Wednesday, October 6, 2010


In Holland, a night out on the town, or a social event with coworkers, usually starts out at a local café, with a beer and something called a "bittergarnituur". The word translates as the slightly confusing "garnish for bitters", where bitters in this case refers to alcoholic beverages. The Dutch were one of the first to dedicate themselves to perfecting the distillation process, presenting the world with spirits such as Dutch gin (jenever) and a large variety of liqueurs and bitters, these last ones presumably with medicinal properties. Nowadays, one of the most famous drinks is Ketel One, a Dutch vodka that is especially popular in the United States.

Alcohol is traditionally consumed with something savory on the side, and thus the bittergarnituur was invented. This colorful platter will usually contain bite-size cubes of Gouda cheese, miniature eggrolls and meatballs, perhaps some slices of salami or chorizo and ofcourse, how can it not, the marvelous bitterballen.

Bitterballen are one of Holland's favorite snacks. In the early and mid-1900s, they were the housewife's perfect way to transform yesterday's meat leftovers into today's appetizer. Served shaped as a log (kroket) or in bite-size rounds, bitterballen were often served as an aperitif, or tapa, before lunch or dinner.

Nowadays, bitterballen are predominantly served outside the home, either as part of the bittergarnituur or as a snack on the side with a portion of French fries, but are no longer part of the housewife's culinary repertoire. Which is rather unfortunate, because bitterballen are easy to make and freeze beautifully for later use! 

This deep-fried, crispy, bite-size ball of meaty gravy is to be eaten with a good, savory mustard. Take the bitterbal between thumb and index finger, dip one side into the mustard and pop the whole thing in your mouth. No double-dipping! Bitterballen are also, presumably, best eaten while piping hot!

Bitterballen are traditionally made with beef, but can also be made with chicken, veal or even with mushrooms, for those that prefer a vegetarian option.

1 stick of butter
1 cup of flour
3 cups of beef stock
3 tablespoons of onion, minced
1 tablespoon of fresh parsley, minced
2 cups of shredded cooked beef

For the breading
1/2 cup flour
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups bread crumbs

Make a roux with the butter and the flour (slowly melt the butter in a skillet or pan. When melted, add the flour little by little and stir into a thick paste). Slowly stir in the stock, making sure the roux absorbs the liquid. Simmer for a couple of minutes on a low heat while you stir in the onion, parsley and the shredded beef. Taste, add pepper and salt and a pinch of nutmeg. Taste again and adjust if necessary.

Pour the meat gravy into a shallow container, cover and refrigerate for several hours, or until the gravy has solidified.

Take a heaping tablespoon of the cold, thick gravy and quickly roll it into a small ball. Roll lightly through the flour, then the egg and finally the breadcrumbs. Make sure that the egg covers the whole surface of the bitterbal. (If it doesn't, the filling will spill out into the fryer and you will be left with a hollow shell, and a messy fryer!). Set each ball aside on a plate. When done, refrigerate the snacks while the oil in your fryer heats up to 375F.

Fry five to six balls at a time, until golden brown. Serve on a plate with a nice grainy or spicy mustard.

Makes approximately 20 bitterballen.


  1. Oh wow, I've been looking for a recipe for these for ages now! I was also born and raised in NL, I moved to the US about 7 years ago. While most Dutch dishes I missed were easily made here I'd never actually made home made bitterballen before, I would usually buy them frozen. Since you can't do that here I've been hoping to find a good recipe for bitterballen/kroketten. So I'm definitely going to try this recipe some day. Thank you so much for sharing! :)

    Next thing I'm going hunting for is a slagroom taart recipe. I find the average birthday cakes here so heavy and overly sweet with all the icing (cheese cake excluded which is wonderful).

  2. Thank you for the comment, and welcome to the blog! I'm glad you found us, and hope you enjoy the bitterballen, they never last long around here!

    I fully agree with you on slagroom versus birthday cake. Keep an eye on this blog's sister site: for a recipe in the next couple of weeks!

  3. Already subscribed to both with Google Reader! :)
    Looking forward to the new recipes. I've been browsing your older posts too and have come across heaps of things I would love to try to make, so thanks again for sharing. :)

  4. Thank you so much for this recipe! My husband has missed but two things since we came to the US... bitterballen/kroketten, and frikandellen. There's no way I can probably really replicate frozen frikandellen like in NL, but these bitterballen have really hit the spot! We quadrupled the recipe, and took a quarter and made sate kroketten as well. Delicious! I have one of those really old cookbooks that belonged to my husband's mother, but I haven't been able to get any of the things I've tried to work. This was perfect! Thanks for making these so easy to do, and "Americanized"! Now on to try krentebollen!

  5. No offense but I am not really a big fan of Dutch Cuisine. But this is the only dish I developed a liking for :)
    Thanks for the recipe

  6. Gorgeous !! I was looking for this for many years. Now I have it. Thank you very much !!!

  7. WOW!!! I LOVE your website here....

    I am an American living in Sweden, who married a Dutchman...
    So, of course last night was filled with Kroket, Oillibollen and Appleflappen....

    Usually we spend New Years Eve at my Dutch IN laws flat....
    However, due to a child illness and my mother in law being ill... we spent NYE at our own home and my father in law came over...
    Needless to say... NYE is the ONE night where this 3 deep fried beauties
    make a yearly visit and are a must....

