Dinner in the Netherlands: traditions, dishes and restaurants

Dinner is an important aspect of any country’s culture. The Dutch, like in other aspects of their lives, like to keep dinner as efficient as possible.

Dutchies often consider lunch to be a quick affair, chowing down bread as quickly as possible before returning to work. But what can you expect from something more intimate, like dinner?

Norms and etiquette for dinner

There’s so much to think about when you experience a new culture, especially when it comes to food! What time should you get there? What are the norms and etiquette? What kind of food should you anticipate? Here’s all you need to know about table manners in the Netherlands — as well as pre-table manners.

Arrival time for dinner in the Netherlands

Cultures around the world have varying times when it comes to dinner. Dutchies like to start early, usually between 5 PM and 6 PM.

There is a historical explanation for this early time for dinner, and it was influenced by the socio-economic circumstances of the 19th century.

Lower social classes would eat a warm meal around midday, while the higher classes would eat at 3 PM. With the introduction of factory work, however, working-class people no longer had the time to go home for a meal.

On the other hand, middle-class families, starting in the 20th century, moved their warm meals from 3 PM to 6 PM so that middle-class women could benefit more from the possibilities of shopping, as shopping centres started to appear around towns.

By the 1960s, most families ate a meal in the evenings, between 5 and 6 PM.

We know what you’re thinking. What are you supposed to do around 9 or 10 PM, when you inevitably feel hungry again?

The answer is very straightforward. Be a responsible adult and go to bed at that time, instead of staying up until 2 AM watching YouTube!

What to expect from the actual dinner

So you’ve been invited to your first Dutch dinner, and don’t really know what to expect. Well, first things first: be on time.

Dutch people take their time very seriously, and not being on time can be perceived as very rude and disrespectful.

Worse than not being on time is cancelling last minute, it’s all about being mindful of other people.

people having dinner around a table, Netherlands
This could be us, but you cancelled last minute. Image: Pexels

Assuming your time management skills are on point, what else should you consider?

If you’ve been called to someone’s place, it’s safe to assume that they will provide the food. Nevertheless, it’s good practice to bring something like a bottle of wine if you are going to a person’s home.

With time, as you get to know someone, you can just straight up ask them if they want you to bring something, but until then, bringing drinks is a sign of respect.

If you are meeting someone for dinner at a restaurant in town, it’s safe to assume that you will have the “Go Dutch” approach. This means that everyone pays their fair share of the bill, in an egalitarian, Calvinist way.

While in some cultures, the attitude can be more of a “you pay now, I’ll pay later”, Dutchies are notorious for asking you to pay them back even the smallest of sums. So if you ever get a Tikkie for a frikandelbroodje worth €1.20, don’t be surprised!

When it comes to tipping when you’re at a restaurant, you should definitely consider tipping for good service, but tipping is not a widespread practice in the Netherlands.

What about table manners? Common sense usually applies here. Don’t chew your food loudly, don’t speak with a mouth full of food, that kind of stuff.

It’s the norm to excuse yourself when going to the bathroom. Talking on the phone while eating dinner is also rude. If you need to pick up your phone, excuse yourself from the table and go somewhere else while answering.

Traditional Dutch meals

Usually, dinner is, for many Dutchies, the only warm meal of the day. When it comes to traditional dishes, Dutch cuisine is, well, not particularly flavourful. As one of our favourite running jokes here at DutchReview goes:

dinner in the netherlands meme with spices
Image: DutchReview/Supplied

Jokes aside, one of the most traditional Dutch meals you can expect for dinner is stamppot. This dish is made of mashed potatoes, combined with several vegetables, which may include carrot, onion, sauerkraut, spinach, and kale.

Stamppot is also called hutspot in the Netherlands, and is often served with smoked sausage (rookworst).

Stamppot meal for dinner in the Netherlands
Dutch food is not particularly famous, but it can be alright! Image: M. Minderhoud/Wikimedia Commons/CC3.0.

Beyond stamppot, Dutchies also eat a variety of soups for dinner, including pea soup (snert) which also contains vegetables and sausage, as well as brown bean soup.

Dutchies also love their pancakes, so expect to have a serving of them for dinner too, from time to time.

They can be eaten with powdered sugar or syrup, and alternatively, for a more classic “dinner” experience, you can put cheese or bacon on them. The limit is your creativity (or that of the host), so don’t hesitate to go a bit crazy!

Another favourite of Dutchies to eat for dinner is gourmetten. What is it, you may ask? On a mini BBQ-like device, pieces of random meat are served hot, alongside side dishes and different sauces.

Sounds weird? Well, that’s because it is. Not exactly haute couture, but it will definitely help you bond with your Dutch in-laws.

Foreign influences on Dutch food

As a former colonial power, Dutch cuisine has been heavily influenced (for the better, honestly) by the cuisines of its former colonies.

Not only that, but immigrants coming from countries that were not under Dutch colonial control also brought new flavours to the lowlands.

Surinamese food is certainly a must-try if you are looking for some meals that don’t involve potatoes with salt and pepper.

Indonesian food should also be on your list and usually provides a healthier alternative to the deep-fried-to-oblivion variety of Dutch foods.

