Dutch Quirk #10: Eat pepernoten during (and before!) the holiday season

HomeUltimate List of Dutch QuirksDutch Quirk #10: Eat pepernoten during (and before!) the holiday season

Placed alongside Halloween candies, they’ve competed for our attention in the supermarket aisles for a month. 👀 However, with the spooky holiday over, we’re now one step closer to Sinterklaas… meaning it’s officially pepernoten season!

While Sinterklaas is a somewhat (read: very) controversial holiday due to the presence of his helper Zwarte Piet, one thing appreciated by Dutchies and internationals alike are the treats that Sint and Piet bring with them — pepernoten.

Okay, okay — before you come at us — technically, we’re talking about kruidnoten here but pepernoten is a more frequently used term to describe these delicious Dutch treats — and we’ll explain the difference below. 😚

What is it?

Pepernoten are soft, irregularly shaped biscuits. They’re made from rye flour but have a sweet honey flavour, spiced up with anise.

If this sounds unfamiliar, it’s probably because many people (including Dutchies!) say that they’re eating pepernoten though they’re technically stuffing their face with kruidnoten.

So what are kruidnoten then? Kruidnoten are crunchy, dome-shaped biscuits that’ll instantly bring Christmas to your tongue. 😍 They’re made from wheat flour and spiced with ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom, and white pepper.

When most people say ‘pepernoten’ they mean these. However, ‘pepernoten’ are the larger, lighter, irregularly shaped ones (shown in the feature image). Image: Depositphotos

Kruidnoten also come in many different flavour variants (just visit a Van Delft store and you’ll be amazed!). You can even find them coated in chocolate — lekker!

Why do they do it?

Kruidnoten are a typical treat related to the Dutch celebration of Sinterklaas, so eating them simply goes hand-in-hand with the holiday season in the Netherlands.

In fact, pepernoten have been part of the Sinterklaas tradition since the 16th-century. Then, when the Netherlands started importing more spices in the 19th-century, the kruidnoot saw the light of day.

From then on, it was also kruidnoten that were thrown during Sinterklaas parades.

So, why? Well, tradition. Plus, they’re outright delicious!

Why is it quirky? 

If they’d only eat them around Sinterklaas (December 5) it wouldn’t be so quirky. However, pepernoten and especially kruidnoten make their appearance in Albert Heijn as early as September — echt!

Sinterklaas arriving in the Netherlands
The Dutch tradition of pepernoten comes hand in hand with the arrival of Sinterklaas. Source: Erik Bro/Wikimedia Commons/CC 3.0

It’s every Dutchies dilemma: do they buy the first bag of kruidnoten once the urge kicks in along with the worsened weather of October — or do they hold off until at least November?

From our experience, the former usually wins and you’ll find everyone stuffing their faces with kruidnoten months before the holidays.

Should you join in? 


Whatever your feelings are about Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet, everyone can get on board with pepernoten and kruidnoten.

After living some time in the Netherlands, you’ll likely even be facing the same dilemma as the Dutch: to buy or not to buy kruidnoten in October.

What do you think of this Dutch quirk? Have you experienced it? Tell us in the comments below!

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in November 2021 and was fully updated in October 2023 for your reading pleasure.

Feature Image:Depositphotos
Christine Stein Hededam 🇩🇰
Christine Stein Hededam 🇩🇰
A Dane with a special place in her heart for Minnesota, Christine is now falling in love with everything Dutch. Between finishing her bachelor’s degree, learning Dutch, and doing yoga teacher training, you will find her wandering about the Hague. Always up for visiting new places, she loves to explore the Netherlands with friends and takes pride in scoping out cute cafés (wherein to discuss books, big plans, and food).


  1. While the Dutch might eat kruidnoten and pepernoten before and during Sinterklaas, they don’t eat them AFTER Sinterklaas!!!
    Once when living in NL, I brought kruidnoten as a snack to share with my friend. It was a couple days after Sinerklaas.She refused them saying, we don’t eat them after Sinterklaas!!!


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