The Dutch food dream: 13 unmissable dishes in the Netherlands

Nom, nom, nom … that is the perpetual background score of my day so naturally, when I arrived in the Netherlands, my first thought was: Dutch food!    

I won’t lie, I was quite disappointed when I was told that there is no real ‘Dutch cuisine’ (the Dutchies agreed). BUT, hail the foodie in me, I knew I wasn’t going to go down easily.

Hence, I decided to set on my own little adventure into the world of Dutch delicacies where I have already found some treasures. Lekker and heel lekker for sure!

1. Stroopwafel: the syrup sandwich

Gooey, soft, but still crisp: the perfect stroopwafel. Image: Takeaway/Wikimedia Commons/CC3.0

Meet the stroopwafel – arguably the most popular Dutch snack. The stroopwafel is a thin-wafer biscuit made by adjoining layers of baked dough, with a caramel filling in the middle. Although originally from Gouda, this syrupy miracle can be found all over the world now.

It’s available in several flavours, right from chocolate to honey, a must-try is the classic version – the humble caramel. Doesn’t matter how you eat it, hot or cold, you’d be sure to love it.

ProTip: To experience the stroopwafel at its best, enjoy it with a hot cuppa koffie or thee.

2. Poffertjes: baby pancakes

Imagine eating pancakes, but you can eat ONE HUNDRED. That’s what makes poffertjes so damn good. Image: Mira Pangkey/Flickr/CC2.0

Can we start with how adorable poffertjes look? Poffertjes are a tinier and fluffier version of the pancake. You’d find numerous outdoor stalls selling these with a variety of toppings.

The classic version includes powdered sugar and butter, but feel free to add to the tastiness (and calories) by putting on some whipped cream, syrup and strawberries!

ProTip: Add Nutella to the classic combination to reach the seventh heaven.

3. Bitterballen: liquidy-bread-balls

The perfect snack for an afternoon borrel. Image: Rudy and Peter Skitterians/Pixabay

I was quite fascinated by these since all that I was ever asked in relation to Dutch food was, ‘have you tried bitterballen yet?’ I finally did. And I wasn’t disappointed.

Bitterballen are the favourite Dutch snack, found in almost every nook and corner of the country. Filled with soft (almost liquid) meat goodness inside, coated with bread crumbs and deep-fried what is there not to like? Best served with een biertje!

ProTip: try bitterballen with some mustard and kopstootjes (a must-have Dutch drink).

4. Friet/Patat: French fries on steroids

Dutch Fries, Patatje or Frietje
Chips, amplified. Image: Charleston’s TheDigitel/Flickr/CC2.0

We all know and love the humble French fries. Enter, friet or patat. Thicker than normal fries, the Dutch version has them with raw chopped onions and mayonnaise, topped with peanut sauce. The combination is known as a patatje oorlog or fries at war, accurately depicting the state of the plate.

By the way, did you know there is also a war on how to call fries? The north of Holland (including Rotterdam) says patat whereas the south (and Belgium) calls them friet.

ProTip: Ask for patat met to order like a Dutchie, and you’ll receive the ever-popular fries with mayonnaise.

5. Kroket: liquidy-bread-cylenders

Kroket on a sandwich? Normal in the Netherlands. Image: Takeaway/Wikimedia Commons/CC3.0

Outside of the Netherlands kroket is known as the humble croquette, but it’s quite a superstar here. It is extremely similar to the bitterballen except for the shape.

Originally, krokets are made from ragout but my personal favourite is the kaaskroket, filled with cheese. Hey, no judgements okay — who doesn’t like fried cheese?

You can eat a kroket on its own or have it in a sandwich or burger with mustard on the side.

ProTip: These are quite hot inside so be careful with the first bite!

6. Oliebollen: Dutch doughnuts

Olliebollen are a must-eat in Amsterdam
Delicious, delectable olliebollen. Image: Marjon Besteman-Horn/Pixabay

A winter tradition! By custom, oliebollen are meant to be served on New Year’s Eve, however, come December, you’d discover several stalls popping up.

