These Spicy Chocolate Beauties Are Perfect for the Holidays — or Anytime
These cookies originated in Austria, where they are called Wienerstube. But we find it easier to pronounce their Anglicized name: Chocolate Pepper Cookies. One taste, and you may decide to just call them “My New Favorite Cookie.”
These are a bit less sweet than some other cookies, and their spicy, complex undertones make them perfect for grownup occasions (though kids like them too). Their sophisticated combination of chocolate and pepper isn’t spicy hot, but you definitely notice a bit of a tingle on your tongue. And they’re equally at home with a glass of milk, a cup of tea, a cocktail, or a glass of wine.
We often make these as a Christmas cookie. But they’re great anytime you’re craving something chocolate with a bit of oomph. Best of all, you can freeze the dough, and then just cut off a bit and bake a few cookies at a time.
It doesn’t get any better than that.
Recipe: Chocolate Pepper Cookies
Although Wienerstube are a traditional Viennese cookie, that aren’t well known in the US. Mrs. Kitchen Riffs discovered them in one of Maida Heatter’s delightful cookbooks, her 1977 Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Cookies (this recipe is Mrs K R’s very slight adaption of that one).
Chocolate and black pepper are magical together. Once you serve these cookies to friends, they’ll never forget them. And they’ll definitely be asking for the recipe.
This is a classic icebox cookie: After you mix the dough, just shape it and allow it to firm up in the refrigerator (or freezer) before cutting it into cookie shapes and baking. Mixing the dough takes 20 to 30 minutes. Then you need to let the dough chill for at least a couple of hours (overnight is better). Cutting the cookies and baking them takes another 12 or so minutes per sheet.
This recipe produces about 4 dozen cookies, and it’s easy to double (in fact, Mrs K R always makes a double batch). Leftovers keep well for a few days, or they can be frozen.
- ½ to ¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (grind it as fine as you can; freshly ground makes a world of difference)
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1½ teaspoons double-acting baking powder (see Notes)
- ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
- ¼ teaspoon salt (I like kosher salt)
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional but really tasty; see notes)
- ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa (Hersey’s works well; see Notes)
- 1½ sticks butter (6 ounces)
- 1 cup sugar (the ordinary granulated kind)
- 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract (see Notes)
- 1 large egg (consider using pasteurized; see Notes)
- wax or parchment paper (to help shape the cookies)
- Grind the black pepper as finely as you can. (We have a coffee grinder that we use exclusively for grinding spices.)
- Whisk together the flour, black pepper, baking powder, cinnamon, allspice, salt, cayenne pepper (if using), and cocoa, making sure you thoroughly mix the ingredients. Set aside.
- In the bowl of an electric stand mixer (or if using a hand mixer, in a large bowl) cream the butter.
- Add the sugar and then the vanilla. Beat well to thoroughly incorporate.
- Beat in the egg on low speed until thoroughly incorporated.
- On low speed, gradually add the dry ingredients (a quarter cup or so at a time). Beat until well mixed (you may have to stop a few times to scrape the bowl with a spatula).
- Tear off an 18-inch length of wax or parchment paper. Spoon a few dollops of dough down the length of the paper, until you’ve formed a strip about 10 to 12 inches long and about 2 inches thick (dough will be soft).
- Fold the paper lightly around the dough. Using your hands to press against the paper with a slight rolling action, shape the dough into an oblong-shaped log. Repeat until you have formed all the dough into long rolls.
- Wrap the dough in the paper, then place in plastic wrap or a plastic food storage bag. Refrigerate (or freeze) for several hours (or overnight; see Notes) until firm.
- When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Place one rack in the lower third position, the other in the upper third position.
- Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or aluminum foil, or use a silicone baking mat like the French Silpat.
- Unwrap the chilled dough (which should now be very firm) and place on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, cut into slices of ¼ inch or so. Place cookies on prepared cookie sheets, spacing them about an inch apart.
- Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Halfway through, reverse the cookie sheets (switch from top to bottom, and front to back) to ensure even baking. When you press a fingertip to the top of a cookie and the cookie just springs back, they are done. Don’t overbake!
- Transfer cookies to a plate to cool.
