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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Elisenlebkuchen - low-carb, gluten-free and sugar-free

There are many things and foods that say “Christmas” to me. Especially German/Bavarian ones for me! None more so than Elisenlebkuchen however! They are a Bavarian specialty and every year I feel compelled to make them! They remind me of crisp cold winters, Christkindlmarkets with Gluehwein (German mulled wine) and ... Lebkuchen!



What makes these so special is that they are mostly comprised of nuts. They have a very delicate spice and they are moist and delicious, even after weeks of storing (if they are done right anyway!)

However, they are also very sugary in their original form.  They usually contain a lot of candied peel, sugar in the batter and then they are traditionally either covered in a thin sugar glaze or a thin coat of dark chocolate. And I mean THIN!



But, not exactly low-carb friendly, even though easily made gluten-free, which I wrote about in my recipe here last year.

So this year, I revisited the low-carb/sugar-free version! And they turned out beautifully! I made a regular version, a low-carb version and a gluten-free version since we have a lot of different allergies and ways of eating to cater for around our parts. I had to actually mark them, because I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference otherwise!

Today I do however want to focus on the sugar-free/  low-carb variety!

So, without further ado, let’s get to it!


Low-Carb Elisenlebkuchen



  • 1 cup erythritol/xylitol, powdered (measure after powdering)
  • 1 cup Ideal sugar substitute (could substitute bulk Splenda, Truvia etc. )
  • 3 tbsp. polydextrose
  • 4 tbsp. monin sugar-free syrup (vanilla)
  • peel of 3 large lemons
  • peel of 3 large oranges
  • peel of 1 large lime

  • 6 large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp EACH of the following ground spices:

Cinnamon, Cloves, Coriander, Allspice, Nutmeg, Cardamom, guar gum (xanthan works too)

  • 1/2 tsp buttery vanilla bakery emulsion or vanilla extract
  • 240g Hazelnuts; whole (8.5 oz.) *almonds/pecans/walnuts work too, but it’s not nearly as good :)*
  • 240g Hazelnuts; finely ground (8.5 oz.) - or more of the whole ones and you can grind it fine yourself
  • 50g Walnuts; coarsely chopped (1.8 oz.)


  • rice based baking wafers or rice paper (50mm) if you are eating gluten-free, wheat  based Oblaten if you are not. These are somewhat optional but much better with! A word on the Oblaten . Yes, they aren’t low-carb, strictly speaking. However, they only add less than o.5 carbs to your cookie, that it is worth it in my opinion. Not only do they prevent sticking, they keep the moisture in like nothing else and are an integral and traditional part of Elisenlebkuchen.

For the coating:

Sugar-free chocolate or Lindt 85% (or a combination of both) and 1 tsp coconut oil or palm shortening per bar of chocolate. It varies how much you need, depending on how much you use and how large your cookies are. For the above recipe I usually need 3 bars of Lindt and 1 tbsp. of palm shortening, if I cover them all in chocolate.

Traditionally they also come glazed with sugar glaze, which is a whole separate post by itself. And it will be at a later date, where I am comparing a couple of products to make a “sugar” glaze. For now, if you can afford the carbs, use Ideal Confectioner’s Sugar Substitute. It works just like regular powdered sugar and gives great results.

If not, just stick with the chocolate coating!



Place the peel of all the fruit, the xylitol, the polydextrose and the sugar-free syrup in a small sauce pan and under constant stirring heat until just boiling. Take the pan off the heat and set aside to cool.

Now, place the whole hazelnuts in the food processor. Start pulsing them until coarsely chopped, then add the sweetener and peel mix and pulse some more until evenly incorporated. Add the emulsion/extract and pulse to incorporate. Add the eggs and pulse some more until you  have a uniform mass.

In a separate bowl, combine the spices, walnuts and hazelnut flour. Add the mix from your food processor and thoroughly combine with a spatula.



Cover the bowl and let it sit in the refrigerator for 24 hrs. It may seem a little runny at first, but it will thicken up quite a bit in the next 24hrs.

When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400 F.

Lay out the baking wafers on a baking sheet, lined with parchment paper. Scoop equal amounts of the nut mix onto the wafers and smooth out with your finger. I find that the easiest way to get the round ones uniform is to use an ice cream scoop. Scoop some nut mixture on the Oblaten and smooth the edges down. Using moist fingers can help as the dough will be a bit sticky.




Of course, this year I am ahead of this little game, as my father in law made me a so called “Lebkuchenglocke” at my request, which makes this process much easier and faster! You just smear some of the dough into the bell part, place the oblate on top, hold it over your baking tray and twist. The wire on the inside goes around and releases the sticky dough and out plops the cookie! So handy, so efficient! Thank you, Jarvis!





