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Oliebollen: The Dutch New Year’s Tradition

Oliebollen are a traditional Dutch delicacy eaten most in December as a New Year’s tradition. Oliebollen, literally translated as ‘oil balls’ are known as Dutch beignets or doughnuts. These deep fried fluffy balls, mostly baked with raisins in them, are eaten with a lot of powdered sugar on top. They are made out of flour, eggs, milk, yeast and sometimes instead of yeast beer is used so they can rise well. If you go to a place where they sell oliebollen, you often also can get them in different flavors, such as apple or banana. In Belgium, they are also known as smoutebollen.

Origins of the oliebol

It is not very clear where the oliebol exactly comes from, it is not known if it origins from the Netherlands or somewhere close. Probably in the medieval period people baked them.

Another possibility of its origin is that they come from Spain or Portugal. They would have taken them to the Netherlands during the Spanish Inquisition when they fled. Back then they ate something similar: so called ‘oil cookies’ with fruits.

Oil cookies were the name they used until 1868, where the van Dale named it in their dictionary. But it wasn’t until the 20th century the term ‘oliebol’ was used.

This is where to get them

You can find a lot of oliebol-stalls in every city during the winter period. Because you have to try them as an expat or young professional from another country, we have made a small list of global places where you often can find oliebollen.

Oliebol stall in your neighborhood

Probably the most common way to get your freshly baked oliebol. They will appear at the beginning of December and will leave somewhere in January. You can find those stalls often at:

Another option is to buy your oliebollen at your local bakery. Most bakery’s will bake them freshly and will take orders to get them at New Years Eve.

Tip: we definitely don’t recommend you to buy them at a supermarket. Most of the times, they are pre-baked which means they are tough to chew on.

Another tip: You can bake them yourself in a deep fryer or pan with sunflower oil. In most supermarkets they offer DIY packets where you only have to add water to make it a dough. This dough you can fry and you will have oliebollen! Don’t forget to buy the powdered sugar to put on top.

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