- You really want to use freshly ground black pepper in this recipe — the perfume of freshly ground makes an enormous difference in the final flavor of the cookie.
- Although this cookie is delicious even without the cayenne, I strongly suggest using a bit. It really adds a nice hit of extra spiciness. If you’re worried about the heat, start with just a pinch, and then adjust to your preference.
- Almost every baking powder you’ll find on your grocery shelf is “double-acting.”
- Baking powder does become weaker over time (and most baking powder tins have an expiration date). So replace your baking powder when necessary. I usually replace mine once a year, when daylight savings time ends (so I remember to do it).
- It’s a good idea to shake your baking powder before using it to make sure all its components are well mixed. Baking powder consists of baking soda, an acidic ingredient (which reacts with the baking soda to produce leavening), and a neutral substance (usually corn starch) to provide bulk.
- Common brands of baking powder include Clabber Girl, Calumet, Rumford, and Argo. They all work, though in the past I’ve tended to favor Clabber Girl. At the moment I’m using Argo.
- You can use a fancy unsweetened cocoa in this recipe if you like. But the ubiquitous (in the US) Hershey’s cocoa powder is actually pretty good, and also relatively inexpensive. It works well in this recipe.
- Good vanilla extract contains no sugar. So check the label on yours — you may be surprised at what you see.
- You want to use real (pure) vanilla extract in this recipe. Pure vanilla extract is made by soaking vanilla beans in a mixture of water and alcohol for several months. BTW, the FDA requires that pure vanilla extract contain at least 35% alcohol.
- If the label doesn’t say “pure,” that means it’s made from synthetic vanilla. The artificial kind is usually derived from the sapwood of several species of conifers — or from coal extracts!
- The flavor of some imitation vanillas can be nasty. You don’t have to spend a fortune on pure vanilla extract, but getting decent quality does mean spending a bit more for something that’s not loaded with sugar or imitation flavoring. Do yourself a favor and get the real stuff.
- You can also use vanilla beans, but for baking that’s a pain.
- Eggs carry a slight (but real) risk of salmonella. So I suggest using pasteurized eggs for cookie dough. Although it’s unlikely that the eggs you buy will be infected, why take the risk? Especially since most of us can’t make cookies without tasting the raw dough!
- You can easily identify pasteurized eggs because they usually have a red “P” stamped on them.
- You can make this cookie dough ahead of time freeze it until you’re ready to bake. If freezing for more than a few hours to firm up, wrap in wax or parchment paper and plastic as directed in Steps 8 and 9. Then wrap again in aluminum foil.
- When ready to bake, you can remove from the dough from the freezer and immediately cut it into slices (Step 12). But it’s easier if you let it thaw out a few minutes (no more than 10).
The Case of the Disappearing Cookies
I took a bite of Chocolate Pepper Cookie fresh from the oven. “Delicious!” I exclaimed. “This might be your all-time best cookie.”
“Ummm,” nodded Mrs K R, her mouth stuffed.
“Good thing we’re doing ‘Cookies and Cocktails’ on the blog so we can tell our readers about them,” I added — shamelessly promoting our latest feature. “Every week a different cookie and cocktail!”
“It’s also a good thing I doubled the recipe,” said Mrs K R, watching me reach for another handful.
“Right,” I said, wiping the crumbs from my shirt. “Maybe I should pace myself.”
“Or maybe I should start making a triple batch,” she suggested.
I like the way she thinks.
You may also enjoy reading about:
Chocolate Drop Cookies
Cherry Winks Cookies
Peanut Butter Cookies
Ultimate Chocolate Brownie
Easy Peach Cobbler
Root Beer Floats
Walnut Apple Crisp
I am so excited about these cookies!! You have been posting so many recipes lately that I feel compelled to try (which is impressive considering I read a lot of food blogs). These are right up my alley - can't wait to get these in my oven!
Oh my goodness ... these cookies sound absolutely divine!
I think I might try throwing in some dried cranberries and pistachios for the holidays!
I make a chocolate chili cake so I know I will love these cookies.
One would not be enough that is certain :)
Choc Chip Uru
These cookies sound amazing. I guess I would not have thought of putting chocolate and pepper together. I bet the flavor is just wonderful.
