Traditional Swedish Pepparkakor Recipe (2024)

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

Traditional Swedish Pepparkakor Recipe (1)

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 😉

Traditional Swedish Pepparkakor Recipe (2)

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.

Traditional Swedish Pepparkakor Recipe (3)

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.

Traditional Swedish Pepparkakor Recipe (4)

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.

Traditional Swedish Pepparkakor Recipe (5)

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.

Traditional Swedish Pepparkakor Recipe (6)

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.

Traditional Swedish Pepparkakor Recipe (7)

More Scandinavian recipes from the archives ~

  • Scandinavian Almond Bars
  • Roast Chicken with Potatoes, Apples, and Brown Cabbage
  • Finnish Salmon Soup
  • Norwegian Rhubarb and Almond Cake
  • Chopped Steak with Bacon and Mushroom Gravy

Traditional Swedish Pepparkakor Recipe (8)

Swedish Pepparkakor Cookies

4.77 from 30 votes

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

Print RecipePin RecipeRate Recipe

Prep Time:30 minutes minutes

Cook Time:10 minutes minutes

chilling:12 hours hours

Total Time:12 hours hours 40 minutes minutes

Servings: 24 cookies




  • 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)


to make 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 350°F. 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.

to make 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.


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

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Course: Dessert

Cuisine: Swedish

Author: Sue Moran

Keyword: baking, cardamom, Christmas, cookies, dessert, gingerbread, holiday


Calories: 227 kcal · Carbohydrates: 45 g · Protein: 3 g · Fat: 5 g · Saturated Fat: 3 g · Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.3 g · Monounsaturated Fat: 1 g · Trans Fat: 0.2 g · Cholesterol: 12 mg · Sodium: 169 mg · Potassium: 42 mg · Fiber: 1 g · Sugar: 27 g · Vitamin A: 140 IU · Vitamin C: 0.1 mg · Calcium: 15 mg · Iron: 1 mg

Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy and is an estimate only. This information comes from online calculators. Although The View from Great Island attempts to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.

Did You Make This?We love seeing what you've made! Tag us on social media at @theviewfromgreatisland for a chance to be featured.

Traditional Swedish Pepparkakor Recipe (9)

Traditional Swedish Pepparkakor Recipe (2024)


What does pepparkakor mean in english? ›

Pepparkakor or Pepparkaka means pepper cookie / pepper cookies. Peppar means pepper in Swedish and kakor or kaka means cookie, biscuit and can also mean cake so it can be a bit confusing.

What is the most popular cookie in Sweden? ›

What type of cookie is the most popular in Sweden? Pepparkakor. It's only eaten in december but then in larger quantity than all other cookies the rest of the year.

What day of the year is Pepparkakor traditionally made? ›

If a Swedish family opts to bake Pepparkakor at home, they'll most likely do it a few days before December 13th. But while the tradition is still quite popular, the majority tends to opt for commercially packaged cookies.

Is gingerbread from Sweden? ›

A brief history

Gingerbread was first brought to Europe in 992 CE by the Armenian monk Gregory of Nicopolis when he taught French Christians the art of gingerbread baking. Later, during the 13th century, gingerbread was brought to Sweden by German immigrants.

What is a traditional Swedish Christmas dinner? ›

Christmas presents are under the lighted tree, candles shine brightly and the smorgasbord (or smörgåsbord, as it's written in Swedish) has been prepared with all the classic dishes: Christmas ham, pork sausage, an egg and anchovy mixture (gubbröra), herring salad, pickled herring, home-made liver pâté, wort-flavoured ...

What is the difference between Pepparkakor and gingersnap? ›

Some consider these differences to be enough to place them into two separate categories. Ginger snaps (Pepparkakor) are typically baked for a longer time; they're thinner, chewier, and often with a more robust, well-expressed spice flavor than a standard gingerbread cookie.

What is Sweden's most famous dessert? ›

Kladdkaka. Kladdkaka is a gooey chocolate cake that is a favorite in Sweden. It is a simple recipe that is loved by many. Kladdkaka is a popular Swedish dessert that is often described as a gooey, fudgy chocolate cake.

What is the famous Swedish chocolate? ›

Marabou chocolate is widely available in Sweden in assorted varieties. Freia and Marabou later merged, and, in 1993, were purchased by Kraft Foods for 3 billion Norwegian kroner. Marabou chocolate is available in a number of European countries and was until September 2011 sold by IKEA in Canada, Israel, and Poland.

What is Sweden's favorite candy? ›

Haribo Nappar. These pacifier-shaped candies, known in Swedish as "nappar," are popular in Sweden's candy culture. Haribo first created the now-popular shape and explicitly launched it in the Swedish market in 1961. Nappars come in various flavors, including licorice, cola, marshmallow, and various fruits.

What are typical Christmas foods drinks and desserts in Sweden? ›

During the weeks leading up to Christmas, Swedes gather to enjoy saffron buns ('lussekatter'), a steaming hot drink similar to mulled wine ('glögg') and gingerbread biscuits ('pepparkakor').

What is the surprisingly dark history of gingerbread? ›

​Superstitions about gingerbread flourished in the 17th century. Witches supposedly made gingerbread figures, ate them, and thereby caused the death of their enemies. Dutch magistrates went so far as to declare baking or eating molded cookies illegal.

What is the Swedish gingerbread house tradition? ›

A Swedish gingerbread house, known as "Pepparkakshus" in Swedish, is more than just a festive decoration. It's a symbol of the holiday spirit, family bonding, and Swedish heritage. These intricately designed houses are made of gingerbread dough and adorned with candies, icing, and other sweet treats.

Where is the gingerbread capital of the world? ›

Nuremberg was recognized as the "Gingerbread Capital of the World" when in the 1600s the guild started to employ master bakers and skilled workers to create complicated works of art from gingerbread. Medieval bakers used carved boards to create elaborate designs.

What country invented gingerbread? ›

According to Rhonda Massingham Hart's Making Gingerbread Houses, the first known recipe for gingerbread came from Greece in 2400 BC.

What is the meaning of the name gingerbread? ›

In Medieval England, the term gingerbread simply meant “preserved ginger” and wasn't applied to the desserts we are familiar with until the 15th century. The term is now broadly used to describe any type of sweet treat that combines ginger with honey, treacle or molasses.

What is the German name for gingerbread? ›

Lebkuchen - pronounced LAYB-kue-chn - and sometimes called Pfefferkuchen is a German baked Christmas treat somewhat resembling gingerbread. Soft, moist and nutty German gingerbread was invented by medieval monks in Franconia, Germany in the 13th century.

What is a German gingerbread heart called? ›

Lebkuchenherzen have become a staple in German celebrations, especially around Oktoberfest and Christmas time. They're typically decorated with intricate icing designs and lettering, including endearing or funny messages. Try your hand at making them and share them with someone you love!

What is gingerbread in Norwegian? ›

Old Fashioned Pepperkaker (Norwegian Gingerbread Cookies) - North Wild Kitchen.

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