Traditional Dutch food: oliebollen (o-lee-bollun)
What do you mean there is no traditional Dutch food?? Let me introduce you to the deep-fried (raisin) buns, famously known as the oliebol (pronounce as: o-lee-bol) as one of the most popular traditional foods/snacks in the Netherlands. The history of the oliebol goes back hundreds of years and first appeared in a Dutch cooking book in 1667. It is primarily eaten during the cold winter months in October, November and December. Oliebollen are made of milk, yeast, sugar, flower, oil and dusted with confectioner’s sugar (also known as powdered sugar). Outside the Netherlands it is also known as the Dutch donut which is weird because o-lee-bol is easy to pronounce irregardless of your mother tongue.
Although I personally prefer the basic no-nonsense oliebol, the one with raisin is equally popular. The flat ones with a whole in it are called appelflap and these (not surprisingly) contain a round slice of apple. Regardless of what you choose it should always, always be topped off with confectioner’s sugar!
How popular is the oliebol in the Netherlands?
I am pretty sure that the average Dutch person has no clue about the annual consumption of oliebollen (plural of oliebol) in the Netherlands. Bear in mind that it is only eaten during a 2-month period with a peak at and around New Years Eve. It is estimated that the Dutch (and after reading this post thousands of tourists) eat at least 100 million!!!! oliebollen per year. That is quite an accomplishment for a population of 17,2 million people. So if you wanna get the real Dutch experience you better eat an oliebol during your visit to the Netherlands.
Where can I get my oliebol in Amsterdam?
Oliebollen are either home-made, sold in bakery stores or at the numerous food trucks that you’ll find around the city from November onwards. I strongly believe that each and every visitor to Amsterdam should eat an oliebol at least once in her/his lifetime. Therefore I made a huge sacrifice: I have done an oliebollen tasting at 19 oliebollen stalls/food trucks in Amsterdam to make sure that you know where to get your much wanted oliebol. I would like to thank my friend Mareike who joined me during one of my oliebollen trips. I could do max 7 oliebollen per day and needed a few days off before I could go on another oliebollen tasting journey.
My favorite oliebollen in Amsterdam
The perfect oliebol is a very personal matter, so it is not fair to say that a certain oliebol is good or bad. Having said that, I do have my preferences. My ideal oliebol is fluffy on the inside and crunchy on the outside. I always top them off with confectioner’s sugar. Here is my list of favorite oliebollen stalls or places in Amsterdam in random order:
#1 Hugo de Grootplein in West
This was the first oliebollen stall I tried in Amsterdam, and bingo, delicious! Corry and her husband Willem make oliebollen at this spot for the last 27 years! If oreo’s are your guilty pleasure, you should definitely stop by at this stall. This is the only place in town where I found oreo oliebollen! And always a good sign: the owners love their own oliebollen and split a raisin and regular oliebol between the two of them per day. This place is open till 20.00; perfect for an after dinner oliebol!
#2 Cornelis Troostplein in de Pijp
The owner of this oliebollen place is Jan whose grandparents started the oliebollen business more than 40 years ago. Jan is passionate about oliebollen and explains in detail how to make the perfect oliebollen with fruit (sorry, secret recipe). Every day, Jan eats 3 oliebollen for breakfast! At Jan’s oliebollen stall I tried the appelflap (apple envelope which is weird because it is round) which was delicious. He explained to me the difference between an appelflap and an appelbeignet: both contain apple of course, but the first is made with dough and the beignet with puff pastry. They are both deep-fried.
#3 Kinkerstraat (corner Bilderdijkkade) in Oud/Old West
Louisa is the proud owner of the oliebollen stall at the Kinkerstraat for more than 25 years. She told me that her customers even come from neighboring towns as they her oliebollen are the best. Here I tried the oliebol with raisins and cinnamon and it was delicious! She explains that the trick for the perfect oliebol lies in the quality and the temperature of the oil. So, if the oliebol is a bit soggy, you are basically eating/drinking oil.
#4 Van Woustraat (corner Jozef Israelskade) in the Pijp/Rivierenbuurt
Oliebollen baker Peter was introduced to the oliebollen business by his father-in-law in 1999. That is a good 20 years experience with oliebollen. Peter is convinced that he makes one of the best oliebollen of Amsterdam after a secret recipe from his grand-parents. Good to know: his parents-in-law started their oliebollen stall in 1965! Peter eats 2-3 of his oliebollen per day, which I can say from my own experience is durable. Also from my own experience I can tell that 7 a day is too many!
#5 Surinameplein in West
André is most likely the most experienced oliebollen maker as he started mixing the dough at the age of 8 at his dad’s oliebollen stall. One of his signature oliebollen is the one with rum and raisins. According to André, key in making the perfect oliebol is the oil but also premium quality flower and raisins. And yep, André tries at least one of his oliebollen per day.
#6 Nieuwmarkt in the city centre
Rob & Evelien always dreamt of opening an oliebollen stall at the Nieuwmarkt but thought that the local authorities would never issue a permit. Well they were wrong and on the November 1st 2019 their dream came true. On St. Martin’s day, November 11th, they gave away oliebollen to children for free singing St. Martin’s songs. More than a hundred happy children showed up! You will find their stall at the back of the Waag (the historic building) on the Nieuwmarkt.
#7 Hartog’s Volkoren Bakery (Wibautstraat 77) in Oost/East
Hartog’s Volkoren (volkoren means wholewheat) is a bakery store where they sell wholewheat food products including oliebollen. I had no idea that wholewheat oliebollen even existed so this place was on the top of my list for a visit. It was delicious! These are absolutely premium quality oliebollen and if you wanna indulge but still eat fibers this is the place to go. Unfortunately, it was very busy that day so I didn’t get a chance to speak with the owners. Next time perhaps, because I will definitely go back!
#8 Wibautstraat (corner Eerste Oosterparkstraat) in Oost/East
Although not the owner of this oliebollen stall, Dirk is an established oliebollen maker with 35 years of experience. He made oliebollen in other cities in the Netherlands and realized that Dutch people have different ideas about the perfect oliebol depending on where they live. His clients in Amsterdam prefer their oliebollen light and fluffy, exactly the way I like them! He convinced me that he makes the most delicious appelflappen using secret ingredients to make them gooey and crunchy. Well, he succeeded, I am hooked.
#9 Haarlemmerplein (Westerpark)
I have to add this one because their oliebollen are delicious. While most oliebollen stalls start on 1 November or even before, this one only starts on 1 December. I was in a rush when I passed by their oliebollen stall so I will go back again next year and ask them what makes their oliebol so great!
Other oliebollen stalls that I visited:
Bos- en Lommer weg (corner
Admiraal de Ruiterweg (corner Willem de Zwijgerlaan)
Linnaeusstraat (corner Ringdijk)
J.F. Van Hengelstraat (intersection with Oostelijke Handelskade)
About the author: Laura Danielle is a co-founder of Comedy Walks: stand-up comedy shows with the city as a stage, or, if you like, city tours with a professional stand-up comedian as a guide. We currently run Comedy Walks in Amsterdam, Washington DC, Berlin and Utrecht. By far the most fun way to explore any city in the world!
All information in the blog posts is based on personal experiences and commission free (“I rather drink coffee with inspiring entrepreneurs than compete with them for 20 cents commission for our customers’ coffee” – Laura Danielle).