Vanillekipferl (Vanilla Crescent Cookies)

Possibly the tastiest of all German Christmas cookies, Vanillekipferl are, crumbly, buttery crescent-shaped cookies, scented with heavenly vanilla. Yum!

Christmas baking for the Advent season is in full swing in Munich, filling the kitchen with the scents and flavours of what the Germans call the Weihnachtsbäckerei – the Christmas bakery.

While there are literally hundreds of traditional German Christmas cookies, one of the most popular is Vanillekipferl shortbread cookies.

A plate of Vanillekipferl or Vanilla crescent cookies surrounded by Christmas decorations, walnuts, clementines and a candle.

What are Vanillekipferl?

The perfect cookie! Vanillekipferl or vanilla crescents are possibly the most beloved of all the Christmas cookies or plätzchen. Deceptively simple, they are made from an almond flour shortbread, scented with plenty of vanilla. 

These are seriously dangerous cookies as they are so easy to eat they can be gone in an afternoon without you even noticing. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Vanillekipferl are famous for having a light as air, melt-in-the-mouth texture. While they aren’t tricky to make, it is important to follow the recipe carefully.

  • Keep the pastry as cold as possible before it goes into the oven. If the pastry is too warm it tends to spread and lose its beautiful moon shape. If you are reading this recipe from Down Under, make sure you have the air conditioning cranked up high to get the kitchen nice and cool before you even consider these. Trust me, I am talking from experience!
  • Weigh your ingredients for the best chance of cookie-baking success. While it is possible to make these cookies using cup measurements, it will make your life much easier to use a digital kitchen scale.
  • Vanillekipferl are EXTREMELY fragile until they have cooled down. While it is traditional to toss the cookies in sugar as soon as they come out of the oven, I sprinkle them with sugar instead, then let them cool a little before tossing them in the remaining sugar.

Ingredients

To make Vanilla Kipferl cookies you’ll need the following main ingredients:

  • FLOUR: Plain or cake flour is best for this recipe for the perfect crumbly texture.
  • GROUND ALMONDS: Vanillekipferl are pale in colour, so look for blanched ground almonds or fine almond meal. Fun fact: Vanillekipferl were originally made with ground walnuts.
  • SUGAR: You’ll need white sugar and vanilla sugar for these cookies. See the tips below for how to make Homemade Vanilla Sugar.
  • EGG YOLK: Be sure to save the egg whites for other Christmas baking like Zimtsterne cookies or Pavlova!
  • BUTTER: For the perfect melt-in-the-mouth texture. I always use unsalted butter in baking as that way I can control the amount of salt in the final product.
A close up photograph of baked Vanillekipferl cookies.

The full ingredient list and instructions are in the recipe card at the bottom of the page.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Can I make Vanillekipferl without nuts?

This is a tricky question. It is possible to make them as traditional shortbread, though the texture will be different. I’d suggest replacing the nuts with half plain flour and hlaf rice flour or cornstarch for the best crumbly texture.

Can I make Vanillekipferl in advance?

Yes! Christmas cookies are always made well in advance of the big day. Keep them in a metal cookie tin for the best results.

Help, my Vanillekipferl spread out too much! What went wrong?

These cookies can be finicky the first time you make them. It is vital to make sure the dough is very cold before it goes into the oven. Next time try refrigerating the formed cookies for 15 minutes before you bake them.

A plate of Vanillekipferl or Vanilla crescent cookies surrounded by Christmas decorations, walnuts, clementines and a candle.

It’s important to keep the dough as cold as possible while you work. If you think the dough is getting too warm, put it in the fridge for 15 minutes to firm up.

A close up photograph of baked Vanillekipferl cookies.

How to make your own Vanilla Sugar

If you can’t track down vanilla sugar in the baking aisle at your local grocery store, it is simple to make at home with leftover vanilla beans! Simply place used a used vanilla pod (cut into shorter lengths if necessary) into a glass jar.

Fill the jar with sugar and leave to infuse. The longer you leave the jar, the stronger the flavour in your vanilla-infused sugar will be!

Vanillekipferl Recipe

A close up photograph of baked Vanillekipferl cookies.

Vanillekipferl (Vanilla Crescent Cookies)

Yield: Approx 30
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Chilling Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas in Germany without the wonderful tradition of ‘Plätzchen’ - tins of mixed, homemade cookies.

Possibly the tastiest of all are Vanillekipferl, crumbly, buttery crescent-shaped cookies, scented with heavenly vanilla. Yum!

Ingredients

  • 125g (1 cup) plain flour
  • 100g (1 cup) ground almonds
  • 75g (⅓ cup) white sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 100g (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

to decorate:

  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • 3 tsp vanilla sugar

Instructions

      1. MAKE THE DOUGH: In the bowl of a stand mixer or a food processor with the blade attachment fitted, combine the flour, almonds, both sugars, egg yolk and butter. Run the mixer until the mixture forms pebbly crumbs. Using your hands, squeeze the mixture together, kneading very briefly until a smooth dough forms.
      2. CHILL DOUGH: On a lightly floured surface, roll out into a long sausage shape, wrap in plastic wrap / cling film and refrigerate for half an hour.
      3. PREPARE: Heat the oven to 180°C / 350°F / Gas 4 and line a cookie sheet or oven tray with baking parchment paper.
      4. SHAPE DOUGH: Cut the roll into thin slices (approx. 1cm / just under ½ in.) and cut each slice in half so you have two half circles. Use your fingers to squeeze and curve each of the small pieces into crescents. It is best to make an exaggerated ‘U’ or horseshoe shape as the cookies puff up in the oven.
      5. BAKE: Transfer to the lined baking sheet, leaving space between each cookie and bake for 12 minutes until just very slightly golden brown on the tips.
      6. MAKE SUGAR COATING: While the Vanillekipferl are in the oven, whisk together the sugar and vanilla sugar. Immediately after you take them out of the oven, sprinkle the hot cookies generously with the vanilla sugar.
      7. COAT IN SUGAR: Pour the remaining vanilla sugar onto a plate, and when the Vanillekipferl have cooled for 2-3 minutes toss them very carefully through the vanilla sugar mixture to cover. Set aside to cool completely on a wire rack.

Notes

Some people prefer to cover their Vanillekipferl cookies with icing / powdered sugar - I like the crunch of ordinary sugar crystals! If you'd prefer powdered or icing sugar just use it instead of plain sugar.

I use vanilla sugar in this cookie dough rather than vanilla extract as it is important not to use too much liquid in the dough.

It's easiest to separate egg whites and egg yolks when they are fridge cold. Save any whites for making Zimtsterne cookies!

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 30
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 78Total Fat: 5gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 13mgSodium: 17mgCarbohydrates: 8gFiber: 0gSugar: 4gProtein: 1g

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Cookies make the perfect Christmas gift! Try some of my other traditional German Christmas cookie recipes:

Spitzbuben, Speculaas, or Pinwheel Cookies?

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Jay Wadams
Jay Wadams

Jay Wadams is a cookbook author and food photographer. Current Flipboard Food Writer in Residence and Le Cordon Bleu Gastronomy and Nutrition graduate. Based in Italy 🇮🇹 Germany 🇩🇪 and Australia 🇦🇺.

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