Peppernuts Recipe

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A couple weeks ago, I did a post about the ladies of the Main Street Cafe in Durham, Kansas, making peppernuts. At the end of the post I asked if anyone would like to share a family recipe for peppernuts that I could bake and share here on the blog. I received many responses (Thank you everyone!) and ultimately chose a recipe sent in by Hollyce from her grandmother, Ethel Collett.

Grandad and Grandma Collett 1988

According to Hollyce, her grandmother actually had 3 recipes for peppernuts:

“My Grandma, Ethel Collett, is the common denominator between three different recipes for peppernuts in our family.  Grandma was a hard-working farm wife and mother to nine adorable children, including my mother.  Life on herMarion,Kansas, farm meant milking cows, tending a garden, sewing clothes, an outhouse, cleaning, cooking from scratch, trips to town and every Sunday in church.  Ready with a hug and kiss, Grandma was as kind a person as you’d ever meet.

Grandma’s peppernut recipe is a mystery.  Or should I say Grandma’s three peppernut recipes are mysteries.  As I mentioned in my comment to the peppernut story in “Window On The Prairie”, when several cousins realized we were still making peppernuts at Christmas we found there were three different recipes.  One recipe calls for boiling sugar, shortening and sorgum; no pepper, no anise.  The second uses molasses, evaporated milk, pepper, and anise.  The recipe my Mom received from her Mom uses white syrup, honey, sour milk and anise oil; no pepper.  All are called “Grandma’s Peppernuts”.

When Suzanne asked me to write a couple paragraphs about the peppernut recipe I’d sent in, I immediately emailed my mom and aunts hoping to receive some history of their Grandma making peppernuts.  Or maybe a story about helping their Mom roll the dough, cutting the lengths into kibble-sized bits and laying them meticulously on a cookie sheet, as I did with my mom and my two kids did with me. Or, as my adult kids still do, impatiently waiting for the crunchy nuggets to cool before munching on the first handful of the season.  However, as much as peppernuts have become a Collett family tradition, Mom doesn’t remember Grandma making these cookies when she was at home.  Apparently, no one has information on where Grandma got her recipes or why she gave different recipes when asked for “her” peppernut recipe.  Regardless of the unsolved mystery, it doesn’t change the fact that many of her kids and grandkids love “Grandma’s Peppernuts”.”

Here is one of Grandma Collett’s recipes for Peppernuts:

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Yield: 4 1/2 pounds

  • 3/4 cup shortening
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 3/4 cup white corn syrup
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup sour milk (stir 1 teaspoon lemon juice into milk and let sit for about 10 minutes)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon anise oil
  • 6 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the shortening and sugar.

Then add the egg,

corn syrup,



and anise oil.

Mix well.

In a medium mixing bowl stir together the flour, cinnamon,  cloves, nutmeg, baking powder, and baking soda.

Then add the flour mixture to the wet mixture about one cup at a time mixing well in between.

Dough will be stiff. I used a wooden spoon and my country girl arm muscles. Pack dough into an airtight container, press plastic wrap on the top of the dough to keep out air, cover with a lid, and refrigerate at least one night, or longer.

To bake cookies, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease baking sheets. Remove dough from fridge, and cut into small workable sections. Roll out each section about the diameter of your finger and then cut into 1/2 inch pieces.

Place on cookie sheets leaving about 1/2 inch space between them. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until a light golden brown.

Remove from oven and allow to cool on sheets for a few minutes.

Remove cookies from pans with a spatula, and seal into airtight container.

Take heed: I started the baking process alone, then enlisted Harland to help. We were rolling, cutting and baking in both our regular oven and toaster oven as well. This is not a one person job, unless you have a lot of time on your hands. Get help: your spouse, boyfriend, kids, the mailman, the plumber, even your dog or cat if you can get them to help you. This is a production.

But that said, it is a lot of fun, and so worth it in the end. These little cookies are so delicious, and perfect with a cup or coffee or tea. And as everyone told me, they are addictive. It is physically impossible to eat just one, or two, three, 10, 15….HELP, get these away from me!

A big THANK YOU to Hollyce for sharing her Grandma’s recipe!
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Cattle, corn, wheat, beans, mud, snow, ice, and drought. Plenty of fresh air and quiet. Our life is sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes joyous, but never boring.

