Pryaniki – Russian Honey Spice Cookies

Pryaniki Russian Honey Spice Cookies-1-13Pryaniki go back for centuries in the traditional Russian kitchen. These humble looking treats are honey spice cookies that are glazed and usually served with tea. You will find them on the shelves of all Russian stores. When you eat the store bought kind, it’s similar to eating factory-made graham crackers or vanilla wafers – not terrible, they satisfy your sweet tooth… when you’re desperate, but they’re not anything spectacular. As with most homemade goodies, making them yourself with all pronounceable and recognizable ingredients improves the flavor and texture 100%. If you’ve only tried the packaged kind of Pryaniki, you are in for a treat.

We’ve been making these cookies for years in our family, and I love watching people try them for the first time. When you offer them the Pryaniki, they don’t seem too excited about them, and if there are any other options, the Pryaniki will be sadly neglected. However, when they take their first bite, there’s always a look of surprise, you see them reach over for more throughout the evening and the same hesitant guests usually leave our house with the recipe. They are much softer in texture than the store bought variety, which is no small wonder, since who knows how long the latter were on the shelf before you opened up the package. The flavor is rich with coffee, honey and speckled through perfectly with spices – vanilla, nutmeg, allspice and anise.

These cookies freeze beautifully. I like to set myself up comfortably in the kitchen, turn on a movie to watch or listen to some of my favorite podcasts and make any cookies that I can ahead of time. You can bake them, glaze them and then store them simply in a sealed ziptop bag in the freezer for months. All you have to do later is thaw them and they taste just as fresh as the day you made them. My siblings would often snitch them right out of the freezer without giving them a chance to thaw and started called them the “frozen cookies”. I guess you can do that too, but I will point out that the flavor and texture are significantly upgraded when you don’t gnaw through frost. 
Ingredients:

Cookies:

1/2 cup instant coffee

1/2 cup hot water

1 cup butter

1 cup granulated sugar

1 1/2 cups honey

1-2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon anise (ground or liquid extract)

2 eggs

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda dissolved in 1 teaspoon white vinegar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

6 cups all purpose flour

Glaze:

4 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1/2 cup milk

Instructions:

Pryaniki Russian Honey Spice Cookies-1-26In a medium saucepan, dissolve the instant coffee in the water.

You will have about 2/3 cup very strong, almost syrupy coffee. I have never made these cookies with brewed coffee, but I imagine it would work too. However, since I haven’t personally experimented with it myself, I can’t vouch for it 100%. 

Add the butter, sugar and honey to the dissolved coffee in the saucepan. Pryaniki Russian Honey Spice Cookies-1-25Bring the mixture to a boil on medium heat and cook, stirring, just until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves and the mixture is homogenous. Pryaniki Russian Honey Spice Cookies-1-24Take off the heat, pour it into a large bowl and cool for about 10-15 minutes. Add all the spices – vanilla, allspice, nutmeg and anise. You can also add cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, cloves, mint extract, etc.

Whisk in the eggs, the baking soda dissolved in vinegar and baking powder. You will notice that the mixture will fizz a little when it’s all mixed up. Pryaniki Russian Honey Spice Cookies-1-23Add the flour and mix with a large wooden spoon until all the flour is incorporated.

Pryaniki Russian Honey Spice Cookies-1-22You could probably use a mixer to make the cookie batter, but make sure to use a good quality machine, since this batter will be very thick and heavy and may burn out a model that isn’t very strong. I gave you a fair warning, so I am not responsible if your mixer blows up in smoke:). The amount of batter is very large, so if you want to use a mixer, I would recommend halving the recipe. Don’t worry, it’s very easy to mix it up by hand, and even I didn’t break out into sweat mixing this with my measly wrists. 

Cover the batter with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and set aside at room temperature for at least 4 hours or overnight. In all the years that I’ve been making Pryaniki, I have always made the batter the night before I am planning to bake them, so that’s what I’ve found works best for me. The batter needs time for the flour to hydrate. It will be very difficult to work with if you don’t give it time to stand. I know that the batter will be much stickier if you don’t give it enough time, but I don’t know if the texture of the cookies will be affected or not.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Shape the batter into approximately 1 Tablespoon balls and place them on the prepared baking sheet, leaving some room around each cookie, since they will expand while baking.

