Cuisine of the Netherlands

The Netherlands is not known for its cuisine, but hearty Dutch fare can be quite good if done well. Some of these “typically Dutch” foodstuffs taste significantly different from, but do not necessarily improve upon, specialties from other countries. For example, while Dutch coffee and chocolate can instil feelings of homesickness in expats and might be seen as “soul food”, fine Belgian chocolate and Italian coffees (espresso, etc.) are considered to be delicacies. The Dutch, however, are known for their specialties and delicious treats:

Snacks & candy

  • Bitterbal (a round ball of ragout covered in breadcrumbs and deep-fried), served in bars as snacks with drinks and usually arrive in groups of at least five or as part of a bittergarnituur, always with mustard. Be sure to try these, Dutch people love them.
  • Bittergarnituur, a plate containing different warm and cold snacks, like blocks of cheese, slices of sausage, bitterballen, perhaps something like chicken nuggets or mini spring rolls, and mustard or chilli sauce for dipping. One usually orders a bittergarnituur along with (alcoholic) drinks, from which the name of the dish is derived (translated to English “bitterganituur” would become “Dutch gin garnish”).
  • Poffertjes are small slightly risen pancakes with butter and powdered sugar. Eat them in poffertjeshuizen or at a fair.
  • Syrup waffle (Stroopwafel). Two thin layers with syrup in between. Available packaged from any supermarket or made fresh on most street markets and specialized stalls.
  • Unadorned chocolate bars (Pure chocolade).
  • Limburgse vlaai (predominantly in the Southern Netherlands), dozens of kinds of cold sweet pie, usually with a fruit topping.
  • Liquorice (drop) is something you love or hate, you can buy all kinds of varieties. You can get it from sweet to extremely salty (double salt) and in a hard or soft bite.
  • Tompouce (a mille-feuille or Napolean), sold in most bakeries.
  • Nonnenvotten (a Limburgish braided doughnut sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon. Usually seasonal in the winter).
  • Kruidnoten taste like a small cookie and are is originated from the ‘Sinterklaas’ tradition. Available in supermarkets, bakeries and other candy selling stores from September until the fifth of December. Try the other Sinterklaas candy as well, such as Pepernoten or taai-taai.
  • Oliebollen are deep fried dough balls, that are sold at bakeries and street stalls in the last weeks of December (because it’s a new years eve tradition). At most fairs it’s being sold as well throughout the year.

Breakfast or Lunch

A typical Dutch breakfast or lunch is a simple slice of bread or bread roll with butter and a slice of cheese or ham with a glass of milk or a Dutch coffee (dark, high caffeine grounds, traditionally brewed). The following typical Dutch products are often placed on the bread roll:

  • Dutch cheese is particularly famous, especially Gouda, Edam, Leerdammer, Maaslander and Maasdam.
  • Chocolate spread (like Nutella).
  • Dutch peanut butter which is considerably different from e.g. US peanut butter. Dutch peanut butter is also the basis for Dutch Indonesian or ‘Indo’ saté (satay) sauce which also contains lots of Asian herbs and spices.
  • Chocolate sprinkles (Hagelslag), sprinkled on top of buttered slices of bread (much like jam). If you want to be adventures: try a slice of bread with Dutch peanut butter and chocolate sprinkles.
  • Kroket (a round roll of ragout covered in breadcrumbs and deep-fried) served in a bread roll (broodje kroket) as lunch; best spiced up with mustard (not mandatory, though).

Meals

A conventional Dutch meal consists of meat, potatoes and some type of vegetable on the side.

  • Raw herring (haring), which is actually cured in salt. It’s available both from ubiquitous herring stands and fancy restaurants, usually served with chopped onion and occasionally even plopped into a bun to make broodje haring. New herrings (Hollandse Nieuwe) is a special treat available around June.
  • Mosselpan (mussels), boiled with vegetables (carrots, onions, celery, leek and different spices and herbs) and eaten with cold dip (garlic, cocktail). It’s cooked and served in a big dark pot. Usually only eaten between July and May.
  • Pea soup (erwtensoep or snert), made of green peas and smoked sausage. Can be very hearty and a meal itself if there are enough potatoes and other veggies mixed in.
  • Kroket (a round roll of ragout covered in breadcrumbs and deep-fried), is the most typical Dutch street snack. You can buy them at any snackbar or frituur and at several places you can buy them from a vending machine built in the wall. Also served with French fries (which you should try with mayonnaise!) on the side as a regular street meal (friet met met een kroket).
  • By ordering a Kapsalon you will get a big meal (1800 kcal) containing French fries covered with döner or shawarma meat, grilled with a layer of Gouda cheese until melted and then subsequently covered with a layer of dressed salad greens. The term kapsalon literally means, “barbershop” in Dutch, alluding to one of the inventors of the dish. This meal is sold in döner restaurants and most of the snackbars.
  • Borecole mash pot (boerenkool) – featured above, mashed potatoes with borecole (kale), often served with a sausage or ‘rookworst’. Most locals only eat this during the winter.
  • Asperges Flamandes. White asparagus with Hollandaise sauce, ham, crumbled hard-boiled egg and served with boiled new potatoes. Highly seasonal and usually only eaten between spring and summer.
  • Dutch Sauerkraut (zuurkool), mashed potatoes with sauerkraut.
  • Hotch-potch (hutspot), mashed potatoes with onions & carrots. Served with slowly cooked meats or sausage.
  • Stoofvlees is the slowly cooked meat eaten with hutspot.
  • Endive mashed pot (stamppot andijvie), potatoes mashed with endive and bacon.
  • Rookworst (literally “smoked sausage”), available to go from HEMA department store outlets, but also widely available in supermarkets. Best served on a bread bun or as a dish with mash pot such as Borecole, Hotch-Potch, Endive or Sauerkraut mash pot.
  • Dutch pancakes (pannenkoeken), which are either sweet (zoet) or savoury (hartig) in variety of tastes, like apple, syrup, cheese, bacon etc. Eat them in pancake houses (pannenkoekenhuizen)
  • Food from former colonies like Indonesia and Suriname. Many traditional dished from these countries have become part of the Dutch kitchen or even staple foods.