15 Holiday Cookies From Other Countries Slideshow
15 Holiday Cookies From Other Countries
During the holiday season in the United States, many would agree there isn’t a better treat to complement a glass of eggnog than a warm gingerbread cookie. The smell of cinnamon is a sweet reminder of holiday cheer and the warmth that comes with being with loved ones. And just as children in the U.S. leave out treats for Santa Claus, many other cultures leave out different types of cookies and other foods for Father Christmas. Cookies are part of holiday celebrations all around the world, but different cultures enjoy their own traditional cookies.
In Norway and other parts of Scandinavia, cone-shaped cookies called krumkake are baked to celebrate the holidays. In Spain, shortbread cookies called mantecados are flavored with cinnamon and anise, and in Belgium and the Netherlands, speculaas are cut and carved into intricate depictions of St. Nicholas and other characters from his stories.
We’ve rounded up 15 holiday cookies from around the world to inspire you to try something new when baking with friends and family this year. Read on, and consider paying homage to another culture with your gift bags of holiday cookies this season.
Additional reporting by Haley Willard.
Varying recipes for these treats with dulce de leche spread between two butter cookies are enjoyed throughout Latin America, but they’re especially prominent in Buenos Aires, where they are often served year-round as a treat to accompany coffee. During the holiday season, though, it’s tradition to bake alfajores with one’s unique family recipe.
Galletas Con Chochitos (Mexico)
Called either lebkuchen, meaning “gingerbread,” or pfefferkuchen, meaning “pepper cookie,” this cookie is softer than the traditional gingerbread cookie you may be used to. The German variation can be rectangular or round and has a sweet, slightly nutty taste. Similar recipes date back to ancient Egypt, but the most well-known variation of the cookie is the nürnberger lebkuchen, from the German city of Nürnberg, where it was made into creative shapes and designs and decorated by a professional guild of gingerbread makers, the Lebkuchner Guild.
Similar in taste to a gingersnap cookie, a pepparkakor is made with maple syrup and is traditionally cut into the shape of a star or heart, although other traditional shapes include a pig or a goat. This Swedish holiday cookie is hung as an ornament on the Christmas tree. Another Swedish custom is to place a pepparkakor in the palm of your hand and make a wish. Then, using your index finger or thumb of your other hand, tap the center of the cookie. If the cookie breaks into three pieces, your wish will come true. If not, you’ll still have a delicious cookie to eat.
Pfeffernüsse (The Netherlands)
Speculaas (Belgium and the Netherlands)
In the Netherlands, the Christmas season begins on the second Saturday of November and continues through December 6th, which is St. Nicholas Day. In Belgium and the Netherlands, these spiced ginger cookies are elaborately cut and carved into depictions of St. Nicholas (or Sinterklaas, as he is called in this region) and other characters from stories about him by way of special wooden molds.
Photo Modified: Wikimedia Commons / Steve-081
Small round cookies called struffoli are baked for the holidays in Italy. They’re also known as “honey balls,” and they can usually be found piled in a tree-shaped mound or arranged to resemble a wreath. Ingredients include honey, eggs, and margarine, but the treats can be topped with sprinkles, toasted pine nuts, silver balls, or candied fruits.
Sugar Cookies (United States)
Snowmen, Christmas trees, presents, dreidels, and bells all come out to play during the holiday season in the United States — all in the form of sugar cookies. It’s common to find elaborately iced, colorful cookies cut into seasonal shapes at holiday parties, and they’re often also given as gifts. Gingerbread cookies are also an American classic.