These cookies are a healthier, vegan twist on traditional German cookies, lebkuchen or pfefferkuchen, which are sort of like gingerbread. They’re soft spiced cookies that are made at Christmas time. If you’ve been to Germany and saw those awful heart cookies that are sold at markets decorated with colourful icing, that’s a harder type of lebkuchen (and they’re disgusting, don’t buy them).
I think the main difference between these vegan lebkuchen and gingerbread is that these don’t include molasses, which I hate, so that might be their best quality. This version is dairy and egg free, much lower in sugar and fat than normal, and perfectly spicy. They have a nice crispy edge and chewy centre, and even though I think they’re just right with a little chocolate, it’s not necessary if you don’t want to add it.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- Flour: usually I say that you can substitute plain white flour for spelt, but I do find that it tends to give a strange texture here, so stick to spelt if possible.
- Hazelnut meal: make your own by blitzing raw hazelnuts in a food processor, or substitute almond meal. The taste won’t be of lebkuchen if using almond, but it’ll be fine.
- Coconut sugar: cane sugar can be substituted for coconut sugar in this recipe.
- Spices: you can substitute an equal amount of lebkuchengewürz for the spices in the recipe if preferred. Add a bit of star anise if you want that flavour.
- Arrowroot: use two teaspoons of cornstarch in place of the arrowroot flour if preferred.
Lebkuchen of this type are usually very soft and baked on oblaten. This recipe has been altered slightly so that the cookies are a bit less soft and can be baked on parchment paper instead, so the texture is a bit different, but still very good.
Make sure you use baking powder, not soda or bicarb, because the cookies need to rise a bit. Using soda will result in something much more similar to vegan gingersnaps.
How to Store
Storage: keep the cooled cookies in a sealed container at room temperature for up to five days.
Freezing: place cookies in an airtight container and freeze for up to six months.
- Use parchment: while it is often the cake that a greased baking sheet can be used, this is quite a soft dough and tends to stick to the sheet. Parchment is best here.
- Don’t over mix: spelt is slightly delicate and, when over-mixed, will result in a tough cookie after baking.
- Use fresh spices: this is a spice cookie, and should taste like it. Old spices, especially if they’ve gotten too warm (don’t store them over the oven!) will have lost much of their flavour.
More Great Christmas Cookies
Vegan Spice Sugar Cookies
Almond Rye Chocolate Chip Cookies
Spiced Orange Shortbread
Honey and Oat Cookies
Chocolate Orange Macaroons
Or take a look at this collection of healthy Christmas cookies for it all in one place!
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- 150 grams light spelt flour
- 50 grams hazelnut meal
- 100 grams coconut sugar
- 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg*
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 cardamom pod crushed
- Pinch salt
- 60 ml olive oil**
- 2 tablespoons non-dairy milk
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey
- 50 grams dark chocolate, melted, for topping
- Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, stir together the flour, hazelnut meal, sugar, arrowroot, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, and salt.150 grams light spelt flour, 50 grams hazelnut meal, 100 grams coconut sugar, 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg*, 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves, 1 cardamom pod, Pinch salt
- In a smaller bowl, whisk the oil, milk, and maple syrup.60 ml olive oil**, 2 tablespoons non-dairy milk, 2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey
- Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture and stir until everything is combined. Take about two tablespoons of dough and and use your hands roll it into a ball, repeating until the dough is used. Place them 6 cm (2 inches) apart on the prepared baking sheet.
- Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until golden. Let the cookies cool on the pan for ten minutes before removing to cool completely on a rack.
- Once the cookies are cool, use a spoon dipped in the melted chocolate to drizzle lines over them. Cool them in the fridge after adding the chocolate before packing them up in a sealed container. The cookies will keep for about 5 days on the counter, and freeze well.50 grams dark chocolate, melted, for topping
** Other oils can be used in place of olive oil. I’ve used grapeseed and melted coconut oil with good results. Using coconut oil will result in a denser cookie once it cools.
* For American cup measurements, please click the pink link text above the ingredient list that says ‘American’.
Nutrition is provided as a courtesy and is an estimate. If this information is important to you, please have it verified independently.
This post was first published in December 2016. It has been updated with no changes to the recipe as of January 2023.