Oliebollen, a Dutch New Year's tradition

Oliebollen, a Dutch New Year’s tradition

It is a Dutch tradition to eat ‘oliebollen’ on New Year’s Day. What’s that, what’s their origin, where to buy the best ones and how to bake them? Here we go…


Oliebollen are a traditional Dutch delicacy eaten during winter. Oliebollen, literally translated as ‘Oil Balls’ are also known as Dutch Doughnuts. They are some sort of deep fried fluffy bread filled or not with raisins in the shape of balls. This small fried doughnut balls are made from simple ingredients of flour, eggs, apple, milk and yeast. Normally enjoyed warm with some sprinkle of powdered sugar on top. Personally, I prefer the raisin or sultana filled oliebollen. The raisins contribute to different texture and give some more taste and crunchiness to the oliebol. I am even more a fan of appelflappen (small deep-fried pies filled with apple)which are also traditional for the New Year’s celebration. They feel lighter than the oliebol and are so tasty warmed up in the oven. The whole house smells of warm appels. It brings me back to my childhood, when I came to the Netherlands just once or twice a year and on the 30th morning I woke up in my grandparents’ house fraught with this familiar sweet fragrance.


oliebollenTheir origin dates back to Germanic tribes hundreds of years ago. They are said to have been first eaten by Germanic tribes in the Netherlands during the Yule, the period between December 26 and January 6 where such baked goods were used. The Germanic goddess Perchta, together with evil spirits, would fly through the mid-winter sky. To appease these spirits, food was offered, much of which contained deep-fried dough. It was said Perchta would try to cut open the bellies of all she came across, but because of the fat in the oliebollen, her sword would slide off the body of whoever ate them. The earliest discovered recipe of oliekoecken (“oil cookies”, the direct precursor of the oliebol) came from the 1667 Dutch book De verstandige kock “The smart/responsible cook”. For centuries the Dutch ate oliekoek (“oil cookie”), an old name for oliebol (“oil ball”). The Oliebollen you see in the painting from around 1652 are very similar to today’s oliebol. During the nineteenth century the word “oliebol” started to be used more. In 1868 Van Dale, a famous Dutch dictionary, put the word “oliebol” in its dictionary. But it was not a commonly used word yet said by “Woordenboek der Nederlandsche taal” (1896), which is another Dutch dictionary. In that dictionary they say that “oliekoek” is a more commonly used term, but then there was a major change and from the early twentieth century the word “oliekoek” was not used anymore and had been replaced by “oliebol”.

[Source: Wikipedia]

New Year’s Eve

It is a custom for Dutch to have oliebollen on New Year’s eve, which explains the extra long queues at most of the oliebollen mobile stalls setup on various spots around the city.  An oliebol  generally costs some more than 1 Euro per piece and with discount if you purchase in bulk.

Where to buy the best ones

You can buy oliebollen in supermarkets, at the Hema, in bakeries and mobile stalls.

The AD (Algemeen Dagblad, a Dutch newspaper) used to tests every year bakeries and oliebollen mobile stalls. In 2018 the AD stopped with the publication of this eagerly wanted list. Nowadays you can find some tested stands in your place here. Gebakkraam De Keijzer on Beatrixplein Haarlem is the winner for the best oliebollen in the whole province Noord-Holland.


Oliebollen recipe

Of course you can also bake oliebollen yourself. I would like to share a recipe of SBS with you. So here it goes:


  • 2 x 7 gsachets dried yeast
  • 55 g(¼ cup) caster sugar
  • 450 g(3 cups) plain flour
  • ¼ tspsalt
  • 250 ml(1 cup) milk
  • 2eggs, lightly beaten
  • 100 g(⅓ cup) currants
  • 85 g(½ cup) raisins
  • 1 granny smith apple, peeled, finely chopped
  • vegetable oil, to deep-fry
  • icing sugar, to dust


Standing time: 1 hour 10 minutes

Place yeast, sugar and 125 ml (½ cup) lukewarm water in a small bowl and stir to dissolve. Set aside for 10 minutes or until mixture bubbles.

Place flour and salt in a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Pour milk, eggs and yeast mixture into the well and stir until combined. Add currants, raisins and apple, and stir until well combined. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 1 hour or until dough doubles in size.

Fill a deep-fryer or a large saucepan one-third full with oil and heat over medium heat to 160°C (or until a cube of bread turns golden in 40 seconds). Working in batches, use 2 dessertspoons to form 6 cm balls, then gently drop them into oil and deep-fry, turning halfway, for 5 minutes or until golden and cooked through. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel.

Dust doughnuts generously with icing sugar and serve immediately.

Cook’s notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.