Dutch food: 15 must try classic dishes in The Netherlands

Dutch Food

Dutch cuisine may not be as famous as French or Italian, but it has its own delightful array of traditional dishes.

While perhaps not as internationally renowned as French or Italian cuisine, Dutch cuisine boasts a rich culinary heritage that reflects the country’s history, geography and cultural influences.

From hearty comfort foods to delightful pastries, Dutch food gastronomy offers a unique blend of flavors and traditions.

Let’s delve into the essence of Dutch food, exploring its iconic dishes and the stories behind them!

Landscape and ingredients

The Netherlands, with its flat landscapes, windmills and extensive coastline, has shaped its cuisine over centuries.

The fertile soil yields an abundance of fresh produce, including potatoes, carrots and cabbage. Dairy products play a central role, thanks to the country’s thriving dairy industry.

When you think of Dutch food, you immediately think of cheese, right.

We love Dutch cheeses!

The Dutch love for cheese extends to the famous Gouda and Edam varieties.

Another very popular dairy product in The Netherlands is buttermilk: you drink it ice cold, preferably with your lunch or as a refreshing afternoon drink in the summer. In lots of Dutch cafés you can still order a glass of cold buttermilk, yum!

Let’s not forget the North Sea, which provides an array of seafood: from the famous Dutch herring and oysters to delicious mussels.

Join us on a press trip to Gouda Cheese Valley: we learned about cheese making and tasted some of the best Gouda cheeses!

A taste of tradition

At the heart of Dutch food and cooking lies simplicity and practicality.

Traditional Dutch dishes often emphasize wholesome ingredients and straightforward preparation methods. Picture years and years of families gathering around tables laden with hearty stews, crusty bread and cheeses.

Influence beyond borders

Dutch cuisine isn’t confined to national boundaries.

Centuries of trade and colonization have left their mark on Dutch food as we know it today. Indonesian flavors, brought back by Dutch explorers, infuse dishes like bami goreng (fried noodles) and spekkoek (a spiced layer cake).

In The Netherlands you still find an abundance of Indonesian restaurants serving rijsttafel, a delight.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these traditional Dutch dishes.

From the bustling streets of Amsterdam to cozy family kitchens, Dutch food invites you to savor history, culture – all that with a dash of “gezelligheid” (that untranslatable Dutch feeling of warmth, coziness and togetherness).

15 Dutch food items you should try

Let’s explore some of the most iconic Dutch food specialties that you absolutely must try on your next visit to the Netherlands.

How many have you tasted so far?

1. Poffertjes

Dutch poffertjes (pronounced as “poff-er-chuss) are a cherished Dutch batter treat.

These delightful dough pockets resemble small, fluffy pancakes or puffed up blinis. Poffertjes are made of a combination of yeast and buckwheat flour. Traditionally, poffertjes are enjoyed as a sweet treat, often served with a generous dusting of icing sugar, a cube of butter and occasionally accompanied by syrup or advocaat (a thick eggnog like treat).

Breakfast, snack or dessert: these mini pancakes evoke a sense of warm nostalgia, especially when they are prepared fresh from scratch at bustling markets like the Albert Cuyp Market in Amsterdam.

Fun fact: poffertjes also have ties to the Dutch food heritage in certain areas of Indonesia, where they go by the name kue cubit.

Dutch Food

2. Stamppot

Comforting Dutch food at its best!

Stamppot is made with mashed potatoes, smoky sausages and a variety of vegetables (such as carrot, onion, turnip, savoy cabbage, endives or spinach just to name a few).

Stamppot is quintessential Dutch food fare and comes in many delicious variations. Top the mash off with a pan fried sausage, or a slab of bacon. Or both! In Belgium this dish is called stoemp.

Check my recipe for savoy cabbage mash with sausage, drizzled with bacon and onion gravy!

If the boiled potatoes are roughly crushed and stirred together (not mashed) with vegetables such as onions and carrots, then the dish is called hutspot or hotspot. It is often served with a yummy juicy meatball.

3. Oliebollen

Dutch doughnuts.

Oliebollen, deep-fried balls of dough are served piping hot, covered in icing sugar. These delightful treats are usually enjoyed on New Year’s Eve, with options like raisins or currants inside, or even additional ingredients such as cinnamon or apple pieces mixed into the batter.

While their exact origins remain a bit mysterious, oliebollen have a long history in the Netherlands, dating back to at least the 17th century. Some theories suggest they might have been brought by Sephardic Jews fleeing the Spanish Inquisition, while others tie them to ancient Germanic traditions.

Regardless of their past, oliebollen continue to be a beloved part of the Dutch food culture, especially during festive occasions like ringing in the new year.