Can you see how much thicker and richer the batter looks the next day? Pryaniki Russian Honey Spice Cookies-1-21I use a 1 Tablespoon measuring scoop to get the batter out of the bowl and then roll it around in my hands. This will make sure that all the cookies are the same size and will bake evenly. It’s faster, there’s no guesswork and it’s less messy too. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes. Do not over bake, or the cookies will be too hard. This amount of batter will yield about 105-110 cookies.

Pryaniki Russian Honey Spice Cookies-1-20Of course, you can halve the recipe and make less cookies, but we usually make Pryaniki around the holidays or special occasions, so we always make the full batch, since we give away lots of cookies to others as well as enjoy them for many parties and events.

Another amazing thing about these cookies is that they are great to make ahead of time, as I already mentioned. They store very well for at least a week or two in an airtight container and you can freeze them in an airtight container or ziptop bag for a few months. Simply thaw the cookies and they taste just as fresh as the day you made them.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar and the milk to make a glaze. Pryaniki Russian Honey Spice Cookies-1-18

Pryaniki Russian Honey Spice Cookies-1-17You can flavor the glaze by adding some kind of extract to it, like vanilla, mint, almond, etc.

Dip the cooled cookies into the glaze, letting the excess run off. Set the glazed cookies on a rack or parchment paper to dry. Pryaniki Russian Honey Spice Cookies-1-16When the glaze is dry, you can flip the cookies over and glaze the other side as well. I usually only do one side of the cookies, but traditionally, Pryaniki are glazed on both sides. When glazing the cookies, work fast, since the glaze will be harder to work with when it starts to dry up. Better yet, coax somebody to help you. You can add a tiny splash more of milk to thin it out as it hardens.

Store the cookies at room temperature in a sealed container. Pryaniki Russian Honey Spice Cookies-1-13

Pryaniki - Russian Honey Spice Cookies
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Sweets
Serves: 108 cookies
Ingredients
Cookies:
  • ½ cup instant coffee
  • ½ cup hot water
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1½ cups honey
  • 1-2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon anise (ground or liquid extract)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1½ teaspoons baking soda dissolved in 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 6 cups all purpose flour
Glaze:
  • 4½ cups powdered sugar
  • ½ cup milk
Instructions
  1. In a medium saucepan, dissolve the instant coffee in the water.
  2. Add the butter, sugar and honey to the dissolved coffee in the saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil on medium heat and cook, stirring, just until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves and the mixture is homogenous. Take off the heat, pour it into a large bowl. and cool for about 10-15 minutes.
  3. Add all the spices - vanilla, allspice, nutmeg and anise. You can also add cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, cloves, mint extract, etc. Whisk in the eggs, the baking soda dissolved in vinegar and baking powder. You will notice that the mixture will fizz a little when it's all mixed up.
  4. Add the flour and mix with a large wooden spoon until all the flour is incorporated.
  5. Cover the batter with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and set aside at room temperature for at least 4 hours or overnight.
  6. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  7. Shape the batter into approximately 1 Tablespoon balls and place them on the prepared baking sheet, leaving some room around each cookie, since they will expand while baking. I use a 1 Tablespoon measuring scoop to get the batter out of the bowl and then roll it around in my hands. This will make sure that all the cookies are the same size and will bake evenly.
  8. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes. Do not over bake, or the cookies will be too hard.
  9. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar and the milk to make a glaze. You can flavor the glaze by adding some kind of extract to it, like vanilla, mint, almond, etc.
  10. Dip the cooled cookies into the glaze, letting the excess run off. Set the glazed cookies on a rack or parchment paper to dry. When the glaze is dry, you can flip the cookies over and glaze the other side as well. When glazing the cookies, work fast, since the glaze will be harder to work with when it starts to dry up. You can add a tiny splash more of milk to thin it out if it hardens.
  11. Store the cookies at room temperature in a sealed container.
Notes
You could probably use a mixer to make the cookie batter, but make sure to use a good quality machine, since this batter will be very thick and heavy and may burn out a model that isn't very strong. The amount of batter is very large, so if you want to use a mixer, I would recommend halving the recipe.
This recipe yields 105-110 cookies. Of course, you can halve the recipe and make less cookies, but we usually make Pryaniki around the holidays or special occasions, we always make the full batch, since we give away lots of cookies to others as well as enjoy them for many parties and events.
Another amazing thing about these cookies is that they are great to make ahead of time. The baked and glazed cookies store very well for at least a week or two in an airtight container and you can freeze them in an airtight container or ziptop bag for a few months. Simply thaw the cookies and they taste just as fresh as the day you made them.

