A Blog by International Students at Leiden University

Dutch Sweet Treats

A pinch and a punch for the first of the month! Apologies for the violent start to this post, but yes, December is FINALLY here. So now I feel like I’m officially allowed to talk about all things Christmassy.

I’m already dreaming of the UK staple Christmas foods: mince pies, Christmas cake and Christmas pudding. The first thing I’m going to do when I go home for Christmas is have a warm mince pie and a proper cup of tea. But, until then, the Netherlands has its own range of sugary foods for this time of year. May I introduce a host of seasonal Dutch treats!



 kruid 2

 kruid 3

These are the small, round biscuits that you see in large bags at the supermarket. (Disclaimer: In the UK we call all cookie-like things biscuits. I’ve had a couple of mix-ups with people over this, but basically, all things in the “cookie aisle” in the supermarket are biscuits to me, unless they are obviously cakes.) These are often mistakenly referred to as pepernoten (apparently, even Dutch people mix these up), but are quite different. Crunchy, spicy, they also come covered in chocolate (white, milk, or plain) and I’ve even seen some fancy-looking chocolate truffle ones. Buy a pack to have at home with tea or gluhwein. They come in huge bags to share, if you want to, or you could just scoff the lot yourself.



These are the small, squarish things. Chewy, not crunchy (unless you leave them out to dry) these treats are similarly spicy. Kids get these (or kruidnoten) thrown at them by Zwarte Piet when Sinterklaas visits schools. I have it on good authority that while delicious, when launched through the air at high speed they become less a treat and more a sugary missile.




These are a classic example of what I would call a biscuit. Flat, crunchy and sweet, they are also lightly spiced (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger) and are great when dipped in hot gluhwein. Some have chunks of almonds in them. Utterly addictive, and dangerously cheap in the supermarket.

Gevulde spekulaas


This is probably my favourite. A layer of almond paste in between two slabs of a kind of thicker, softer speculaas. Amazingly soft and tasty, the ginger and cinnamon go perfectly with the almond, unless you’re not into almond and marzipan. If you’re not a fan, I’d steer well clear of this (and leave more for me!)


 marz pig

In England we tend to have marzipan only as a layer of icing on Christmas and wedding cakes, in between the fruit cake and the white royal icing. But here in the Netherlands they’ve got the right idea: mould it into adorable shapes and eat it by itself! After biting into Sint and Piet you can sink your teeth into cute fruits, vegetables, and even sushi-shaped sweets. One version that I keep seeing everywhere is a pig. Some shops have huge marzipan pigs which you can either buy whole or take a chunk out of. And today in one shop I saw bacon-shaped marzipan.

Taai taai poppen


These are chewy, spicy doll-shaped cookies that are pretty much like gingerbread men. They are one of the more traditional treats, and Dutch friends say they’re not so popular among kids nowadays, because they’re not as sweet as some of the other things. I have to admit that I have not tried these, so guess who’s making a trip to the supermarket this afternoon?!

Chocolate Letters

 chocolate letter


You can get these in all sizes, any letter, and in a variety of chocolate and sweet forms. You can get your initial made of chocolate, or just an ‘S’ which stands for ‘Sinterklaas’ (this is why there seem to be so many ‘S’ shapes in the shops: not because Dutch names overwhelmingly start with ‘S’). For those with refined tastes, try handmade letters from one of the local chocolatiers, and for those of you with a sweet tooth, visit sweet shops like Jammin for marshmallow and candy letters. I’ll be holding out for a dark chocolate ‘E.’



Finally, a variation on the chocolate letters: an almond paste letter shape covered in pastry. Also known as Boterletter, they these tend to be very large, and come in ‘O’ ‘S’ ‘M’ shapes.  Again this is something I haven’t tried yet. To all you Netherlanders out there- is this something I should try? And what is the reason for the O, S and M shapes?

Have I missed any of your favourites? Which have you tried? Let me know!


5 comments on “Dutch Sweet Treats

  1. mandala56
    December 2, 2012

    I really miss seeing all the crazy marzipan shapes. How about a blog post with nothing but photos of all the candy, marzipan, chocolate letters, and pastries in the shops? Of course it would drive me nuts, but I was in Leiden once at Sinterklaas time and it was just so much fun.

  2. mandala56
    December 2, 2012

    I think you forgot the chocolate coins and the Droste Pastille tubes, but maybe they aren’t for Sinterklaas.

  3. Michael
    December 2, 2012

    I think you covered most of the Sinterklaas goodies. Be careful though, these will all disappear from the shops after December 5th! By the morning of the 6th, Sinterklaas will have taken the remains of his treates from all the supermarkets and the space will have been filled with numerous Christmas delights.
    So, if you want to collect more of the abovementioned sweets, buy them before Wednesday, as you will have to wait to September to see them again!

    • theleidener
      December 2, 2012

      Oh really?! Oh no! I’d better start stocking up for the long winter ahead…

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This entry was posted on December 1, 2012 by in Emily, Living in Holland and tagged , , , , , , .

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