Russian Pryaniki (Honey Spice Cookies)

Russian Pryaniki are irresistible honey spice cookies that can satisfy any sweet tooth! The base of these delicious honey cookies is a simple caramel made with just sugar, water, honey and butter!

This Russian Pryaniki Recipe is our solution to Viktor’s near constant dissatisfaction with the cookie selection available here in the States. Although we often buy pryaniki (пряники) in bulk at our local Russian grocery store, there’s really nothing better than the homemade version. Flavored with honey and spiced with cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg, these irresistible spice cookies are crunchy on the outside, but incredibly soft and sweet on the inside.

Pryaniki on small plate with coffee.

Recipe ingredients

Pryaniki ingredients

Measured ingredients to make Russian spice cookies.
  • Granulated sugar: The base of our caramel mixture includes just sugar and water.
  • Light corn syrup: Corn syrup is optional, but makes preparing the caramel easier as it prevents crystallization.
  • Honey: Honey is added to the caramel for a sweet finish and flavor boost.
  • Unsalted butter: Butter is also added to the caramel for richness and a creamier texture.
  • Spices: I used cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger, but feel free to play around with your spice mixture.
  • Egg: You’ll need just one egg for this pryaniki recipe.
  • Baking powder: Baking powder helps the cookies rise and gives them a soft and tender texture.
  • All purpose flour: The base of the cookies is all purpose flour.

Glaze ingredients

Measured ingredients to make glaze for Pryaniki.
  • Powdered sugar: The base of the glaze is powdered sugar.
  • Kosher salt: Just a pinch of salt really enhances the flavor of this easy glaze, so don’t skip it!
  • Milk: A few tablespoons of milk (whole, soy, almond – any kind will work) is all you need.
  • Vanilla extract: Vanilla extract enhances the flavor of the glaze.

Step by step instructions and photos

Sugar water boiling on stovetop.

Step 1: Combine the sugar, water and corn syrup in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Heat over medium heat and stir until the sugar is fully dissolved. Once the mixture comes to a boil, stop stirring to prevent the sugar from crystallizing.

Showing deep amber color of caramel in pot.

Step 2: Cook the sugar mixture until it turns a deep amber color. This generally takes about 15 minutes. If your caramel looks like it might be cooking unevenly, you can swirl the pan occasionally. Keep an eye on the mixture as it thickens and bubbles, as the caramel can go from light brown to burnt extremely quickly! 

Adding butter to hot caramel mixture.

Step 3: Remove from heat and add butter. Be very careful during this step and take care to keep your hands away from the saucepan as the caramel may bubble and steam when adding the butter.

Caramel mixture after adding honey.

Step 4: Stir in the honey. Once the butter has completely melted, stir in the honey until fully incorporated.

Caramel cooling in mixing bowl.

Step 5: Pour the caramel mixture into a heatproof bowl. Let the mixture sit until the bowl is just slightly warm to the touch (about 20-30 minutes).

Mixing flour into caramel in mixing bowl.

Step 6: Make the pryaniki dough. Once the caramel has cooled, add the remaining dough ingredients and mix until the dough is smooth.

Dough for honey spice cookies.

Step 7: Cover the dough and transfer to the refrigerator. Refrigerate until the dough has firmed up a bit, but is still soft and easy to work with (about 1 hour).

Formed pryaniki dough balls before baking.

Step 8: Portion the dough into small balls and bake. Use about 1 tablespoon of dough (25 grams) for each cookie. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake and allow to cool completely before adding the glaze.

Glaze in small bowl with whisk.

Step 9: Whisk together the glaze ingredients. Start with less milk than you think you’ll need and add more as necessary. The glaze should be quite thick.

Dipping cookies into glaze.

Step 10: Glaze the pryaniki. Dip the cooled cookies in the glaze and place on a wire rack until the glaze is set. Enjoy!

Storage and freezing

Once cooled completely, these Russian pryaniki can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week.

This pryaniki recipe can also be frozen for up to three months. If freezing, I recommend leaving off the glaze. To thaw, let the cookies come to room temperature and then add the glaze if desired.

Expert tips and tricks

  • Have your caramel ingredients prepped before you begin. Caramel can be a bit tricky and you need to work quickly once it’s the right color. Make sure your butter and honey are measured and ready to go before you begin making the caramel.
  • Keep an eye on the caramel. The sugar mixture will take a bit of time before it starts to turn colors. But once it turns golden it can go quickly to burnt, so don’t walk away from the pot.
  • Pay attention to the consistency of the dough. The amount of flour needed may be a bit more or less than noted, depending on your caramel. The dough should be smooth and pliable, but not overly sticky. If your dough feels like it’s getting to stiff, you can leave out a bit of flour.
  • Measure flour by weight. Measuring flour with a kitchen scale is the easiest way to ensure you don’t end up with cookies with a tough texture. If you have to use cups, make sure to use the spoon and level method. Gently spoon flour into a measuring cup and level off the excess with the back of a knife. This prevents packing and helps ensure a more accurate measurement.
Glazed pryaniki with coffee.

Recipe variations

  • Switch up the spices. Other warming spices, such as cloves and cardamom, would be excellent in these cookies.
  • Mix orange zest into the cookie dough. Orange zest adds a fresh, citrusy flavor to these Russian pryaniki!
  • Add flavor to the glaze. Instead of milk, use orange juice or coffee for two delicious takes on pryaniki. Or opt for a chocolate liqueur glaze, like we use in our Soft Gingerbread Cookies recipe.

FAQs

What are pryaniki?

Pryaniki (singular: pryanik) are traditional Russian honey-spice cookies that are often glazed with a sweet icing. Similar to gingerbread, they have a soft and chewy texture, with a rich flavor from honey, spices and butter. In Russia, you can find pryaniki filled with jam and even giant ornately decorated pryaniki.

