Fall is a significant time for the Dutch, especially if you’re at the age where you are still going to school. Holland’s summer vacation is fairly short ( if you get to have any summer at all) and before you know it, you’re back in the schoolbanken, agonizing over homework, teachers and hoping your bike hasn’t been stolen while you were in class. 

Thankfully Fall brings a well-deserved break, in the shape of a highly coveted one week vacation called herfstvakantie, or fall vacation. School’s out during that time and families undertake one last fun activity before the winter weather kicks in and reduces outside life to a minimum.  

Herfstvakanties are usually spent outside the home, weather permitting, on a day trip to a theme park such as the Efteling, a weeklong visit with grandma and grandpa, or a trip to the North Sea islands. But regardless of where you go, or with whom, you know that at least once during that week you are going to get treated to that typical Dutch kids favorite: pannekoeken!

Thin, flavorful and as-big-as-your-plate pancakes are a special treat, especially for kids, and are often the food of choice for children’s birthday parties or special occasions. Whole restaurants, called pannekoekenhuisjes (pancake houses), are dedicated to just that: offering a large variety of pancakes and toppings to please everybody’s tastebuds. The décor of these restaurants is usually rural Dutch: lots of white and red checkered tablecloths, big wooden tables and chairs and with an overall farm-feel to it.

But pancakes are not just for kids. For adults, pannekoeken also are a traditional Dutch meal: studded with chunks of apple, pieces of bacon (spekpannenkoek) or covered with a layer of melted aged Gouda cheese, these large flapcakes are a quick and affordable substitute for an evening meal. Unlike in the United States and Canada, pancakes are not part of the breakfast tradition in Holland and are more suited for dinner. Whereas kids usually prefer the batter made with white flour, recipes for grown-up pancakes will often mention buckwheat, whole wheat, or a mixture of both.

The most traditional choice is pannekoek met appelstroop, pancake with apple syrup, a tangy dark sugary spread made out of apple juice. The dark stroop is spread over the whole surface of the pannekoek, after which it is rolled up and either eaten as a wrap, or cut into bite size pieces and consumed with knife and fork. Other popular toppings are peanut butter, chocolate sprinkles, jam, powdered sugar, or just plain. As the batter does not contain any sugar, the pancake can be eaten either as a savory option or as a sweet one. A festive way of serving pancakes can be done in the shape of a pancake cake, a pannenkoekentaart, which consists of layering pancakes and adding flavored yoghurt and/or fresh fruit. 

Keeping Dutch tradition, most people will usually eat a savory pancake first, followed by one with a sweet topping, but you can do whatever you like best! 

2 cups (250 grams) flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups (500 ml) milk
2 tablespoons (30 grms) butter, melted and room temperature
1 tablespoon (15 gms) butter for the frying pan

Stir the flour and salt together, and then add two cups of milk and the eggs. Beat until the batter is smooth, and thin with the remaining milk. Melt two tablespoons of butter and stir this into the pancake batter. You are looking for a pourable batter. Cover the bowl and let it rest for 30 minutes.

Heat a 12-inch skillet, add ½ tablespoon of butter. As soon as the butter is melted (but not browned), take the skillet off the stove, pour in about 1/3 cup, or a small soup ladle of batter, and swirl the skillet so that the whole bottom surface is covered with a thin layer. Put the skillet back on the stove, and carefully bake the pancake until the surface is dry, about two minutes, then flip or turn the pancake over and cook the other side.

Stack the pancakes as you go and cover them with a clean kitchen tea towel while you bake the rest. Serve with a variety of toppings, both sweet and savory, such as peanut butter, cheese, jam, fruit jams, bacon, or sugar. Makes about ten large pancakes.

3 cups (700 ml) apple juice or apple cider
1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons dark molasses (optional)

Stir the sugar into the apple juice and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer for the next twenty minutes. When the liquid has been reduced to about half, start monitoring the temperature with a candy thermometer. As soon as the syrup has reached 225F (107C), take the pan off the stove. Let it cool, stir in the molasses (optional), and serve with the pancakes. This appelstroop, when still warm, is not as thick as the commercial product but will thicken when refrigerated. The flavor is similar to the original. Makes one cup. 


  1. When still working at the Amsterdam HP-ECCC - a place also quite known to your good self, mrs Holten? - me and my work partner Sijko always took our 'foreign' guests to the Zaanse Schans. Thus hitting two birds with one stone: 1) showing them the 'typical' Dutch Zaanse landscape, including the windmills but 2) having one of those wagonwheel-shaped pancakes, filled with a variety of fillings. It always went down quite well, sometimes we even could get the local clog maker to give a demonstration...

  2. MMmmmm, gonna have to make this Sunday morning :-) So glad I found your blog, I come from a Dutch Indo family as well :-) Make Ertwensoep on a regular basis, my favorite, especially now with the rain in northern CA!

  3. How do you make the apple, cinnamon, brown sugar ones? I have had them before and the apples appear to be cooked in the pancake.

    1. Yes, they are. Slice the apples, and fry them in a little bit of butter until they have gone a bit soft, then pour the pancake batter over them. Turn the pancake over when the bottom side is done, and finish cooking it. It will now have the apple rings showing, like in the picture above. Do find a good baking or frying apple - it has to keep its shape so that you don't end up with mush. Enjoy!!

    2. That gets to a related question I have about making crepes with bacon - I had some *wonderful* bacon and apple crepes when I was in Amsterdam a few months ago and want to make this at home. I assume you let it fry up some before adding the batter? Should you fully fry up the bacon to point where you'd normally consider it done, or at some point before that?

    3. Peter, that's right. Fry up the bacon just slightly underdone, add the apple slices, pour the batter and flip when the bottom is ready. With so much "filling", it may be harder to flip the pancakes without breaking.


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