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15 Responses

  1. timberdawn says:

    I didn’t get around to commenting on the first peppernut post, but I did go looking for the recipe. Mom added a note on the back of the card she gave to me:
    “We used to roll like cooky dough and cut with thimbles, but in the pressure of time, Dad and I rolled ’em like rope, chilled, sliced, and they came out the same although Grandma Ethel did not approve of short cuts.” Just in case you ever feel the need to make it an even more labor intensive project. A cousin always tells people to cut the recipe down unless they want to be baking peppernuts until St. Patrick’s Day. (Also not sure when a cooky became a cookie.)

    • Hollyce says:

      The “cooky v cookie” discussion was held here just a few evenings ago. I’m reading a children’s book titled “Bedtime Stories” and one story talks about a “cooky”. I had to stop and ask the husband if that was a correct spelling. You just don’t see it anymore.

  2. Peggy says:

    I Love this post. All about family and country people.

  3. Hollyce says:

    Thanks, Suzanne! I’m so glad you enjoyed the peppernuts. Kudos to you for mixing them up by hand and to your husband for assisting you with the most tedious part of the process. Great photos, too! (Note: Mom wanted me to mention it’s important to use anise oil, not extract. It does affect the flavor of the cookie. Finding anise oil can be tricky. Check cake baking/candy making shops or your pharmacy.)

  4. Linda says:

    Thanks for sharing….Sounds like something to try the next time the grandkids stay for the weekend!

  5. Bethany says:

    I had a hearty laugh at your enlist help commentary – it is so utterly true. Hollyce is my mom, and like her grandmother, she does not approve of shortcuts: I’ve been trying to get her to skip the nugget-making step for years and just make peppernut sticks, to no avail. 😀

  6. I like the ingredients that go in this recipe! It sounds like it would taste great. I have never had peppernuts…I am going to have to try this recipe. Since they are small, I can see how it would be hard to eat just one two! Well, I’ve never met a cookie I didn’t like, so I’m sure I’ll like this one. By the way, pretty cool idea featuring one of your reader’s grandma’s recipe! I like it!

  7. Kristin Srajer O'Hern says:

    My grandmother is 104yrs old and lives in Tampa, KS. She used to make peppernuts when I was growing up. Her recipe is similar – but no anise and has diced spice drops,diced orange slices(optional),ground coconut,chopped walnuts, ground raisins, & used dark corn syrup. I’d have to check on the milk- I have been making them the last several Christmas’ but not having the recipe in front of me – I don’t recall the milk.

  8. Kristin Srajer O'Hern says:

    My grandmother is 104 and living in Tampa, KS. She makes a similar version but adds spice drops, chopped walnuts,ground raisons and ground coconut.

  9. Doreen says:

    My mother in-law passed away several years ago and use to make peppernuts every Christmas. Now,I have a recipe for peppernuts that she used but not clear on whether she wanted 2 cups butter AND 2 cups lard…or 1 of each to equal 2 cups. The recipe has about 3 cups sugar and up to 20 cups of flour with anise spice. along with many other ingredients. I am thinking it must only be 2 cups total. ty

  10. Michele Lawlor says:

    Thank you for your peppernuts story. My Aunt Gertrude made the most wonderful peppernuts and would not share her family recipe with us. As I look at the 100’s of recipes of the sweet little cookie, I am not sure of the ingredients she had in hers. Maybe there was a little anise and black pepper in them, but it has been so many years since I’ve had them.

  11. Jan Imler says:

    A recipe similar to the one Doreen mentions: my mother had us make pepppernuts the weekend after Thanksgiving (so the cookies could “age” by Christmas and flavors blend/we would put them in them in clean empty coffee cans) using 20 cups of flour. It also called for the anise oil, shortening (melted) and dark Karo syrup. I am just sick that I cannot find that recipe and would love it if anyone has one similar to this they would share!
    Thank you!

  12. Asherah says:

    I recently found out my mother lost the card with my grandmothers peppernut recipe. Hers had no milk or water. All my mom can remember is that it called for a pound of honey, a pound of karo syrup and a pound of dark karo syrup, the seasonings mentioned above and I believe we started with 6 cups of flour. Does anyone have a recipe similar to this?

    Thank you,

  13. Asherah says:

    Actually to add to my above post its not dark karo syrup its molasses

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