The literal translation of “oil ball” does some sweet justice to the dish as oliebollen are essentially deep-fried balls of dough. If you add raisins or currants to the good old oliebol, you get the krentenbol! For maximum effect, eat these with powdered sugar and bare hands.

ProTip: Don’t have any human interaction before wiping your face, nose, shoulder, scarf thoroughly, the powdered sugar is cheeky (been there, done that).

7. Kruidnoten & pepernoten: mini cookies

These might be a holiday snack by tradition, but we think they’re delicious year-round. Image: Martijn van Exel/Flickr/CC2.0

Pepernoten which literally translates to ‘pepper nuts’ is another Dutch Sinterklaas and Kerstmas tradition. With a tint of spice and loads of crunch, these have gotten me hooked since the day I first tried them.

I prefer the ones with chocolate, but you can find a crazy variety of flavours, from cappuccino to tajine.

An old Dutch custom is to throw handfuls of pepernoten through the room for the children to find I now know why the children would be so excited to eat off the floor!

ProTip: To get in the complete holiday spirit, have these with the chocolate letters.

8. Kapsalon: grease Gatsby

Kapsalon, a Dutch dish and must-eat of Amsterdam
Surprisingly fresh looking for fast-food. Image: MartinD/Wikimedia Commons/CC3.0

The Dutch kapsalon is a recent invention. Created in 2003 in Rotterdam, the dish consists of a thick bottom of french fries, topped with shawarma, layered with slices of Gouda cheese and heated in an oven until the cheese becomes a beautiful oozy mess all in a disposable takeaway box. Top it up with a layer of shredded lettuce, garlic sauce and sambal and you are good to go!

Kapsalon in Dutch means “hairdressing salon”, referring to one of the inventors of the dish who was a hairdresser (talk about a killer cut!)

ProTip: Order a kapsalon to finish a great night of beers (although you may not remember it in the morning).

9. Bread with peanut butter & sambal

Image: @DailyDutchLunch/Instagram

A.K.A: the hidden gem of Dutch food

Google or Wikipedia can’t reveal this secret to you; you have to be friends with Dutchies. Let me introduce the amazing combination of sambal and pindakaas (peanut butter).

While sambal is a spicy chilli paste of Indonesian origin that made its way to Holland through the Javanese and Surinamese population, peanut butter is well…peanut butter.

Take a piece of bread, coat it with well with peanut butter and top it up with sambal according to taste and voila! You have a slice of heaven.

ProTip: Order matters always put the peanut butter first, followed by the sambal.

10. Hagelslag: chocolate for breakfast

Image: Amin/Wikimedia Commons/CC4.0

Don’t get confused if your boss gifts this to you on your first day of job (like I was), instead, say hi to a Dutch tradition! Hagelslag is the Dutch’s answer to sprinkles only these are nothing like sprinkles. You would normally associate sprinkles with children but not in the Netherlands, where it is normal for adults to eat this at breakfast or lunch.

Hagelslag also comes in different varieties, chocolate, fruit and aniseed being the most popular. Grab a Dutch beschuit (twice baked round toast), add some butter (so that the sprinkles stick) and embellish with some hagelslag.

ProTip: Know a Dutchie with a newborn? Gift some aniseed gestampte muisjes, the cousin of hagelslag, in either pink (for a girl) or blue (for a boy) for them to serve their guests with an important Dutch tradition.

11. Stamppot: the mashed meal

It might not look like much, but it’s delish! Image: Marcus Meissner/Flickr/CC2.0

It cannot get more Dutch than the stamppot. Having originated sometime in the 1600s, the stamppot is a dish steeped in tradition. Also known as the ‘winter dish’, stamppot is made from a combination of potatoes mashed with one or several vegetables.

True to the Dutch form, you can have several variants here as well: andijviestamppot (endive mashed with potatoes), zuurkoolstamppot (sauerkraut mashed with potatoes) or the boerenkoolstamppot (cabbage mixed with mashed potatoes), the list goes on…

ProTip: Order some hot stamppot with the traditional rookworst. What’s rookworst? Keep reading!

