Traditional Dutch Food: A Culinary Journey Through the Netherlands

Sofia Van Dirk

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The Dutch are known for many things, but there’s one facet of Dutch culture that often goes unexplored by many foreigners: their rich and delightful culinary traditions.

Traditional Dutch food, influenced by its maritime climate, historical trading routes, and farming landscapes, is a delicious tapestry of flavors, textures, and comforting dishes. For those embarking on a gastronomic journey through the Netherlands, there’s so much more to discover beyond cheese and clogs.

Key Takeaways:

  • Dutch cuisine offers a vibrant mosaic of flavors rooted in tradition.
  • Breakfast in the Netherlands is a mix of simplicity and originality.
  • Hearty lunches and snacks encapsulate Dutch culinary traditions.
  • Dutch dinners blend simplicity with heart-warming flavors.
  • The nation’s desserts promise a delectable journey through time.
  • Beverages in the Netherlands are steeped in history and craftsmanship.
  • Embracing local recommendations and an open mind enhances the Dutch culinary experience.

Dutch Breakfast Delights

Waking up in the Netherlands is a delightful experience, especially when there’s the promise of a traditional Dutch breakfast awaiting. The Dutch take a simplistic yet flavorful approach to their morning meals, ensuring every bite is both nourishing and tantalizing. Here’s a taste of the staples that make Dutch mornings particularly special:


At its core, a boterham is a humble slice of bread, but the Dutch elevate it to an art form. Depending on your mood, you can layer it with slices of cheese, cold cuts, or even sweet jams. However, it’s the more unique toppings that truly give a taste of Dutch originality. Imagine biting into a boterham lavishly spread with rich peanut butter and sprinkled with “hagelslag” (more on that next).


Literally translating to ‘breakfast cake’, ontbijtkoek is a moist and spiced cake infused with flavors like cinnamon, cloves, and ginger. Typically sliced and spread with a thin layer of butter, this cake is a comforting partner to your morning coffee or tea. Its warming spices awaken the senses and make every morning feel like a cozy Dutch winter day.


Now, for a whimsical touch to the breakfast table! Hagelslag are tiny chocolate sprinkles, usually showered over butter-slathered bread. While the idea might seem unusual to some, it’s a beloved tradition in the Netherlands. With every bite, there’s a delightful contrast between the softness of fresh bread, the creaminess of butter, and the sweet crunch of chocolate.

Hearty Lunch and Snack Options

If breakfast in the Netherlands is about waking up to simple pleasures, lunch and snacks reveal the heart and soul of Dutch culinary traditions. Often characterized by hearty ingredients and comforting textures, Dutch midday meals and treats are a testament to the nation’s penchant for dishes that not only satisfy hunger but also evoke a sense of home and togetherness. Here are some must-try options that embody the essence of Dutch midday indulgence:

Broodje kroket

Take a stroll around any Dutch city during lunchtime, and you’ll likely spot locals enjoying a “broodje kroket”. This consists of a soft roll split open to cradle a crispy, deep-fried kroket – a ball filled with a creamy ragout of meat or vegetables. The juxtaposition of the crunchy exterior with the velvety filling is pure bliss and a favorite amongst the Dutch.

Erwtensoep (Snert)

As winter wraps the Netherlands in its chilly embrace, pots across the country simmer with “snert”. This thick pea soup is a wintertime staple, laden with split peas, pork, and rookworst (smoked sausage). Every spoonful is a warm hug, encapsulating the coziness of a Dutch home shielding against the winter cold.


The perfect companion to a glass of beer or a robust Dutch gin, bitterballen are bite-sized balls of heaven. With a crispy golden crust encasing a mouthwatering mixture of meat ragout, these snacks are often dipped in tangy mustard, making them a popular choice in Dutch bars and cafes. They’re more than just a snack; they’re a flavorful journey into convivial Dutch gatherings.

Traditional Dutch Dinners

As the evening descends upon the picturesque Dutch landscape, the inviting aromas wafting from kitchens and eateries beckon one towards a culinary adventure steeped in history and tradition. Dutch dinners are a symphony of flavors, marrying the land’s bountiful produce with time-honored recipes. Each dish is a testament to the Netherlands’ rich heritage, painted with strokes of simplicity, heartiness, and warmth. Here’s a look into the culinary delights that grace Dutch dinner tables:


This is the embodiment of comfort on a plate. At its heart, stamppot is a dish of mashed potatoes. Yet, it’s elevated with the addition of various vegetables, such as kale, spinach, or endive. Served with a side of rookworst (smoked sausage) or meatballs, it’s a fulfilling meal that mirrors the comforting embrace of a Dutch home.


A close relative of stamppot, hutspot is a delightful melange of mashed potatoes, carrots, and onions. It’s often accompanied by slow-cooked meats, making it a heartwarming dish, especially when the cool winds of the Netherlands sweep across its meadows and canals.


For those eager to taste the maritime legacy of the Netherlands, haring is an unmissable delicacy. This raw herring fish, lightly cured in salt, is typically served with finely chopped raw onions and pickles. It’s a celebration of the sea, offering a burst of freshness with every bite, reminding one of the country’s deep connection with its waters.