    I found your site when I had a bit of an Appleflappen disaster..... I will be visiting this page a lot
    throughout the year.... Thank you for these lovely easy to read recipes....

    My Mother in law is getting up there in age... so when she first met me, she taught me
    how to make Krokets...... and every year since that has been my job... making
    3 dozen Krokets.... :-)

    If I may make a suggestion.... to make my EXTRA Crispy on the outside like you get in Holland
    from the walls... I roll mine twice thu the egg and bread crumbs....
    It just gives them that extra crispiness that makes them a little better.... :-)

    anyway..... Thank you for this lovely site.... You will be seeing me often from now on.... :-)



    1. Welcome to the site, Rhonda! Wow, three dozen kroketten is a lot of work, but how fun! Excellent suggestion on the double breading, thank you!

  8. I had an old recipe for bitterballen, one of my favorite foods, and lost it but this looks very familiar. But instead of breadcrumbs I use the crumbs from the Dutch round crisp bread...not sure of the Dutch spelling but it sounds like biscuit but with the harg "G" after the "s". I think that is a much more authentic taste to what I remember my mother making for me on my birthday every year...kroketten.

    1. You are thinking of "beschuit" (buh-sG-out). There's a recipe on the website for it in case you cannot find any in the store. Panko is similar in flavor and texture, but breadcrumbs work just as well!


  10. I Love your website. Whenever i am in Florida i am using your website and also when i am back in Holland. I did send your website to all my friends. Will also mention it on my Facebook page.
    I am making the Bitterballen tonight with chicken for my American friends.

    1. Rob, thanks for the encouragement, it is appreciated! Hope you had a great evening.

    2. It was a big success, they wished i did had made more after they eat them all
      Thanks for the nice recipes.

    3. Rob, that tends to happen a lot, there are never enough bitterballen :-) Glad you and your guests enjoyed them!

    4. Excellent blog with recipes you have here Nicole! I love cooking and even grow my own 'Dutch' vegetables in the garden to suit my Dutch taste. What I can't buy in the shops, I make myself or grow it. Although I make my kroketten slightly different -Mothers recipe- it's a joy to go throug the blog and find so many good and -lots- original recipes. You set yourself a task with so many different recipes. In every corner of Holland they have their own treats and different recipes. Meals or treats from the North could even not be known in the South as they have their own. I made my own recipe book with all things I learned from aunties, mother, grandmother, etc.. and of course my own alterations. It was a pleasure to find this (blog) gem and I will surely return!


  11. oh wat heerlijk deze site! ik woon zelf in het buitenland en zie dan maar is de nederlandse producten te krijgen of zelf te maken ! dank je wel nicole!!

  12. I visited Amsterdam last week for the first time and loved it. I had bitterballen with my meal one evening and wanted to make them. Your recipe seemed to be the most authentic so thank you very much! I will definitely keep making them and other recipes of yours!
    Ruth from England

  13. my mother used curry powder with almost everything which involved meat. she had a shaker of premixed seasonings (salt, pepper and curry) ready to use on the shelf and this was what she seasoned the bitterballen with. it went into the roux so that instead of a creamy colour, it was slightly yellow. it was i use curry a lot myself as well...especially on pork and chicken.

  14. Calling it fried gravy, really doesn't do the bitterbal justice...

    1. It's very, VERY similar to American white gravy. It's simply an easier way to explain to foreigners what this is like. Let's face it, there are no words to describe the joy that is a bitterbal!

      Honestly.. I love sausage gravy (white gravy with tons of pepper and crumbled breakfast sausage). I could make a heavenly bitterball and conquer the US.



    2. Southern spicy/peppery white breakfast sausage gravy!! I think you might take over the world with that. I'm surely going to try it! Jaklien, you are right you just can't explain bitterballen. And I love watching someone eat it for the first time and pop that whole baby in their mouth. HOT!!!

    3. Rob, that's so funny and true! Dip the whole thing in mustard, pop it in your mouth and then fan your open mouth with your hand while chewing and laughing at the same time. Not very charming table manners, but there is no other way - they have to be eaten hot-hot-hot!

      Sietske, I look forward to that bitterbal!

  15. I just moved to the states after living in limburg for the past 13 years. I've only been back two months but I already zuurvlees and bitterballen. I can't wait to try these out this week. Maybe even serve Bitterballen for the Super Bowl Party! I did notice that you do not have a recipe for stompot.

    1. Welcome home! You will find stompot under Hutspot, if you mean the carrot and potato one. Otherwise, look under Boerenkool, Hete Bliksem of Foeksandijvie. And if you still can't find your favorite stamppot, let me know and I'll gladly make it and post it. And bitterballen for the Super Bowl party sounds like a winner! Have fun!

    2. This turned out great but I doubled the syrup And I do not have stroop so I used dark corn syrup. The one I use in my BBQ sauce. Just like in Maastricht. Thank you for this web site I have all the recipes that were near and dear to me but this has so much more. I found the different types of stompot Thanks again.

  16. This is seriously the BEST blog on dutch recipes EVER. I've been on here checking everything out for about 45 min already. Thank you so much for your recipes, it makes living Dutch in Amerika much easier!! :)

    Much Love,
    -Stephanie Eva

    1. Stephanie, thank you for your kind words!

  17. It's been more than 50 years that I had Bitterballen. I'm so glad I found your recipe.
    get the oven on !


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