The scents of holidays past are a powerful thing… What scent takes you back to holidays with your family? For me it’s the smell of cinnamon and ginger with a back note of pine. It was cookies baking in the oven while we decorated the tree. So every year, I bake up a batch of Swedish Pepparkakor, or gingersnap cookies, for the holidays. See, when I was a kid growing up, we spent a lot of time in Scandinavia because of my dad’s work. So I’ve always felt like I’m half Swedish or something. Or maybe I just want to be… And I remember these gingersnaps everywhere…
Pepparkakor have a special place at the holidays. They’re super thin, spicy, sweet, and fabulous for giving. You can even hang them on your tree for a delicious scent throughout December. Just punch a hole in them and feed a ribbon through it to hang.
But even more special may be the other tradition behind them. These gingersap cookies are also called Wish Cookies. You place one in the palm of your hand and make a wish. Then tap the cookie in the middle with your finger. If it breaks into three pieces, your wish will come true. So sweet, right? But it also fits into that other tradition that broken Christmas cookies don’t have any calories 😂
How to Make Pepparkakor Gingersnap Cookies
Pepparkakor are a fun cookie to make. Lots of spice ingredients in the dough (obviously), but easy to roll out super thin for extra crisp. Plus, you can decide how spicy you want them to be. I’ve added a bit of cayenne pepper for extra zip, but you can update as you like.Jump to Recipe
Pepparkakors are traditionally made into heart shapes, but you can use any shape you like. Since you’ll be rolling them very thin, I would stay away from any shapes that have really skinny sections though. They’ll be prone to breakage.
They bake up to this gorgeous golden brown… I think next year I’m going to make some with slits that I can add them to a tea cup or mug of hot chocolate for decoration.
Holiday Cookie Gifting
Pepparkakor are especially perfect for holiday giving. They’re sturdy and can survive that trip across the country or across town. I love using pretty metal tins to send them in, just like the Pepparkakor you can buy in Scandinavia.
More Cookies from Around the World
We baked these cookies as part of our global baking journey for the STEAM Explorers Travel Issue. First stop was Sweden for Pepparkakor, then Italy for Chocolate Chip Biscotti, and finally to Argentina for Alfajores. Stay tuned for all our cookie recipes from around the world, or check out some of our other recipes from Cookie Brain.
Need a foolproof frosted cookie recipe for baking with kids? Here’s my favorite: Sugar Shortbread Cookies with Royal Icing. They’re sturdy for little hands and so unbelievably delicious.
How about a unique take on crinkle cookies with these Snowy Orange Creamsicle Crinkle Cookies? They’re super pretty in a holiday cookie basket and fun for summer days, too.
These Gummy Bear Heart Cookies make a great combo with pepparkakor hearts! Perfect for Christmas or Valentine’s Day, too.
Swedish Pepparkakor Cookies (Gingersnap Cookies)
- 3 1/4 cups flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper more if you want them spicier
- 1 cup butter 2 sticks, softened
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon water
Make the Dough
- In a small bowl, whisk together flour baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, allspice, and cayenne pepper. Whisk until well blended.
- In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer for two minutes on medium speed or until the butter mixture is light and fluffy. Add egg, maple syrup, and water and beat until combined.
- Add half of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat with mixer at low speed until combined. Add the remaining flour mixture and mix at low speed until combined.
- Separate the dough into four parts. Roll each part into a ball and then press into a disk ~1” thick. Then wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour.
Roll and Cut the Dough
- Place parchment paper on counter or table. Sprinkle with flour and place 1 dough disk on top. Add another sheet of parchment paper. Roll out dough until ~1/8” thick.
- Cut with your favorite flour dipped cookie cutters and place on baking sheet ½” apart. Repeat with remaining dough. If dough gets sticky while cutting it, chill for 15 minutes and continue.
Bake the Cookies
- Preheat the oven to 350° F.
- Bake for 7-10 minutes until cookies are golden brown.
- Cool cookies on pan for 10 minutes and then move to a wire rack.
- Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.