Not Your Traditional Pepparkaka

On our way to Asia we stopped a couple of days in Sweden to visit my family. Elsa is the first grand child in the family and everyone was super excited to see her. During our stay she has been played with, danced with, fed, sung for and – of course – been given Christmas gifts. This meant that Luise and I could focus on eating Christmas food, taking walks in the snow and trying out a new recipe for Swedish Pepparkakor, my all time favorite Christmas cookie.

Pepparkakor or Swedish Gingerbread Cookies are very thin, crunchy, sweet and full of flavor. The traditional recipe calls for spices, sugar, butter, flour, molasses and sometimes even cream. Since we try to avoid most of those ingredients on this blog we decided to make our own version. It wasn’t all easy making a new recipe for pepparkakor since I have a life-long cake crush on the traditional recipe. Luise might kill me for writing this (since she doesn’t agree) but quite frankly, no oil in the world can fully replace the taste of butter in a cookie. We decided to try it anyway. And after a couple of not very good batches we came up with this recipe which not only got a similar texture and taste, but also adds some extra flavor and crunchiness to them. They are vegan, uses a more wholesome flour and less refined sweeteners. A not so traditional Pepparkaka with an almost traditional taste.

As you can see on the following pictures Sweden was drowned in snow and the contrast from sunny California could not have been bigger. It felt unreal walking around in this cold climate, knowing that we would be in a steaming hot Asia a couple of days later.

We are actually already in Beijing, China when we post this, but more on that in our next post. China has blocked facebook, twitter and youtube, so we won’t be able to tweet until we arrive in Thailand.

Swedish Pepparkakor / Vegan Gingerbread Cookies
Makes around 30 depending on the size of the cookie cutters

1 cup / 150 g almonds
15 fresh soft medjool dates, pitted
5 tbsp coconut oil, room tempered
3 tbsp maple syrup, agave syrup or clear honey
1-2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground clove
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup / 250 ml whole wheat spelt flour
1/2 tsp baking soda

Grind the almonds into a fine flour in a blender or a food processor. Add dates, oil, maple syrup and spices and pulse until everything is mixed into a sticky dough. Sift together flour and baking soda and start kneading the flour into the dough, little by little. When you can form the dough into a round moist ball that doesn’t stick to your fingers, the dough is ready. Put it in the fridge over the night or for at least three hours.

Set the oven to 300°F (150°C). Line a baking tray with baking paper. Roll out the dough as thin as possible, roughly 1/8-inch (3 mm), between two sheets of plastic wrap or baking paper, it keeps the dough from sticking to the baking pin. Cut it with cookie cutters and transfer it to the baking paper. This dough is a little bit more brittle than normal gingerbread dough, so you need to be careful when transferring it to the parchment paper.

Bake for 9-12 minutes, depending on the size and thickness of the cookies. Keep an eye on the oven and make sure not to over bake them. Since they contain almonds they will burn easily.

