dutch food in amsterdam

A Dutch food guide to Amsterdam

Eating local cuisine in the Amsterdam turns every holiday break into an unforgettable experience. Restaurants in Amsterdam have a pervading atmosphere that feels simultaneously doe maar normaal (down to earth) and gezelligheid (cozy and homely). This simplicity renders Dutch food simply magical.

By Julian Canlas

Known for its beautiful canals, predilection for bicycles and liberal culture, Amsterdam is a global city that annually welcomes millions of tourists from around the world. What started as a fishing village in the 13th century is now a renowned metropolis, where culture and entrepreneurial possibility collide. Today, its food scene is flourishing, too, with its culinary landscape rivalling those of other megacities.

While Dutch food hasn’t enjoyed the mainstream success as, say, French or Italian cuisine has, eating local cuisine in the Amsterdam turns every holiday break into an unforgettable experience. From heavy-hitting dishes that define Amsterdam’s culinary culture to new exciting tastes, restaurants in Amsterdam have a pervading atmosphere that feels simultaneously doe maar normaal (down to earth) and gezelligheid (cozy and homely). This simplicity is what renders Amsterdam’s foodie scene simply magical. Here’s a Dutch food guide to Amsterdam.

Other great reads: Brunch places to try out in Amsterdam 🍳

I. Maatjesharing

Let’s start with maatjesharing, or raw herring filet with diced onions, which is probably the Netherlands’ most iconic dish. It’s a rite of passage to eat this Dutch food for the many travelers visiting Amsterdam at any time of the year.

How do you eat raw herring? First, you top the raw herring with raw onions and gherkins; then you hold it by the tail, let it dangle above your head, and you lower the whole filet into your mouth, save for the tail. This is the Dutch way to eat maatjesharing that’s shown in ads of this famous dish. But people can also eat this with a toothpick, especially when they don’t want to pick the fish with their hands.

There are many herring stands and fish shops across the Dutch capital that have this delicacy, so you won’t be hard-pressed finding one for a quick bite. But here are some of my faves.

Stubbe’s Haaring is probably the most widely-known place for raw herring. Located next to the Central Station, this herring stand has existed for well over a century and is owned by the Stubbe family that has been serving this dish in their signature pinstripe uniforms.

Another great place to eat raw herring and other types of fish is at Vishuisje Herengracht, which makes herring broodjes, a slightly odd sandwich filled with raw herring, sliced pickles, diced onions and various types of sauce and seasonings. Raw herring sandwich may be slightly off-putting for some (or most), but Amsterdam is the perfect place to try this peculiar dish 😉.

II. Kroket and bitterballen

Kroket and bitterballen are deep-fried delicacies best paired with a refreshing pint of beer. The kroket (plural: kroketten) is a deep-fried roll covered with breadcrumbs that contains ragout filling, like chicken or veal. A local Dutch person, on average, eats 25 pieces of the Dutch food per year, and it’s the second most popular snack in the country, after the friet.

As for the bitterballen, they’re a savory snack containing a mixture of beef or veal, beef broth, flour and salt and pepper, all inside a thick ragout mixture. The name bitterbal comes from the fact that people eat them alongside the Dutch bitterjes, an alcoholic beverage from plant extracts. Any good brown cafe (more on this later) serves this amazing delicacy, but there are a number of joints that specialize in these meaty balls.

For artisan bitterballen, go to the aptly-named De Ballenbar. Helmed by a Michelin-starred chef, this place marries traditional Dutch cuisine with more international flavors. The bitterballen include fillings, such as Dutch shrimp, cow, bouillabaisse, and truffle. So yummy!

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Bijna weekend 🎉

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Eetsalon van Dobben is another classy snack bar that prepares its bitterballen more skilfully than your average joint. It also has other deep-fried treats, in case you’re really craving for something crispy and unhealthy, but want to remain onboard the Dutch food tour.

If you want somewhere fast, I suggest the iconic FEBO (which stands for Ferdinand Bolstraat, a popular Amsterdam street), an Amsterdam chain of walk-in bars that sell kroketten and bitterballen in vending machines. Be amazed by the rows of Dutch deep-fried snacks that are ready to be picked from the snack wall. Many travelers associate these vending machines with the Dutch capital, so to say that FEBO has become an integral part of the city’s culinary landscape is not an overstatement.

Van Dobben is another great choice. Both snacks taste particularly amazing after a boozy night out. Their famous beef kroketten are short, thick, firm, rich with fillings and provide an explosion of tastes that come from their high-quality beef and home-made broth.

III. Patat

Who doesn’t like a good patat friet? These strong, thick and chunky delicious slices of potatoes are cut and prepared on the same day. They’re normally plunged in boiling oil twice, resulting in a crispy exterior and a fluffy interior. Many patat shops serve them in a big cone (not like the flimsy ones given at fast food places), and you can order this Dutch food with different types of sauce, but the most popular ones are mayonnaise, ketchup or peanut sauce!

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Oorlog 📸 @foodieling

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Manneken Pis is a very popular patat friet stall, garnering crowds of Amsterdam locals and travellers, for their Flemish fries that come straight from the muddy soil of Zeeland. They offer 20 different types of sauce, including the novelty weed sauce. I challenge you to order the Obelix, their biggest portion of fries, which weighs more than 1 kilogram.

