Dutch kroketten and bitterballen…
Have you heard of them before?
Hang on a minute.
Let’s get one thing out of the way here before we go on. Dutch kroketten are totally different from German or Belgian kroketten, which both contain mashed potatoes and are served as a potato side dish.
Is kroket Dutch food?
Kroketten are called kalfskroketten in Dutch, or veal croquettes.
They consist of a thick meat filling to which beef stock and a flour based roux is added. It actually started as a way to use up leftover meat. That meaty thick batter needs to set in the fridge first before cutting it up. Roll the portions in breadcrumbs and deep fry them.
Alright, so what is the difference between kroketten and bitterballen?
The filling is more or less the same. Depending on who made them, the filling can be a little different in flavor, texture, consistency and color. Let 10 people make apple pie, the end result will be 10 perfect apple pies but 10 times different.
The difference between kroketten and bitterballen is their size. Kroketten have an oblong shape and are about 8 to 10 cm long. Bitterballen are ball shaped and have the same diameter as a Dutch kroket.
The way you eat them is also different.
The Dutch eat kroketten as a meal, especially for lunch.
You can find kalfskroketten on the menu in lots of restaurants and cafés. You will be served 2 freshly deep fried kroketten, a couple of slices of bread, mustard and perhaps some pickled onions and a small salad.
However if you are in a hurry and don’t really have time to sit down for a meal, you can always go for a takeaway kroket to eat on the go.
A ‘broodje kroket’ means a kroket stuffed in a small bread roll, and it usually comes with mustard.
You find broodje kroket in every snack bar. And at McDonald’s in The Netherlands where you can find it by the name of McKroket, no kidding!
Or choose for a kroket ‘uit de muur’, that means literally a kroket from the wall.
It is like a big vending machine in a wall with tiny little look through drawers. Pay, choose the one you want and just open the little drawer to take your snack.
So what about bitterballen then?
These little deep fried meat filled balls are a popular bar snack when you have a drink. They alway come with a little mustard to dip them in, absolutely delicious.
I get it, the name bitterballen might be a little confusing here. However there is nothing bitter about them. Bitter comes from a type of aperitifs or digestifs that goes by the name of bitters.
Bitterballen are the perfect deep fried creamy snack when you enjoy a beer in the afternoon or late at night.
A few companies sell frozen Dutch kroketten that you can easily deep fry at home.
Popular brands that you can find at supermarkets in The Netherlands are Kwekkeboom, Van Dobben, Mora and Beckers. Quite a few supermarket chains such as Albert Heijn also sell their own frozen kroketten and bitterballen.
The battle of the kroket
We are in Amsterdam!
We are on a 10 day Rhine river cruise on the AmaKristina and Amsterdam is one of our many stops. Luc read something about Dutch kroketten a couple of days ago. And it looks like 2 Dutch veal kroketten places claim to have the best one ever.
Let’s find out.
We decide to visit both places and see for ourselves.
Since we enjoyed a copious breakfast on our river cruise ship, a Dutch kroket sounds like the perfect lunch snack to get us going all afternoon. The weather isn’t great though but that doesn’t stop us from strolling around Amsterdam.
We can’t help but pick up a ‘broodje kibbeling’ and a portion of smoked eel along the way, 2 other delicious Dutch street foods.
First up: the veal croquette or kalfskroket from Van Dobben.
This little eatery is quite packed when we get there, what a great atmosphere!
You can sit at the counter or at a small table along the wall. The counter is packed with other good looking stuff such as roast beef, ham, raw beef, smoked sausage and other things like sliced vegetables, boiled eggs and lots of bread rolls.
This place doesn’t serve alcohol, however you can go Dutch style all the way and enjoy a glass of cold (butter)milk with your sub!
But we are here for the veal kroket.
Van Dobben’s kroket has a firm and thick reddish crust of coarse breadcrumbs. The filling is a little pale, creamy and well seasoned. You can see little cubes of meat in it, not a lot though. A couple of specks of green which must be parsley. Served piping hot with a little mustard.
A very good and filling kroket.
Next up: Holtkamp. Don’t expect a similar eatery.
The address we end up at is actually a tiny pastry shop. Just go inside and order a kalfskroket. You will be asked if you want it warm or cold. People often take them home to deep fry later.
It takes a little less than 10 minutes before we get our kroket.
The kroket looks more fragile and more ‘homemade’. That is probably because the crust is made of panko breadcrumbs instead of the classic crumbs. The filling is super creamy, gooey, darker in color and piping hot again.
The meat has a more pulled texture. Perfect seasoning, we can taste a hint of nutmeg as well.
There is no seating area here so you have to eat your kroket on the go.
And the winner is…
The ratio meat and filling was better. Also the panko crust looks gorgeous and is super crisp. It comes with no mustard but surprisingly this kroket doesn’t need it.
Definitely our favorite!
How to make kroketten
Are you interested in making kroketten at home?
Yes you can!
Here is a good traditional Dutch kroketten recipe from my friends over at The Spruce Eats…
Try it and let me know how it was in the comments below!