Photos by David & Johanna Frenkel


  • Berta
    Congratulations for the website. I tried lots of recipes and always with success. However, these cookies didn't turn as well as expected. Taste was really good, you could appreciate all the different spices used, but they came out very hard! Is that normal? I made two batches: I baked the first one for 15 minutes and the second one 12 minutes. I didn't take them out of the oven before because they seemed too raw. Thank you! And merry Christmas ;-)
  • Janna wisniewski
    I tried this recipe & I hate tell you this, but it was awful. I ended up making regular pepparkakor & they were delicious.
  • Mia
    Do you think I could use brown rice flour instead of the wheat flour?
  • Sonja
    I will have to try these when it gets closer to Christmas. Pepparkakor are one of the things I love the most about that time of year. Mom used to grate Orange rind into hers so think I will adjust yours a tiny bit to include that though.
  • Jacina
    Hi, Has anyone tried a nut free version of these using in place coconut, sesame or doubling the spelt flour?
  • Anne
    After having spent a holiday in Sweden, I've never been able to forget these awesome pepparkakor. So I was delighted to find a healthy version of them on your blog and was in desperate need to make them as soon as possible. It was my first time visit to your blog, but I'll be back and back and so on, because there so much delicious healthy inspiration here. The pepparkakor were great, only rolling out the dough was not very easy (perhaps the dough was a little dry). Thanks for all the marvelous recipes. Only, when I tried to find back the recipe, I couldn't find it in the recipe index.
  • stroesocker
    Å, dessa borde ni verkligen reposta inför helgen :)
  • I made the cookies using this recipe (just used peanut flour). Also I didnt roll the dough and made the size like chocolate chip cookies... It was marvelous and delicious! Thanks for an inspiration :) here is my cookies in my blog (but sorry not in English) :) Merry Xmas!
  • I made these cookies right before Christmas and they worked out perfectly! They were delicious and made very nice ginger bread men...
    • Hi Beth! Glad you liked the recipe and that they turned out good, thanks for letting us know. /Luise
  • I made a lemony-coconutty version of these cookies using cashews instead of almonds, using GF flour, and making a few other tweaks. they turned out so great! everyone loved them. my recipe is here: thanks for such great inspiration, as always! i hope your latest travels have been exciting. xo Kim
    • Hi Kim. Thanks for the link! Your version sounds so yummy and we're definitely trying it next time! Right now we are on a back-to-basic-place with only electricity a few hours in the night, no hot water and the restaurant are cooking over open fire, but here is stunningly beautiful and peaceful! /Luise
  • I've been looking for a recipe like this! It looks fantastic! Thanks! Hope you're having a wonderful time in Asia! Happy holidays!
  • Oh wait, I just re-read that you are already in China! you three really know how to get around... safe travels!
    • Thanks Kim, yes it is hard to keep track of us ;) Hope they turned out good with cashews and a gf flour, sounds lovely!! Enjoy the snow and Happy New Year! /Luise
  • This looks wonderful! I am totally making these with cashews instead of almonds and some kind of GF flour. Thanks! And I'm glad you found your way back to Sweden :) We have just as much snow here Minnesota in the US!
  • Your beautiful photos of snow make me wish we could get at least a little snowfall here in Florida :) Thanks for the recipe!
  • I had read about these cookies for years; never actually tried them; your version looks very rustic and elegant at the same time and is one I would keep stored for the opportunity to arise. Thanks!
  • I've never heard of those cookies before. Isn't it amazing how much wonderful food and creations are all over this world. We're now in Hawaii. Wish you were here. Really wished baby Elsa was here to play with baby Maria in the warm tropical ocean.
  • Sini
    Oh I love pepparkakor! I wish you a wonderful time in China and the rest of Asia! If your travel plan in China is still open I can recommend the route Beijing-Chengdu-Litang-Shangri La-Kunming which will take you to breathtaking sceneries and give an insight into the culture of the Tibetan people. I made the tour last May traveling by bus and train as I traveled around Asia for 3 months. So much beauty. Just note that this may be a problematic route with your little one as it takes you to over 4000m over the sea level and I don't know the accessibility of the route during winter time... If you have questions, just mail me :)
  • Emma
    Hi, and thanks for a truly beautiful and inspiring blog. These will save my Christmas -- after a long time I have finally realised that the eczema that I started getting two years ago is caused by casein (in cows milk) and my best suggestion so far was to replace the butter in a traditional recipe with ghee, but this is SO much more tempting. Bring on the julstämning!
  • Hjördís
    Yummy, This sounds sooo great, Im going to make this soon .. I hope you have a GREAT time in bejing and as always, GREAT pictures from you :) enjoy your stay in China
  • How delightful looking! When I visited Hong Kong over the summer, a friend I met there was from Sweden. I'm excited to try something Swedish and tell her! :) Enjoy your stay in Asia.
  • These sound amazing!!!! I think I'm going to make them tonight. I have everything on hand. My almonds are roasted/salted. Will that be ok?
    • Hi Teri, hope you will like them! I haven't tried this dough with salted almonds but I suppose that it will work. I would probably add some more agave/honey to keep the balance. /David
  • Wow, they turned out great! I'll have to give these a go (too). Lovely pics!
  • Awsome. This the kind of PEPPARKAKOR I want!
  • Your pictures of the snow are so beautiful! I live in (southern) California -- where rain, if that, is all we get -- so I find snow and the thought of cozy fires inside so magical. Glad you had a safe trip; have a wonderful time in Asia!!
  • Oh, wow! This, I can tell, is going to become my new favorite cookie. AND they're beautiful! I love the texture, especially. thank you!
  • Am new to your blog and am fascinated that you named your daughter elsa. That's my daughter's name as well.
    • Hi Rebecca! Elsa sure is a pretty name and that is why we picked it. But when we told my mom about the name it turned out that both my great grandmother and a cousin in California was named Elsa, so it turned out that it is kind of a family name for us. A happy coincidence!
  • Everyone has been asking me what my favorite holiday cookie is... and ginger snaps/gingerbread are my go-to cookie this season. These,however, bring mine to shame. Another brilliant post, my friend!
    • Thanks Brian! I forgot to write it in the post but this recipe is also great when making mini ginger snaps or thumbprint cookies. Just roll them in to 1-inch balls, put them on the parchment paper and gently push them down with your thumb. /David
  • Jennifer L.
    Oh how I do miss the snow! I would love to visit just for a little while--and then run back to the sun :-). These cookies look yummy! I might play with it a bit to see if we can whip up a gluten free version. Hooray for making it Beijing. We're looking forward to lots of yummy Asian recipes. Santa Cruz has transitioned to rain (the third season--the three seasons here are sun, fog and rain, I think). The leaves are lovely colors and are just falling off the trees--a bit like autumn, except at Christmastime. Hugs for Elsa!
    • Hi Jennifer, thanks for keeping us up to date about Santa Cruz, we'll miss it even though it's rainy. Please make a gluten free version of these, it shouldn't be too hard for you finding something to replace the whole wheat flour with. Good luck! /David
  • I have been hoping to find a really yummy, healthy version of my favorite Christmas cookie. This is it! Thank you for doing all the testing for me and creating the perfected recipe. :)

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