My mum was born in the Netherlands and so I grew up with a splattering of Dutch influence. Every Christmas my Oma (grandmother) made croquettes. To this day she still does and she is nearly 90 years old. It’s my favorite Christmas food. Growing up I also indulged in multiple other Dutch delicacies that I decided to hunt down during our stay in the motherland.
When you visit The Netherlands these top ten dishes are sure to have you salivating.
This is my all-time favorite Dutch food. I have multiple images in my mind’s eye of my Oma in the kitchen over a pot of boiling oil dropping in these beauties one by one. She would wait for the oil to boil and test it by placing in a bread crumb. If the bread crumb bubbled she would announce it was ready.
I and my siblings would hop from one foot to the other when she finally pulled them out and placed them on a paper towel to soak up any excess oil. Golden in color and piping hot, we would then have to be shooed away until the filling had cooled.
My Oma would place out mustard to dip them in, but I always preferred them plain. In 39 years there have never been any leftovers.
Cousin to the bitterballen, croquettes can be found in cafes or in self-serve dispensers throughout the city or at the train station.
These savory sausage-looking snacks are filled with a gooey mixture of mashed potato, chopped beef, beef broth, flour, butter, herbs, and spices and then battered in a crunchy breadcrumb coating.
Be careful when you devour yours though as the filling is always very, very hot. Like me at their age, my kids fell in love with these delicious snacks. I found myself in my Oma’s shoes, cutting open the croquettes and warning them to let it cool first. And like them salivating in anticipation.
Kale & Mashed Potatoes
When we left on our adventure my Oma made this for me as a goodbye present. I remember the cold night sitting on the kitchen bench out in the Australian bush watching my Oma cook this up, the window fogging up and my nose filling with irresistible flavors.
The Dutch have been using kale long before it was considered a “superfood” and this simple recipe is the poor man’s delicious alternative to cabbage soup. Creamy, buttery mashed potato with kale and a great big fat smoked sausage (rookworst). Sometimes cubed bacon is also added.
I cook a similar version for my kids with spinach. For 10 years they have always asked me for the green mash potato. It’s their favorite.
Hollandse Nieuwe Haring
New Holland Herring
I have to admit we did not try these. I am not a seafood fan, but I did see these Herring stands everywhere. You might want to try since Herring is the traditional food of the Netherlands. The raw salted herring fish is typically served with chopped onions and can be eaten with or without bread.
Pannekoeken (or Pannenkoeken)
Similar to the above, the Dutch love their pancakes. My mum still makes the best pancakes in the world – flour, eggs, salt, and milk. I grew up on these pancakes and now my 11-year-old makes these same pancakes nearly every Saturday morning.
Dutch pancakes, known as the Pannekoeken, are much larger and flatter than the typical American hotcake, but slightly thicker than a crepe. Traditionally they are eaten with treacle (sugar beet syrup), and can also incorporate apples, raisins, bacon, or cheese.
It may sound surprising, but this dish can be eaten as a main course. In fact, we went on a pancake boat while in Rotterdam, which included all you can eat pancakes. It was delicious! And included a ball pit!
I just introduced these to my boyfriend. He was as obsessed as I am. The stroopwafel is like a waffle sandwich stuck together with caramel syrupy goodness. Basically it’s a chewy cookie that was first made in Gouda in the 18th century. You will find these beauties at nearly every supermarket or bakery. They come in mini sizes, normal size, fresh or packaged. In fact, you should be able to find them in your home supermarket too.
I remember my Oma making these as well. They are basically a Dutch donut- deep-fried balls of dough usually with raisins or currents. Served hot with icing sugar. Oh, how I wish I hadn’t missed them.
I couldn’t find them and was so disappointed. I asked a number of locals who reported that oliebollen were a Dutch treat traditionally eaten during the winter months and that if I came at Christmas I would find them everywhere. You can beat my sweet cheeks I’ll be back at Christmas!
The US might call them “dollar pancakes”, but in the Netherlands they are poffertjes. Small, light, fluffy pancakes made with yeast and buckwheat flour. Typically served with powdered sugar and butter, but I prefer them with lemon and sugar. They can be found fresh in street food stalls, on a café menu, and also pre-made in supermarkets. Most festivals in Australia have a poffertjes food truck!
Another fond memory that comes back to me. Traditionally my Oma would serve it to us as a snack on a rusk. A rusk is a twice-baked bread, also known as “beschuit”. You spread it with some butter (so the sprinkles stick) and then let it hail! Hagelslag means hail in Dutch, but in this case, the particles falling from the sky are made of chocolate!
These chocolate sprinkles are a staple in most Dutch households. Adults and kids alike enjoy them for breakfast and lunch on bread, rusks, pancakes, and more. Consider it the Dutch equivalent of Nutella. They are so popular, the Dutch eat over 14 million kilograms of the stuff each year.
Oh, I love these. I remember countless days my Mum and Oma would have coffee and the speculaas would come out. These are a type of shortbread biscuit that are crispy, crunchy, and have a delicious mixed-spice aroma (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cardamom, white pepper).
Luckily you can find these in most supermarkets in Australia now as the “Dutch Windmill” cookies. And if you are not passing by Australia any time soon then make sure you grab a packet while in the Netherlands. My kids get their yearly fix at Christmastime when their great-grandmother (Oma 2) supplies them with a giant speculaas.
Definitely not a favorite of mine, but I bought some for my Oma while in the Netherlands because I remember her and my Opa being fondly attached to these. Drop is the Dutch word for licorice and the Dutch sure love licorice. They actually have the highest per capita consumption of liquorice/licorice in the world, nearly 2000 grams per year per person.
Drop comes in many shapes and sizes from small Groente Erwten (green peas) to the popular, large Muntdrop chewy coins.
So are you drooling yet? Food has such great power. It provides us with the means to live and have energy, it delights our tastebuds and makes travel fun and exciting. But more then that food creates memories. Memories for me of swimming in my grandparent’s pool and being wrapped in a big towel sipping tea and nibbling speculaas. Memories of chocolate sprinkles sticking to fingers and noses, laughing as they flew everywhere. Memories I hoped to recreate with my kids… And I did. I even when an extra step creating these memories at home & in the homeland of my Mum and Oma.
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