Kruidnoten (also known as Pepernoten)

The arrival of certain foods on the supermarket shelves often announces the arrival of another holiday or celebration to come. 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, like the smell of speculaas from the bakeries and the sight of pepernoten, pepper nuts, at the store.  Pepper nuts show up as early as mid-September, three full months before the good-hearted Saint Nicholas with his Pieten helpers have even set foot on shore. And with it, also appears another event: the yearly, and sometimes heated, discussion on the difference between pepper nuts and spice nuts.

Pepernoten (pepper nuts) and Kruidnoten (spice nuts) are very different from each other: pepernoten are chewy, taai-taai-esque square pieces, whereas kruidnoten are small round, crunchy peppery speculaas-type cookies that the Pieten throw around as treats for the children. Throwing pepernoten is not encouraged!

Until recently, the difference between kruidnoten and pepernoten was clear to everyone. But as the crispy crunchy tenderness of the kruidnoten gained terrain, pepernoten became the new name for kruidnoten. And from then on, it's all been a bit confusing. Even product packaging, marketing and the customers call it pepernoten, except for the purists. And they are very vocal about it! 

When I first wrote an article on this treat for a Dutch 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 still called them pepernoten, but the recipe was clearly for kruidnoten

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

1 cup all purpose flour (150 grams)
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
½ cup brown sugar (100 grams)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground aniseed
½ teaspoon white pepper
½ teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons butter (28 grams), cold and cubed
1 medium egg

Mix the dry ingredients together, then cut the butter into the mix. Give it a quick knead, then add the egg. Knead everything together into a stiff dough. You may have to add a tablespoon or two of water or milk if it's too dry or 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. 

Divide the dough into three equal pieces, and roll each one into a small log. Cut small pieces of the dough and roll them into a ball, about the size of a small marble (0.18oz/5 grams). Place them on parchment paper or a silicone mat on a baking sheet and slightly press them down. 

Because of the baking powder they will puff up a bit, as well as spread just a little, so give them a bit of space. If the dough has warmed up because of the rolling or your kitchen temperature, you may want to stick them back in the fridge for about 30 minutes before you bake them. 

Bake the kruidnoten at 375F in about 10-15 minutes or until nicely browned. They will be soft when you pull them out of the oven but let them cool on a rack so they can harden and crisp up. 

Mix with chocolate coins, and hard candy to make an excellent "throw mix" for the Pieten, or put it in a bowl on the table for people to snack on. 

Makes about 70 ;-). See below the picture for additional suggestions.

Listen, I get it. You're busy, you don't have white pepper, or can't be bothered to roll out 5 grams worth of pepernoten dough. Here are some suggestions. Some of these suggestions are links to the product. We are Amazon Associates so any purchase through this link will provide is with a tiny (and we mean TINY!) compensation which helps to keep the website running, at no cost to you. 

Leftover kruidnoten
Shopping Ideas:
  • Don't care for the peppery bite? Use pumpkin spice or speculaaskruiden instead.
  • Can't be bothered to roll 70 dough balls? Roll out the dough (3 mm) and cut out cookies instead.
  • Don't know how much 5 grams is? Use this scale!
  • Got all your kruidnoten rolled and baked? Practice Dutch with the grandkids with this cute Dutch-English book


  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!

  6. I just made my first batch, as my three year old grandson absolutely loves the ones from the Dutch shop. He told me they are his favourite biscuit. They turned out perfectly. Thanks so much for this fabulous recipe.

    Do you refrigerate your dough for an hour or two before making them, to let the flavours blend? I must say they were so flavoursome without resting the dough, but I do see that step listed elsewhere as essential. Do you mind me asking how you store them, not that I imagine they will last long in my house, but I did wonder if an airtight container out of the fridge is good enough, or whether they should be refrigerated. And also how far ahead they can be made before eating — like at Christmas, can I do them a few days ahead for example. Michelle

    1. Hi Michelle! I am glad your grandson loved the kruidnoten! I don't always refrigerate the dough before using it, but it will develop the flavors further if you choose to do so. It's not essential, but it doesn't hurt.

      The kruidnoten do not have to be refrigerated after baking, so a container on the kitchen counter or elsewhere should do fine. If there is a lot of humidity in the environment, an airtight container might be best for maintaining the crispness of the biscuit - but I agree with you, they probably don't last long. You can bake them as far as a week ahead or even two: once they're baked they don't spoil. There may not be any left by the time the holidays come around though, so I would suggest one or two days ahead is best. You'll know you'll have plenty to share, and it makes your house smell great! Thanks for stopping by, Michelle, and come see us on our Facebook page!

  7. Any chance you can tell us the name of the lovely book
    in the background with the legend of St Nicholas?
    Plan on making the cookies today. Thank you so much for the recipe!

    1. Anna, you are very welcome! The book is called "Tales Told in Holland" by Olive Beaupre Miller, and it's usually available from Amazon.

  8. It's that time of year again. Never mind that pepernoten are more a Sinterklaas thing, I make it around Christmas for presents in little jars. Just prepared a batch for overnighting in the fridge (ate a fair bit of the dough already - oops) and know they will be as good as last time. Speculaas brokken are next (easier to fill a jar with big bits). From tropical north Queensland in Aus, have a wonderful Kerstmis and an amazing Niew Jaar :-)


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