Traditional Swiss Christmas Cookies

It’s not Christmas without traditions and for me going without the cookies I grew up with is unthinkable. When I first moved to this country, I was suddenly faced with the challenge of making cookies that before I would just be able to buy at the local bakery, cookies I had never made before. yeah, I did not always make everything myself. But I needed them, I mean Christmas was NOT going to come without, so I was going to find a way and I was going to learn how to make them, whipped egg whites and all. Over the years I tried different substitutes for ingredients that are not readily available in the US, and have refined and tweaked the recipes to reproduce the flavors of my home without having to fly back and what not 😉

I grew up in Basel, a city on the Rhine that had extensive trade with spices, sugar and tea long before the rest of secluded Switzerland had ready access to such luxuries, and there is extensive use of (former) exotic spices. A lot of times the recipes also have a couple of tablespoons of local cherry brandy on the ingredient list (which can be left out without altering the result significantly)


Over the years ground almond meal (aka almond flour) has become more readily available and my cookies turn out much better than when I tried blending the almonds in my food processor. Yeah, not a grinder, should have known, but driven by desperation (I wanted to have Christmas, after all) I sifted through the result and picking out most of the large remaining almond chunks.

Another challenge is the measurements. All my recipes are not only metric, but in grams, kilograms, deciliters and so forth. We measure ingredients by weight not volume, which I still believe gives you more accurate results in most cases, specially if you have to divide or multiply a recipe. But  for convenience in the American kitchen, I have converted all of the ingredients into imperial measurements, cups and so forth. So, worry not, no need to run out and get a food scale (although I do think it’s a good thing to have, just sayin’)

Many of the recipes that I will be sharing here are considerably healthier than your average cookie recipe. What usually happens when I bring them somewhere is this: people marvel at the different looks and how pretty it is, then they try one and are amazed that there is so much  flavor and not just plain sugary sweetness, and then they completely lose it when they learn that many of the cookies they just tried use no butter or oil and the only fat content is  natural oils from the ground almonds, many are gluten and even grain free ( a thing I never realized until this year)

There are four that absolutely HAVE to be on my list for a real Swiss Christmas,

Links will be updated as I update the recipes

Basler Brunsli (our local version of Brownies)

gluten free, grain free and butter free

MailÀnderli (delicately scented with lemon, these were always the first ones my Mom would bake each year)



ZimtstĂ€rnli (Cinnamon Stars, I think this one has great potential to become a American Favorite, given it’s shape, taste and color, not to mention taste)

gluten free, grain free and butter free

Änisbrötli (Anis breads/cookies )

fat free besides the eggs


And of course there are several other that are just as good and I try to make them too, but without those four, I don’t even care if it snows or not!










 Chocolate Balls

Almonds and chocolate, what more could you want?

   Hazelnut Squares













Spitzbuebe (Sablé like, translates to Rascals, I have heard them called Linzer Cookies in the US)

Orange Hearts

And I could go on and on

What is one thing that is absolutely essential to your holidays?




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36 Replies to “Traditional Swiss Christmas Cookies”

  1. Hey there… thanks for posting that… you spoke from my heart 🙂 – I grew up in Zurich and Christmas is just not Christmas w/o our traditional cookies 🙂 – Good luck to you and Merry Christmas

  2. Help! My boyfriend grew up in Zurich and I’m trying to bake traditional cookies for him…the mailanderli I made were perfect but I tried a recipe for chraberli but it was not accurate at all. By chance do you have one you can share?

    1. Hi Michelle! yes yes yesssss! I do, in fact Chrabbeli are a less elaborate version of Anisbrötli. All you do is shape them different. Roll the dough, in portions into 1/2″ dia rolls, cut a 3″ section off, and cut 2-3 slits perpednicular with a sharp knife, not all the way through. Place ont he greased cookie sheet the same as the elaborate version, let rest the required time and bake. Time may need to be adjusted down a little. I will add an update to the post, but I think in the corner of one of the pictures is an actual Chrabeli (like we say in Basel) from when I ran out of energy to make the fancy ones 🙂 Let me know how it goes!