While not a former colony, the Chinese have brought a great variety of dishes to the Netherlands, so you’ll be sure to find something to your liking on the diverse menus of the country.

Takeaway food

If you’re a youngster, and you’re not looking to eat anything exquisite for dinner with your friends, there are always the nighttime snackbars.

They have everything you want, as long as what you want includes deep-frying everything to oblivion. Bitterballen, croquettes, and other Dutch classics will be readily available for your taste buds.

Of course, there are the infamous frites or patats, (depending on who you are asking). French fries are eaten all the time in the Netherlands (ok, maybe not regularly for breakfast, but you get the point).

They come in a variety of different shapes, with different sauces, and they’re certainly a Dutch culinary experience you should go through.

Another great option, although more on the fast-food side, is to try something like the kapsalon, a straightforward dish in its ingredients, yet reflective of the multiculturalism of the Netherlands.

A-Dutch-man-working-in-a-snackbar
The easiest dinner ever. Image: Takeaway/Wikimedia Commons/CC4.0

Restaurants to consider for dinner in the Netherlands

There’s a great variety of restaurants catering for all food preferences in the Netherlands. It all boils down to what city in the country you’re in.

If you’re in The Hague and looking for some vegan places, you’re in luck! Check out these seven vegan restaurants in The Hague for all of your vegan food needs.

In Amsterdam and looking for great places for dining? The most famous city in the Netherlands has plenty of places to eat. Looking to get away from the tourists? Here are some trendy places to go for dinner in Leiden.

Are there any essential aspects of dinner that we missed? Let us know what you think in the comments!
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in July 2020 and was fully updated in October 2022 for your reading pleasure. 

Feature Image:Depositphotos
Vlad Moca-Grama
Vlad Moca-Grama
Vlad was born and raised in Brasov, Romania and came to the Hague to study. When he isn't spending time missing mountains or complaining about the lack of urban exploration locations in the Netherlands, you can find him writing at Dutch Review.

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18 COMMENTS

  1. This is a great joke about punctuality with the Dutch. I have NEVER met a Dutch who is on time. I am indeed married to a Dutch….who doesn’t keep up to his ‘time’. Having many dinners at my home, I can assure you none of my ‘pure’ Dutch friends have ever been on time.

  2. I will love Dutch food, and only have to get there… I can do punctuality and absolutely love potatoes, sausage, and pancakes. Just a tiny thing I noticed though – the food is “not exactly haute couture”?! That means fashionable clothes. I think it should have been haute cuisine; that would fit better. Is pedantry acceptable in the Netherlands, or will I have to shut up?

  3. OkayI need to share this with all my friends in Canada. It explains a lot about me even though I was born here to a Dutch mother and Canadian Father but also married to a Canadian born with two Dutch parents

  4. This seems very old-fashioned to me.. When I’m at my brother’s in the Netherlands for instance, we pretty much never eat before 7. They both work and they’re not home early enough to have dinner by 5 or 6! Also, we both like to cook food from around the world, Italian, Vietnamese, you name it.

  5. My mom and her side is dutch breakfast was 3 minute eggs and dutch toast. Then tea/coffee time with dutch treats, then lunch all types of bread and lunch meat. Then again tea time. Dinner you explained sound’s about right my mom cooked with spice’s. My favorite was boiled potatoes with cooked beets mixed in with dutch meatball’s in butter gravy.

  6. In the Netherlands you use a fork and a knife, and keep these utensils in your hands. You definitely do not “cut” your food with the side of your fork and place your free hand in your lap.
    Plates are not immediately removed while taking that last bite.

  7. Another important rule is to never take your shoes off without being suggested to do so by the host. It is considered EXTREMELY rude to just go into someone’s house and take off your shoes, because you are basically saying this is your house now and you don’t plan on leaving. If you are suggested to take off your shoes, that’s a pretty big honor.

  8. Unless you have been a family friend for donks and you are invited to dinner, you will not be served stamppot, or peasoup, kapucijners or gehakt. These are family dishes.

  9. Having Dutch East Indies heritage my family were brought up on the flavours of the Indies which I love.
    When we visited Dutch friends “Stamppot” was the norm often with red cabbage. Not that I didn’t like it but there was so so much of it and you were expected to eat every last mouthful all under the disciplined eye of the hosts. It always seemed so much more strict at their house than our own.
    When people ask me to describe Dutch food I describe it as “stodgy” but nice.😏 🇳🇱 🇦🇺

  10. So this article is on the same level as telling Italian’s eat only spaghetti, all dutch walk around on wooden shoe’s etc. The article would have been accurate if written in the 60’s but has nothing to do with dutch society nowadays. Maybe the author of this article should try to find some Dutch friends not born in 30’s/40’s last century but contemporary Dutch born somewhere in the 80’s last century. By the way I’m a dutch born in 1957 but dinner never appears on my table before 19/20 o’clock 😁

  11. What a ridiculously inaccurate article. Worst is saying that Dutch cuisine is not “haute couture”… Er yeah obviously, because who would eat fashionable clothes…?

  12. It’s only called Hutspot when it’s made with winterwortel…just sayin and imo opinion it’s the superior one of all of them. Boerenkool is disgusting.

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