Every country has some special dishes or food-related traditions. Whether that's pizza or hamburgers, in most cases popular dishes of a country are usually known globally. The Netherlands has a lot of food traditions, but there is one type of food that is their pride, I'm talking about cheese of course. Dutch cheeses are available worldwide and there are many different kinds. As one of the main producers of cheese, they also like to eat it a lot. They integrate cheese in quite some meals and snacks, as you will read below. But cheese is not all they eat, so the big question is "what do the Dutch eat?".
There are several foods the Dutch eat on different occasions. Cheese is very popular and can be found in meals for any time of the day. For breakfast and lunch bread is very popular, and for dinner the Dutch like to eat a combination of vegetables, meat and potatoes.
There are some particular food habits the Dutch have. Warm food in the mornings is usually only for special occasions, there is a specific snack for when children are born, and during carnival part of the population lives on beer and sausage rolls only. Read on to learn more about what the Dutch eat and their food traditions.
The Dutch breakfast is usually a fairly easy meal. Especially during weekdays, they don’t go all out and like to keep it simple. Bread is the most popular breakfast food in the Netherlands and is eaten almost daily.
Dutch breakfasts and lunches usually don’t differ a lot during the weekdays, bread is the most commonly used food for both meals.
Some people prefer to eat something other than bread. Popular substitutes for bread are cereals like granola, which is often eaten with yogurt. Warm foods like eggs or bacon only get eaten for breakfast on the weekends or special occasions, like Easter or mother’s day.
As mentioned, the Dutch eat a lot of bread, probably every day. But what do they prefer to do on their bread?
When having bread for breakfast, there are a few toppings that are the most popular in the Netherlands, one of these is cheese. The Netherlands has been known for the production of cheese for centuries.
Most Dutch people love cheese and will gladly eat it with their bread. There are lots of different kinds of cheeses, from young cheese to aged cheese. But also, a lot of sheep's cheese and goat's cheese are eaten in the Netherlands. Yellow cheeses are the most popular ones here in the Netherlands.
Chocolate sprinkles are a very popular bread topping in the Netherlands. This takes form mostly in hagelslag and vlokken. There are many different types of sprinkles in the Netherlands. So you have dark sprinkles, white sprinkles, fruit-flavored sprinkles, mixed colors, there is something for everyone.
The photo below shows an assortment of different types of sprinkles that are commonly eaten in the Netherlands.
Spreads are popular to eat on bread as well. Peanut butter is eaten all over the world, the Netherlands is no different. Another spread that we like to put on bread is jam. Strawberry jam, raspberry jam, and forest fruit jam get eaten the most in the Netherlands. A third spread that cannot stay unmentioned is Nutella, the worldwide most known chocolate spread.
Ontbijtkoek is a popular substitute for ordinary bread or granola breakfasts. Literally translated, it is called breakfast cake. It is not exclusively eaten at breakfast though. It’s made of rye and there are some variations of it. Some of them have sugar on the side, others are flavored with aniseed. Ontbijtkoek is often eaten with a layer of butter on top, but it is also nice to put some chocolate spread on it.
A bowl of milk with some cornflakes is a very common breakfast in the Netherlands. Cornflakes are made of dried and roasted corn. While you can eat it with several fruit juices, for breakfast it usually gets eaten with milk. The well-known brand Kellogg’s is a popular brand for cornflakes here in the Netherlands.
Granola is a popular substitute for the ordinary bread breakfast as well. Granola is a mixture of seeds, dried fruit, and cereals that often gets eaten in combination with yogurt. Granola is roasted in the oven with oil and honey. Granola can also be added to a smoothie bowl instead of yogurt. For a quick bite, people eat a granola bar.
On the weekend, the Dutch have a little more time for breakfast than on a normal weekday. This often results in hard-boiled eggs. These get eaten alongside some toast, sometimes white bread.
Sometimes the eggs get eaten on top of the bread as well, along with some salt and some cheese of course. This we call an "uitsmijter" in the Netherlands. Dutch people often drink fresh orange juice with their elaborated weekend breakfasts, but coffee remains popular as well.
Another popular substitute for breakfast on the weekends is French toast. This is when a slice of bread is dipped in a mixture of beaten eggs and milk. The bread then gets fried and it is usually eaten with cinnamon and sugar. This dish is mainly reserved for festive occasions like mother’s day.
