How To Make Delicious Dutch Bitterballen

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On our visit to Amsterdam (LINK), we discovered that many Dutch food specialties have been brought to the Netherlands through an interesting history. Cultural influences such as those from Dutch colonial history brought an elaborate meal called a “rijsttafle” or rice table, where many small dishes from Indonesia are eaten together, which is unique to the Netherlands. And certain tasty snacks, such as crispy-coated, meat-filled, round bitterballen that are enjoyed all over the country and by visitors as well are actually the result of food challenges during wartime. As Food Travelists, we explore the cultural cross-connections we find in food around the world. And Dutch bitterballen makes for an interesting example.

How To Make Delicious Dutch Bitterballen

Bitterballen History

The history of the bitterbal (singular) reveals that it actually wasn’t the Dutch who invented it. During the 16th century when the Dutch battled the Spanish for independence during the 80 Years war, ingredients for their usual Spanish tapas were hard to find. Innovative as chefs need to be sometimes, these kitchen warriors experimented with ingredients they could get their hands on. They learned about ragout, the meat and bread mixture inside the bitterballen, which had been around since ancient times. Then through ingenuity and a desire for that special crunch that everyone loves, they rolled ragout in breadcrumbs, popped it into a pan full of oil, and gave them a good fry. In the best tradition of pantry cooking they created a tasty snack with what they had and bitterballen were born.

How Are Bitterballen Served

Traditionally, bitterballen were served with jenever, a Dutch juniper and herb-flavored liquor similar to gin. Now you will often find beer to be a favorite beverage to accompany them. Bitterballen, which contain meat, have become part of the snack scene along with “kroketten,” croquettes of cheese or vegetables.  While kroketten are in a log shape, bitterballen have a meatball-like appearance. They make a great snack or an appetizer along with your favorite dipping sauces. Mustard is a time-honored choice, but you could mix things up with difffernt dips like satay, bbq, spiced ketchup, aioli, or whatever you like.

Bringing The Taste of Travel Home

Being highly experienced food travelers, we always try to find ways of bringing the tastes of travel home. And we think that Dutch bitterballen make an interesting appetizer for any dinner or party. In this article, we’ll provide you with a detailed bitterballen recipe so you can create these savory bites of goodness in the comfort of your own home.


Servings 4 people


  • 1/2 cup Unsalted Butter
  • 3/4 cup All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 cups Beef Broth
  • 1/2 cup Chopped Cooked Beef
  • 1/4 cup Each Finely diced onion, celery, and carrot.
  • 2 tbsp Finely Chopped Parsley
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1/4 tsp Black Pepper
  • 2 Eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups Fine Breadcrumbs
  • Vegetable Oil for frying


  • Start by melting the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and stir constantly until the mixture turns golden brown, which should take about 5 minutes.
  • Gradually whisk in the beef broth until the mixture is smooth.
  • Add the cooked beef, onion, celery, carrot, parsley, salt, and black pepper. Stir everything together until the mixture is well combined.
  • Cook the mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it becomes thick and bubbly, which should take about 10 minutes.
  • Remove the mixture from the heat and let it cool to room temperature. Once it has cooled, cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or until it is firm.
  • Beat the eggs in a shallow dish. Place the breadcrumbs in another shallow dish.
  • Using a spoon, scoop out small balls of the chilled mixture and roll them into balls. Dip each ball into the beaten eggs, then coat it in the breadcrumbs.
  • Heat the vegetable oil in a deep frying pan over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, fry the balls in batches until they are golden brown, which should take about 2-3 minutes.
  • Remove the balls from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain them on paper towels.


Tips for Success

  • It’s important to chill the mixture thoroughly before rolling it into balls. This will make it easier to handle and prevent the balls from falling apart.
  • A high-quality beef broth will give your bitterballen the best flavor.
  • Make sure the oil is hot enough before frying the bitterballen. If it’s not hot enough, the balls may fall apart or become greasy.
Course: Appetizer, Side Dish, Snack
Cuisine: Dutch
Keyword: Bitterballen

 See our serving suggestions below and enjoy!

Tips for Success

  • It’s important to chill the mixture thoroughly before rolling it into balls. This will make it easier to handle and prevent the balls from falling apart.
  • A high-quality beef broth will give your bitterballen the best flavor.
  • Make sure the oil is hot enough before frying the bitterballen. If it’s not hot enough, the balls may fall apart or become greasy.

