Barbecuing in the Netherlands: how do the Dutch do BBQ?

The sun is finally shining, summer has officially sprung, temperatures have risen above 15 degrees (or they do on most days at least), which means it’s officially time to barbecue in the Netherlands. But how do the actually Dutch barbecue?

Coming from the Caribbean, I consider myself an expert when it comes to barbecuing and what it involves. So when a few years back we called up our friends and invited them for a BBQ,  I immediately got busy making my mom’s good old fashioned potato salad, put together a nice tossed salad, set my rice cooker on, and went on to make my shopping list for the first BBQ of the season.

That list included chicken legs and ribs — the obvious BBQ staples — as well as some ground beef for my homemade hamburgers, buns, and a few steaks to round out the menu. I was ready to shop but as we pulled into the grocery store, my significant other started talking about things like speklap and worstjes and I gave him a sideward glance as I made a beeline for the meat department, eager to get my BBQ on.

What to buy for a Dutch barbecue?

I began to stock the cart with my meats of choice and was disappointed to see that the selection of ribs was minimal at best. I also noticed that there were several foreign-looking meat products slowly filling the cart. The likes of which I would have NEVER put on my grill back in the Caribbean.

I mean pork chops? Really? Well, apparently, karbonade (pork chops) is a common grilling delicacy here in tulip land. Pre-made kebabs also made their way into the BBQ cart, and although shashlik does tend to be a common BBQ item, meatballs on a stick are not.

image-of-meat-on-stick-for-a-dutch-bbq
The Dutch have some interesting barbecue delicacies. Image: Felicia Buitenwerf/Unsplash

Finally done with raiding the meat department, I noticed that there was actually an alarming amount of meat products and very little of anything else in our cart.  Besides my salads and rice, I then began to wonder: what do the Dutch actually eat besides meat? Lucky enough I didn’t have to wonder for long, as my significant other then deposited a massive tub of satésaus into the cart and happily proclaimed he was “done” shopping.

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Wearily, I left the Jumbo and pondered how I was going to balance out the meat assortment we were about to grill up, as a salad would only go so far. And what was I going to do with that much peanut sauce? I mean we were not having Indonesian night! I asked all these questions out loud, of course, and my Dutch partner reassured me that we had everything we needed.

Needless to say, it all turned out well…ok. We enjoyed a nice leisure BBQ and I spent the next week following a vegetarian diet to balance out all the meat we consumed. I also had leftover potato salad and plenty of rice and beans to last for days. Seems they really do just consume meat at BBQ’s.

What are the rules of barbecuing in the Netherlands?

I think it goes without saying that you’re not allowed to light up a grill inside your apartment. So if you don’t have a balcony or a garden, head to your nearest park. But before you get all excited, there is a couple of things you need to know. Firstly, there are designated places for you to barbecue. Some other rules you need to follow include:

  • Your grill must be at least two metres away from trees and bushes.
  • You need to get rid of the hot coals in the provided metal containers and not on the grass.
  • The grill must be placed on a stable surface.
  • The barbecue must in no way come in direct contact with the grass.
  • You’re not allowed to have an open fire.
  • You have to take all your waste and rubbish with you.

Where to barbecue in the Netherlands?

In principle, you can barbecue pretty much anywhere in the Netherlands as long as you’re not a nuisance. But, of course, there are rules for you to follow and keep in mind. Make sure you always check whether it’s allowed to barbecue at your chosen spot.

Where can you barbecue in Amsterdam?

You’re not allowed to barbecue anywhere in the city centre. However, in the other neighbourhoods, there are specially designated areas for you to get your grill on! The city of Amsterdam has an interactive map set up for you to find the best spot for your BBQ.

Where can you barbecue in The Hague?

The Hague has a couple of nice BBQ spots, specifically in Westbrekpark in the Scheveningen district and Zuiderpark and the Uithof in the Escamp district. Beware that there is a ban on barbecuing in certain areas in the city: the Japanese Garden, the Rosarium, and Park De Verademing. Wherever you go, make sure you keep the rules in mind!

Where can you barbecue in Rotterdam?

You can barbecue in most open-air spaces in Rotterdam. Particularly nice areas to enjoy a BBQ are the Kralingse Bos, Het Park, Vroesenpark, and Zuiderpark — the main parks in the city. But the above rules apply here as well! So be sure to follow them so that everyone can enjoy their day out.

Tips to make your Dutch BBQ a hit

Since my first Dutch BBQ, I have learned several things. With these tips, you too can enjoy a barbecue in the Netherlands without having to wonder what you’ve gotten yourself into.

Firstly, check out your local butcher. They tend to have bigger and better selection of ribs that your local supermarket. Local markets can also conjure up fresh corn on the cob if you ask in advance and it’s the right time of year.

The Dutch don’t grill and eat. They grill one type of meat, serve that up, and then grill the next and so on (I believe this method of grilling stems from the fact that most Dutch buy teeny tiny charcoal grills that allow for minimal grilling space).

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The entire BBQ is centred around the meat, so this leads to a very long and relaxed grilling experience — be prepared to spend the afternoon/evening slowly enjoying a wide variety of meat products.

Peanut sauce (satésaus) is considered a condiment! So make sure you always have some on hand, in addition to your mayonnaise, ketchup, and mustard. And the last one: the Dutch don’t eat their burgers with buns! Knife, fork, and beef patty is the way it’s done here, so save yourself the hassle and skip the buns, you will be the only one eating them!

What are your best tips for barbecue in the Netherlands? Let us know in the comments below!

Feature Image: belchonock/Depositphotos
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in April 2016, and was fully updated in July 2021 for your reading pleasure.

Heather Court
Heather was born on the Dutch island of St.Maarten and recently traded in her flip flops for snow boots. Her blog mydutchlife.com documents her not so Dutch observations.

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7 COMMENTS

  1. BBQing is for real man and real man only eats meat, real meat.
    No speklappen or worstjes, fine by me, but not on my watch.
    Burgers do the thing, big juicy ribs and as grande finale a big ass peace of steak.
    Thats how real man conquers BBQ. Those side salads, womanish. Why?
    And there is always a lot of meat left, cause most of your guests start eating the salads and “Stokbrood met pindasaus” before the meat is ready.

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