Sometimes the Dutch eat koffiebroodjes for breakfast too. This literally translates to coffee buns, because it is a common snack to go with coffee as well. Koffiebroodjes are made of puff pastry, custard, and raisins, and are comparable to cinnamon rolls in size and looks.
Lunch is not very different from breakfast in the Netherlands. The main product being eaten during lunch is bread. Where a lot of other countries tend to eat warm food for lunch, in the Netherlands two out of three meals consist largely of bread.
A piece of bread with a slice of meat or cheese is most common, but there are some other lunch options as well. Those options are mostly variations on bread.
Grilled cheese sandwich:
A popular way of eating bread during lunch is a grilled cheese sandwich. The variation with ham and cheese is quite popular and lots of people dip their sandwich in tomato ketchup. A grilled cheese sandwich is quick, easy, and tasty.
Almost every household in the Netherlands owns a sandwich iron. There even are special lunchrooms that only sell variations of grilled cheese sandwiches.
Another variation of the usual bread meal is the currant bun. Currant buns have raisins in them and are often eaten with butter and sometimes sugar. A typical Dutch touch to this is to cut them open and put cheese in the middle.
Another lunch alternative is the omelet. Although there are variations that involve bread, it does not play the main role in this dish. Omelets are made of eggs, milk, and cheese. The ingredients added to the omelet can differ.
Bell peppers are common, but other kinds of vegetables can be added as well. The European omelet differs slightly from the American one. An American omelet is usually more crispy while a European omelet tends to be softer.
In some countries, it is normal for children to eat their lunch at school. In high school, they get their food from the lunch lady and eat it in the cafeteria.
In the Netherlands, this is not the case. High schools in the Netherlands don’t offer lunches, everyone has to bring their own. There often is the opportunity to buy something, such as a sandwich or a snack, but most people bring lunch from home. This lunch usually consists of bread, as this is easy to bring.
In elementary school, Dutch children go home for lunch. Sometimes parents can’t be home during the day to provide lunch for their kids. In this case, the parents pay extra for their children to be able to spend lunchtime at school. The majority of Dutch children do eat at home though, sometimes bringing over friends.
At companies, it works the same way as in high school. People bring their own lunches and eat them either in the cafeteria or behind their desks. At bigger companies, it is possible to purchase food, but most people prefer to bring their own.
Warm lunches are rare, at both school and work. Dutch people barely ever eat warm food for lunch when they are at home, so companies and schools are no different.
Unlike in most southern European countries, Dutch people like to eat their dinner relatively early. Around 6 o’clock Dutch people gather around the table to have their meal.
But the time on which they eat is not the only difference between them and the northern Europeans and southern Europeans. Europe can be divided into roughly two parts. There is a potato part and a tomato part. The south is the tomato part, and the north is the potato part.
Seeing the Netherlands is part of northern Europe, potatoes get eaten with many typical Dutch meals. In fact, potatoes get eaten so often there is a special name for the Dutch potato dishes.
A typical Dutch meal usually consists of some potatoes, meat, and some vegetables, which is being called "avg" in the Netherlands. This is an acronym for the Dutch words aardappels (potatoes), vlees (meat), and groente (vegetables).
Especially during the cold winters, the Dutch like to eat "stamppot". This dish comes in several forms and shapes. The ingredient all of the different variations have in common is potato. Then vegetables get added, like kale or carrots and onion. All of the ingredients get mashed together and some gravy is added, along with meat.
Hutspot is one of the most popular forms of stamppot. This dish consists of potatoes, carrots, and onions. It is often eaten with a sausage or beef brisket.
Another popular form of stamppot is the stamppot raw endive. This consists of potatoes and raw endive. Small blocks of melted cheese and small pieces of bacon are added for some flavor. Sometimes it gets eaten with a meatball, but this is not necessary.
Dutch split pea soup:
Another typical Dutch winter dish is split pea soup. This is very popular in the Netherlands on the coldest days of the year. The main ingredients are peas and meat bouillon. The typical Dutch variation of split pea soup is slightly different from the usual pea soup that gets eaten in other countries.
Dutch split pea soup is often a bit thicker. When left overnight, the soup becomes thick enough to be called snert. When the soup earned the name snert, the substance is closer to porridge than actual soup. Snert usually gets eaten with a side of rye bread. On this rye bread, the Dutch like to put some smoked bacon. Snert is so popular in the Netherlands that the world championship for snert making takes place in Holland.
