All about Lebkuchen- Delicious German Spice Cookies

It’s a pretty common question this time of year… What is Lebkuchen? is it like Gingerbread? The answer is yes… sort of. When someone offers you a Lebkuchen cookie, you shouldn’t expect a snappy gingerbread man. Lebkuchen is not crispy or crunchy…and it tends to be round or rectangular (seldom person-shaped). It’s a rich, soft, spicy sweet, and very filling cookie (or bar) with a cake-like texture. There are many types of Lebkuchen, but they all contain spices, honey, and ground nuts. Some get dipped in chocolate, some have chopped candied citrus peel, and some are glazed with sugar glaze. Let me share a little bit more about Lebkuchen, the history of this cookie, what goes in them, and the different varieties, so you can find your favorites.

what is lebkuchen

Lebkuchen at the Nürnberg Christkindl Markt

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What is Lebkuchen?

I’ve always considered Lebkuchen to be a German CHRISTMAS Cookie, but it wasn’t always so. The mainstay of the Bunter Teller has been around since the the Middle Ages even longer if you consider the Honey Spice cookies in Ancient Egypt to be Lebkuchen, but I have a feeling those cookies/cakes bore only a slight resemblance to the ones produced today.

what is lebkuchen

Lebkuchen History

Crusaders are credited with bringing many spices to Europe. Pepper, nutmeg and cinnamon not only made foods taste better… they acted as preservatives. One theory has it that the reason we associate these spices with Christmas is that the Crusaders brought the spices from the Holy land… and this got tied up with the story of the Wise Men bringing spices and incense to Baby Jesus.

But the most important part was PRESERVATIVE.

TODAY’S Lebkuchen arrived in Germany when bakers in Aachen in modified a Belgian recipe, and created (my favorite) Aachen Printen. From there… Lebkuchen spread through monasteries by Monks and Nuns who were looking for something that was filling, and had long shelf-life, so it could be stored for hard times.

It is first mentioned in 1296 in Ulm, and then Nuremberg in the 14th century. Munich’s tax rolls show that there was a “Lebzelter” professional Lebkuchen baker, in 1370.

Nuremberg became especially famous for their Lebkuchen. It helped that they had ready access to two of the main ingredients. Because the city sat at the crossroads of the trade routes, it was easy for them to get all the spices they needed. Also, the city was surrounded by the Reichswald (forest), also known as the “Emperor’s Bee Garden”. Lebküchner in Nuremberg had everything they needed to produce world class Lebkuchen, and they still do!

lebkuchen history

From the Nuremberg Christmas Market… Lots of Spices and Bee Hives make
Nuremberg famous for Lebkuchen

What spices are in Lebkuchen Gewürz?

Although Honey makes them sweet, and adds to their longevity, a whole load of spices go in to Lebkuchen to make them flavorful.

The Spice mix includes

Cinnamon – 5 Tbl
Cloves – 1 1/2 Tbl
Allspice – 1 tsp.
Coriander– (optional) 1/2 tsp.
Green Cardamom (I LOVE Cardamom!) – 1 tsp.
Ground Ginger – 1 tsp.
Star Anise – 3/4 tsp.
Mace – 1 tsp (Every wonder what that mystery box of Mace in your Oma’s pantry was for? Mystery solved)

All spices must be finely ground… a coffee grinder works well for this (just keep in mind that it will make your coffee taste like spices forever). You can also get a spice mill. The tricky bit is the amounts. No two recipes agree on the exact amounts… you can start with the list above, then adjust according to your tastes.

Of course, it’s always easier to BUY it–>

Lebkuchen GewürzLebkuchen GewürzGermanShop24

 

Variations

Different regions developed different specialties… for example, in Thorne, they are sometimes given a filling, in Nuremberg they are often decorated with Almonds or Candied Citron, and in Munich, it is cut out with a cookie cutter, and given a glaze.