Related: Ultimate Guide to Fishing in the Netherlands

Dutch Desserts and Sweet Treats

When it comes to satiating the sweet tooth, the Dutch have perfected the art of creating desserts and treats that are as delightful to the eyes as they are to the palate. As you meander through the streets of the Netherlands, it’s impossible to resist the sweet allure emanating from bakeries and street stalls. Each dessert and treat carries with it a legacy, a whisper of tales from yesteryears, making every bite a delectable journey through time.


Imagine two thin waffles, crisped to perfection, holding within them a luscious layer of caramel syrup. That’s the magic of stroopwafel. Often enjoyed with a steaming cup of coffee or tea, the warmth causes the caramel to slightly melt, creating an experience that’s pure, gooey indulgence. Whether bought fresh from street vendors or picked up in packaged form as souvenirs, they’re a sweet testament to Dutch craftsmanship.


Resembling tiny pillows of joy, poffertjes are small, fluffy pancakes that promise a mouthful of happiness. Traditionally made using buckwheat flour and yeast, these are served hot off the griddle, generously dusted with powdered sugar and a dollop of butter that melts beautifully over the top. Each bite is a dance of textures – the softness of the pancake juxtaposed with the slight crunch of sugar.

Dutch licorice (Drop)

Licorice in the Netherlands is not just candy; it’s an experience. Known as ‘drop’, Dutch licorice comes in a variety of shapes, sizes, and flavors, with some being sweet and others having a distinct salty taste. While it’s often a love-it or hate-it treat, there’s no denying its unique place in the Dutch confectionary landscape.

Dutch Beverages

In the Netherlands, beverages are more than just thirst quenchers; they’re an expression of culture, tradition, and the moments shared amongst friends and family. As the land boasts its renowned landscapes, it equally flaunts a selection of drinks, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, that tantalize the taste buds and tell tales of Dutch history and craftsmanship. Dive into the world of Dutch beverages, and let every sip transport you to the heart of this beautiful nation.


Often hailed as the predecessor to gin, Jenever is the Netherlands’ prized spirit. Distilled from malt wine and flavored with juniper berry, this traditional Dutch gin has been savored for centuries. With two primary styles, “Oude” (old) and “Jonge” (young), based not on aging but on distilling methods, Jenever offers a unique tasting experience. Often enjoyed neat or as the foundation of many cocktails, it’s a sip of Dutch heritage in every glass.


While its name translates to buttermilk, don’t be mistaken—this isn’t the creamy residue left after churning butter. Instead, it’s a tangy, sour milk drink enjoyed by the Dutch, especially during lunch. While it may be an acquired taste for some, its refreshing quality and digestive benefits have made it a staple in many Dutch households.


Rich, creamy, and oh-so-indulgent, Advocaat is a Dutch delight not to be missed. Resembling a thick custard, this alcoholic beverage is made from eggs, sugar, and brandy. While it can be sipped slowly from a glass, it’s also a key ingredient in many desserts and cocktails, particularly the festive Snowball cocktail.

Related: Drinking Age in The Netherlands: Rules & Regulations (2024)

Tips on Enjoying Traditional Dutch Food

traditional dutch food

Embarking on a culinary journey through the Netherlands is akin to exploring a mosaic of flavors, textures, and traditions. As with any gastronomic adventure, a few pointers can enhance the experience, making every bite or sip a memorable one. Here are some insights to help you truly savor and appreciate the depth and breadth of Dutch cuisine:

  • Seasonal Sensations
    • The Dutch take great pride in using seasonal ingredients. Try visiting local markets to understand what’s fresh and in-season. Indulging in these specialties at their peak not only offers the best taste but also immerses you in the Dutch way of life.
  • Pairing Perfection
    • Just as wine and food pairings elevate a dining experience, consider enjoying traditional Dutch beverages with your meals. A glass of Jenever with a plate of bitterballen or a chilled beer with fresh haring can amplify the flavors and make your meal truly authentic.
  • Local Recommendations
    • One of the best ways to discover hidden culinary gems is by seeking local advice. Don’t hesitate to ask locals for their favorite eateries, dishes, or snacks. Their insights might lead you to delightful culinary spots off the beaten path.
  • Savor the Ambiance
    • Dutch cuisine is as much about the ambiance as it is about the food. Whether it’s a cozy canal-side café in Amsterdam, a bustling market in Rotterdam, or a serene countryside eatery, the setting plays a vital role in the dining experience. Take a moment to soak in the surroundings, and let the ambiance flavor your meal.
  • Open-minded Exploration
    • Some Dutch delicacies, like raw haring or drop, might seem unconventional to foreign palates. Approach them with an open mind. Every dish is a story, an expression of culture, and trying them can offer a deeper understanding of the Dutch culinary narrative.

ABOUT Sofia Van Dirk

Sofia van Dijk is our resident Relocation Expert at Born and raised in the Netherlands, Sofia possesses extensive knowledge of Dutch culture, local customs, and the practicalities of living in this unique country. She studied International Relations at the University of Amsterdam and spent several years working for an international relocation company before joining our team.

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