Dutch Food

4. Hollandse nieuwe haring

Dutch maatjes, also known as Dutch new herring, Hollandse nieuwe, or matjes herring, are a beloved Dutch food delicacy.

These fish are particularly popular in the Netherlands and Belgium during the months of May and June. The herrings are young and immature, caught by fishermen throughout May and June, depending on the weather conditions. The key is to catch them before they start spawning in July.

Hence their name: “maagdjes” or virgins, which turned into maatjes over the years.

Once caught, the young herring is meticulously cleaned, leaving only the pancreas intact. During the ripening process in salt-filled wooden barrels, the pancreas releases enzymes that give the herring its distinctive, strong flavor. Traditionally, matjes herring was preserved with copious amounts of salt, but nowadays, freshly caught herring is immediately frozen for safety reasons.

After preserving for 2 to 4 weeks, the first Dutch new herring is ready to be enjoyed—fatty, oily, and utterly delicious, served with raw onion.

Not sounding appealing to you?

Then try another fishy Dutch food delicacy: smoked eel!

I wrote a full blog post about Dutch herring, you can check it here!

5. Appeltaart (Dutch apple pie)

Sliced apples covered with a lattice pastry, served with whipped cream…

A delightful twist on the classic apple pie!

Dutch appeltaart is a traditional Dutch apple pie that diverges from the classic American version in several ways. Baked in a spring-form pan, it boasts a deeper profile. The interior is drier, eschewing syrupy consistency. Packed with big chunks of apple, currants and raisins, it exudes warmth from speculoos spices like cinnamon, and lemon juice.

In the Netherlands, appeltaart is typically served at room temperature, topped off with a dollop of whipped cream, and even vanilla ice cream if you are lucky – a delightful treat often associated with grandmas’ expertise in its preparation.

Dutch Food

6. Kroketten

Dutch veal kroketten, a beloved snack in the Netherlands, are crispy, deep-fried croquettes filled with a rich and savory mixture of veal ragout.

These golden-brown delights are made by refrigerating a blend of tender veal, aromatic herbs, and spices, rolling it into logs, coating it with breadcrumbs and then frying it to perfection. The result is a crunchy exterior that gives way to a creamy, flavorful center. Often served on sliced bread or hamburger buns with a side of mustard, these croquettes are a popular choice in Dutch bars and cafés, where unsuspecting diners may encounter their scorching-hot insides.

This is such an embedded Dutch food snack that McDonald’s Netherlands even sells the McKroket, a burger bun with one veal kroket and mustard. To die for!

I wrote a full blog post about Dutch veal kroketten here on this website, you can read it here!

7. Bitterballen

Bitterballen are the smaller and rounder version of a kroket.

Dutch bitterballen, a cherished Dutch food treat, are deep-fried, breadcrumbed meat-filled balls.

Typically made with beef, the filling consists of a flavorful blend of beef, flour, beef broth and various seasonings. These golden orbs are often served as a snack at cafes, popular Dutch bars. Accompanied by a side of savory mustard, they pair perfectly with fries and Dutch bitters.

Bitterballen are a delightful indulgence, best enjoyed while piping hot!

Dutch veal kroketten are a delicacy! Have you tasted them before? Here is where you can get the best kalfskroketten in Amsterdam.

8. Erwtensoep (split pea soup)

This hearty Dutch soup, also known as snert, is a typical thick winter soup that contains with split peas, potatoes, vegetables, and a delightful combination of smoked sausage and bacon.

The Dutch believe that a true erwtensoep should be so thick that you can stand a spoon upright in it!

Traditionally served on New Year’s Day, this hearty soup warms hearts throughout the fall and winter months.

For an authentic experience, pair it with slices of rookworst (smoked sausage) and dark rye bread topped with butter and katenspek (a type of Dutch smoked bacon), and served with mustard.

9. Hachee

Hachee, a traditional Dutch stew, is based on diced beef and onions.

Slow-cooked to perfection, this comforting dish contains tender meat in a rich, flavorful gravy like sauce. The secret lies in the caramelized onions, which blend harmoniously with clove, bay leaves and vinegar.

Originating as a peasant dish, hachee was created to utilize leftover meat and vegetables. Today, it remains a beloved Dutch food staple in numerous families in The Netherlands. It is often served alongside creamy mashed potatoes and braised red cabbage for a complete and authentic Dutch meal.

Absolute yum!

I have made hachee a few time before, and I used this hachee recipe from Kimberly over at The Daring Gourmet. And it rocks! Here is her recipe, picture credits also go to Kimberly.

Check it out!

Dutch Food

10. Bami goreng

Influenced by Indonesian cuisine, this fried noodle dish is a popular street food.

