NL Guides

Traditional Dutch Food

Dutch eating habits explained: from home cooking to fast food

Dutch cheese

Holland has a colonial past and the Dutch have acquired a taste for the exotic, particularly Indonesian dishes

Although food from all over the world is available in restaurants and supermarkets, traditional Dutch cooking shows no sign of dying out. Its origins lie in Holland’s agricultural past and it features local produce such as bread, potatoes, root vegetables, greens, pork and beef products plus a variety of dairy produce including the famous Dutch cheeses.

A traditional Dutch main meal would include mashed potatoes sometimes mixed with green vegetables (“stamppot”), pork in the form of smoked sausage or bacon cubes and a rich gravy. Meat balls are also popular served with gravy and potatoes. Lamb and mutton are rarely eaten and hard to find, horse meat is popular, however. Some of the more unusual vegetables often eaten are sauerkraut, chicory and kale.

Thick soups form another popular meal, the most famous being “erwtensoep”, a substantial pea and ham soup containing the ubiquitous smoked sausage and brown bean soup (“bruinebonensoep”) with brown beans replacing the peas.

Holland has a colonial past and the Dutch have acquired a taste for the exotic, particularly Indonesian dishes. Indonesian ingredients are available in supermarkets and some have found their way into mainstream cooking. The same applies, to a lesser extent, to food from the former Caribbean colony of Suriname.

Traditional favourites

Holland borders the North Sea so a lot of fish is eaten, both smoked and fresh. The most notable fish dish is the “zoute haring” which consists of an uncooked herring, filleted while you wait and eaten with chopped onions as a snack. Very much an acquired taste for the foreigner but extremely popular with the Dutch. Smoked eels are also considered a great delicacy. Stalls selling seafood, including ready-to-eat fried fish, are common in all Dutch towns.

Dairy products loom large in the Dutch diet. A lot of milk and buttermilk is drunk by all ages and yoghurt is sold by the litre in supermarkets. Much cheese is consumed and whole cheeses can still be found on display in shops. Pieces are cut and sliced while you wait. The most popular variety is Gouda, not the red-coated Edam often seen in the rest of Europe.

Snacks and take-aways

Snack-bars are found everywhere selling all kinds of filled rolls and deep-fried snacks. Most notable of these is the “kroket”, a kind of meat ragout, coated in bread crumbs and deep-fried. Chips (french fries) are popular and yes, they do serve them with mayonnaise. Visitors are often surprised by the coin-operated hot-food dispensers found in snack bars. They consist of many small compartments with glass doors which open when a coin is inserted.

Restaurants selling Indonesian and Chinese food are found all over Holland and a take-away meal is a popular choice. Vietnamese street vendors are also a common sight selling “loempias”, a kind of spring roll.

A popular late night take-away snack is the “shoarma”. This is a kind of middle-eastern kebab which consists of highly spiced meat served with salad and hot sauces in a pita bread roll.