So you went out for a few drinks. You forgot to eat dinner. Those 8% Belgian beers are beginning to take their toll. What to do? The answer is in the bitterballen. Delicious, deep fried crispy balls traditionally served with mustard for dipping – they’re the ultimate in Dutch pub snacks and can be found on the menu at most Amsterdam drinking establishments.
If you try one Dutch sweet treat, make it a stroopwafel. Two thin waffles stuck together with a layer of sweet syrup; these delectable delicacies are best enjoyed hot and gooey from a street market or bakery.
Thick Dutch fries
Yes, but not just any fries. Trust us. You might see these thick cut fries called patat or frites on menus, and traditionally they come served in a piping hot paper cone slathered with any manner of tasty toppings. Ask for 'patatje oorlog' for a dollop of peanut satay sauce, mayo and onions, or a 'patat speciaal' for a mix of curry ketchup, mayonnaise and onions. See our tips for the best fries in Amsterdam.
Unlike the thick and fluffy American variety, Dutch pancakes have a thinner, crepe-like consistency with more surface area for delicious toppings. Order yours laden with fruit, cream and syrup from our picks of the best pancake restaurants in Amsterdam.
Not a food but holding a no-less important role in Dutch gastronomy is jenever, the precursor to gin. This spirit distilled from juniper berries has a malty flavour similar to whisky, and was traditionally used for medicinal purposes before becoming one of the country’s signature drinks. Served in a tulip-shaped glass, it’s often served alongside a beer, a combination known as a kopstootje, meaning “head butt”.
As if you needed a reason to dig into a comforting slice of apple pie. The deep-dish Dutch version is infused with cinnamon, dotted with raisins and served until a smothering of whipped cream. Though it tops the dessert menu at most restaurants and cafés, Winkel 43 in the Jordaan neighbourhood is said to serve one of the best.
Raw herring may sound a little scary to the uninitiated, but every visitor to Amsterdam should give it a go. You’ll spot haringhandels (herring carts) serving up this Dutch speciality all over the city - ask for a ‘broodje haring’ to get the fish served in a small sandwich with pickles and onions. The best time to try raw herring is between May and July when the herring is said to be at its sweetest.
If you’re not feeling quite brave enough to try raw herring (see above), then you can still get your fishy fix from kibbeling – battered and deep fried morsels of white fish; usually cod. They’re every bit as delicious as they look, and usually served with a mayonnaisey herb sauce and lemon. Try it hot and fresh from a street market or food truck for the best kibbeling experience.
Croquettes from a vending machine
Now we’re not talking about Michelin standard cuisine here, but these hole-in-the-wall cafés get into this list of Dutch must-tries on novelty value alone. Head into any FEBO and you’ll see an array of hot snacks including hamburgers, kroketten and frikandellen displayed behind glass doors. Put some coins into the slot and voila; dinner is served.
The name literally means ‘oil balls’ - but don’t let that put you off. Essentially they are deep fried sweet dumplings (sometimes containing fruit pieces) and dusted in powdered sugar, and they’re so delicious that they only come out around New Year’s Eve, just before the January diet kicks in.
Cheese is big business in the Netherlands, so don’t go home without visiting one of Amsterdam’s many 'kaas' shops or markets and tasting some Gouda, Geitenkaas or Maasdammer. For an introduction to the most popular Dutch cheeses, stop by one of the Henri Willig Cheese and More shops. Next, visit the Reypenaer Tasting Room for a professionally-guided tasting of their award-winning cheese. In the Negen Straatjes (9 Streets) the Kaaskamer’s shelves are stuffed with cheese from the Netherlands and abroad.
Now say ’poffertjes’!
Repeat after us. 'PO-fer-jus'. These little fluffy clouds of battery goodness are served up at restaurants and pancake houses all over Amsterdam, but nothing can beat a bag of hot, buttery poffertjes from a street market vendor. Sprinkle them with powdered sugar and let the good times roll.
This delicious ginger cake comes in loaves, and is stodgy enough to ensure that one slice is always enough. The name literally translates to ‘breakfast cake’; though you can tuck in at any time of the day really because you’re a grown up and nobody's going to stop you. Spread some thick butter on it for extra yumminess.
One for cold winter evenings, stamppot is the ultimate Dutch comfort food, not dissimilar to British Bubble & Squeak. Translated literally as ‘mash pot’, this traditional dish involves potatoes mashed with other vegetables – traditional stamppot includes various combinations of sauerkraut, carrot, onion or kale - and is usually served with a big juicy sausage.
Liquorice eating in Holland is something of a national pastime – in fact the country boasts the highest per-capita consumption of the sweet in the whole world. But if anyone in Holland offers you some licorice (and they will); BEWARE. This is not liquorice as you know it, but a more salty, black version known as ‘drop’. Approach with caution, and don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Snert. You heard us. Holland’s version of pea soup is a thick green stew of split peas, pork, celery, onions and leeks, and contrary to its name, it’s completely delicious. Widely consumed all over the Netherlands, snert makes for a hearty winter snack traditionally served up by street vendors to ice skaters on the frozen canals.
The strong Indonesian influence on Amsterdam’s food scene can be felt (and smelled, mmm) all over the city, and no culinary tour of Holland would be fully complete without a visit to an Indonesian restaurant. Order a rijsttafel (rice table) for the true Indish-Dutch experience; a medley of small dishes from all over the Spice Islands, developed in the times of Dutch colonisation in order to allow colonials to sample dishes from around Indonesia.
Apparently named after a performing dwarf who went by the stage name of Tom Pouce, this cream-filled rectangular pastry is characterised by a layer of smooth pink icing on top. Tompouce is strictly regulated to ensure consistency in size, shape and colour – although for the past few years the icing has turned bright orange in Amsterdam around King’s Day.