71 Comments

  • Nadia

    This look yummy!!! Do you think they will still taste good if I omit the allspice, nutmeg, and anise? Don’t have them and wanna make the cookies today…

  • Bonnie Hardman

    Hi Olga! Do you know what I could use for a coffee substitute in this recipe? Are the store-bought versions made with coffee?

    • olgak7

      I don’t know if the store bought version are made with coffee or not. I don’t know what else you can substitute. I have never made them another way, Bonnie.

  • Ekaterina

    Hi olga, I just made these and for some reason they did not end up being dense and lifted like yours but more like a regular cookie and spread out. I put in the exact ingredients and waited 4 hrs. Please help!!

    • olgak7

      I don’t know what happened, Ekaterina. I wrote out the instructions exactly how I always do it. I’m sorry it didn’t work out for you. Maybe the batter needed to stand longer, I don’t know.

      • Ekaterina

        I figured it out, I forgot one more cup of flour!
        I added it in and let them stand and they turned out perfect. Thank you for the wonderful recipe! My husband loves them!

        • olgak7

          I’m glad you were able to figure it out, Ekaterina. Awesome!
          It’s easy to miscount when you’re adding multiple cups of flour. It’s happened to me before.
          Now I usually pre measure the flour into a separate bowl first, so in case I lose count, I can always redo it easily:).

  • Nata

    Hello, just a quick question, do the cookies have to be glazed while still warm or can they all be baked and then glazed later? Also, you included a couple of suggestions for flavoring the glaze, what is your favorite way? Thanks in advance for your answer 🙂

    • olgak7

      The cookies need to be cooled, Nata. It’s specified in the instructions.
      My favorite way is not to flavor the glaze at all:). I think the Pryaniki themselves are very flavorful, so I keep it simple with the glaze. If I did add any flavoring, it would be vanilla.

      • Nata

        Thanks so much for your reply. They were so delicious I’m making them for the 2nd time 🙂 I’m running into a small problem I only have 1 cup of honey.. Should I add less flour or will it be ok?

        • olgak7

          I would recommend making only half a batch of cookies, Nata. If you don’t use the equal amount of ingredients that are needed for the recipe, the cookies may not turn out properly.

  • Tanya

    They are delicious,! My mom loves store bought pryaniki but these are just to good not to share with her. Seriously delish!
    Thank you!

  • Evelina

    Hi Olga! This pryaniki look so delicious:) I love baking, and freeze lots of things because I have lots of guests coming over… I am wondering if I can also freeze pryaniki, and if yes, should I freeze them without the glaze? Thank you

    • olgak7

      Hi Evelina!
      Did you get a chance to read the recipe post and the instructions?
      I wrote specific instructions on how to freeze the Pryaniki.
      “Another amazing thing about these cookies is that they are great to make ahead of time. The baked and glazed cookies store very well for at least a week or two in an airtight container and you can freeze them in an airtight container or ziptop bag for a few months. Simply thaw the cookies and they taste just as fresh as the day you made them.”

  • Xina

    Hi Olga,

    Are the cookies supposed to crumble when you bite it? Or is it supposed to be chewy? Mine is chewy and not very good. I was late in adding the baking powder. I forgot to add the baking powder together with the eggs. I only added the baking powder AFTER mixing in the flour. Please help me for my next batch. Thanks!
    ~Xina

  • roxana

    Hi Olga, just made them and I’m having a problem when glazing them. The glaze runs off the cookies and at the end the cookies are not covered in white, it’s transparent although I used the indicated amount of sugar. Any ideas? Thank you

  • Sonya

    Hi Olga!