Dutch meat dishes:
One of the typically Dutch meat options for dinner is the slavink. This piece of meat consists of a mixture of half pork and half beef. The meat then gets wrapped in pieces of bacon before it gets cooked. This meat usually gets eaten with a stew-like potato dish.
Another popular meat is the sudderlap. The meat gets slowly cooked and is left to simmer for several hours. This is to give it a tender texture. Sudderlapjes are sometimes named draadjesvlees, which literally translates to thread meat. This is because of the soft texture that looks like a bunch of strings when you break the meat apart.
Dutch pancakes and poffertjes:
Dutch pancakes are different from American pancakes. The Dutch pancakes are slightly comparable to the French crêpes. Dutch pancakes are quite thin and really big compared to American pancakes. They often get eaten with powdered sugar or syrup, but Nutella is a popular topping as well. Sometimes bacon gets added as a topic as well, and we wouldn’t be calling them Dutch pancakes if we didn’t have a variation with cheese. When eaten for dessert, ice cream is put on the pancakes along with some fruit.
A popular Dutch dish that is especially liked by children, is called poffertjes. It is a batter treat and looks like a bunch of tiny, thick pancakes. It is usually served with powdered sugar, butter, syrup, or a combination of those. Poffertjes get eaten throughout the whole year, although you will find more stands selling them during the colder months. Especially at Dutch Christmas markets, they are commonly sold.
There are quite a lot of snacks that are typically Dutch. They vary from cookies during tea time, to fish that can also be eaten as a full meal. We like to put several snacks on bread, but it can also be eaten on its own. Most of these snacks get eaten throughout the entire year, but some are seasonal.
Snacks to go with fries:
When the Dutch eat fries, they often have a snack to go with it. Where a lot of Americans would opt for chicken nuggets, the Dutch have quite a few unique options. One of the most popular snacks to go with fries is a "frikandel". It is a long hotdog-shaped snack made out of minced meat, often eaten with mayonnaise, curry sauce, and onions, in that case, we call it a "frikandel special". It can be eaten as a side to fries, on its own, and sometimes it’s also put on a bun.
The "kroket" is another very popular snack in the Netherlands. This is another hotdog-shaped snack, in which the outside is made of a bread-crumbs-like substance while the inside is usually filled with meat ragout. There are many variations of this snack, some of them vegan. Just like the frikandel, the kroket can be eaten with fries, on its own or it can be put on a bun.
Dutch McDonalds even sells this under the name of "Mc Kroket". This perfectly illustrates how popular the snack actually is. With an average of 29 kroketten per person each year, it is just a little less popular than frikandellen.
A popular Dutch snack that often gets eaten in the afternoon is the bitterbal. Bitterballen are small balls filled with meat. Those balls get breaded and fried. Oftentimes bitterballen get eaten with mustard on the side. Bitterballen can be served on their own, but they can also be served as part of the "bittergarnituur", this is a bowl of mixed snacks. Bitterballen are very common on birthdays and in pubs.
For this next snack, we circle back to the Dutch love for cheese. When the Dutch get together for a drink, a common snack they have with it is cheese sticks. A variation of this snack is the cheese butterflies, which are similar in taste and ingredients but shaped like butterflies instead of rectangles.
A cheese board is also quite popular in the Netherlands. During a drink or at birthday parties, there are often several types of cheese to choose from. The cheese is cut up into small cubes or put on small pieces of toast. Yellow cheeses are the most popular in the Netherlands, but most Dutch people won’t say no to some French cheese either.
A snack that sometimes results in funny looks from foreigners, is herring. The funny looks are due to the fact Dutch people love to eat this fish raw. It can either be eaten with bread and onions or simply on its own. There are some regional differences in how the herring is eaten as well. Each year, plenty of Dutch people look forward to the new herring season and when asked how the herring tastes, most of them will respond with ‘even better than last year’. This is a bit of a tradition. Another tradition is that the first keg of herring each season gets auctioned off for charity.
Kibbeling is a Dutch snack that can be eaten for lunch or dinner as well. It consists of chunks of fish, taken from the codfish. It gets served with garlic sauce or tartar sauce. When eaten for dinner, it usually gets served with fries. Although the original kibbeling is made out of codfish, recently kibbeling has been made out of all kinds of whitefish, such as the pollack and the haddock.
For this typical Dutch sweet, I want to mention something that gets eaten with tea or coffee a lot. But to be honest, it can be eaten at any moment really, I speak from my own experience. Stroopwafels are delicious round waffles like cookies with syrup in the middle. It can be eaten warm, some people like to put it on top of a cup of tea so the syrup will get more fluid, but most Dutch people eat it cold though.