Hi John! I am always craving something chocolate with a bit of ooomph! These cookies sound fabulous. I love playing with chocolate and adding spices and ingredients that one doesn't usually expect. The peppers and spices really must give this a unique warmth! I cannot wait to try these! And your pictures are absolutely stunning! : )
I missed reading your tempting suggestions so much over the past week! Now I read this... Double-yummy! The freezing suggestion is great, even now for the holidays.
These look so different and interesting ... Triple batch is definitely in order (if you give me your address so I cans top by) :-)
I love the idea of an adult cookie and these look brilliant. I agree on the vanilla extract and as easy as it is to make at home, I don't know why everyone doesn't do it. I make it twice a year and have plenty to give away.
I love pepper in cookies and am loving this recipe and cookie! Looks moist and delicious : )
John, this "a bit less sweet than some other cookies" are right up my alley!
When I make cookies I cut sugar to a third of the suggested amount. :) European cookies have less sugar in recipes already, plus peppers balances sweetness really well.
I am going to pour myself a cup of tea to go with a few of those cookies... :) Thanks to Mrs. KR!
Wow, those are so different and sound really great! My husband would love these - he is a huge black pepper and chocolate fan. I will add them to my holiday cookie list! Thanks :)
What a treat these are.. grown up cookies:) Love that they tingle when you bite into them! xx
Complements to you both. Pepper and cayenne!!!!! YES. Thanks Carina
Hi Kristy, I hope you enjoy these! They're a great cookie, and really worth making. Thanks for your comment.
Hi Kimberly, these are truly wroth making. The dried cranberries and pistachios sound pretty good, but of course you do want to grind them a bit so their texture doesn't intrude. You'll like this cookie - trust me! ;-) Thanks for your comment.
Hi Karen, these sound like they're right up your alley! Thanks for the commet.
Hi Uru, these cookies are worth mainlining, believe me! ;-) Thanks for your comment.
Hi Dawn, chocolate and pepper is one of those combos that sounds a bit weird, but is really old (the Aztecs combined the two). These are a super cookie - truly wonderful. Thanks for your comment.
Hi Anne, these have got ooomph, and a bit more! ;-) Really good stuff. Thanks for your kind words, and your comment.
Hi Alex, good to see you! You'll like these - they have such a great flavor. Thanks for the comment.
Hi CJ, I think a triple batch of these beauties is mandatory, don't you? ;-) It's be lovely if you'd stop by! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Maureen, kids do like these of course (it's a cookie!), but it's really an adult cookie. I've yet to meet an adult who didn't like these. Thanks for your comment.
Hi Judy, isn't pepper and chocolate a lovely combo? And these cookies are the best recipe combining the two I've ever tasted. Thanks for your comment.
Hi Marina, you'd like this recipe. There is sweetness, but just a touch. Just a lovely flavor, and these go so well with tea. Thanks for your comment.
Hi Alyssa, these are a tad different, aren't they? But really good. It sounds like your hubby likes these. And after he tastes these, he'll owe me. And of course you, big time! Thanks for your comment.
Hi Ala, Maida Heatter is the genius behind this recipe - if you haven't discovered her cookbooks you need to. They're brilliant. And I always shamelessly promote on - it's kinda what I do! Thanks for your comment.
Hi Just a Smidgen, these really are a treat for grownups! Such a delish cookies - well worth making. Thanks for your comment.
Hi Carina, thank you (and thanks for commenting!). These really are wonderful - how can you beat pepper, cayenne, and chocolate! Such good stuff! ;-)
Chocolate and chilies are a great combination but never tried them on cookies which I think is a great idea.
Hi Raymund, these cookies are so worth trying - really a wonderful taste. One of my faves. Thanks for your comment.
I've had chocolate cookies with red chile powder before, but never with black pepper. That's a completely different flavor than red pepper and I'm quite curious as to how it would taste with the chocolate. Since I definitely trust your opinion, and now that I'm making cookies, :),I'm putting these on the Christmas cookie list! They look quite different than most holiday cookies and the flavors are definitely unique! Thanks John!!
Hi MJ, the black pepper has a really interesting taste. This is a pretty easy cookie to make, and its flavor is tremendous — I think you'd really enjoy it. Do let me know how you enjoy it. Thanks for commenting.