My favorite variation story?  In the days before non-stick spray and baking parchment, Monks came up with a creative way to keep them from sticking while baking. The dough was placed on a communion wafer (I guess they had a few of those lying around the church anyway). Today, the wafers are called Oblaten… and they are still very much a part of Lebkuchen baking. (I do have some communion questions now… but I’ll save them for my Pastor, so no one here gets upset).

what is lebkuchen

Gingerbread Hansel and Gretel Witch HouseGingerbread Hansel and Gretel Witch HouseGermanShop24

Different types

There are 2 different TYPES of Lebkuchen.  That is, there are 2 different Lebkuchen dough types that make all the different Varieties of Lebkuchen. It’s all in the flour… although eggs and honey make a difference too.

what is lebkuchen

Shaped Lebkuchen is Braune Lebkuchen… whether it’s covered in chocolate or not

Braune Lebkuchen

Brown Lebkuchen, is made with more flour, always uses honey, and is generally shaped or pressed into a mold. Some of the more familiar Braune Lebkuchen varieties are-
Honig Kuchen Honey Cake
Printen – Long Rectangle Cookies with sugar bits
Dominosteine Square Shaped Cookie Confections with Marzipan, Gelee and Chocolate
Lebkuchen Hearts and Stars – chocolate or covered in a sugar glaze
Gefüllter Lebkuchen Lebkuchen with Filling

Other variations of Braune Lebkuchen include Pfeffernüsse, Gingerbread Hearts (like the ones you see at Oktoberfest) and Pfefferkuchen.

what is lebkuchen

With little to no Flour, Oblatenlebkuchen needs to be baked on an Oblaten to keep it from sticking

Oblatenlebkuchen

Oblatenlebkuchen, has little to no Flour. Made primarily from ground nuts, sugar or honey. Because it has low flour content, and is high is oil rich nuts, you can use sugar to sweeten this kind of Lebkuchen without worrying that it will harden. Similar to Macron dough, Lebkuchen dough is generally piped, and so it doesn’t stick,  it goes onto a wafer or Oblaten.  Some familiar Oblatenlebkuchen varieties are-
Oblatenlebkuchen– Either frosted with a glaze, or dipped in Chocolate
Weißelebkuchen– A Rectangular shaped Lebkuchen with more eggs.
Elisenlebkuchen– This is the HIGHEST quality of Lebkuchen, made with virtually no flour.

Back OblatenBack OblatenGermanShop24Rectangular Back OblatenRectangular Back OblatenGermanShop24

Where to Buy

So, are you hungry now?  You can order some here, without even getting out of your chair!

Bahlsen Milk Chocolate LebkuchenBahlsen Milk Chocolate LebkuchenGermanShop24Weiss Contrella Classic LebkuchenWeiss Contrella Classic LebkuchenGermanShop24Weiss Assorted LebkuchenWeiss Assorted LebkuchenGermanShop24

Weiss Oblaten LebkuchenWeiss Oblaten LebkuchenGermanShop24

 

 

Wicklein Fine Oblaten Burggraf Lebkuchen AssortmentWicklein Fine Oblaten Burggraf Lebkuchen AssortmentWicklein Fine Oblaten Burggraf Lebkuchen AssortmentWeiss Filled Gingerbread Hearts, Dark Chocolate, 5.29 ozWeiss Filled Gingerbread Hearts, Dark Chocolate, 5.29 ozWeiss Filled Gingerbread Hearts, Dark Chocolate, 5.29 ozWicklein Mini Elisen Lebkuchen Baked Apple - German Holiday Cookie, 25% Nuts, 5.3 ozWicklein Mini Elisen Lebkuchen Baked Apple – German Holiday Cookie, 25% Nuts, 5.3 ozWicklein Mini Elisen Lebkuchen Baked Apple - German Holiday Cookie, 25% Nuts, 5.3 oz

Order from Germany

Lebkuchen Schmidt sells collectible tins filled with their famous Lebkuchen and other treats… or buy individual packages of your favorites. (You can also see more here)

Festive Chest Chest with our finest pastry specialitiesFestive Chest Chest with our finest pastry specialitiesSchmidt Lebkuchen

