Crunch Time

5 minutes

In November 2020, John Van Balen baked a Dutch apple pie for his wife Alana. She loved it, so they baked pies and gave them to neighbors for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

“I made our Dutch apple pie with Dutch chocolate and raisins,” John says. “All were fresh ingredients—nothing out of cans. It is a pie like no other.”

The Van Balens’ hungry Tecumseh neighbors went crazy over the slabs of deliciousness, and they ordered their pies in droves.

“So we stood on the corner in the country in the middle of nowhere near our house in Tecumseh, and we sold out of pies,” John says. “After all of that craziness, I started experimenting with other flavors.”

Despite Alana’s career at a law office, she helped John expand the crust-and-filling efforts and helped sell pies at craft fairs on the weekends.

But summertime sales were slow, so John watched YouTube to learn how to make candy. He stumbled onto peanut brittle instructions and crafted his own recipes. Soon, his hard-crack confection sales eclipsed his pies, so the Van Balens officially launched Dutch Addictions in August 2021.

“Our brittles taste different, because we import some of our ingredients from overseas, including chocolate from Belgium,” John says. “And we use quality local ingredients like native pecans. Our brittles also stand out from others, because they’re less hard.”

Unlike traditional brittles, Dutch Addictions have a light, almost honeycomb toffee-like consistency that doesn’t threaten dental work. John makes every bit of the half-dozen staple mouthwatering flavors, including peanut, pecan, habañero pecan, jalapeño peanut, and jalapeño pecan. John’s favorite is the honey cinnamon.

“It tastes like honey Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal,” he says.

Alana and John Van Balen now live in Edmond to be closer to their kitchen and shop. Photo by Brent Fuchs

Alana and John Van Balen now live in Edmond to be closer to their kitchen and shop. Photo by Brent Fuchs

The confectioner also crafts special limited-edition flavors when he gets the creative urge.

“We make Oreo brittle with marshmallows and covered in chocolate,” John says.

Despite being an engineer by training, John is at ease experimenting in the kitchen thanks to lots of practice. He grew up in the Netherlands, and by age five, he began attending cooking classes with his mother, making goodies like peanut clusters and Dutch candies.

Within two years of officially launching Dutch Addictions, sales on the company’s website, Amazon, and booths at festivals, fairs, powwows, and flea markets were booming.

“My passions are cooking, eating, and sharing my perfections,” John says. “I love to perfect. I began in August 2021 by making one small skillet at a time of brittle. But in August 2022, I filled an order for 2,880 packages of brittle. It takes me one week to make that much.”

With Alana by his side full-time—she quit her day job in June 2022—John whips up his crunchy delights in an Edmond commercial kitchen. And they’re always looking for new ways to make their Oklahoma and Texas customers’ mouths water.

“We started a new line with chocolates we import from Belgium,” John says.

This line of candies includes turtles, chocolate-covered nuts, and chocolate-dipped brittle. More recently, though, the company also has started selling extra-concentrated garlic oil, which is perfect for infusing a savory punch into meats, salad dressings, dips, and just about any meal. They’ve also started experimenting with freeze-dried Skittles and other sweet treats, which somehow both crunch beautifully and melt on the tongue.

With catchphrases like “Watch Out It’s Brittle” and “Where Everything Is Nuts,” Dutch Addictions rebranded and also opened a retail spot in Edmond.

“We have so much going on; it’s mind-blowing sometimes,” John says.

Get There
Dutch Addictions, 724 West 15th Street in Edmond or
Written By
Carol Mowdy Bond

Carol Mowdy Bond