You regularly hear that Dutch people who live abroad miss stroopwafels the most of all Dutch sweets.
Dutch people eat the most licorice in the world. Licorice are an aniseed flavored candy and there are roughly four different types. Those types are soft and sweet, soft and salty, hard and sweet, and hard and salty. Dutch licorice comes in all kinds of shapes. There are coins and squares, even cat shaped licorice is common in the Netherlands. Besides that, there is a salty type of licorice that contains ammonium chloride, this licorice is called salmiak. If you want to try this candy, you do not have to look far. Dutch licorice is sold almost everywhere, you can find it in supermarkets, souvenir shops or even drugstores.
That the Dutch love licorice will not surprise you when you hear how many kilos of licorice are eaten annually in the Netherlands. In the Netherlands, 32 million kilos of licorice are eaten annually, which equates to an average of 2 kilos of licorice per person.
The tompouce is a popular type of pastry in the Netherlands. A tompouce has two layers of puff pastry, along with pink icing. In the middle there is a sweet, yellow cream and it usually gets served with some whipped cream on top. At special Dutch occasions, such as King’s day or when the soccer team does well, the pink layer of icing is traded for an orange icing.
Food is involved in a lot of celebrations and because of this many types of food have become a tradition for certain events or days. On birthdays, most people eat pie and during the start of the summer, a lot of ice cream is eaten. There are a few occasions on which the Dutch eat specific foods they don’t eat throughout the whole year. But what do the Dutch eat on special days like Christmas, New Year's Eve, and when a baby is born?
During new year’s, there is a particular snack the Dutch like to eat, it is called "oliebollen". These are round fried balls of dough that get sold by stands throughout the country in the winter. There are many variations, but the most popular variation has raisins added through the dough. Some people make them themselves on the 31st of December, others like to buy a bunch of them in advance.
Another festivity during the winter is Sinterklaas. During this festivity, Dutch children often get quite some candy from Sinterklaas and in their shoes. A common kind of candy they get is called "kruidnoten". These are small biscuit-like treats with a crispy texture. Sometimes they are covered in chocolate to add to the flavor. They can be covered in dark chocolate, milk chocolate, or white chocolate. With the same ingredients as kruidnoten, "speculaas" is made. Although this does not strictly get eaten during the Sinterklaas period, it is still associated with it.
In many countries, it is a tradition to eat turkey at Christmas. It is done in the Netherlands, but it is far from such a tradition as in England, for example. It is a tradition for many Dutch families to "gourmet" at Christmas.
In Dutch gourmet, each person has their own mini pan in which they can prepare something on a hot plate that is on the table. In the weeks before Christmas, the shops are full of special packages for gourmet food. It contains miniature versions of all kinds of meat, such as mini burgers and mini sausages.
Gourmet especially makes it more fun for children to stay at the table longer at Christmas because they can make their own food in their mini pan.
Something else that is eaten at Christmas is stol. Stol is a type of bread that gets eaten on two special occasions. During both Easter and Christmas, the Dutch love to eat this bread. The main ingredients are dough, raisins, and almond paste. Even though this bread is originally from Germany, it is just as popular here.
The difference between the stol for Easter and the one for Christmas is that the Christmas one usually has powdered sugar on top of it. However, supermarkets often sell a party stol which can be used for any occasion. There are some variations of this bread as well. There is a stol with dried pieces of orange peel in it, but there are also versions without this. Even the almond paste is optional, so there is something to like for everyone.
A food that can be eaten at breakfast or lunch is rusk. This hard, dry biscuit gets eaten with all kinds of toppings, like jam, cheese, and chocolate sprinkles. But breakfast and lunch are not the only times the Dutch eat rusk. Whenever a baby gets born, this usually gets celebrated with rusk. The topping for this particular occasion is something called "gekleurde muisjes", which means colored mice. These are made of aniseeds with a coat of sugar. The muisjes are either white and blue or white and pink. The blue ones get used when the baby is a boy, the pink ones when a little girl is born.
While the foods mentioned above are eaten by Dutch people all over the country, there are also several more local traditions and treats. Regional treats don’t get eaten just by people from that specific region, but the foods are way more common there and sold across more stores and stands. Since the Netherlands consists of twelve provinces, we will highlight foods from every province below.
