Indian donuts have an
over 400 year tradition in Haudenosaunee households, tracing
their recipe back to the Dutch "Oliebol", a common New Years
treat in Dutch households in the Mohawk Valley in the 1600's.
Nó:yah Nó:yah! It is that time of year again!
When we celebrate the season, give thanks for another year and give
one another some special homemade treats. For the Haudenosaunee,
Indian donuts are the ever-sought-after treat of the season. Its
a spiced fried pillow of flavors of days gone by.
Everyone has memories of their family members
making these fried treats. Family recipes are handed down from
generation to generation and with it our expectations of the perfect
Indian donuts are said to have their recipe adopted from the Dutch
tradition "Nieuwjarr"; when Dutch would serve Oliebol, a yeast leavened
fried ball on the morning of January 1st. Witnessed by the Haudenosaunee
in the 1600s, Nieuwjarrsdag (New Years Day) celebrated the
new calendar year. Similar to trick-or-treating they would visit
friends and family members on New Years morning and would receive
a gift of usually a baked good and a special treat for the person
who was 1st to stop by new years morning and thought to bring
them luck over the year to come. Oliebollen were a favorite in the
New World and the tradition was picked up by Haudenosaunee . The
tradition of giving out Indian Donuts to No:yahers on New Years
morning is still celebrated in Haudenosaunee territories today and
is currently swelling in popularity after decades of decline.
The modern Indian donut is leavened by baking powder instead of
yeast, and with the world of available spices in today's grocery
stores, you can expect your Indian donut to carry a note of spices
including nutmeg, cinnamon, whatever the baker's delight. Indian
donuts are now made year-round on special occasions.
Bakers across our Territories have an array of
family traditions to pull from for their donut shapes.
Diamond shapes for funerals, people-shaped donuts to be given to
family members on Nó:yah. As Haudenosaunee trace their clanship
through their mothers; on this one day a year some bake the clan
animal of their fathers' to honour their father's lineage. Some
families even have a tradition of giving headless-person donuts
to step- or adopted family members!
Whatever the rules of "donut shape" that exist in a family, this
tasty tradition has welcomed friends and family to Haudenosaunee
doorsteps for over 400 years. Leave your favourite Indian donut
memory in the comments below I would love to read them. Happy Nó:yah!
Basic Traditional Indian Donut Recipe
Kahsherhón:ni (dough making)
1 cup Brown Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla
2 Teaspoons Butter (room temperature)
½ teaspoon Salt
3 ½ cups Flour
1 tablespoon Baking Powder
1 cup Buttermilk or sour milk*
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
*(To sour add 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice into
1 cup of milk stir and let it rest for 10 minutes before using)
- Measure buttermilk or sour the milk and set aside.
- Cream together butter, eggs, brown sugar and vanilla this can
be done by hand or with a mixer use paddle attachment.
- In a separate bowl mix together all dry ingredients Flour,
Baking powder, salt and spices nutmeg, ginger and cinnamon.
- Alternate dry ingredients and milk into wet ingredients. Add
half of the dry ingredients into wet mix 15 seconds then half
of the milk and mix. Add the rest of the dry then the rest of
the milk in the same fashion. This can be done with mixer on low
to keep flour from getting all over.
- Add ins such as raisins, dried cranberries, blueberries, nuts,
chopped apples or even chocolate chips can be added at this point
if desired. 1 cup mix 15seconds.
- Turn batter out on to a heavily floured surface and kneed as
few times as possible until dough is no longer sticky (about 5
- Roll dough out to 1/2 inch thick.
- Cut into your favourite shape or traditional donut shapes.
- Fry in 300°f sunflower oil approx. 3 minutes per side or
until brown and cooked throughout.
- Place on paper towels to absorb excess oil and allow to cool.
Wa'tkwanonhwerátonh, my name is Katsi'tsyo Tawnya
Brant. I carry my grandmother's Mohawk name. I am a chef, a mother
of 2 beautiful sons and loving fiancée to Cody. I was raised
and currently reside on the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory,
located in southern Ontario. I am a Kanyen'kehá:ka
(Mohawk) woman and Tekarihoken Turtle clan. My goal is to
use this online forum to share my journey with Indigenous food and
my work in the Indigenous food sovereignty movement.