Can you freeze pryaniki?

Yes! Pryaniki can be stored in the freezer for up to three months. I recommend freezing them before adding the glaze.

Why did my cookies flatten as they cooked?

If your cookies flattened as they cooked, the dough might have been too warm or you might be using expired baking powder. To safeguard against flattened cookies, you can place the baking sheet with formed dough balls in the fridge for 30 minutes before baking.

How do I prevent my caramel from crystallizing and hardening?

The easiest way to prevent your caramel from crystallizing is to add one tablespoon of corn syrup to the sugar and water mixture. Corn syrup interferes with the formation of sugar crystals, which makes it easy to get smooth caramel.

What can I substitute for milk in the glaze?

You can use any plant-based milk, such as oat milk or soy milk. You can also use something like orange juice or even coffee for a bit more flavor.

And if you’re loving this Russian Pryaniki Recipe, make sure to check out our other favorite Russian fare:

Print
clock clock iconcutlery cutlery iconflag flag iconfolder folder iconinstagram instagram iconpinterest pinterest iconfacebook facebook iconprint print iconsquares squares iconheart heart iconheart solid heart solid icon
Soft and chewy glazed pryaniki on small plate with a cup of coffee.

Russian Pryaniki Recipe


5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

5 from 1 review

  • Author: Brit Kapustina
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: 32
    • Prep Time: 20 minutes
    • Cook Time: 30 minutes
    • Category: Dessert
    • Method: Baking
    • Cuisine: Russian

Ingredients

Pryaniki

  • 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
  • ½ cup (120 ml) water
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup (optional)
  • ½ cup (170 grams) honey
  • 6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 ¾ cups (345 grams) all purpose flour, spooned and leveled*

Glaze

  • 1 cup (120 grams) powdered sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 23 tablespoons milk
  • 1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract

Instructions

Pryaniki

  1. Add the sugar, water and corn syrup (if using) to a heavy-bottomed saucepan and place on the stove over medium heat. Make sure the honey and butter are measured and ready to go. You’ll need to work quickly in the next steps.
  2. Stir the mixture until the sugar is mostly dissolved and evenly distributed. Once the sugar is dissolved and the mixture begins to boil, avoid stirring, as this can cause the mixture to crystallize. Decrease the heat if necessary and swirl the pan occasionally if needed.
  3. When the mixture turns a deep amber, remove from heat. Add the butter and stir vigorously. Be very careful, as the caramel will bubble!
  4. Stir in the honey until incorporated and then pour into a heatproof bowl. Let cool for 20-30 minutes or until the bowl is just slightly warm to the touch.
  5. Stir in the cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt.
  6. Add the egg and mix until combined.
  7. Stir in the baking powder.
  8. Add the flour one cup at a time and mix until the dough is smooth and pliable. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours or until the dough has firmed up a bit.
  9. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  10. Shape the dough into balls using about one tablespoon (25 grams) of dough for each cookie. Place on the prepared baking sheet, leaving an inch (2.5 cm) between each cookie.
  11. Bake for 12-14 minutes. Allow to cool on the pan for 10 minutes. Then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Glaze

  1. Add the powdered sugar, salt and vanilla extract to a bowl.
  2. Whisk in milk one tablespoon at a time until you reach your desired consistency.
  3. Once the pryaniki have cooled, dip each cookie in the glaze and place on a baking rack to dry.

Notes

Measuring Flour: We highly recommend using a kitchen scale to measure flour. If measuring by volume, use the spoon and level method to avoid over-measuring the flour. Lightly spoon flour into the measuring cup until it’s completely full. Then run the back of a knife over the cup to gently scrape off any excess.

Storage: Pryaniki can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week or frozen for up to 3 months.

This post may contain affiliate links through which we may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. We only recommend products that we genuinely love and would use ourselves.

3 Comments

  1. I’ve made this recipe 2-3 times through the year and I’ve had the same issues enough that I want to ask how to fix them:

    1) When I’m adding flour, all 3 cups look like too much. After ~2 cups added gradually it looks like the dough won’t be able to take any more (and I just bake it with the 2 cups). At first I thought it was because of the discrepancies between grams and cups, but today I measured grams by weight and had the same problem. Is it normal to look like super floury?

    2) When I’m shaping the cookies, I’ll feel a couple of sharp pieces of hardened caramelized sugar. They melt away of course, but leave behind slimy ghosts that make the cookies look ugly. How to I prevent the caramel from hardening in this way?

    Thank you in advance for any help. I really loved this recipe despite my problems with it (I’m a baking newbie!), it reminds me of small lebkuchen — which is my next goal once I’ve mastered this!

  2. Hey Alexis! Thanks so much for writing in – let’s see if we can figure this out!

    1) I just recently tested this recipe and can confirm I used all 3 cups of flour (about 360 grams when spooned and leveled). Here’s what I think happened: because some of your caramel hardened, there wasn’t enough liquid to absorb the full amount of flour. Which brings me to your second question:

    2) There definitely shouldn’t be hardened pieces of caramelized sugar so let’s get your caramel up to par! Caramel can be tricky. My favorite method to make it easier is to add a bit of corn syrup to the sugar and water (I’ve added this optional step in the recipe instructions). Corn syrup contains glucose, which interferes with the formation of sugar crystals – meaning it makes your syrup MUCH less likely to crystallize and harden. This should get you the full amount of syrup!

    A few additional tips:
    – Always use a kitchen scale (just like you did!) as it’s super easy to overmeasure flour with cups.
    – The dough should be pliable and not overly dry. Use 1/4-1/2 cup (30-60 grams) less flour if needed.

    Let me know how it goes! And I love lebkuchen – good choice!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe rating 5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star