Every country has their own specialty dishes, but the Netherlands just might have the most dishes that are sweet or deep fried!
Start the day off right with a healthy helping of poffertjes, or fluffy little pancakes. They’re quite different from European or American pancakes, using buckwheat flour and yeast to make the dough and cooked in a special pan. Served up with a lump of butter and powdered sugar, poffertjes are very often made outside during the winter! They can also be topped with syrup, strawberries, and whipped cream.
If you’re looking for the most popular food in the Netherlands, look no further than the colorful sprinkles piled high on slices of bread. That’s right! Young and old, all of the Dutch enjoy a slice of bread with a thick layer of butter and topped with their favorite flavor of hagelslag, or sprinkles. While there are many flavors, chocolate, fruit, and licorice are the most popular. The Dutch consume a staggering 14 billion kilos of hagelslag a year - that’s nearly 40 billion pounds of sprinkles consumed by a single country. Per year. Hagelslag is no joke in the Netherlands.
Don’t panic over the pannenkoeken if you’ve missed breakfast, because this pancake is eaten at any time of day. Larger and thinner than American pancakes but thicker than a French crepe, these pancakes can be sweet or savory, and can even become similar to a pizza! It can be topped with bacon, cheese, apples, or raisins, or eaten simply with syrup and powdered sugar.
Seek out these doughnut-like fried dough balls served up during New Years and the winter holidays. Oliebollen, literally “oily balls,” are a traditional food, can be found as street food at mobile stands during the winter season, and are usually served with powdered sugar. Always made using eggs, yeast, salt, flour, milk, and baking powder, oliebollen can be plain, or have currants and raisins inside.
One of the more popular candies in the Netherlands is licorice, and it can be found in many forms just about everywhere food and candy items are sold. From supermarkets and pharmacies to quiet town markets and gas stations, drop comes in an array of flavors and styles, but the two main types are salty and sweet.
The most famous and popular dessert in the Netherlands comes in the form of a stroopwafel! The stroop is a special sweet syrup sandwiched between two thin layers of baked waffle batter. Stroopwafel is found in every store and bakery, and originated from the city of Gouda, when 19th-century bakers were looking for a way to use leftovers at the end of the day. Now, it has earned its place as a unique kind of cookie among the other bakery items.
Herring ‘Hollandse Nieuwe’
Seafood lovers should absolutely indulge in this traditional and possibly most famous of Dutch foods: Hollandase Nieuwe, or herring. Only called Hollandse Nieuwe when caught between the months of May and July, this dish is made up of raw herring served up with raw chopped onions and gherkin pickles. The Dutch lift the herring by the tail and bite upwards, eating the fish as it dangles over their faces. It’s a sight to see, and may be an acquired taste.
Erwtensoep or Snert
Snert, the best possible name for a food, is a soup made of split peas, celery, leeks, carrots, and pork. Also called Erwtensoep, which is better but harder to pronounce, the soup is very thick and usually eaten alongside smoked sausage called rookworst, rye bread, and katenspek, which is essentially smoked bacon. If you want to know if your Erwtensoep is good, stick your spoon vertically in it. If the spoon stays standing, it is good snert.
Any American or fast-food lover will recognize patat on sight, because they’re essentially French fries. Dutch patat are thicker than the average French fry, and aren’t eaten just with ketchup. In the Netherlands you can slather your fries with mayonnaise, curry, or peanut sauce, but the most popular toppings are mayo, chopped raw onion, and peanut sauce all mixed together to form patatje oorlog, or “fries at war.”
Roll meat ragout in breadcrumbs and deep fry it to get the Dutch kroket, a savory snack that is also known as a croquette! Usually the inside of the greasy food is beef, but it can contain chicken, veal, shrimp, and even veggies. Deep frying it wouldn’t be enough for the Netherlands though, because while it can be enjoyed on its own as street food, they also serve it on a slice of bread or a hamburger bun, with a side of mustard.
There’s nothing bitter in these savory balls! Indulge in these balls of beef, broth, and butter, which are of course deep fried and usually paired with beer and mustard. Be careful eating these, the inside gets incredibly hot under the crunchy breadcrumb exterior, and with so much flavor and broth it may be a bit messy.
Stamppot is essentially mashed potatoes but with a vegetable twist. Usually kale, carrots, endive, sauerkraut, or some blend of the four is mixed into the stamppot, and served with rookworst. This food is a winter staple, and can be difficult to find during the summer. Several restaurants have this on their menus, but there is a little chain in Amsterdam called Stamppotje, which sells fresh stamppot all winter long, and ice cream in the summer!