Learn how to make Lebkuchen cookies with this easy recipe! Chewy, sweet and flavored with cozy winter spices, these classic German treats are the perfect addition to a holiday cookie tray.
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What Are Lebkuchen Cookies
Lebkuchen are traditional German cookies that are especially popular around the holiday season. Like gingerbread, Lebkuchen get much of their flavor from a combination of brown sugar and spices. But while most gingerbread cut out cookies are hard and crisp, Lebkuchen are soft, dense and almost cake-like.
- When you bake Lebkuchen, zesty spices like cloves and ginger fill your kitchen with a festive fragrance that’s all but guaranteed to get you in the holiday spirit.
- The honey-sweetened treats are the kind of cookies you’ll want to enjoy around a roaring fire while snow softly falls outside.
You don’t have to be German to understand why Lebkuchen cookies are such an enduring Christmas tradition for so many families. Whether you grew up eating Lebkuchen or you’re trying them for the first time, I know you’ll love these delicious and unique cut out cookies!
- Honey and brown sugar – You will combine the two on the stove top to create a thick syrup that sweetens the Lebkuhen.
- Egg – We use half of a large egg for this recipe. See FAQs below for how to measure your egg!
- Lemon – You will need both the zest and juice of a lemon. Follow our guide for how to zest a lemon for best results.
- Salted butter – The added salt enhances the flavor of the honey and spices in Lebkuchen, making it a better choice than unsalted butter for this recipe.
- Spices – This recipe uses a combination of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger and all spice for a perfect spicy flavor.
Before you set out to make Lebkuchen, keep in mind that they take some planning ahead. The dough needs to be made a day ahead of time. That means these are not the kind of cookies you can make on a whim at the last minute!
Once you’ve made the dough, cover it in plastic wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator for 24 hours. This step is crucial!
Letting the Lebkuchen dough rest helps give it that perfect chewy, dense texture when it bakes. Plus, it allows all those delicious brown sugar and spice flavors to mingle and develop.
Seriously, do NOT try to cut corners by skipping or reducing the rest time. It’s worth it; I promise!
Once the dough has chilled, it’s time to roll out the dough. Roll it out into a rectangle or oval about a quarter inch thick. Cut the cookies into your desired shapes and bake.
Whisk together powdered sugar and water to form a glaze. Brush the glaze on baked cookies. Let the glaze set for a few minutes before eating your delicious homemade Lebkuchen!
Tips and Tricks
- I recommend basic shaped cookie cutters for Lebkuchen. The dough puffs as it bakes so simple shapes like hearts and circles are best. Save your intricate cookie cutters for our perfect sugar cookies instead!
- Keep an eye on these cookies as they bake. Honey burns quickly, so you need to take the Lebkuchen out of the oven as soon as they look lightly browned.
- Give your glaze more flavor. Swap out the water with lemon juice, orange juice or apple juice. Brandy is another flavorful alternative we love.
To measure the egg, whisk a whole egg in a small bowl. Then use either a measuring cup or kitchen scale to divide the contents in half.
YES, Lebkuchen dough is very sticky when it’s first made. This is totally normal and expected. As it rests it will firm up to a more workable consistency for rolling and cutting out. Another reason why it’s so important to let the dough rest!
Store these cookies in an airtight container at room temperature. The German method for storing Lebkuchen is to put an apple wedge in the container with the cookies. The apple’s moisture keeps the cookies soft.
Stored tightly covered with an apple wedge (see above), your homemade Lebkuchen will stay fresh and soft for as long as 3 weeks!
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For the Dough
- 6 Tablespoons honey
- 7 Tablespoons dark brown sugar packed
- 2 Tablespoons salted butter
- ½ large egg see notes below
- 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¼ teaspoon all-spice
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
For the Glaze
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 2 Tablespoons water
- In a small saucepan, combine honey and brown sugar. Cook over medium heat until sugar dissolves, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and whisk in the butter. Allow to cool (should only be warm to touch), about 15 minutes.
- Once cooled, whisk in the half of an egg, lemon juice and lemon zest. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine remaining dry ingredients. Add the honey mixture and stir to form a sticky dough. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it rest 24 hours in the refrigerator.
- After chilling, remove dough from refrigerator and allow it to rest at room temperature for about 15-20 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper, set aside.
- Turn dough out onto a well-floured work surface. Roll out to about 1/4-inch thickness. Cut desired shapes and place 2-inches apart on cookie sheet.
- Bake until lightly browned, about 11-13 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 5 minutes on pan, then remove and cool on a wire rack.
- For the icing, whisk sugar and water until smooth. Brush warm cookies with sugar glaze and allow to set.
- To achieve half and egg, whisk the egg in a small bowl, then divide the whisked egg in half either by measuring or weighing.
- You will need one lemon to zest and juice for today's lebuchen recipe. Use our tips and tricks on how to zest a lemon for best results!
- The dough may appear very sticky, but it will thicken and firm up as it sits in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Letting the dough rest is a crucial part of making lebkuchen cookies. It not only allows the dough to achieve a perfect consistency, but also helps the flavors mingle and develop.
- Use basic shaped cookie cutters as the dough puffs as it bakes. Save your intricate cookie cutters for our perfect sugar cookies instead!
- Bake your cookies with a watchful eye. If they are looking done early, take them out as the honey may get burnt if overcooked. For best results, use an oven thermometer!
- If you want to flavor your icing, using apple juice, fresh lemon zest or juice instead of water, minced fresh ginger, or Brandy are great options.
- Store cookies in airtight container at room temperature for up to three weeks (these cookies stay fresh a long time if kept airtight). The German trick to fresh cookies is to stick a wedge of apple into the airtight container. The moisture from the apple keps the cookies soft and fresh. If cookies begin to harden, replace the apple wedge with a fresh piece!
- Lebkuchen are traditional German cookies, similar to gingerbread, but softer, chewier, and dense.
Sweet, spicy and brushed with glaze, Lebkuchen Cookies are German Christmas tradition everyone can enjoy!