I have heard of chocolate and chilli combination before but never thought of baking chocolate and pepper together. These cookies sounds very interesting to me :D
I've made a black pepper cookie before, and well... it tasted a lot like black pepper. It was a little bizarre. I think I'll try this version, it sounds a lot better!
pepper and chocolate, never had it before but I think I will for sure call this cookie my favorite cookie as you suggested. I've been on a chili kick... put pepper here... and chili sauce there.. and yeah these cookies will definitely find its way to my kitchen one of these days.
Btw, I made your cranberry sauce and ditched the can this year Yay! thanks for sharing,
I know all about chocolate and chili but would never have thought to add black pepper. I also would never have thought to shake up my baking powder even though I know it is made up of different components. I'm going home today to shake my baking powder!
Hi Zoe, you really should give these a shot — they have great flavor. And it's a cookie that most adults love. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Jen, these definitely have a black pepper flavor, but it's an under taste — the flavor doesn't dominate. It's really quite pleasant. Thanks for commenting.
Hi Malou, isn't it fun ditching the can with cranberry sauce? ;-) This is a super cookie, and one I think you'd like. Let me know how you like them. And thanks for the comment.
Hi Suzanne, black pepper and chocolate is a wonderful combo, but it's not as popular as chocolate and chilies. And definitely shake up your baking powder! That stuff is actually a bit more twitchy than one would think. Thanks for the comment.
I like my cookies not too sweet, so this sounds ideal, especially with the hit of pepper.
I know I love it, I've tried it... :) They are very good on a plane when you travel around Christmas.
John, I started a discussion on my blog and would really like to hear your opinion. :)
Hi Carolyn, this is the perfect cookie if you prefer ones that aren't too sweet. Or at least I think so. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Marina, ;-) I'll check out the discussion on your blog tomorrow!
Love the pepper in these cookies. Would love to enjoy them with a hot cup of tea!
Hi Asmita, these cookies are great with tea! It's a combo Mrs K R and I often have. Thanks for your comment.
Sound great! I do a chocolate chili drop cookie that is wonderful after a Mexican dinner. I'll have to try these, too.
I have never tried chocolate and black pepper before, but I have tried chocolate and chili pepper, and that combination is fantastic! This recipe sounds fantastic! Bookmarked!!
Never tried chocolate and pepper combination before. Sounds interesting and from your presenation, I can imagine the taste. I liked the elaborate notes you provided with the recipe. Definitely want to try!!!
Hi Abbe, your chocolate chili drop cookie sounds wonderful! Hope you enjoy these. Thanks for your comment.
Hi Cathleen, it's a good combo — if you like the chocolate and chile pepper combo, you'll probably like this one. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Shibi, it's a totally wonderful cookie — tremendous flavor. Thanks for the kind words, and for commenting.
Oh yes - my new favorite cookie! You know me so well. ;)
Chocolate and salty - definitely! Chocolate and peppery? Never tried it, but I soon will!
Hi Jeanne, good choice making this your new favorite cookie! Thanks for your comment.
Hi Laura, you'll love it, trust me. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Wow these cookies sure do look great! I have never tried a "spicy" chocolate cookie, I am so excited to try this recipe sometime :)
I love a different cookie recipe. Not a cookie baker myself but I eat a lot when I get my hands on a good one :)
But this recipe might change my mind, it sounds easy to make and get big bang for your buck in terms of taste vs effort ratio. :)
Wow, so interesting...chocolate and black pepper...I have seen recipes with other spices but never seen with black pepper and cayenne pepper...it is something that I think I would try, but you sound so assertive :)
Have a great week Mr and Mrs K R!
I Kristi, chocolate handles spicy pretty well, at least IMO. It's a nice combo of flavors. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Ilke, this is definitely an easy cookie to make, and the flavor really is awesome. I hope you enjoy it! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Juliana, I guess I am just a tad enthusiastic about this cookie, aren't I? ;-) I do think you'd enjoy it; if you make it, do let me know! Thanks for the comment.
What an awesome flavor combo! Those cookies look sinfully good. I really love such original pairings...
