The origin of…Oliebol

Post 65 Oliebol

An oliebol (literally oil ball) is known as a Dutch doughnut in English. It is a ball made of dough and sultanas or raisins and is deep fried in hot oil. Then they are served with powdered sugar. They are traditionally eaten on New Year´s Eve, but can be found at funfairs and oliebollenkramen (food trucks where they sell oliebollen) in the weeks leading up to the New Year.

It is thought that Germanic tribes in what is now the Netherlands ate pastries similar to oliebollen during Yule, the period between December 26 and January 6. They believed that the goddess Perchta and other evil spirits would fly through the sky during the nights. To soothe these spirits food was offered, often containing deep-fried dough. 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 had eaten them.
Another theory says that oliebollen find their origin in the late Middle Ages, when Christmas was the end of a period of fasting that began November 11. That meant feasting and people used to eat oliekoeken (literally oil cake). It became a custom for healthy people and nobility to give the poor food for New Year´s and often they would give them oliekoeken.
Yet another possibility is that oliebollen came from Portugal, where Jews fled to the Netherlands during the Spanish inquisition (1478-1834). At that time in Portugal a cookie similar to oliebollen was eaten there. It was an oil cake with dried southern fruits.
The first recipe described to prepare oliekoeken dates back to 1667 in the book “De Verstandige Kock” (The Sensible Cook).

It was not until the 17th century that the oliekoek changed into the oliebol when better trade connections ensured that more and better oil was available. More oil could be used so the dough could take a round shape: the birth of the oiliebol. But the change from the word oliekoek into oliebol didn´t happen until the end of the 19th century. In the 20th century the term oliekoek was not in use anymore and people only spoke of oliebollen.

a traditional Dutch delicacy.

The word oliebol comes from the words olie (oil) and bol (ball), because it is deep fried in oil and it has a round shape.


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