Get your taste buds ready to sample some traditional Dutch food! In order to experience the Netherlands in an authentic way, you just HAVE to try traditional Dutch cuisines and specialties. So, here are the Top 22 Dutch foods you must try:
1. Haring (Hollandse Nieuwe)
Ok, so herring isn’t that weird. But the Dutch like to eat it raw. To eat it the traditional way: tip your head back, grab the fish by the tail and bite upwards! Completely unglamorous, but fun! If this doesn’t appeal, it can be eaten in a bun, with or without optional extras: finely chopped onion and/or sliced gherkins. Eaten this way, it’s called a broodje haring.
Herring is available all year round, but if caught between May and July, it is referred to as Hollandse Nieuwe. The herring season starts every year with the traditional auction of the first tub of Nieuwe Haring. After that, herring may be sold everywhere and ‘herring feasts’ are organised in many towns and cities.
Stroop = syrup/treacle and I’ll let you guess what wafel is 😉 This is Holland’s most famous pastry dish – quite rightly! A stroopwafel is made of two thin layers of baked dough/batter/waffley stuff with a caramel-like syrup filling in the middle. LEKKER!
Dutch people love liquorice. So much so, they eat on average 2kg per person, per year! That’s (unsurprisingly) more than any other country in the world.
A word of warning: they also think it’s a funny game to try and feed it to unsuspecting foreigners! Kijk uit! (Watch out!)
4. Friet / Frieten / Patat / Patatje
Chips. These are all names for the same thing, depending on where in the Netherlands you live. There are also disagreements about what they’re called with different combinations of toppings, but it goes a little something like this:
- Friet of patat met mayo: chips with mayonnaise
- Patat met satésaus: chips with peanut sauce
- Patatje oorlog: chips with a combination of peanut saté sauce, mayo and onions
- Patat speciaal: chips with curry ketchup, mayonnaise and onion
- I’ve given up caring… just give me some chips.
My nemesis. They do however belong on this list, because they are VERY popular in the Netherlands… and you should try everything once!
A frikandel is a long, thin, skinless, dark-coloured meat sausage. Usually eaten warm. They are often served with curry ketchup or mayonnaise, though some eat it with tomato ketchup, mustard or even apple sauce (!)
(Literally: oil spheres) I got in a lot of trouble on a previous post for saying that they’re “basically doughnuts”! Dutch people are clearly very passionate about oliebollen and will defend them to within an inch of their life. So ok, I will amend my statement: they are similar to doughnuts…
The history of the origin of doughnuts is disputed, but one theory (the preferred theory for Dutch people) is that Dutch immigrants introduced them to the States, so if it’s true then it’s actually their fault that Americans have such high cholesterol. 😉
The dough is made from flour, eggs, yeast, salt, milk, baking powder and usually sultanas or raisins. They’re then sprinkled with icing sugar. Oliebollen are traditionally eaten at New Year but there are oliebollen stands around for the whole festive period (so basically the whole of December).
Deep fried pieces of fish, I guess it’s Holland’s answer to fish and chips (if ordered with een portie patat). Originally cod cheeks were used – but due to high prices of cod, today you might be served off-cuts of cod or possibly even hake, pollock or whiting.
These sweet little treats are popular in winter and you will often see dedicated Poffertje stalls and stands. Poffertjes are small, fluffy pancakes, served with powdered sugar and butter (yup, you read that right – butter!) and sometimes syrup.
Meaning “mash pot”. Stamppot consists of (lumpy) mashed potato with vegetables of your choice thrown in. Popular vegetable choices include sauerkraut, spinach, swede, carrot, onion and kale (with kale it is known as boerenkool). Stamppot is often served with rookworst (smoked sausage) and/or bacon lardons.
If you’re lucky, you’ll also get gravy: make a small hole in mash and fill it with gravy, known in Dutch as a kuiltje jus (little gravy pit).
10. Erwtensoep (of Snert)
Pea soup. Typically made from dried peas, such as the split pea. A bit like English pea soup… but better!
Spiced shortcrust biscuit, served around Sinterklaas time. Dutch people go wild for it. You can also get spreadable versions, with a peanut butter kind of consistency. Niet mijn ding. (Not my thing) but each to their own and all that.
… or sprinkles as we call them in England. Not that weird, on top of your ice cream, but the Dutch eat this on bread, with butter, for breakfast!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! If you really want to fit in, give it a go!
13. Filet Americain
This has a bit of a Marmite reputation: you either love it or hate it (probably more do to with the associated health risks than the taste!) Personally, I bloody love the stuff!
It’s like a steak tartare, but in spread form. A sandwich spread, if you will. Normally served raw on bread with onion, and if you’re feeling a bit fancy – add mayonnaise and a hard boiled egg.
Apple pie is an English thing, dating back hundreds of years but it’s also popular with the Dutch, Swedes and of course the Americans. Dutch appeltaart (apple tart) is hugely popular and a different variation of what you’ve had a home, so worth giving a go!
One of The Dutchie’s absolute favourites – he missed these loads when we lived in England. Vlammetjes translates as ‘little flames’. Spicy ground beef enveloped in a little parcel and deep-fried, normally served with sweet chilli sauce. (The things sandwiched between the bitterballen!)
Originally made of ox meat, hence the name, this raw beef sausage originated in Amsterdam and is often served with Amsterdamse uitjes (Amsterdam onions) which are onions pickled with turmeric or saffron to give them the yellow colouring.
Dutch pancakes are much larger and thinner than American or Scotch pancakes. They can come sweet or savoury and are offered with a gazillion topping options.
Pannenkoeken are so popular here that there are tons of dedicated pancake restaurants throughout the Netherlands. The only choice you need to make is what to put on it!
Try this after the pub, when you’ve had a belly full of beer.
Kapsalon: chips, kebab meat or shawarma with cheese – normally Gouda. It is often served with a dressed salad, garlic sauce and a hot sauce or sambal. In my opinion… the yummiest kebab possible. Kapsalon also means hairdresser or hairdressing salon, after the creator – a hairdresser from Rotterdam!
Similar to bitterballen but cylindrical in shape. (Bitterballen are better.) They come in a variety of fillings: beef, pork, satay sauce (peanut sauce), vegetable, potato, shrimp/prawn… make sure you know what you’re getting as they all look the same! Sold almost anywhere, in supermarkets, restaurants, snack bars and even in McDonald’s.
The Dutch are famous for their cheese. Obviously – it’s amazing! The best known is Gouda, followed by Edam and Leerdammer (the trademarked name, thought it is often just called Maasdam).
You’ll struggle not to try cheese in the Netherlands… it’s everywhere! The best places to sample different cheeses are specialist cheese shops, or alternatively, most pubs will have cheese on their bar snack menu. Go for the oude kaas (literally: old cheese).
21. Smeerkaas sambal
I can’t let the occasion pass without mentioning my personal favourite spreadable substance… ok I lied, that’s Marmite. My second favourite then. Spread cheese with sambal (a hot sauce made from chilli peppers). It’s amaaaaaaazing.
And last but certainly not least… I can’t miss off my precious deep-fried balls of heaven!
THE best borrelhapje (bar snack) imaginable.
(New here? Want to know what bitterballen are?)
What’s YOUR favourite Dutch food? Anything missing from this list?