What gorgeous looking cookies. I've had cookies with spices in them but never black pepper. It would be great to try these xx
Hi Rosa, aren't these nice? Truly one of my favorite cookies. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Charlie, one doesn't usually think of adding black pepper to cookies (at least I didn't before I had these) but it works surprisingly well. I think you'll enjoy these. Thanks for the comment.
These cookies look and sound delicious! I've had pepper on chocolate before but never cookies....must try it one day! Love the photos with the glass of milk...cookies and milk definitely go well together :)
Lovely looking cookies. I never would have thought to include pepper in cookies before! An unusual ingredient indeed!
Hi Ali, the pepper and chocolate is really a nice flavor - well worth trying. And milk and cookies is one of the classic combos, isn't it? Thanks for the comment.
Hi Christine, it's really a nice cookie, and the black pepper adds quite a bit of flavor. But it is an unusual ingredient for a sweet! Thanks for the comment.
I like how these have both kinds of pepper. I'm always trying new varieties to add to my Christmas Cookie List, will have to give these a try. Thanks, hope you and the Mrs. had a great holiday.
Hi Gina, you taste mainly the black pepper, but the cayenne does provide a tiny tingle too. This is well worth trying, IMO - I think you'll like it. Thanks for the comment.
I usually add cardamom and cinnamon to my chocolate cookies but I love the idea of trying out pepper and some heat next time!
Thank you for the inspiration
Hi Sawsan, cardamon sounds like such a terrific idea! I'll have to try that sometime. And I think you'll like the black pepper. Thanks for the comment.
Come to think of it, I had never tried cookies that have black pepper in it. The crackers yes but not the cookies. I don't like very sweet sweets including cookies, so I probably enjoy this flavor. I like learning about new kind of cookies and this is the best one among recent findings!
Hi Nami, these cookies definitely have some sweetness to them, but much less than other cookies, so you might find them interesting. Plus the black pepper really gives an interesting flavor! Thanks for the comment.
You know what is funny, last year I would have said no way to chocolate and pepper. BUT when I was working at the cafe last year, I made a chocolate pepper cookie, and complimented it with pumpkin mousse.....oh my YUM! I love your cookie recipe.....AND need to make some soon:-) Yum, Hugs, Terra
Hi Terra, this recipe is really good! I totally understand why'd you'd turn an eyebrow up at the thought of chocolate and pepper — it does sound a bit weird. But it's a great combo! Thanks for the comment.
Wow, cool, we have enjoyed pfefferneuse, but chocolate pepper cookies? This I gotta try! Four dozen is kind of a scary amount, though, I might have to wait until we have our full count of holiday visitors on hand before trying them.
Hi Mary, although the flavor of the chocolate pepper cookies are different from pfefferneuse, they're both cookies that adults tend to like, and if you like pfefferneuse I think you'll like these (assuming you like chocolate!). If 4 dozen is too many, you can freeze these for up to a month; just put in baggies, then place those in an airtight container (or a freezer bag). Thanks for the comment.
Okay first of all I need to make these for hubs. He loves pepper. I don't use it nearly enough.
Secondly I SO want a photography lesson from you. They just rock my world. You are wicked talented.
Hi Kim, you definitely need to make these! I'll bet your husband is wondering why you haven't already. ;-) Thanks for the kind words, and the comment.
I see these cookies every time I'm at one of the Christmas markets, and I have been to afraid to try them! But now I think I may just have to!
Hi Nerd with Taste, this is a great cookie! You're lucky to have a market that carries these - I've not often seen them in stores (but I haven't actually looked for them, so perhaps I've overlooked them). Thanks for the comment.
My boyfriend really wanted chocolate pepper cookies so I tried your recipe and it's a huge hit! Thank you for sharing
Hi Anonymous, aren't these a wonderful cookie? I totally love them! Thanks for the comment.
Thank you for posting these. About 10-15 years ago, I made these frequently... then they fell off my cookie-making radar. I just spent an hour searching through my cookie recipes, but couldn't find it.... googling brought me to you! Thanks again!
Note: the pepper flavor becomes more pronounced after the cookies sit overnight.
Hi Eeka, isn't Google a wonderful thing? ;-) Sorry you lost your recipe, but glad I had posted this! This truly is one of my favorite cookies. Thanks for your comment.
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