egg whites and sugar in the dough to rise, creating a meringue-like top layer. The layer becomes visible while the biscuits bake and the result is the white creamy-looking biscuit. The preparation process makes Anisplätzchen light and crispy, while still soft on the inside. Sometimes this process of baking is called 'self-frosting' since the biscuit creates its own top layer that is like a frosted crème. For those who like a strong and aromatic biscuit, Anisplätzchen is a must.

Anisplätzchen, Anisette Cookies

Photo By Brittny/

7 Aachener Printen: National Heritage

One of the most interesting German biscuits is definitely Aachener Printen, gingerbread-based biscuit officially produced only in the city of Aachen and a few neighboring villages. This means that Aachener Printen is regionally protected as a product of Aachen exclusively. The biscuits have a unique flavor as a variety of spices are mixed in the dough, some of which are cinnamon, aniseed, and ginger. Aachener Printen has an oval shape because the dough is placed into oval molds, although some are pressed into molds of different shapes as well. This process of pressing the dough into the molds is exactly why the biscuits are named Printen. The biscuit is pretty hard because it doesn’t contain ingredients that provide moisture: there are no eggs, milk, fat, or water in the recipe. Additionally, it contains three types of sugar that caramelize during baking, which influences the biscuit’s hardness as well.

These biscuits have a long history, having been being made since the 15th century by the locals. There are many stories about the origins of the Aachener Printen.  One mentions a baker from Nuremberg who invented the Printen based on the recipe for Nuremberg gingerbread, slightly changing the recipe so that a hard gingerbread was created - the Printe, which then found its way to Aachen, where it got really popular. Another legend, a dark one, tells that it was an apprentice baker who popularized the Aachener Printen by taking the recipe from German emperor Karl. But the thing is, the emperor had already passed away and had taken the recipe with himself to the grave, not sharing it with the country. Emperor’s tomb location was undisclosed to the public so the recipe would have been never discovered if it hadn’t been for the apprentice baker who supposedly made a pact with the devil to get the recipe. He got the recipe and made a great success out of the biscuit production. True or not, these legends definitely make the story behind Aachener Printen’s origin exciting and add to the biscuit’s popularity. Many tourists around the world come to Aachen knowing that they cannot return home without trying the city’s delicacy: it’s a must, just like visiting the Aachen Cathedral, the 9th-century old cathedral where the body of Emperor Charlemagne is buried. Because of its rich history, Aachen is nowadays one of the favorite tourist destinations in Germany.

Aachener Printen

6 Hausfreunde: Checked for All the Creaminess

Next on our list is a popular German Christmas biscuit  – the delicious, sweet rhapsody that is Hausfreunde. They’re so good because of the fact that the pastry is covered with yummy apricot jam and fine almond paste (or marzipan), AND dipped in dark chocolate. Yes, it’s that good! As the cherry on top Germans usually put caramelized walnuts on the top (literally), making this biscuit one of the creamiest and most exciting biscuits we have ever heard of.

The name of the biscuit is in German and translates to English as a friend of the house which probably alludes to the fact that they are favored among guests visiting loved ones for Christmas. Hausfreunde is sometimes called a “sandwich biscuit” because the pieces of pastry are separated by a layer of jam and almond paste just like how sandwiches are formed.

Although the biscuit is very creamy and velvety, the creamy part is hardened by keeping them in the refrigerator, so you can easily eat them with your hands.

Hausfreunde are never a miss, how could they be with all the flavorful components! Despite being usually eaten for Christmas, they’re also great for other forms of celebration and special occasions throughout the year like a wedding or a birthday party. To put it simply, these biscuits are never unwelcome.

5 Pfeffernusse: Snow White of the Biscuit  World

One of the loveliest German biscuits is the white, glazed Pfeffernusse. This is a small round biscuit made of different ground spices, molasses, brown sugar, white pepper, honey, flour, etc. that is a very popular in Germany. It’s similar to gingerbread in fragrance and slightly in flavor, which are both rich in these two biscuits.

Pfeffernusse is not just a German biscuit as it has been a part of the Dutch and Belgian culture too. The biscuit supposedly originated in the wide area spanning the three countries and is linked to the feast of Saint Nicholas, which is celebrated on December 5 in the Netherlands and on December 6 in Germany and Belgium. On this day children receive presents from St. Nicholas, who is an inspiration for the Santa Claus tradition. Supposedly, this was the time of the year when Pfeffernusse were baked.

The name of the biscuit, Pfeffernusse, translates to peppernuts, which alludes to one of the ingredients used in the recipe – white pepper, and to the biscuit’s shape – walnut-like. We find it particularly interesting how the recipe involves white pepper, white glaze on the biscuit, and the fact that it’s made mostly in winter – this is why we like to think of it as the Snow White of the biscuit world. Well, we also like to think of Pfeffernusse as the best German pepper biscuit.

Pfeffernusse became a favorite among families around the world, so much so that a special day is designated to celebrating the biscuit  – December 23 is the National Pfeffernusse Holiday in the US.


