Let’s pack our own lunch! Chances are your mother kept saying when going on a family trip or a day out with friends. But don’t worry, you won’t starve in the Netherlands! Are you new to the Netherlands and wonder what Dutch food looks like? Below are some typical Dutch specialities that you’ll find across the country.
On vacation you’ll have time for a nice long and leisurely ontbijt (breakfast). A typical Dutch breakfast is quite heavy and consists of sweet and salty items. All-you-can-eat breakfast buffets are very popular in hotels, allowing you to eat your way through a variety of Dutch specialties.
A typical Dutch breakfast includes the soft white bread. In addition, there are countless types of Dutch cheese, various types of sausages and sweet spreads. Pindakaas (peanut butter) is also popular. You’ll also find whole wheat or brown bread in Holland, although it’s less common than white bread.
A typical breakfast will almost always have the sweet Dutch breakfast cake (ontbijtkoek) also known as honey cake. This, along with butter and hagelslag (crumbles) ensures you’ll enjoy breakfast like a real Dutch person.
Dutch Main Courses
Fresh North Sea Fish
Holland is located on the North Sea. So, of course you’ll find plenty of freshly caught fish! This is especially true in villages by the sea where you’ll find numerous cozy restaurants and fish stalls. You’ll easily be spoiled with fresh fish and lovingly prepared seafood dishes.
May is the best month to plan a trip to Holland if you want to enjoy excellent asparagus. If you travel during the spring, you’ll be able to enjoy fresh Dutch asparagus directly from the field. Go for a roadtrip and travel country roads between smaller villages where you’ll see countless roadside stands offering freshly cut asparagus at a reasonable price.
This Dutch delicacy is widely popular far beyond the country’s borders. The patat speciaal consists of fries with mayonnaise, ketchup and chopped onions. This may seem like nothing special, but the patat speciaal is truly a Dutch speciality. Most snack bars serve fries in a paper cone to be eaten with a small fork or with your hands.
A popular addition to fries is the Dutch frikandel. Similar to a hot dog, the frikandel is also packed in a soft bun. The main difference to a classic sausage is that a frikandel comes without a pellet. Same as for the fries, you can also order your frikandel speciaal: the sausage is cut lengthwise then covered with curry ketchup, fritessaus (fry sauce), and finally topped off with chopped onions. Patat (fries) and/or sla (lettuce) are served as side dishes. Note that a frikandel is typically made of pork.
Yes, vegetables are also popular in Holland! What makes it different from other countries? It starts with the way (many) Dutch do grocery shopping. In the Netherlands, you can find different kinds of vegetables in the produce section of a supermarket. There’s a generous refrigerated section consisting of pre-chopped vegetables, ranging from carrots, kale, potatoes and even onions. Put the vegetables in the pot, boil them briefly and mash them. Add a little jus (meat juice) – that’s Dutch stamppot.
Pannenkoek is a style of pancake eaten in the Netherlands. They are often plain but it’s also possible to add slices of cheese, meat, apple, raisins etc. The plain pancakes can be topped with appelstroop (apple syrup) or powdered sugar. The basic ingredients used to prepare pancakes are flour, milk, salt and eggs. These ingredients are stirred well till it becomes a batter and fried in a pan with oil or butter.
One can think whether soup can be a starter or a main dish, but one soup which comes in this category is the Dutch erwtensoep (pea soup). Erwtensoup is a thick, hearty split pea soup often served with sausage or vegetables. This soup is often consumed during the winter time to beat the cold. It’s thick in such a way that even a spoon should stand upright in it. It’s also a tradition to serve this soup with Frysian rye bread.
Kapsalon is one of my favorites of Dutch food! This dish was originally created in Rotterdam, but is available in (mostly Turkish) fast food restaurants all over the country. Kapsalon consists of a layer of french fries, topped with doner or shawarma meat (usually lamb or beef) or chicken. The dish is then covered with layers of cheese and heated in the oven for another 1-2 minutes until the cheese melts. Some restaurants add a little lettuce on top. Kapsalon can be enjoyed with garlic sauce or mayonnaise. Vegetarians will find a kapsalon falafel in many places (falafel are made of chickpeas and completely vegan).
Although mostly eaten as a snack, bitterballen is a local speciality that shouldn’t be left out when talking about Dutch food. Bitterballen are bite-size fried meatballs with a crispy exterior and a soft interior. They are made of ground beef, beef broth, thickened with flour and seasoned with salt and pepper. Bitterballen are available in most Dutch cafés, bars and restaurants and often served with beer and other appetizers.
The Dutch food culture is typically Western European and generally pretty meat based (non-veg). For vegetarians and vegans, there are many alternatives without meat or dairy. Many international specialties have become established in the Netherlands too, such as pizza or doner kebab.
Cakes are available in every supermarket and bakery. The presentation of treats is typically Dutch, providing a feast for the eyes. Cakes are typically sold in paper boxes and often pre-cut. A typical Dutch cake will have a lot of slagroom (whipped cream), chocolate and strawberries.
A very popular treat in the Netherlands are waffles. Dutch waffles (stroopwafels) are typically made from two thin layers with a (sweet) caramel syrup filling in between. The thick wafels (known as Belgian waffles) are also available in the Netherlands.
Oliebollen, also known as Dutch doughnuts, are a New Year’s tradition in the Netherlands. The batter consists of a few simple ingredients (flour, yeast, milk, egg), shaped into balls and then deep-fried in sunflower oil. This high-calorie snack is then covered with a layer of powdered sugar. In addition to the plain Oliebollen, a popular variation is Krentebollen (containing raisins). Food trucks selling oliebollen pop up around the country from mid to end November and will disappear as soon as the new year has started.
The best-known Dutch drink is probably chocolate milk (chocolade melk). It can be consumed hot or cold, and with or without whipped cream. Coffee and tea are also part of every Dutch household, and there is a wide selection as well.
Dutch people love beer! There are some famous beer brands that originated in the Netherlands, such as Heineken, Amstel or Hertog Jan. In addition to that, you’ll find some speciality beers from local breweries in many regions. Belgian beer is also largely available in the Netherlands. Note that you won’t find high-proof alcohol in Dutch supermarkets, only beer and wine. Liquor must be purchased outside the normal checkout zone in a separate area.