12. Rookworst: smoked horseshoe sausage

You’ve never had a sausage like a rookworst. Image: Tavallai/Flickr/CC2.0

A rookworst, or smoked sausage, is made by mixing ground meat with spices and salt and stuffing it into a casing. The butcher then smokes it in a smoke cabinet, ensuring the shelf life of the sausage and giving it the typical taste. The end result? A horseshoe-shaped sausage with a golden yellow hue.

There are two types of rookworst: Gelderse and raw. The Gelderse is pre-cooked and sold vacuum-packed, so it can simply be reheated for consumption, while the raw variety should be cooked. Best served with a pitting hot dish of stamppot!

ProTip: Try the HEMA rookworst — it’s surprisingly delicious!

13. Tompouce: the Dutch baklava

Koffie en taartje? Anytime with tompouce. Image: Opzwartbeek/Wikimedia Commons/CC4.0

The tompouce or tompoes is a rectangular desert, with two layers of puff pastry, filled with sweet pastry cream and topped with pink or white icing. The tompouce is not an easy dessert to conquer, inspiring several amusing articles on ‘Hoe eet je een tompoes?’ (How do you eat a tompoes?)

Usually served with koffie or thee, the pastry was created by a baker from Amsterdam, whose inspiration was a dwarf from an American circus visiting the Netherlands between 1844 and 1845!

ProTip: Make sure to try the tompouce on Koningsdag (King’s Day) or when the Dutch national team participates in the European Championship or World Cup the top layer becomes orange.

What’s your favourite Dutch food dish? Let us know in the comments below!

Feature Image: Takeaway/Wikimedia Commons
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in February 2020, and was fully updated in November 2021 for your reading pleasure.

Often spotted oscillating between extroversion and introversion, Snehal is a chatterbox, wanderlust-er, dancer, reader and a self-proclaimed writer. Born and bred in India, she moved countries to find herself (still in progress). If you talk about food, fashion or football - you have her attention P.S She has stopped taking queries on her lack of a last name

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  1. Food takes my attention only when it is indian and as much as i want to try different cuisines i end up liking what i have always been eating more. But the way this post has been written and described i feel how i haven’t experienced so many different flavours of different countries
    I really wanna try dutch delicacies specially stamppot and tompouce

  2. I couldn’t imagine it would be such a big list. It’s good to know I have some unknown (to me) dutch foods yet to try!

  3. I am an American of West Frysian ancestry. I visited the Netherlands for the first time in 1997 & lived in Amsterdam for over a year. I became acquainted with both Indonesian & Suriminese food during that time. Those became my favorite types of cuisine while there & I miss them as I haven’t found them here in the USA. I miss them & the Dutch people.

  4. Zuur vlees. Only in Limburg. Beef, or horsemeat stewed in a sauce made from vinigar, Apple sirop and peperkoek. Also very goed made with rabbit. Konijn in dutch, kinnine in Limburgs dialect.

  5. Where are the haring (raw herring) and erwtensoep (pea soup, with Hema-sausage, of course!)? Those would def be on my list, as would be drop (liquorice), some of my African friends abroad were nearly fighting over the sweet ones!

  6. Snehal congrats for your First article to be published here..! You have written very well and I wish you write many more wonderful articles and they get published too. Your description was mouth watering, felt like I was already tasting them, i have become a fan of your writing😊. Wish some day i would meet you and get a selfie, before you get very famous. All the very best 👍🏻 keep writing.

  7. My favorite has to be HUZARENSALADA.
    Google it and see the quirky hisory.
    I like mine with underdone beef.

  8. Delightful piece.
    Also, quite amused to see all Dutch food items in one article so I can send it to people who ask me about it.
    Thanks Snehal!

  9. Rollade. Seasoned at the butcher’s shop. Can be pork or beef or both together, but I like the pork best. Especially with potatoes and endive.

  10. After eating a variety of spiced or sauced meals for over a year my Dutch partner has today confessed that he prefers Dutch cuisine…..which translates as plain, unspiced, no sauce, less meat. Also a request… would I not cook the broccoli stems (diced and spiced) as that part is thrown away here! Throwing out my world recipe collection, it’s now obsolete. 😐


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