Danish brown cookies, or Brunkager, as they are called in Danish are another very famous and traditional Danish Christmas cookie. They are eaten throughout the month of December either in the homemade version or the one you can buy at the super market. The Brunkager we can buy at the grocery stores in Denmark are actually not too bad, but the homemade version is still a winner.
Read also: Recipe for traditional Danish Butter Cookies (Vaniljekranse)
Brunkage recipe from Danish TV Celebrity Mette Blomsterberg
This recipe for Brunkager is based on the recipe by the Danish pastry chef Mette Blomsterbergs. Mette has been the host for several food TV-shows and known for her delicious food. The dough for these cookies are actually pretty easy to make, especially since you don't need to chop the almonds and pistachio nuts. When the dough is mixed together it's poured into an oven pan and then it must cool off on the kitchen table for the day after. Then the dough become solid and you can cut it into thin cookie slices using a sharp knife.
See also: Top 4 Best Nordic Christmas Recipes
Potash used in Brunkager
The ingredient list contains some special ingredients like four different spices and potash. Potash is a chemical leavening agent which is typical used to make Brunkager. We have never used it in other recipes than Brunkager and in Denmark it's hard to find outside the Christmas season. However, Potash can be substituted with baking soda but it might give a less crisp result.
If you are interested in other traditional Danish Christmas recipes you can see our recipe archive.
- 250 g butter
- 250 g brown sugar
- 125 g light syrup (made from cane sugar)
- 500 g all-purpose flour
- 3 tsp ground cinnamon
- 2 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp ground cloves
- 1 tsp ground allspice
- 150 g whole almonds
- 25 g unsalted pistachio kernels
- 2 tsp potash (or baking soda)
- 1 tbsp cold water
- In a sauce pan; heat up the butter, syrup and brown sugar at medium heat until the temperature is about 70 C (160 F). Set the pot aside.
- In a large bowl; mix cinnamon, cloves, ginger, allspice and all-purpose flour. Add the whole almonds and pistachio kernels.
- In a small bowl; dissolve the potash in the cold water.
- Pour the butter and potash mixture into the bowl with the flour and mix/knead it all well.
- Pour the batter into an oven pan (about 18x18 cm - 7x7 inch) lined with baking paper. Make sure the batter is in an even layer and cover the pan with a sheet of baking paper.
- Leave the pan, with the batter, on your kitchen table for the next day.
- The batter should now be a solid dough. Use a sharp knife to cut the dough into 5-6 logs and then into thin slices.
- Place the cookie slices on an oven tray lined with baking paper.
- Bake the cookies at 180 C (360 F) for about 8-12 minutes.
- Let the cookies cool off. Keep them in an air tight box or jar.
How do you cut through almonds? I don't see where you slice them inadavance.'
You can cut through the almonds in the dough - but it can be a little tricky :-)
LOOKS YUMMY GOOD AND OLD FASHIONED LIKE IT DESERVES A DOILEY TO BE PLACED ON AND A CUP OF TEA.
How long do the brunkager last once cooked and in an airtight container please?
The cookies will last for about 20-30 days. Regards Kim (NordicFoodLiving.com)
Brilliant recipe, I cut the dough with an electric knife, works perfectly
I like to soak my nuts in warm water so I can blanch off the skin. Also, place in fridge 30-40 min before slicing. It seem to soften said nuts and alows for a clean cut with a sharp knife.
What is white syrup?
I love these recipes. My Mother made many of the recipes on here. She changed and "Canadianized" some of them but they bring back so many memories from my childhood. Thank you!
I'm not sure that you can get it in every country. But in Denmark it is called 'lys sirup' or light syrup directly translated. It is syrup made from cane sugar, you can see it here: http://www.dansukker.dk/dk/produkter/alle-produkter/oekologisk-lys-sirup.aspx
jade sharp fairmont mn
WHAT DO U MEAN added maple or other
Hi, I can't see where you see that in the recipe?