Groningen is the most northerly province of the Netherlands. Common food that’s eaten here is the "eierbal", translated this means eggball. An eierbal consists of a hard-boiled egg that is surrounded by ragout, which then gets fried. You will be able to buy this snack at many snack bars in Groningen and perhaps some other northern provinces, but in the middle and south of the Netherlands people barely know about its existence.
In Friesland, there is a very popular kind of biscuit that is often eaten whilst drinking coffee. It is called "Fryske dúmkes". These cookies are sweet and taste like anise. There are hazelnuts in it and the cookies are about the size of a thumb. Since dúmke is quite similar to the Dutch word duim, which means thumb, many think that the dúmkes part of the name comes from the fact the cookies are thumb-sized. This is not true though, the cookies are actually called that way because a baker helps shape the cookies with his thumb.
Although the people in Drenthe mostly eat the same bread as every other Dutchman, they have their own kind of bread as well. This bread is called "Jan in ‘t Hemd", which is a bit of a silly name, it literally means Jack in the shirt. The dough of this bread is made of buckwheat, raisins, and syrup. The bread does not have a crust. Although most people know it as a dessert, it is perfect to be a meal in itself as well.
To stick with the bread, we are taking a look at a famous type of bread in Noord-Holland. This bread is called "Duivekater". It is not clear why this bread is called Duivekater, there are different stories told about this. One of these stories is that the bread looks like the sacrifices the Romans made. They would sacrifice cats (katers) to the Devil (Duivel). The bread is usually eaten around religious holidays. Because the recipe is so old, it is not clear what the original recipe was. Therefore you can get different kinds of "Duivekaters" all through Noord-Holland.
In Flevoland, we have the "Schokkermoppen". It is a cookie made out of rye and wheat flour, herbs for the before mentioned speculaas, and caster sugar. Rye and wheat flour have always been produced in this region, and when merchants left some herbs behind around the 16th and 17th century, our bakers knew just what to do with them.
Overijssel has their own kind of soup, this soup is called "Humkessoep". Humke means a small piece, and this fits the soup. It is a light meal soup with small pieces of vegetables in it, such as leek, green beans, celeriac, and white beans. Small bits of potatoes are added as well, just like pieces of bacon. The soup is most often eaten during fall.
Smoked sausages get eaten all through the Netherlands, but almost all Dutch people agree that the best kind of smoked sausages are the ones from Gelderland. "Gelderse rookworst", as it is called in Dutch, has been popular in the Netherlands for many years. Back in the 20th century, most pig farms were located in Gelderland. Gelderland was also among the first to start smoking meat.
Something that does not get eaten as much anymore as it used to, is the Utrechtse "Melkmoes". This dish cannot be described in a single sentence, as there are many variations. The ingredients differ not only by place but also by season. It is mainly eaten by farmers and often has chervil as one of its ingredients. Other popular ingredients include beets, parsley, and nettles.
A candy that originates in The Hague, is the "Haagse Hopjes". The Hague is the capital of the province Zuid-Holland. Haagse Hopjes are small pieces of candy that taste like caramel and coffee and are made mainly in The Hague. The candy got so popular that even abroad they started making and selling them. So although this started out as a regional food, it has gotten quite popular over the years.
In Brabant, which is located more in the south of the Netherlands, people really enjoy sausage rolls. It consists of a large roll of soft white bread dough, filled with minced meat. It usually gets eaten during Christmas or during carnival. The carnival is very popular in this part of the Netherlands, it doesn’t get celebrated as big anywhere else in the Netherlands.
When visiting Zeeland, you will undoubtedly come across the "Zeeuwse Bolus". This is a sugary bun made of dough for white bread, it is then covered in brown sugar. Some bakers add cinnamon to it, but most bakers have their own recipe and variation of the bun. The Zeeuwse Bolus gets eaten with coffee and some butter.
When asking someone Dutch about typical foods from Limburg, they will undoubtedly mention "Limburgse Vlaai". Flans from Limburg are believed to be the best flans in the whole country. It used to be eaten only during festivities, but after World War II it started to become a more ordinary kind of food. People would eat it on Sundays as they drank a cup of coffee or tea. There are a lot of different flans, but one worth mentioning is the "rijstevlaai", which is flan with rice in it.
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The Dutch like to keep it quite simple. No haute cuisine or fancy lobsters for us, the average Dutchman prefers a nice "frikandel" with some mayonnaise. Hopefully, this blog has given you the answer on "what do the Dutch eat?" and introduced you to some typical Dutch food, I recommend trying all of them when visiting.