Traditional Pepper Cookies from Croatia

December 19, 2014
1 Ratings
  • Makes 50 cookies
Author Notes

Pepper cookies (or paprenjaci in Croatian) have been around the north of Croatia ever since the nineteenth century (some even say the thirteenth!). They are typically made for Christmas and are often given as edible souvenirs. The cookies are soft and chewy with an intoxicating smell of cinnamon and nutmeg; however, they deliver an unexpected spicy note thanks to their peppery nature. This recipe has been adapted from a traditional Croatian cookbook that was first published in Zagreb in 1876, and has been used in my family for generations. —empirical_kitchen

Test Kitchen Notes

These cookies were a wonderful surprise! They are perfect in all the right places; they're easy to make and have a wonderful, melty texture and complex favor profile. These cookies have it all AND a family history. They will now be part of my family tradition, and I can't wait to bake them again. They are a great after dinner cookie to have with a cup of coffee. —Annie stader

What You'll Need
  • 125 grams butter
  • 1/2 tablespoon lard
  • 125 grams granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 125 grams honey
  • 225 grams ground walnuts
  • Zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 500 grams flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 tablespoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon cardamom
  1. Beat butter and lard in a mixing bowl until smooth. Add the sugar and beat until the mixture is smooth again. Beat in the egg and then add honey, walnuts, and zest, and beat until incorporated.
  2. Sift the flour and mix it with the spices then add the mixture to the wet ingredients. Use a wooden spoon to bring everything together and then knead the dough until it becomes smooth and starts falling off of your fingers (this takes a while).
  3. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest in the fridge for 2 hours.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C) and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  5. Roll out the dough between 2 large pieces of plastic wrap to avoid adding more flour. Aim for 1/4-inch thickness and cut out the cookies using the cookie cutter shape of your choice (pepper cookies are usually stamped by using traditional wooden carved blocks, but I'm assuming you don't have those lying around the house).
  6. Spread the cut dough on baking sheets and bake the cookies for 8 to 10 minutes until they start to brown slightly. Transfer to a wire rack to cool down. If you'd like, you can decorate the cookies with royal icing. Store the cookies in an airtight container for at least 2 to 3 days before serving. This allows them to soften and become truly irresistible.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Niki Reggiatore
    Niki Reggiatore
  • empirical_kitchen
  • Annie stader
    Annie stader
  • AntoniaJames
  • Michela Isobel Candotti
    Michela Isobel Candotti

9 Reviews

Niki R. December 19, 2018
My dough came out quite crumbly and I’m wondering if it should be more smooth and pliable? I’m thinking I may have added too much flour?
Kathy January 13, 2015
Thank-you for the conversion! I can hardly wait to make them...also thank-you for the conversion web site. Sincerely, Kathy
empirical_kitchen January 13, 2015
I would really advise you to use a scale when it comes to baking - way more precise and the results are consistent.
However, I do use online converters (such as
For this particular recipe, you need:
1 stick (1/2 cup) + 1 tbsp butter
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup honey
1 cup + 2 tbsp ground walnuts
4 cups flour
Kathy January 12, 2015
How do you confert grams to cups?
empirical_kitchen January 11, 2015
Thank you very much for the comments!
Do try the cookies - they are worth the effort, and as Annie has already mentioned, they last forever ;)
Annie S. January 8, 2015
These cookies stay fresh for ever and you can keep a tin around to have with tea. I even reheat them for a couple of minutes in the toaster oven and the house smells wonderful all over again!
AntoniaJames January 8, 2015
I'm so glad this earned Community Pick status. Congratulations! I was all "cookied-out" by the time this recipe hit my radar, but it's going on my must-try list, for sure. ;o)
Michela I. December 20, 2014
They taste and look amazing! Thanks for sharing!
AntoniaJames December 19, 2014
Interesting! I'm definitely going to try these. Thank you so much for posting this recipe. ;o)