Hope this helps. I'm going to try it and will check back on here with results. I also read that Golden Syrup (British product) can be used. I'll also use baking powder instead.
Hi, just wondering what kind of measurement "tsk" is? Is it supposed to be tsp? Or is it a different measurment all together?
Hi. Thanks for your comment. Yes your are right; it's supposed to be tsp. tsk is the short for teaspoon in Danish.
This recipe was excellent, it was a real success! Just love these cookies and they remind me so much of Christmas in Denmark!
I'm so happy to hear that. Have a merry Christmas :-)
This is an excellent recipe and made the perfect brunkager just like I remember from my Christmas in Denmark
Why am I the only one asking this What is potash??
You are not the only one! After some research, I have concluded potash is likely potassium bicarbonate (KHCO3), which is similar to baking soda (sodium bicarbonate - NaHCO3). They both act as leavening agents by producing carbon dioxide (CO2) when heated. As far as taste goes, I read that potassium bicarbonate is seldom used due to is bitter aftertaste. It's possible that the bitter aftertaste is desire here? Substituting the potash for baking soda should work okay, although one correction would be to use about 1/5 less due to the difference in molecular weight.
Is baker's ammonia a decent substitute for potash?
Hi. I have made a little research and, Yes, I actually think it might work with Baker's ammonia. If you try I would love to hear about the result here in this comment section. I could imagine that other people around the world are facing the same problem, that Potash is difficult to find.
I literally couldn't find food-safe potash on line and while theoretically I know how to make it (and work somewhere that we burn a lot of wood so I have the material) I'm not overly confident in that. But I do have baker's ammonia for another recipe so I'm hoping it comes out. I'm trying to do a theme to my cookies this year--ideally one for each country I'm visiting next summer (the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Estonia, and Russia.) and I like the idea of this one with pistachios. I'll let you know how the ammonia works!
I wondered about that, too. I looked on amazon and they have food-safe potash. I bought hartshorn - baker's ammonia from them a few years ago. I used it once, then it clumped up inside the "spice" jar into one hard clump. So not sure about the freshness of what they sell. I DID ask online on a different Scandinavian web site and they said a good substitution was baking soda. Not sure about that, either. I had totally forgotten about this cookie - found a recipe card in my late mom's recipe box, also calling for sirup.
Happy Holidays! I use to get the ammonia carbonate at the pharmacy. I live outside Seattle, WA and it was very difficult to get. I would call around and there was only 1 place to get it and I had to call ahead to order it because they didn't keep it in stock. The pharmacist would ask what I wanted it for and when he found out I was making my Grandma's Danish cookies, it was all good.
The pharmacy is now gone and I have no place to purchase any.
I just love these cookies, always my favorite with tea.
Hello, thank you so much for the recipe! I tried making them with baker's ammonia. The texture is really great: light and crisp --but my brunkager still smell/taste of ammonia... They have been out of the oven for a few hours now. I think possibly I used too much; I was bold and simply used the same measurements as for potash without doing any research. It would seem perhaps 1/2 - 1 tsp. would have been more appropriate. I suspect that recipes with shorter baking times like this perhaps should use less baker's ammonia(?) so it has time to evaporate fully in the oven. I haven't put my cookies in a tin yet, as I'm hoping the gases will continue to evaporate. I'm wondering if there's anything more I can do --perhaps put them in a slightly warm oven? If the ammonia taste persists, I will likely have to throw them out, so I'm willing to take chances in order to reclaim them.
If I try again, does anyone have any wisdom to share?
You can’t use baking ammonia in a wet recipe like this. The ammonia gas can’t escape so your cookies will hsv an unpleasant taste and smell.
Has anyone had success with substituting light corn syrup or male syrup for the cane syrup?
Yes, I used a mix of Molasses and maple syrup, worked quite well...
My husband's grandmother made these cookies but she has passed away and didn't leave a recipe behind. My mother in law said she doesn't remember molasses ever being used. Did you use Karo syrup? Clear, or brown?