Dutch bami goreng, a delightful fusion of Indonesian and Dutch food flavors, is a beloved dish in the Netherlands.

It features fried noodles (known as “bami”) that are stir-fried with a medley of ingredients. These include slices of ham, bacon strips, and a tantalizing blend of sauces: kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce), kecap asin (salty soy sauce) and oyster sauce.

The result is a harmonious balance of umami and sweetness, yum!

This quick and flavorful meal that you can easily make in your own kitchen as well.

Fun fact: in Belgium a bamischijf (or slice of bami) is a popular late night snack. It is a croquette type of fritter filled with bami noodles, that is breaded and deep fried.

Dutch Food

11. Kibbeling

This quintessential Dutch food snack consists of irregular chunks of fish (usually cod or haddock) dipped in a flavorful batter made from lager beer and then deep fried to crispy perfection. It is served with a tangy dipping sauce similar to tartar sauce.

The term “kibbeling” originally referred to the leftover parts of cod, particularly the cheeks, which were a significant component of Dutch cuisine in the 19th century. Over time the dish has evolved.

Whether enjoyed as a street food snack directly from fishmongers or as a main dish in restaurants, kibbeling is commonly accompanied by sauces like garlic sauce, remoulade, ravigote or tartar sauce.

We also love it stuffed in a bread roll with pickles, a classic street food snack in Amsterdam that you can enjoy on the go!

Dutch Food

12. Kapsalon

A guilty pleasure!

This fusion dish, born in Rotterdam, epitomizes the Netherlands’ culinary diversity and cultural blend.

Kapsalon (aka patatje kapsalon or Dutch loaded fries) is a popular Dutch street food, and quick dinner.

It is a delightful concoction of fries topped off with savory layers. It begins with a base of crispy fries, followed by tender shawarma or kebab meat. Next, a generous blanket of Gouda cheese is melted over the top. To add freshness and crunch, a scattering of lettuce, and slices of tomatoes and cucumber graces the ensemble.

Finally, a generous drizzle of garlic sauce that infuses every bite with flavor.

For vegetarians, a special version swaps the meat for falafel.

Give it a try at home with this kapsalon recipe from Oh My Dish, you can find it right here! You will love it.

13. Osseworst

This traditional smoked sausage from Amsterdam was historically crafted from ox meat, hence the name.

Nowadays it is typically made with raw beef infused with Dutch East Indies spices like pepper, cloves, nutmeg and mace. This flavorful combination is then stuffed into beef casings, smoked and dried. The resulting product boasts a soft and tender texture, similar to that of steak tartare.

Although some sources speculate that ossenworst has Jewish origins, conclusive evidence remains elusive.

Osseworst can be used as a delightful sandwich filling. It is typically served sliced, paired harmoniously with Dutch mustard, pickles and a refreshing glass of beer.

Dutch Food

14. Spekkoek

Spekkoek, also known as lapis legit, is a traditional Dutch food layered cake with a fascinating backstory.

Its name translates literally to “pork belly cake” in Dutch, alluding to its appearance of alternating dark and light layers. The origins of spekkoek trace back to colonial times in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) where it was created by the wives of Dutch administrators in the Batavia region.

These bakers combined Dutch flavors and culinary techniques with local ingredients, resulting in this lavish and flavorsome treat. The cake is labor-intensive, composed of several layers, earning it the nickname “thousand layer cake.”

Each layer is meticulously baked, alternating between plain and spiced batter infused with cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and mace.

The result is a rich, fragrant cake that captivates taste buds and pays homage to the historical fusion of Dutch food flavors and Indonesian culinary traditions.

The spekkoek from the Asian Amazing Oriental supermarket in The Netherlands is lush!

Dutch Food

15. Stroopwafels

Thin waffle filled with caramel syrup. Best enjoyed with a hot cup of coffee or tea.

A stroopwafel, literally translated as a “syrup waffle,” is a beloved Dutch food snack that combines simplicity with irresistible flavor.

Picture two thin, circular waffles pressed flat on a waffle iron, creating a distinct checked pattern. These baked waffles are then joined together with a sweet, sticky caramel filling, their edges finely trimmed.

A mouthwatering biscuit with a slightly crisp shell and a delicious gooey, rich and chewy center.

Stroopwafels have a fascinating history, rising from humble beginnings as a poor man’s food to a cherished Dutch food treat both within the Netherlands and beyond.

I followed a stroopwafel workshop in The Netherlands recently, check out my blog post!

Ready to get your hands dirty in the kitchen? You really want to give our fail proof recipe for stroopwafel a go. They are so addictive, freshly baked!
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