  3. I was just telling my 11 year old daughter about anisbrotli and she had to google it to see what I was talking about and that brought us to your website. How fun!!! My husband grew up in Birsfelden. We lived in Basel for two years after we were married. We live in Texas now with our two half Swiss daughters, 11 and 6 years old. We may have to make Swiss cookies for Santa this year 😉

    1. Hoi Kari! Thanks for stopping by. Birsfelden, oh the memories. I even had people in my class in school that were from Birsfelden!
      I heard Santa is especially fond of Swiss cookies, or so I heard 😉

  4. Hi!! Wow what a great sight!! I grew up with the traditional Swiss cookies my mother always made and I wanted to get the recipies ….and here they all are so nicely printed out, with beautiful pictures!! Great Job. You have inspired to make everyone of them for Christmas this year!!!! Thank you, thank you!!! Merry Christmas to you!!

  5. Isn’t it wonderful to have a Swiss-American connection based on cookie traditions 🙂 same goes to me, my daughter growing up in Miami has to grew up with the cookies I know from my childhood (and of course we add some new ones to make it our own special memories)!

  6. My mother was born in Bern and came to the states in 1946 with my father who was stationed in the Swiss embassy at that time. I have my mother’s recipe for Zinggli, but I have yet to come across any recipe for Zinggli on the internet or in any Swiss cookbook I’ve purchased here. They hold a lot of memories for our family now that our parents have passed.

      1. It is a little slightly sweet cookie made with fresh lemon zest rolled into a 1/2 inch log and cut into 1″ long pieces, and then fried in hot oil quickly and cooled on paper towels.

  7. What region would this be where they are called Schenkeli or Meitschibei? The ones my mother made were made with lemon zest and them fried until they puffed up into chunky little logs.

  8. exactly, same here (but the dough somehow is more compact then Donut holes), my family comes from Bern but I grew up in Kanton Aargau, this cookie they made usually around “Fasnacht” in February (I do not know where the name for the cookies come from, but I assume Aargau or Oberaargau)….. see here what I found;

    1. Hmm, Schenkeli, where I am from where not a Christmas thing, they were available all year long and were about 5″ long. So that is definitely not what you are looking for. The word itself means something like ‘a little corner’ or ‘ a little piece’ of something. Is it possible that they were a leftover thing that turned into a treat. We would often roll leftover pie crust in sugar and bake it.
      The only cookie (and it is not fried where I am from) that would have the lemon flavor and is not extremely sweet, are the Mailanderli. I wonder if they could be friend in small chunks?
      Sorry I am not more help, but I looked through all my old Swiss cook books and found nothing matching that name 🙁

    1. Did you cut them in the middle and thread the opposite end through?
      I am just looking for a clearer recipe. My grandmother only know it off the top of her head. I just made them.

  9. you may want to share this recipe since we all think of it how it’s called elsewhere and how they look and how they may taste… least I am curiuos :)?

  10. My grandmother was from Switzerland and she made schenklies but they did not have lemon and nuts, just cinnamon. Is that the proper name for them? They were deep fried.

    1. Hi Betty!

      I am not sure, there was someone else that had asked the same question on here before. There are so many regional specialties all over Switzerland and this must be one of them, and sadly I am not familiar with that one. And none of my old cookbooks have been able to help me either. Sorry. Please, let me now if you find out more about it.

    1. Hi Val!
      There are several regional cookies that are called ‘LĂ€ckerli’. The etymological root of the word means something like ‘treat’ or ‘little delicacy’ Do you now where in Switzerland his family was from?

  11. Have you ever heard of fried dough with powdered sugar? My grandfather was Swiss and that was a traditional cookie at Christmas time.

  12. “Schenkeli” or “Meitlibei” are fried cookies as described above. The name is dependent on the origin of the cook/baker/producer. Those of us originally from Basel call them Schenkeli, whereas friends from Chur call them Meitlibei. Both names refer to what in English is called a “thigh”!

  13. Hello!
    So happy I found this blog! I’m learning a lot. My neighbor says his mother made a cookie named after the town Basel. After reading here, I think he is saying, “Basellackerli”. Could this be? Have you heard of a cookie by this name?
    Carolyn Kelly

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