Variations and Allergen-free Alternatives

  • While traditional bitterballen are made with beef, you can substitute any meat you like, such as pork, turkey, or chicken.
  • Feel free to add some herbs or spices to either the filling or the coating. Thyme, nutmeg, and bay leaf are popular choices.
  • For a vegetarian version, use cheese, mushrooms, or your favorite root vegetables and treat them like stewed meat. Be sure to remove excess water from the cooked veggies to keep the filling from being too moist. You can use vegetable broth and vegetarian egg substitute in the recipe for a vegan option and it will still taste great.
  • For a gluten-free version, substitute your favorite gluten-free flour and coating mixes.

Bitterballen Serving Suggestions

If you want to have a fun Dutch dinner, serve bitterballen with some cubes of Dutch Edam cheese and Gouda cheese along with some pickles and a variety of sauces. Beer makes a great beverage accompaniment as well.

For a great main course, check out our authentic Dutch stamppot recipe (LINK). And finish off your meal with the sweet little pancakes called poffertjes(LINK). Add to the atmosphere with tulips, blue and white plates, and windmill or bicycle decorations.

Beer and gin drinks to go along with the appetizers and the meal. Some Dutch beers like Heineken, Amstel, and Grolsch are widely available in many other countries.

However you choose to enjoy them, bitterballen are lots of fun to start any meal, party, or gathering, so be sure to have plenty on hand and have a tasty time.

How To Make Delicious Dutch Bitterballen

Where To Try Bitterballen In Amsterdam

If you’re lucky enough to be visiting Amsterdam, there are plenty of great places in Amsterdam where you can try these delicious bitterballen.

Café Luxembourg

One spot that’s particularly well-known for its bitterballen is Café Luxembourg, located in the heart of Amsterdam’s bustling city center. This historic café has been serving up tasty bites and cold drinks since 1921, and their bitterballen are a crowd favorite. Crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside, they’re the perfect accompaniment to a cold beer or a glass of wine.

Café De Klos

Another fantastic option is Café De Klos, a cozy and welcoming pub in the Jordaan neighborhood. Known for its delicious ribs, this popular spot also serves up some seriously tasty bitterballen. Served with tangy mustard for dipping, these little balls of goodness are sure to satisfy your cravings.

Bar Centraal

For a more upscale dining experience, head to Bar Centraal in the trendy Oud West neighborhood. This stylish and modern wine bar is known for its delicious small plates and excellent wine selection and their bitterballen are no exception. Made with high-quality beef and served with a homemade mustard sauce, they’re a true delight for the taste buds.

De Ballenbar

If you’re feeling adventurous and want to try a unique twist on the classic bitterballen, head to De Ballenbar in the popular Foodhallen. This gourmet snack bar offers a variety of creative bitterballen flavors, such as truffle, cheese, and even spicy shrimp. Plus, the stylish and modern decor makes it a great spot for a fun night out with friends.

Café ‘T Smalle

If you’re looking for a more traditional atmosphere, then you can’t go wrong with the Jordaan neighborhood’s Café ‘t Smalle. This cozy, old-world pub has been serving up delicious Dutch snacks and drinks for over 150 years, and their bitterballen are a true testament to their time-honored recipes. Pair them with a classic Dutch beer or a glass of jenever (Dutch gin) for the ultimate Amsterdam experience.

Vegan Junk Food Bar

Lastly, for those looking for a vegan option, check out Vegan Junk Food Bar. A fast-growing concept, VJFB has already been winning awards and turning heads with its mission focused on sustainability and delicious plant-based menu, which includes classic, mac & cheese, and peanut thai bitterballen. Enjoy the funky atmosphere in one of several locations and bring your dog (pets are welcome!) and a credit card because they don’t take cash.

​ Try Some Of Our Other Dutch Recipes!

Dutch food is as much fun to make as it is to eat. That’s why were inspired to try our hand at some other traditional Dutch dish recipes like stamppot (a hearty mashed potato and vegetable dish), pannenkoeken (LINK) (large, thin pancakes served savory or sweet), and poffertjes (LINK) (tasty puffy mini-pancakes).


Bitterballen recipe pin

Co-founder of Food Travelist. I love to cook for family and friends. Share your best recipes with me.

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