4 Vanillekipferl: Tender Vanilla Biscuits of Shared Origin

Vanillekipferl is one of the most popular Austrian biscuits made with ground nuts and dusted with vanilla sugar. Yes, you read that right. Vanillekipferl were actually created in Austria but they soon spread to the German territory and are one of German favorites nowadays. Vanillekipferl are recognizable as a German treat. The biscuits are widely eaten in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary as well. With the long shared history of Vanillakipferl between Austria and Germany we’ve decided to put the tender biscuits on our list of top German biscuits, while still keeping in mind that this little treat was first made in Vienna, Austria. Vanillakipferl are crescent-shaped biscuits that are dusted with vanilla sugar, which gives them their typical delightfully sweet flavor. These biscuits are tender, nutty, and just melt in your mouth. They are made out of common biscuit ingredients and traditionally without eggs or baking powder. What binds the ingredients together is butter and nuts. A staple Christmas biscuit, Vanillakipferl is often brought as a gift when visiting relatives and friends during the Christmas holidays.

As with many other sugar biscuits, Vanillakipferl keep fresh for a long time if they are stored in an air tight container (they can last for up to 3-4 weeks).


3 Springerle: True Art of the Baker

Springerle is a traditional German biscuit with history leading back to at least 700 years in the past. It’s an anise-flavored biscuit that Germans gift to their loved ones as a lucky charm on special occasions such as holidays, weddings, births, etc. Springerle originates in the German region of Swabia in southern Germany.

Their name comes from German and means “little jumpers” because they rise or “jump up” while baking.

Springerle is both a crunchy and a chewy biscuit, with the center being chewier and the outer part crunchier. But what is more prominent when it comes to these biscuits is their appearance. They are a true work of art. Springerle is put into molds with various designs so the biscuit has these intricate little pictures on its surface. In the past the molds were made out of wood and it was the baker’s duty not only to bake the biscuits but also to make their own wooden carvings on the molds. If the baker had successfully created beautiful ornamentations in the carving he was considered an excellent baker. The more beautiful and intricate the mold was, the more hailed was the baker.

The motifs on the biscuits can be pretty much anything. Dominant motifs changed throughout history, from the religious ones in the 15th century, to pictures of gallantry and knights, then on to pictures representing love, landscape, friendship, etc. in the Romantic period of the 19th century. In the 20th century, dominant pictures were of Santa Claus, reindeer, and Christmas trees. These Christmas motifs are still the most popular as the biscuit is mostly baked for Christmas, however, it can also be baked throughout the year, proven by many examples of biscuits with different pictures such as flowers, landscapes, and other picturesque carvings.

Springerle biscuits

2 Zimtsterne: The Tastiest Star

At Christmas time, one of the symbols we see on Christmas trees or in churches is a star, which is a symbol of the light that led three wise men to baby Jesus. The star symbol is omnipresent during Christmas time even when it comes to biscuits. The most popular star-shaped biscuit is the German Zimtsterne (cinnamon star), a Christmas biscuit full of enchanting nutty sweet flavor. Zimtsterne is made almost completely out of groundnuts, traditionally out of almonds, but nowadays people also add hazelnuts to the recipe. The stars are glazed with a delicious white icing made out of egg whites and sugar that is called meringue in the culinary world. Another important ingredient is vanilla sugar, a common ingredient in European recipes, but rarely used in America.

Zimtsterne, cinnamon stars

Zimsterne and the Christmas market

These biscuits are often found at Christmas markets in Germany, as well as in Austria and Switzerland. These markets are widely visited in Germany during Christmas time; you can buy all sorts of Christmas foods at these markets and have a wonderful time out with your loved ones, surrounded by Christmas lights, beautiful music, and the warmth of the Christmas spirit.

1 Lebkuchen: Germany’s Favorite

We’ve come to the most popular German biscuit  – Lebkuchen or known as gingerbread (“Lebkuchen” in English is “gingerbread”). This is the biscuit most would immediately associate with Germany. These biscuits are sold at every Christmas market, basking the markets with the wonderful spicy gingerbread fragrance. Lebkuchen is made out of various spices, the prominent one being ginger, hence the name, and in many different designs and shapes. Yes, Lebkuchen is easily personalized and molded into pretty much whichever motif and shape you would want. The biscuit is baked on oblaten which are thin wafers, and can be coated or glazed either with dark chocolate or sugar icing. It’s an empty canvas that is easily filled in endless ways, which is why we love these treats so much. The best known variety is definitely lebkuchenherzen (gingerbread hearts) which are elaborately decorated with icing and different inscriptions as well as the well known gingerbread man

Lebkuchen, gingerbread man

German Lebkuchen Tradition

Lebkuchen are traditionally baked throughout Germany with many regional varieties, such as Nuremberg gingerbread and Aachener Printen.  It’s said that the origin of Lebkuchen goes way back to biscuits of the ancient times and has its predecessor in the “honey cake” which was eaten by Ancient Greeks, Romans, and even Egyptians. These people adored honey cake because of honey, the only sweetener they had, which they considered a gift from gods. The Lebkuchen itself though was supposedly created in the 13th century by monks in Franconia. It immediately became a favorite for the people, which is why it was considered so important to make the best Lebkuchen. Attesting to this is the fact that in the German past there were bakers who specialized in making Lebkuchen – they had specific names for this profession – LebküchlerPfefferküchlerLebzelterLebküchner. Some bakers use these names too if they pride themselves in their Lebkuchen products. It could be said that Lebkuchen has now become a German honey biscuit /cake.

Which Lebkuchen is the best?

The answer is simple: whichever one you find the best. With so many varieties, there will always be options to choose from so no one type is the best one. Feel free to try different recipes and see for yourself which one is your favorite.

That was our list of Top 13 German biscuits. Do you agree with our list? Let us know!

Have you tried any of these biscuits and what are your thoughts on them?

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