Dutch cuisine is not really a thing. I mean, you don’t really see Dutch restaurants in other countries like you do Mexican and Italian. However, there are certain foods that are Dutch specialties and you must try while you’re in The Netherlands. Here is my list of the best Dutch foods! And, don’t miss my challenge below, how to eat all of these foods in 1 day!
Dutch Pancakes (aka Pannenkoeken): I will forever be obsessed with Dutch pancakes and will be making them myself long after I leave the Netherlands. They are not like American pancakes and not like crepes; they’re somewhere in between. Like a crepe, you can have them savory or sweet. I prefer the savory ones! A classic ham and cheese pancake is always delicious and usually what I choose, but they have more creative ones too. The best place in Amsterdam for Dutch pancakes is called The Happy Pig. Usually, Dutch pancakes are just one large flat pancake, but The Happy Pig rolls theirs, which may make them taste even better.
Bitterballen: Bitterballen is sometimes described on menus as “meatballs”, but it’s not what you would think. Bitterballen is made from a creamy mixture of cooked pureed/ground up beef, beef broth, and flour, rolled in breadcrumbs and fried. Bitterballen is on the menu at most restaurants and bars in The Netherlands, and honestly, I haven’t found any I haven’t liked, so you can’t go wrong no matter where you order them. I do have to caution everyone who tries them, they are very hot inside! I carefully poke a hole in one with my finger, or cut it open with the toothpicks they’re normally served with, to let the steam out. Do not just bite directly into them, even if they’ve been on the table for a while! They do not cool off unless you crack them open. If I had to recommend one place to get them, it would be Bar Hoppe, just because it’s a really cool old bar. If a strange old man starts talking to you there, embrace it, he’s been a regular forever and has some great stories.
Poffertjes: Poffertjes are another Dutch food that’s difficult to compare to foods you’ve probably tried. They are like miniature pancakes but have a fried dough kind of taste. Usually, you find these at food carts at events (again like fried dough), but my favorite easy spot to get them is a little bar on Utrechstraat called Onder de Ooievaar (When we first moved here we couldn’t pronounce it so we always just called in Under and Over… but it actually means Under the Stork.
Stroopwafle – Stroopwafel is a wafer cookie with caramel inside. These are good to take home as souvenirs/gifts and you can get them packaged at any grocery store. It is worth going over to Albert Cuypmarkt though for a fresh one! It’s also delicious with coffee.
Dutch Apple Pie – Dutch apple pie is different from American apple pie. It has a cake-ier and tastier crust. There is only one place in Amsterdam you must go to for this pie and that is Winkel 43. Everyone you ask will agree. Get a slice and a beer, they go amazingly well together!
Tosti – Ok this is basically just grilled cheese, but it’s so good here. I may just be obsessed with ham and cheese, but ham a cheese tostis are my favorite, with the occasional goat cheese and honey, or egg and cheese when I’m in the mood for something different. My favorite Tostis in Amsterdam are also at Onder de Ooievaar.
Tony’s Chocolonely – You can buy this at The Happy Pig or at any grocery store. I brought some back to the States for gifts and everyone loved it. I eat it basically every night for dessert. My favorite is the salted caramel. If you’re wondering why Tony’s Chocolonely bars aren’t easily divided into pieces like a Hershey bar, it’s to demonstrate the uneven distribution of supply, demand, and wealth in the cocoa industry. Their anti-slavery and child labor mission is important, so they are totally worth supporting! I hear they have a whole Tony’s store near Westerpark, but I haven’t been yet.
Local Beer – Not a food but I might as well list the two best breweries in town. Browerij ‘et IJ is the most popular because it is in a windmill. I like the IJ Wit and Andrew likes the IPA.
Stamppot – This is the one Dutch food that’s actually a meal. I haven’t actually had this out at a restaurant, it’s usually a home-cooked meal, but if I find a good place to order it, I will add it to the list! It’s mashed potatoes with vegetables, usually endive, mixed in. It’s usually served with a sausage on top.
If you’re here for Christmas time, you have more to eat! There are street vendors everywhere that sell Oliebollen (a puffy pastry) and Gluhwein (mulled wine). Literally, the only things that got me through winter here.
What to pass on…
Flemish Fries (Vlaamse frites) – I don’t get why these are always recommended. They taste like normal fries but come with mayo instead of ketchup. Try it at home if it’s intriguing to you (I do like it, but as an American, I love ketchup more). I also have tried the ones with the peanut sauce and onions, it was pretty gross, but if it sounds good to you, the best place to get them I hear is Vlaams Friteshuis Vleminckx.
Raw Herring – Unless you’re really up for a challenge, a Dutch specialty is RAW herring. Usually served with pickles and raw onion. Sounds disgusting and I’ll never try it. You can find it at food carts around the city. The best place to get it though is by the sea, in towns like Volendam because it is fresh.
1 Day Challenge
If you’re in Amsterdam for one day and want the full Dutch food experience, I dare you to try to get through this challenge! Start early and don’t eat anything else or you will not make it! It doesn’t sound like that much… but trust me, it is. There is plenty of walking involved so you may just burn off all the calories you eat!
- Start the day full – Dutch Pancakes at Happy Pig! My favorite is just plain ham and cheese, or the Dutch Delight (Dutch cheese and fig jam). They also have a special which is always fun to try.
- Stroopwafel – Go south down to Albert Cuypmarkt for a fresh Stroopwafel. This market is apparently the largest in Europe, it is definitely the longest. Start on the west end if you’re still full from pancakes and pick up a Stroopwafel towards the end on the east side.
- 2 in 1 – Head back up northeast to Onder de Ooievaar for some Tostis and Poffertjes! They have beer from the IJ brewery in bottles here so try that too. Get 1 tosti each and share a large order of Poffertjes.
- Grocery break – Stop in Albert Heijn for some Tony’s Chocolonely. You don’t have to eat it now, but grab it for whenever you’re able to eat again.
- Best bar snack ever – Next, walk back up towards Happy Pig for some more beer and Bitterballen! Enjoy it at bar Hoppe, one of the oldest bars in Amsterdam. There is sand on the floor, but I’ll let the bartenders fill you in on why. Also try other bar snacks here if you’re not totally stuffed.
- Last but not least. Are you totally full now? Too bad, you can’t miss Dutch apple pie! Northwest of Hoppe is the Jordaan neighborhood. If you’re ahead of schedule you can find some good bars in this area. When you’re ready, go to Winkel 43 for a slice of pie and an Amstel beer! You may be tempted to share a piece of pie but you probably will end up wanting it all to yourself.
When you finish each step, you have to say “Super Lekker!”
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