I need to give them a try and I'm praying for the best results ;)
This recipe for Danish Brown Cookies calls for clear syrup. I hope that you will have success with the recipe. Regards Kim (NordicFoodLiving.com)
Baker's ammonia (ammonia carbonate, also called hartshorn) is available at
Does baking soda work instead of potash, can you recommend an amount?
Hi Signy. I have never tried it myself. However, I have been told that you should get very similar results using baking soda. I would suggest using 1-2 tsp baking soda. If you try I think a lot of other people would like to hear about the results. I hope that you would like to share them here on the comment section, if you do try.
I just wanted to share that I was able to find Potash sold as "Potassium Bicarbonate" in a wine makers/ brewers supply store in the U.S.. Hope that helps other folks find it. These cookies are so lovely dipped in good strong coffee. Nibbling them takes me back to the first time I met my husband's Danish family. Enjoy!
That's a great tip. I'm sure that'll help a lot of people
I made these “brunkager” last week and they came out good but I think there is too much sugar and butter in this recipe. I don’t know how much to cut it down. I would guess cut the butter to 200 g, the brown sugar to 200 g and the syrup to 100 g. I haven’t tried this yet but I will on the next round. I just made a new batch and halved the almonds this time. They were hard to cut thru last time.
Hi, I didn’t read all the comments, so I might have missed this suggestion. My Danish grandmother used Karo dark corn syrup in her brunkager. Also 1 tsp each of baking soda and baking powder, although I’d be interested in trying potash. She rolled out the dough, cut diamonds and placed an almond half in the middle. (This solves the problem of cutting through the almonds while they’re in the dough.) I was thinking I wouldn’t bake cookies this year. You’ve just inspired me. Thanks!
Great idea placing an almond in the middle of the dough instead of in the dough. Thanks for sharing. Regards Kim (nordicfoodliving.com)
Isabel saavedra Wahling
Soy de Chile, hice una receta muy parecida a esta y usé laminas de almendras, y no me costó cortarlas, acá las venden en negocios de frutos secos. Haré esta versión para la próxima navidad.
Hi, I made these today and did the same as another, I placed flaked almonds on the top of the biscuits when I cut them, turned out great. Potaske can be bought on line at scandikitchen which is where I get the amount I need at the time. Today was vaniljekranse and brunkager baking for presents. Still miss after many years later all the good danish food. Great recipes.
I found this recipe while looking for a way to use up some potash I’d bought a couple of years ago.
They are delicious and were no trouble at all to slice us g a sharp chefs knife.
Crisp and wonderfully spiced. Baking Soda substituted 1:1 for potash works just as well. A mild honey (i.e., orange blossom) subs well for light syrup. Using an equal amount of slivered or sliced almonds make cutting the dough easier.
This recipe is delicious, but I struggled with the dough. It didn’t set up and solidify like I expected it to overnight, it was pretty much the same as the day before. My dough was crumbly, seemed like it needed more liquid, and it wasn’t as dark as your photos. Because the dough didn’t solidify, I had to make thicker sliced cookies. I wonder if either my American-style all-purpose flour or my brown sugar (I used “golden brown” sugar) was the problem. Besides that, I used Lyle’s golden syrup for the “light syrup” and baking soda for the potash.
Just wanted to say thank you for the recipe!
I made these last year and it was a huuuuge success! Everyone loved the cookies so much, I ended up making multiple batches. This year I’m planning on gifting a box of them to friends and family. It’s truly the best Christmas cookie you can find and the fact that it’s homemade and without weird ingredients makes it even better!
I was skeptical of the dough & the almonds in it, but it was easier to cut than expected. Also the cookies stayed super crispy (I used soda) all the way. The brunkager I buy from the store always turned soft once opened. Not that I’ve ever bought any since finding this recipe.
Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever left such an outstanding review before 😅 But seriously, great recipe!
Thanks for your nice comment to my recipe for Danish Brown cookies. I am very happy that you like the recipe :-) Regards Kim (NordicFoodLiving.com)