The cuisine of the Netherlands, also known as Dutch cuisine, offers a diverse culinary repertoire that reflects the country’s agricultural potency, maritime history, and its unique position as the intersection of various European traditions. Often understated but satisfying, the main dishes of the Netherlands are as heartwarming as its picturesque windmills and tulip fields.
One of the most well-known Dutch dishes is “Stamppot“, a hearty combination of mashed potatoes mixed with different vegetables such as kale (Boerenkool Stamppot), endive, or sauerkraut. It is traditionally served with “Rookworst”, a smoked sausage, making it the quintessential comfort food during the cold Dutch winters.
“Dutch Herring” or “Hollandse Nieuwe” is a signature dish that showcases the Netherlands’ long-standing relationship with the sea. The raw herring fish is typically served with chopped onions and pickles. During the herring season, you can find Dutch people enjoying this dish by holding the fish by the tail and taking a bite – a unique Dutch tradition.
Next is “Erwtensoep“, also known as “Snert“. This thick pea soup is filled with split peas, pork, celery, onions, leeks, carrots, and often, rookworst sausage. Erwtensoep is a winter staple, so thick that “it should be so thick that you can stand a spoon upright in it,” as the Dutch saying goes.
“Bitterballen“, another national favorite, are deep-fried, crispy balls filled with a mixture of chopped beef or veal ragout. Often served with a side of mustard for dipping, they are a popular snack in Dutch pubs and are an integral part of the Dutch ‘gezelligheid’ – a sense of coziness and conviviality.
Another must-try dish is “Hutspot“, a classic Dutch meal made by boiling and mashing together potatoes, carrots, and onions. Typically served with a side of slow-cooked meats, Hutspot is a simple yet hearty dish that reflects the pragmatic and satisfying nature of Dutch cuisine.
The “Kapsalon” is a relatively modern addition to Dutch fast food. It is a layered dish usually consisting of fries, topped with döner or shawarma meat, grilled with a layer of Gouda cheese, and topped with a fresh salad. Its name, meaning “hair salon” in Dutch, comes from a Rotterdam hairdresser who regularly ordered this dish at a nearby shawarma store.
Finally, the list would not be complete without mentioning “Pannenkoeken“. These traditional Dutch pancakes are larger and thinner than American pancakes but thicker than French crêpes. They can be served with sweet or savory toppings, from syrup, fruit, and powdered sugar, to cheese, ham, or bacon, making them a versatile dish for any time of the day.
Dutch main dishes may appear simple at first glance, but they carry a depth of flavor and history that is truly reflective of the country’s traditions and way of life. From comforting stamppot to maritime herring, these dishes are culinary icons that speak to the heart of Dutch culture – humble, hearty, and fulfilling. As you embark on this gastronomic journey, you’re experiencing a piece of the Netherlands with every bite.