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New Year "Indian Donut" Recipe has 400 year Tradition in Haudenosaunee Communities

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. It’s 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 donut.

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 Year’s 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 year’s 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 Year’s 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)


3 Eggs

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)


1. Measure buttermilk or sour the milk and set aside.

2. Cream together butter, eggs, brown sugar and vanilla this can be done by hand or with a mixer use paddle attachment.

3. In a separate bowl mix together all dry ingredients Flour, Baking powder, salt and spices nutmeg, ginger and cinnamon.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. Turn batter out on to a heavily floured surface and kneed as few times as possible until dough is no longer sticky (about 5 times).

7. Roll dough out to 1/2 inch thick.

8. Cut into your favourite shape or traditional donut shapes.

9. Fry in 300˚f sunflower oil approx. 3 minutes per side or until brown and cooked throughout.

10. Place on paper towels to absorb excess oil and allow to cool.

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