Lebkuchen (German Gingerbread)

Lebkuchen cookies

Lately I received some questions about Lebkuchen, the German gingerbread. But these traditional Christmas treats have never been my favourite, so I have to admit I didn’t know much about them until I started to look up recipes for people who asked about them.

Lebkuchen cookies have a very long tradition in Germany. They come in many different shapes with different textures and ingredients.  There is not the German lebkuchen cookie recipe. Many cities have their unique lebkuchen versions, like Nürnberg or Pulsnitz, which is close to Dresden.

I tried two different kinds so far. One is called elisenlebkuchen. It’s a special kind of  lebkuchen from Nürnburg. (Nuremberg Gingerbread). It’s usually made without flour. The most important ingredients are egg whites, nuts, and succade.  The other one is a simple gingerbread cookie that can be cut out and used for gingerbread houses.

Even today these cookies are still made with traditional ingredients.  Honey (or for a vegan version: agave nectar) is the main sweetener. Lebkuchen are often made with rye flour or with a mixture of rye and wheat. They are also leavened with traditional raising agents like Hirschhornsalz (ammonium bicarbonate) and Pottasche (potassium carbonate or potash).

Raising Agents and Spice Mix

During Christmas season many German grocery stores sell these special ingredients together with Lebkuchengewürz (gingerbread spice mix). Lebkuchen spice contains a mix of spices like cinnamon, anise, coriander, mace and or nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, allspice, and fennel. There is lots of room for variation.

The combination of honey, rye flour, and spice mix provide the unique flavour of lebkuchen. It is improved by a very long dough rest. After the dough or parts of the dough are made, they have to rest 8 to 24 hours before you start making the cookies. Traditionally it was stored much longer, sometimes for months, to develop flavour.

I made my first gingerbread cookies yesterday, but I ma not yet where I want to be. This was an experiment and I’ll share the recipe as soon as I got these like I want them to be. And I already got the ingredients for my next lebkuchen project, the elisenlebkuchen.

13 thoughts on “Lebkuchen (German Gingerbread)

  1. These look a lot like Scandinavian gingerbread, but it sounds like they’re quite different – I don’t think I have ever tasted any of these. I can’t wait to see your recipe. :)

    The octopus cookie cutter is adorable – I wish they could be found here!

  2. You got the octopus! I didn’t remember if you’d bought it or not. I love them! It’ll be time to make some gingerbread cookies around here pretty soon…and a gingerbread house!

  3. haha! I second Jessy on the octopus love from my hubs as he caught a glimpse of the screen!

    I love gingerbread, but never have tried to make lebkuchen… I am also intrigued by the long resting time! I wonder if I have an octopus buried in my cookie cutter collection somewhere? Supercute, Mihl!

  4. that IS a long rest time for the dough. i thought 8-12 hours was a bit, but traditionally sometimes….months?!? wowzers! i like that there are so many different varieties and that little packets are sold with the special ingredients. neat-o! i looooove the little octopus, and dan just caught site of the computer screen and gave three cheers for the octopus, too. i think your gingerbread looks great, and i can’t wait for your recipe, Mihl!

  5. They look fantastic to me but I love gingerbread! I especially love the octopus!

    I’m looking forward to more posts before I use your recipe to make some too :D

  6. I haven’t had much experience with homemade Lebkuchen either, but it sounds like an interesting project and very appropriate for the holidays. Best of luck with perfecting your recipe (which I’m sure will be amazing)! By the way, the octopus is really cute. I totally need to get some awesome animal-shaped cutters, too. :)

  7. Lebkuchen….
    I have do admit, that I am not a big fan of lebkuchen, too. But I am planing to make some different kinds this year. The lebkuchen from pulsnitz are great, my father brought some of them from a journey to Dresden years ago and now my family orders them every year. Do you know the lebuchen from Pulsnitz called “Gefüllte
    Spitzen”? I would love to create a vegan version of them because the lebkuchen filled with jam is the only kind I really like. I am also planning to make “Aachener Printen” because they are always vegan, if they aren’t topped with chocolate and they don’t contain any fat. I am very exited about your results.

    1. Of course I know gefüllte Spitzen! They sell them in little booths all over town. I am the same, I only really like the jam filled ones. I also thought of veganizing them. But I there might even be vegan gefüllte Spitzen. I have to look into that.

      1. When I visited my parents last saturday they had a bag of them and I think they were made with milkpowder and butter. Maybe there’s a version with dark chocolate, that might be vegan but I think that the gingerbread contained butter. May be it’s different but if not we have to veganize them. ^^

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