    Just wanted to say thank you for posting this recipe! I have made it 6 times and it is always really popular. I love watching people’s faces when they bite into it for the first time!

    I have been omitting the anise as I don’t have it but I’ll add it in next time.

    I made some for my Russian language class and my tutor actually cried! She said they reminded her of the Pryaniki her grandma used to make her.

    I’m actually making these for Christmas gifts this year 🙂

    Thank you again! They truly taste amazing!

  • Anastasia

    I’ve made these and theyre seriously amazing! However, I’ve made some batter today (friday) and found that i won’t be able to put them in the oven tomorrow; will I be able to save them and put them in the oven on Sunday, two days from now?

    Thank you,
    Anastasia Braginsky

    • olgak7

      I’m sorry I wasn’t able to get to your question earlier, Anastasia. However, I really have never left the batter longer than the time I suggest in the recipe. I wish I could be more helpful.

  • Alena

    Hi Olga! This is a wonderful recipe, but I have a question. When I tried making them, they all got extremely burned at the bottom. I ran out of parchment paper and used aluminum (it’s all I had). Do you think that’s why or has this ever happen with you?
    Thank you
    Alena

    • olgak7

      Oh, no! I’m sorry to hear that, Alena.
      I don’t think the aluminum foil should have made such a drastic change. I’ve never had the cookies even slightly burned, maybe your oven isn’t working properly? I really have no idea why the cookies burned.

    • Elena

      I have the same problem with my oven – burning at the bottom. Maybe I should use two layers of backing sheets. What will happen if I put a dish with water at the bottom of the oven?

      I think coffee can be substituted with black tea. I also made gingerbread cookies and they were brown without coffee or tea.

      • DJ

        Check your cookie sheets. I know if I use a “darker” sheet, the bottoms tend to burn. I finally bought some new T-fal airbake sheets. No more burnt bottoms.

  • Mary

    Hi I just want to say these are so good. The only thing I did different was add a bit of lemon juice and earl grey tea for the liquid for the icing and just drizzle the icing on as I don’t like lots of sugar. I halved the recipe incase we didn’t care for it. I started the batter Monday night and made them yesterday. I got about 30 cookies and I wish I had of made the whole recipe. I will be making these again and again. Thanks 😊

  • DJ

    Olga,
    Thank you very much for the recipe. I made these last weekend and they are definitely now one of my favorite cookies. They have a very unique taste.

    Next up is going to be your Apple Almond Cake.

  • Beka

    I’m so glad i found this recipe! My best friend is Russian and i wanted to send her a surprise for christmas and this was perfect! I ended up making four batches of these, and i’m gonna have to make more just to figure out the perfect way to make gluten free ones;

    My first batch i made dairy-free because of my own dietary restrictions, and because i forgot to check if we had enough honey i ended up making them with maple syrup instead, but they tasted AMAZING and they were so soft! The next batch i did make with honey and i also only glazed them on one side, and they didn’t stay as soft, so maybe glazing on both sides locks in moisture? Using almond milk for the glaze worked really well, though.

    The third batch is one i’m gonna have to experiment with. I used some 1-to-1 gluten free flour (i think it’s rice based) but i think the flour was too absorbent or something because the next day the batter was so dense that it broke my cookie scoop! I think in the future i’ll experiment with only letting it sit for a few hours instead of overnight, or maybe increasing the liquid content to make up for the absorbent nature of the gluten free flour. These ones also didn’t puff up or spread out at all, they stayed mostly the same size and were pretty dry to bite into but they were still super tasty, especially when dipped in coffee or tea.

    спасибо, Olga!)

  • Jessica

    Hi! When we halve the recipe, we split everything in half, including the spices, right? So it would be 1/4 tsp? Would that be too little for 3 cups of flour?

      • Chamila Purbhoo

        sorry to bug u olga again. Are the pryaniki cookies very sweet? I am just wondering as I badly want to try but because it will be mostly others who will eat (xmas gifts to families), I am worried they might say it’s nice but overly sweet. I usually feel “bad” when people mention something I made is too sweet. It reminds me that maybe I don’t care about the sweetness while they sure do.

