Recipes for Dutch Holiday Desserts and Festive Treats

Sweeten up Sinterklaas, Christmas, and New Year's With These Traditional Sweets

The feast days in the Netherlands are dominated by sweet treats and cookies that contain ingredients like spices, white flour, dried fruits, almonds, and sugar. Historically, these goodies used to be extremely expensive, which is why their use was reserved for special holidays and parties. Nowadays, of course, we tend to eat speculaas year-round, but there are still some treats, like kruidnoten, advocaat, and bischopswijn that are only enjoyed during the festive season. Here are 10 of our...MORE favorite festive recipes:

  • 01 of 10
    Traditional Dutch Apple Beignets. Photo © Karin Engelbrecht

    These fritters are like a cross between apple pie and donuts: the outside golden brown and crispy, and the apple on the inside is just cooked, while still retaining some bite. They are traditionally served at New Year's Eve celebrations in the Netherlands, just before all those New Year's diet resolutions kick in. So tuck in while you have a chance.

  • 02 of 10
    Banketstaaf. Photo © Karin Engelbrecht

    The 'banketstaaf' is a traditional Dutch pastry, served at Christmas time. Flaky puff pastry brushed with apricot jam and sprinkled with powdered sugar encases a soft, flavorful almond paste center. You can make them in just a little over half an hour. Serve it up with coffee. For a fancier presentation, decorate with cheery glace cherries and slivered almonds.

  • 03 of 10
    Dutch Mulled Wine. Photo © Westend61/Getty Images

    This Bishop's wine is a favorite for Sinterklaas. It is a medley of red wine, oranges, lemon, and spices. It takes three hours to mull, so put it on simmer and head out for a bracing walk or skate on a cold December day. It'll be ready to warm you up afterward.

  • 04 of 10
    Kruidnoten. Photo © Karin Engelbrecht

    The little sister of speculaas, kruidnoten are tiny rounded cookies eaten at Sinterklaas. They're spiced with ginger, cinnamon, white pepper, cardamom, cloves, and nutmeg. New varieties include chocolate-covered kruidnoten, truffle kruidnoten, and yogurt kruidnoten.

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  • 05 of 10
    Traditional Dutch advocaat liqueur. Photo © Kairn Engelbrecht

    Advocaat is a creamy yellow liqueur made from a rich blend of egg yolks, sugar, brandy and a touch of vanilla. The Netherlands exports this drink to over 50 countries, but, shhhh, it’s really easy to make your own at home.

  • 06 of 10
    Jan Hagel cookies. Photo © Karin Engelbrecht

    These cookies with their hint of cinnamon, almond slivers, and candied sugar are traditionally eaten at Christmas time in Holland. They can be cut into squares, rectangles or diamond shapes. But I really like cutting them into fingers to serve with ice cream, mousse or sabayon, or in fact, with a good old cuppa coffee.

  • 07 of 10

    Kerstkransjes (Christmas Wreath Cookies)

    Dutch Christmas Wreath Cookies. Photo © Karin Engelbrecht

    These Dutch Kerstfeest (Christmas) cookies, called 'kerstkransjes' in Dutch, are used to decorate the Christmas tree. However, if you think they are just pretty to look at, you are in for a treat. They taste fantastic too.

  • 08 of 10
    Dutch Fruited Christmas Bread (Kerststol). Photo © Karin Engelbrecht

    This recipe for fruited bread with a sweet almond paste center is a real winner for the holidays. I have updated the traditional recipe, using cranberries and orange liqueur instead of the usual raisins, currants, and brandy. But please feel free to stick to the traditional version.

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  • 09 of 10
    Speculaas cookies. Photo © Karin Engelbrecht

    These delicious Dutch cinnamon-ginger cookies are traditionally eaten at Sinterklaas. Because commercial versions are often windmill shaped, they are also known as "windmill cookies" abroad. But these cookies actually come in a variety of shapes, such as figurines, angels, and animals. You may also know them as ''Biscoff cookies". Filled varieties, such as the and gevulde speculaas cookies, are also very popular.

  • 10 of 10
    Old-Fashioned Dutch Oliebollen. Photo © Karin Engelbrecht

    Traditional 'oliebollen' have often been called the precursor of the donut, that favorite anytime-anywhere snack of the American masses, and it seems very probable that early Dutch settlers took this tradition over to the New World. In Holland, however, they are pretty much a seasonal treat to celebrate the Dutch New Year