Sunday, December 18, 2011


Several seasonal events are announced by the arrival of traditional foods on the supermarket shelves. Chocolate eggs mark the beginning of the Easter season, and Vlaggetjesdag is initiated by the catching of the first herring. But nothing prepares us for this month of December, with its Sinterklaas, Christmas and New Year celebrations, as the smell of speculaas from the bakeries and the sight of pepernoten at the store.  Peppernuts show up as early as mid-September, three full months before the good-hearted Saint Nicholas has even set foot on shore. And with it, also appears another event: the yearly, and sometimes heated, discussion on the difference between peppernuts and spice nuts.

Pepernoten (pepper nuts) and Kruidnoten (spice nuts) are very different from each other: pepernoten are the chewy, taai-taai-esque square pieces of brick that break your teeth, kruidnoten are the round, crunchy peppery speculaas-type cookies that Zwarte Piet throws around. Throwing pepernoten is not encouraged!

Until recently, the difference between kruidnoten and pepernoten was clear to everyone. But, as the edibility of the pepernoten became more and more challenging, and the crunchy tenderness of the kruidnoten gained terrain, pepernoten became the new name for kruidnoten. Still with me? Even packaging, marketing and nowadays the common user calls it pepernoten, except for the purists. And they are very vocal about it!

When I first wrote an article on this treat for Dutch the magazine, the editor emailed me back and asked whether the recipe I was submitting was for kruidnoten or pepernoten. Good question, and I am glad he asked. I called it pepernoten, but the recipe was clearly for kruidnoten.

Anyway....if you choose to share these and call them pepernoten, you'll know soon enough whom of your friends is a peppernut purist. You've been warned!! :-)

1 cup of self-rising flour
¾ cup of brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon of ground aniseed
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of white pepper
1 teaspoon of salt
½ teaspoon of ginger
2 tablespoons of butter

Knead everything together into a stiff dough. You may have to add a tablespoon or two of water if it's too stiff. Wrap and rest the dough in the fridge, preferably overnight but at least for a couple of hours to let the flavors blend.

Roll small pieces of dough into little balls and place them on parchment paper or a silicone mat on a baking sheet and slightly press them down. Because of the self-rising flour they will puff up a bit.

Bake them at 400F in about 15 minutes until nicely browned. Let them cool on a rack. Mix with chocolate coins, and hard candy to make an excellent "throw mix" for Zwarte Pieten!


  1. I literally just made these. I've now lived in the UK for most of my life, having left Holland as a child, but miss the Dutch Christmas foods so much! When it came up in my Facebook newsfeed I knew I had to make them! And it wasn't just one batch, oh no, I've gone and made seven batches to share out between friends and family for Christmas! Thanks so much for this!

  2. Brussels Lof? The real grey, bitter, vegetable, stored during the winter under a mound of earth and despised by children and many adults? Cooked in the oven with melted cheese or "geprakt" with potatoes and "jus" from een "schouderkarbonaatje" on Sunday afternoon. Now a genetically engineered, bleak, tasteless, copy, even eaten as a salad.

  3. do you have a recipe for the origional pepernoten im really struggling to find them or a recipe for them!

  4. hi nicole, we just tried to make the kruidnoten but we failed miserably! they basically spread into one big cookie mass.. didn't taste them yet but the structure seems wrong. in other recipes i looked up there wasnt any egg, do you think that might have caused this? the oven was defenitely hot enough. ok, to our pepernoten cookies now :)

    1. also most recipes have you roll a thin roll and cut the right amount before rolling them into small balls, the texture of these doughs seems very different, ours was extremely sticky? hope you can help, we're pepernoten desperate!

    2. Annerieke, the dough per the recipe is pretty stiff. If yours is too sticky, add enough flour to where you can handle the dough. Refrigerating the dough after you knead it, will help too.

  5. Would these cookies (Kruidnoten) or speculaas be the same thing as "korstje"? I was reading a book entitled, "A Day on Skates" by Hilda van Stockum to the kids and she mentions these on page 11 as being "a favorite with skaters with their hot chocolate". I thought it would be fun to make some of the foods she talks about in the book. I see a recipe for split pea soup here as described, with the sausage etc mentioned in the book, but cannot seem to find the "little spicy Dutch cake, especially loved by skaters" that she mentions. Any thoughts? It''s a great book if you haven't read it! (Children's book, but interesting for grown-ups too!)

    1. Mary, thank you for your message and the book reference! Korstjes are more like taai-taai, of which there is also a recipe on the blog. For shaping, google "amsterdamse korstjes" and you'll see an example: it's like a flat roll with an indentation in the middle. Best of luck!


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