  • Olga

    I’m going to be honest here 🙂 I was very excited to make these, I followed the recipe, but they did not turn out that great, as far as taste 😐 I did not taste any spice, just tasted like a bland cookie 😕 Anything I could of done wrong? 🤔

    • olgak7

      I’m sorry that you weren’t happy with the cookies, Olga. I’m not sure exactly what sort of spice/flavor you were looking for. What sort of flavor do you usually like in Pryaniki? Maybe you could add double the amount of vanilla extract, allspice, nutmeg and anise. I also suggested in the recipe instructions that you can also add cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, cloves, mint extract, etc, so maybe you could try some of those too. My taste buds must be much blander than yours:). I hope you find the recipe that you are looking for.

  • Carol A Twerberg

    I just tried to make these. The first 20 were baked at 325 for 20 minutes, and were burnt on the bottom and hard as rocks. The second twenty were baked for ~17 minutes and were much better. The last 5 were even less than 17 and perfect.

    I was disappointed because I made a half batch and only ended up with 25 cookies by using the recipe.

    I didn’t have instant coffee so I made a small cup in my Keurig and only used 1\4 cup.

    • olgak7

      I’m so sorry you weren’t satisfied with the recipe, Carol. I do my best to post the recipes and instructions as well as I can. I’m sorry that it didn’t work out for you.
      However, one suggestion I would have is that by substituting brewed coffee instead of using both instant coffee and water you did not have enough liquid in the batter and that may have affected the baking time and the texture of the finished cookies. The recipe (halved) calls for 1/4 cup water AND 1/4 cup instant coffee, which would be more than just 1/4 cup in volume, which you said you used. I do have a note in the recipe, clarifying that if you use brewed coffee, you would need to use 2/3 cup (in your case, 1/3 cup, not 1/4 cup). I hope that makes sense.

    • olgak7

      I don’t think so, Emma. It makes up a big portion of the cookie dough. I have never tried using anything else. I would imagine you could use another liquid in its place, but since I have never substituted anything else myself, I’m not sure what to advise.

      • Tami

        I just made these yesterday and used 1/2 cup water, 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa and added enough instant hot cocoa mix to make 1/2 cup. Then finished the recipe as written. They turned out amazing.

  • Lucía Franco

    Dear Olga! I’ve just tried this recipe in the weekend: wonderful!
    Love the aroma and the taste of these wonderful cookies… Thank you very much for the indications, so easy to follow! With best regards

  • Tami

    Thank you so much for this recipe.. I have been trying to find a authentic Russian recipe to make for a church function. I tweaked it just a bit too fit our tastes and everyone loves it. We don’t drink coffee so my thought process instantly went to hot chocolate… I used the 1/2 cup water and added 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa and added enough hot cocoa mix to make 1/2 cup. I finished the recipe as written. The house smells like Christmas.. My son suggested adding lemon zest to the glaze. I waited until I had frosted almost all the cookies then added some zest and juice to the remainder of the glaze.. They taste amazing.. I realize by all the tweaking that it is no longer traditional but it is definitely a keeper and has made its way onto my Christmas Cookie list. Thank you agsin

  • Anushavan

    Dear Olga, thank you for this wonderful recipe!

    I enjoy making them. It’s a unique process compared with other cookies. I brought them to work this morning. Everyone loved them (especially our employees from former USSR).

    I followed recipe to the letter and they turned out wonderful! I have few employees that always complain about cookies being too sweet, so I made some without glaze – they were not popular 🙂

    Thank you again for very detailed recipe for a delicious cookies.

    • olgak7

      I’m so happy you enjoyed them, Anushavan! That’s so awesome of you to share the cookies with your employees:). Thank you so much for taking the time to write.
      I also don’t like when cookies are too sweet, so I usually don’t make my recipes with a lot of sugar.

  • Hannah

    These cookies are absolutely stunning so beautifull thankyou for sharing the recipie I made the same amount gave them out to friends and family not one bad comment did I receive in fact some asked for more !

    • olgak7

      I’m so happy you enjoyed the cookies, Hannah. You’re so thoughtful to share with your loved ones – I’m sure they must have really appreciated it.

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