Christmas Market Elisen Chest High-quality metal chest with Christmas specialitiesChristmas Market Elisen Chest High-quality metal chest with Christmas specialitiesSchmidt LebkuchenChristmas Chest 4 fine biscuit specialities in metal chestChristmas Chest 4 fine biscuit specialities in metal chestSchmidt LebkuchenThe Christmas Bakery Chest A beautiful chest filled with Christmas specialtiesThe Christmas Bakery Chest A beautiful chest filled with Christmas specialtiesSchmidt LebkuchenColorful Nuremberg Chest 6 fine pastry specialitiesColorful Nuremberg Chest 6 fine pastry specialitiesSchmidt LebkuchenChristmas Chest 4 fine biscuit specialities in metal chestChristmas Chest 4 fine biscuit specialities in metal chestSchmidt Lebkuchen

Gingerbread Roasted Almond chocolate-coated Elisen-Lebkuchen with almond brittleGingerbread Roasted Almond chocolate-coated Elisen-Lebkuchen with almond brittleSchmidt LebkuchenMarzipan Mini-Elise exquisite Lebkuchen with marzipanMarzipan Mini-Elise exquisite Lebkuchen with marzipanSchmidt LebkuchenFairytale House Fünf Schoko-Lebkuchenherzen mit Füllung und einem MärchenFairytale House Fünf Schoko-Lebkuchenherzen mit Füllung und einem MärchenSchmidt LebkuchenKaiserlein 4 brown filled Lebkuchen with chocolate coatingKaiserlein 4 brown filled Lebkuchen with chocolate coatingSchmidt LebkuchenLebkuchen triangles 1 pack of Lebkuchen Triangles coated with whole-milk chocolateLebkuchen triangles 1 pack of Lebkuchen Triangles coated with whole-milk chocolateSchmidt LebkuchenLebkuchen stars 4 chocolate and 4 glazed gingerbread starsLebkuchen stars 4 chocolate and 4 glazed gingerbread starsSchmidt Lebkuchen

Bake Your Own

what is lebkuchen

Home made Lebkuchen is DELICIOUS!

There are loads of Recipes… depending on which kind you like. Find a good selection of recipes here
And start baking!

Lebkuchen: Die beliebtesten Rezepte (German Edition)Die beliebtesten Rezepte (German Edition)Lebkuchen: Die beliebtesten Rezepte (German Edition)Classic German Baking: The Very Best Recipes for Traditional Favorites, from Pfeffernüsse to StreuselkuchenClassic German Baking: The Very Best Recipes for Traditional Favorites, from Pfeffernüsse to StreuselkuchenClassic German Baking: The Very Best Recipes for Traditional Favorites, from Pfeffernüsse to Streuselkuchen

what is lebkuchen

13 thoughts on “All about Lebkuchen- Delicious German Spice Cookies

  1. Is this also known as lep cookies ?? The ones I have had last indefinitely in an air tight container.

    1. Interesting… I’d never heard of Lep Cookies! It looks like they are a Pennsylvania Dutch recipe… which would be American German. Very cool! Thanks
      (And Lebkuchen last forever… they were the original travel/camping food)

  2. The lebkuchen I had as a child were made in a cookie sheet and had a glaze. They were cut into rectangles and were always hard as a rock to eat and had to be dunked. I tried to make them once but they were nothing like I remembered.

    1. There really are a lot of different recipes. I have a recipe for a sheet cookie Lebkuchen in my Easy German Cookbook. I don’t know that they get that hard… mostly because they don’t last long enough. Find it here-> Easy German Cookbook

  3. This is my Grandma’s Lebkuchen recipe. Her family was from Ost Preußen, and she was the only one in her family born in this country. These cookies are white and contain citron. My grandma was always short on directions, so you’re on your own pretty much. My Mom loved these but they were not my favorite.

    5 eggs
    2 c sugar
    1/2 # citron
    1/4 # almonds
    2 c flour
    1/4 t cloves
    1/4 t cinnamon
    1/4 t nutmeg
    Mix. Roll out in evening. Let stand overnight. Spread white of egg over top of squares and bake.

    1. It’s like a Baking Show technical challenge! I’m going to try it. Thank you!!!

      1. No, it was just the egg white. I’ve never made them, and I don’t remember my Mom adding a sugar glaze.

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