World-famous cheese, sweet treats and unusual flavours. What not to miss in Dutch capital.
A tasty mishmash of classic comfort foods
This hot, steaming plate of soft, buttery potato is all mashed up with vegetables like curly kale, spinach or sauerkraut. Usually topped with a smoked sausage called a rookworst, this warming winter dish might also come with a large meatball or a scattering of salty bacon. Some locals like to complete their plateful by making a hole in their mash and filling it with thick, delicious gravy.
Beloved smoked sausage and true dinner table staple
Tied together at the ends for hanging, this smoky pork sausage is easily recognisable by its characteristic U-shape. Traditionally smoked over wood chips, it comes in two varieties – a pre-prepared, vacuum-packed version and a raw version that must be cooked with special care. Lightly spiced and salted, it’s a flavoursome and popular addition to Dutch ‘stamppot’ – a potato dish mashed with green vegetables.
Local tip: As well as being served in restaurants, these can easily be picked up in shops to take home and try.
Homely apple pie with cream on the side
Cinnamon-spiced apple peeks temptingly from a golden pastry lattice, filling the air with its sweet, nostalgic smell. Densely packed with tart apple and a scattering of juicy raisins, a thick slab is served – fresh from the oven – with an indulgent dollop of whipped cream. You’ll find this delicious dessert on the menu at every café and restaurant ‒ though nobody makes it like grandma does!
A hot and hearty soup for chilly winter days
When the famous canals freeze over, Amsterdammers take to the ice on their skates, stopping at a pop-up refreshment stall for a steaming bowl of split-pea soup. A hearty vegetable blend topped with slices of delicious smoked sausage – it should be thick enough to stand your spoon in! Wonderfully warming, this bright green soup is as synonymous with the season as hot chocolate or mulled wine.
Savoury breadcrumb balls that pair perfectly with beer
In the Netherlands you just can’t have drinks without bar snacks, and you’ll find these savoury bites on every menu. Finely chopped beef is stirred into a mixture of flour, butter, and stock, and wrapped up in a golden breadcrumb coating. Crunchy on the outside, their thick, satisfying centre tastes a lot like gravy. Served piping hot, they’re delicious dipped in spicy mustard.
Local tip: Order these with some other savoury snacks like cheese, cold cuts and hot croquettes for a delicious bar-side feast.
Heavenly puffed pancakes that're small but surpisingly filling
A pile of tiny pancake pillows soaking in salty butter or sweet sticky syrup, with a dusting of scrumptious powdered sugar. These light, fluffy bites are made in a special pan with round pockets to puff them up until they’re perfectly plump. Sold by the dozen in cafés or at local markets, they make a delightful daytime snack.
Samplings of the Netherlands' favourite cheese
Named after the town of Gouda, thick yellow rounds of this famous cheese are stacked up, wheel-on-wheel, in shop windows and supermarkets. With six age categories from ‘young’ to ‘mature’ to ‘very old’, there’s a variety for everyone. The cheese’s flavour starts out light and subtle – the perfect white wine pairing – before maturing to a sweet, rich taste more suited to a velvety red or sherry.
Local tip: Many cheeses around the world are sold as ‘Gouda’. Look for ‘Boerenkaas’, ‘Noord-Hollandse Gouda’, and ‘Gouda Holland’, for authentic Gouda only made in the Netherlands.
A simple fish dish that's served street-side
Mild in flavour, this soft pink herring is lightly brined for a subtle salty taste. Served up with a pile of onions and pickles, the Dutch often eat the fish whole, grabbing it by the tail, tilting their heads back and lowering it into their mouths. You’ll also find it eaten from a paper plate or stuffed into a sandwich for a more filling meal.
Local tip: In early June, you can visit Scheveningen to see the first barrel of Dutch New Herring auctioned off for charity.
Scrumptious syrupy cookies loved by young and old alike
Sticky caramel syrup is sandwiched between two thin and crispy waffle slices, flavoured with a hint of delicious cinnamon. The sweet smell of batter and sugar wafts over local markets, where stalls sell these, freshly baked, in checkered paper wrappings. A nostalgic treat, adults buy them for their impatient little ones, just as their parents did for them.
Pick-n-mix liquorice with a very distinctive taste
Hard or soft, salty or sweet – shaped like cats, coins, herrings, cars and monkeys – this dark Dutch liquorice comes in every variety imaginable. A love it or hate it experience for visitors, the most infamous flavour is the bitter double salt, ‘Dubbel-Zout’, which is often offered just to see the look on a person’s face!
Local tip: Visit ‘Het Oude Hollandsch Snoepwinkeltje’ to buy traditional drop straight from the jar. They’ll advise you on the best flavour to suit your taste.
A sprinkling of sweetness to start the day
These sugary sprinkles are a favourite breakfast food of children and adults alike. Named after hailstones, these tiny treats are joyfully sprinkled over a fresh slice of fluffy white bread or toast, with a thick layer of creamy butter spread corner-to-corner. You’ll find delicious dark chocolate, milk chocolate, white chocolate, fruit and even aniseed flavours stacked high in supermarket cereal aisles.
Sweet fritters, fried-up for festive occasions
A moreish deep-fried delight, these golden fritters are an indulgent way to ring in the new year. Crisp on the outside with a soft and deliciously doughy middle, they’re sometimes loaded with apple and raisin, or pumped full of cream. Best eaten hot and freshly fried with a generous dusting of cinnamon and sweet powdered sugar.
Local tip: These can often be found in abundance, sold from colourful stalls at fairs and carnivals.
Biscuit bites for well-behaved children
Literally called ‘pepper nuts’, these tiny festive cookies are traditionally flavoured with anise or spiced with a dash of cinnamon or clove. A nostalgic favourite, they’re munched down by the thousands in the weeks around the time of the Sinterklaas parade, where St. Nicholas’ helpers throw them for children to catch.
Popular takeaway staples taken to a whole new level
Old school kebab and chips gets a makeover for one deliciously calorific dish! Named ‘hair salon’, this fast-food favourite first appeared in Rotterdam in 2003, where it was accidentally invented by a barber. The ultimate post-beer feast – a layer of fries are covered in tasty shawarma or dӧner meat and smothered in melted gouda, before being topped with fresh salad and lashings of garlic mayonnaise.
Local tip: Take a trip to Rotterdam to sample this dish at its birthplace, the El Aviva shawarma shop.
Thick and delicious chocolate initials
When it’s time for Sinterklaas to pay a visit, excited children place a pair of shoes by the fireplace, eager to see if he’ll fill one with their very own chocolate letter. Lovingly made from milk, dark or white chocolate, children and adults alike customarily receive the first letter of their name, and chocolatiers carefully adjust the thickness of each to make sure that an ‘Ina’ gets just as much of a yummy treat as a ‘Martijn’.