If you are not using oblaten/baking wafers, just scoop some dough onto the parchment and press it down  a little with moistened fingers, just like you would on the baking wafers!




If you are using rice paper and don’t feel like cutting out lots of little circles, you can just cut rectangles. It works just as well and it’s  much faster!



Bake for 12 minutes or until the Lebkuchen are lightly golden brown. It is important that they are not quite done in the middle though. You should still see some moisture in the middle!



Set them aside to cool a little.  It’s easier to get a thinner coating of chocolate when they are still a little warm.

Melt your chocolate with the coconut oil or palm shortening.

Brush the coating on as thinly as you possibly can, but make sure everything is covered. We want an even coat, without large globs, but not so thin that the cookie underneath peaks through.




If you have used baking wafers, just brush on a thin coat of chocolate coating over the top of the Lebkuchen. Let completely dry for a few hours and store in a cookie tin. None of the coatings should be tacky anymore!

If you didn’t use baking wafers, you will need to dip or brush your entire cookie. First a coat at the bottom, let dry, then a coat on the top of the cookie. This will also seal the moisture and flavors inside, which is essential for these!

Lebkuchen need to sit for a while to develop their prime taste and texture. They need a minimum of 6 days in that cookie tin, so take that into account when planning to make these!

They will however keep for several weeks in a cookie tin and personally I think they taste the best after they have matured for about 1-2 weeks!


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  1. Wish I had some polydextrose and monin on hand so I could make the elisenlebkuchen today- we visited our Bavarian friends and former neighbors last summer in Munich....I'm missing them and BAV!
    BTW~ two Ross Discount Stores are close to me, and they both had a variety of the LorAnn baking emulsions for $3 per 4 oz bottles. They didn't have the sweet-dough that I've seen in your recipes, but I'm eager to use the butter-vanilla and coffee flavors especially- I picked up 5 different flaovers. Maybe there's a Ross near you....

  2. You could probably use sugar-free syrup other than Monin. I say probably as the Monin is a fair bit thicker than others I have used, so it may be a little different. Without the polydextrose - I'm not sure if that would work out. It would definitely need something else for "sticking power." Maybe make a half recipe and see what happens! I remember making an experimental batch many years ago before I knew about polydextrose and even though they weren't like the original, they were pretty good!

    And yay on the baking emulsions! I love those! Thanks for the Ross tip. We have one close by!

  3. Just beautiful!! Merry Christmas, Birgit. :)

  4. Thank you, Jennifer! Merry Christmas to you and yours too!

  5. Hello

    I just found your site today and am AMAZED by your recipes. I just started Atkins 3 weeks ago but was already worried about Christmas. I grew up in Germany and to me Christmas without Lebkuchen just doesn't work. Oh and the Marzipan too! YUM I can't wait to try to make these!!!!!

    Thank you sooooo much!


  6. Hi Annett, thank you so much for your kind comment!
    Aren't Elisenlebkuchen the best!? They totally say Christmas to me too! And the best thing is that everyone loves them, so no "extra" cooking or baking!

    You might like the LC Zimtsterne recipe too: http://birgitkerr.blogspot.com/2011/12/cinnamon-star-cookies-zimtsterne.html

    Oh and speaking of flavors of Germany - the Delicious Pinch Spicemix comes very close to what I remember the "Delifruit" spicemix to taste like: http://birgitkerr.blogspot.com/2011/09/delicious-pinch-spice-mix.html

    Anyway, you'll find lots of references to German dishes on my blog - even "Spaetzle" and "Kalter Hund", but they are something for much later as they are more for Atkins Maintanance :)

    Have a wonderful weekend!

  7. I saw online a bakery that bakes Lebkuchen on special ordered gluten free back oblaten made from potato starch, corn meal, and corn starch. Do you know where to fund these gluten free wafers?
    Thanks for your help. I baked your wonderful Elisenlebkuchen. They are perfect, but I forgot that the Back Oblaten I used were made of wheat. Fortunately my husband is not Celiac just gluten intolerant, but from now on I would like gluten free wafers. Hope you can hlep. Thank you

  8. I don't know of a source of those particular oblaten. I have made them with rice paper, which worked, even though you have to cut it to size by hand. And this year, I GAPSyfied the recipe for the family and I didn't use any at all, just covered the whole thing in a thin layer of chocolate and they were delicious, so I think I will just stick with that in future!


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Birgit Kerr