Looking for a traditional European Christmas cookie? Try Vanillekipferl! These vanilla butter cookies are made with walnuts and shaped to look like crescents. The coating of powdered sugar makes them delicious and beautiful. With only 6 ingredients, this treat is ready to eat in just 30 minutes!

plate of vanillekipferl cookies with confectioners' sugar.

Pronounced va-nil-leh-kipp-feh-l with a German accent, vanillekipferl are popular butter cookies similar to shortbread that melt away when you bite into them. It’s tough to determine exactly where the recipe originated from, but it’s safe to say it’s of European descent (my guess would be German or Austrian). Regardless, these crescent cookies are popular around the holidays in many countries because they are simple to make and taste delicious!

Why this recipe works

  • It’s an authentic Vanillekipferl recipe without eggs.
  • Walnuts make the best crescent cookie. They have more oil and flavor than raw almonds. As a result, walnuts make the dough softer, which yields a tender cookie that melts away in your mouth. Pecans have the same effect.
  • The dough keeps its shape as it bakes and yields a delicate texture.
  • It is a great last-minute recipe for the holidays. You only need 6 ingredients and the cookies are ready in 30 minutes!

Ingredient notes

vanillekipferl cookie ingredients in bowls labeled with text.
  • Walnuts: Measure the nuts whole, then finely chop them.
  • Confectioners’ sugar: Also known as powdered sugar, this adds sweetness and makes a super soft texture. You can also use Baker’s sugar (superfine sugar) if you have it on hand.
  • Unsalted butter: Make sure it is still cool to the touch so the dough isn’t too warm.
  • Vanilla extract: Use high-quality pure vanilla extract for the best flavor.

Recipe variations

This recipe will work with almost any type of nut. My German mother-in-law uses almonds, which is the most popular variation. However, you have to blanch the almonds to remove the skin and then toast the almonds to bring out the flavor. If you take that route, add 1/2 teaspoon almond extract with the vanilla extract. Other nut substitutions include pecans, pistachios and hazelnuts (be sure they are skinned).

The dough can also be spiced! Whisk in 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon or cardamom when combining the walnuts and confectioners’ sugar. For a citrus flavor, add 1/2 teaspoon orange extract or lemon extract to the dough. You could also add 2 teaspoons fresh lemon or orange zest if you prefer.

How to make vanillekipferl

photo collage demonstrating how to make vanillekipferl cookie dough in a mixing bowl with a hand mixer.
  1. Whisk dry ingredients—chopped walnuts, flour and salt. Set aside.
  2. Combine remaining ingredients. Use an electric mixer to beat butter and confectioners’ sugar until light and creamy. Mix in vanilla.
  3. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Do not over-mix.
  4. Shape dough. Scoop 1 tablespoon of dough and roll into a 3-inch long rope. Place on prepared baking sheet and gently turn down the ends of the dough to form a crescent shape. Repeat with remaining dough, placing each cookie 2 inches apart.
two photo collage demonstrating how to shape kipferl cookies and coat them in confectioners' sugar.
  1. Bake at 325 F for 16 to 20 minutes. Cookies are done when the tops are pale golden and bottoms are beginning to brown.
  2. Coat in confectioners’ sugar. While the cookies are still warm, place them in a bowl of confectioners’ sugar. Coat evenly and serve.

Expert tips

Weigh your ingredients for accurate measurements. If you don’t have a kitchen scale, spoon your flour into a measuring cup and level with a knife (don’t pack it down).

Keep the dough cool. Use butter that is cool to the touch. Avoid overworking the dough when shaping it with your hands because your body heat will warm the dough. Keep the dough in the refrigerator between batches. When you make a second batch, make sure the pan isn’t hot otherwise the cookies will spread.

Do not over-bake. These cookies are delicate and have a tender texture, but if over-baked they will get crumbly and dry. Add the powdered sugar while the cookies are still warm. The heat will absorb some of the sugar to help it stick. Add a fresh coat of sugar right before serving.

walnut kipferl cookie with a bite on plate with more cookies.

Make ahead and storage tips

Cookie dough may be made and kept in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours. It may also be frozen for up to 3 months. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap to keep the dough from drying out. When ready to bake, defrost the dough in the refrigerator.

Baked cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week. You can also freeze the baked cookies in an airtight container for up to 1 month. Defrost in the refrigerator and add a fresh coat of confectioners’ sugar before serving.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why did my cookies spread and flatten?

The dough was too warm or the baking sheet was hot. Put the dough in the refrigerator between batches and avoid overworking the dough with your hands when shaping into crescents.

Can I use a crescent cookie cutter?

Yes, you can roll the dough and cut with a cookie cutter. You can also use a cookie mold.

Why are my cookies crumbly?

They were probably over-baked. Take the cookies out of the oven as soon as the tips start to turn golden. It’s also possible that the dough is too dry from too much flour or baking at high altitude in a dry climate.

vanillekipferl with powdered sugar on a plate.

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plate of vanillekipferl cookies with confectioners' sugar.

Vanillekipferl – Vanilla Crescent Cookies

Try making a traditional European Christmas cookie! Vanillekipferl are vanilla butter cookies made with walnuts and shaped like crescents.
5 (12 ratings)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (220 g) whole walnuts, measured, then very finely chopped
  • 2 cups (250 g) all purpose flour
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (226 g or 2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, but still cool
  • ½ cup (60 g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups (180 g) confectioners’ sugar for rolling cookies in

Instructions 

  • Adjust oven racks to upper and lower levels. Preheat oven to 325° F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • Mix 2 cups chopped walnuts, flour and salt in a bowl. Whisk together and set aside.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer (or using a hand mixer), cream butter and 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Mix in vanilla. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
  • Add flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix on low just until the dough starts to come together. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Mix on low until dough is cohesive, about 10 more seconds. Do not overmix.
  • Scoop 1 tablespoon of dough and roll into a ball. Using your palms, role the ball into a 3-inch long rope. Place the rope on prepared baking sheet and gently turn down the tips of the dough to form a crescent shape. Repeat with remaining dough, placing each cookie 2 inches apart.
  • Bake cookies at 325° F for 16 to 18 minutes. Halfway through baking, rotate the baking sheets and swap them from top to bottom. Cookies are done when the tops are pale golden and bottoms are beginning to brown.
  • Let the cookies cool on the pan for 5 minutes, then while they are still warm, place the cookies in a bowl of confectioners’ sugar and coat them evenly. Let them cool completely and before serving adding a second coating of sugar.

Notes

Nuts: Pecans or almonds may also be used in this recipe.
Butter: Use butter that is slightly softened and still cool to the touch. If it’s too warm, the cookies won’t keep their shape.
Spreading/flattening: This will happen if the dough is too warm. Use butter that is cool and avoid overworking the dough with your hands. If necessary in warm climates, chill the cookies before baking.
Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.
Freeze dough for up to 3 months. Defrost in the refrigerator before shaping and baking.
Serving: 1cookie, Calories: 105kcal, Carbohydrates: 10g, Protein: 1g, Fat: 7g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 1g, Trans Fat: 0.2g, Cholesterol: 10mg, Sodium: 37mg, Potassium: 28mg, Fiber: 0.5g, Sugar: 5g, Vitamin A: 119IU, Vitamin C: 0.1mg, Calcium: 7mg, Iron: 0.4mg

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