Another great option to try patat friet is at Par Hasard Amsterdam, a café-restaurant chain known for its delicious Dutch fries that’s been in many top food lists. Not only do they locally source their potatoes, their sauces are all home-made. My personal favorite patat oorlog (war fries), fries with a tasty blend of onions, mayo and the Indonesian saté sauce. It’s hea-ven-ly.

IV. Kaas

Are you just like me, whose day-to-day life is held captive by my craving for cheese? Well, you’re in luck, because the Dutch are quite passionate about their cheese. It’s worth noting that the Netherlands is the largest cheese exporter in the world, and each Dutch person eats on average 21 kilograms of cheese. Suffice to say, there are many places in Amsterdam for a cheese tasting tour.

If you want or need the ultimate cheese experience, head over to the Cheese Museum Amsterdam, which offers free cheese-tasting sessions and free exhibitions about Dutch cheese history and the types of cheese the Netherlands has to offer. It also delves into the famous Dutch Gouda, a type of mild cheese with a dense, springy texture, and attempts to answer the question of what makes a great Gouda. At the top floor, there’s also a specialty cheese shop with a knowledgeable staff to help you out.

Reypenaer’s Tasting Room organizes seated cheese tasting sessions that approximately last an hour and under the guidance of an expert cheesemaker. This tasting room is owned by the Wijngaard family of cheesemakers who have been in the trade since the 1930s. This family takes huge pride in the creation of their artisanal cheese through a process that’s highly secret.

V. Stroopwafels

If you’re visiting the Netherlands, you’ve most probably heard about the iconic stroopwafels. These thin waffles that hide a gooey layer of caramel syrup are amazing feel-good snacks to take alongside a cup of tea or coffee. While stroopwafels come from Gouda, Amsterdam really also isn’t lacking in places to try this Dutch food out.

Lanskroon makes giant stroopwafels that are crispy, tasty and are served with many different fillings, like caramel and coffee syrup. If you’ve only tasted the mass-produced ones bought at Albert Heijn, then you’ll be surprised by how delicious stroopwafels can be.

If you want something more Instagram-ready or stroopwafels your kids will absolutely love you for buying, Van Wonderen Stroopwafels on Amsterdam’s Kalverstraat creates freshly-made stroopwafels with toppings that stray away from tradition, such as chocolate chips, marshmallows and speculaas.

VI. Pancakes

The Dutch pannekoeken are thin and large pancakes that can be served either savory or sweet. They’re made from a batter of eggs, flour, milk and some salt. While French crêpes have their fillings added after the crêpes have been cooked, with pannekoeken, the fillings are added to the batter while cooking. These pannekoeken are best drizzled with a thick apple syrup called stroop and powdered sugar. When you’re ready to eat them, you can roll them up and use a fork, or just grab a bite to go!

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Carousel Pancake House is famous for its poffertjes, which are sweet, small Dutch pancakes topped with powdered sugar and butter. With a batter that includes buckwheat flour and yeast, these small delicious pancakes are normally light, fluffy and freshly-made. I suggest that you eat the poffertjes, with a hot cup of chocomel, a Dutch choco-flavored milk!

Proudly claiming to have “the most authentic pancakes of Holland”, Pannenkoekenhuis Upstairs provides a very Amsterdammer experience. Located on the second floor of a canal house that dates back to 1539, after going up a narrow flight of stairs, you enter Europe’s smallest restaurant. There are more than 100 teapots hanging from the ceiling and on the walls are portraits of the Dutch family and old Amsterdam. And, of course, true to its name, you can only order pancakes, pancakes and pancakes.

There’s the traditional sweet-and-savory combo that includes bacon, cheese and apple. But you can also try sweet pancakes, like the Bali pancake, which has nice toppings like bananas, Pisang Ambon Dutch liquor, coconut and cream. All the ingredients are fresh, a cozy space and, well, delish pancakes, the (smallest) restaurant in Amsterdam is a hidden gem, through and through!

VII. Dutch appeltaart

The Dutch apple pie is truly the comfort food for all seasons. This dessert is big, chunky, infused with cinnamon, and served with whipped cream in many cafés in Amsterdam.

Winkel 43 in Jordaan serves one of the best Dutch pies in Amsterdam. Freshly baked during the day, its Dutch apple pies are known in Amsterdam to be some of the most delicious. During pleasant days, this corner café is the perfect place to have a coffee and Dutch apple pie with a dollop of whipped cream before wandering around Jordaan.

Go to Latei for the kitschy setting and stay for their Dutch apple pie. In the small café, fun lamps hang from its ceiling through old-fashioned coiled wires, weird portraits are fixed to the wall, and they serve their signature apple pie, which is sure to satisfy your sweet tooth. It’s a colorful place that is bound to put a smile on your face during a rainy day!

VIII. Stamppot

There’s a lot of mashing, boiling and deep-frying involved in Dutch cuisine. Stamppot combines the first two. This Dutch food that became popular in the 17th century consists of boiled vegetables, such as potatoes and carrots, mashed together and garnished with chunks of sausages and other types of meat. While this may not seem appealing to you, this is truly the pinnacle of Dutch home cuisine that’s perfect during a cold evening.

As one of the best restaurants in Amsterdam for traditional Dutch cuisine, at Haesje Claes, you can order stamppot, traditional Dutch pea soup, meatballs and stews. The restaurant also has seasonal specialties, like mussels from Zeeland and white asparagus. You can’t go anymore Dutch than a culinary experience in a brown café like this. And of course, you can enjoy a nice pint of beer with your meal.

Moeders restaurant in Amsterdam is the perfect place for food that tastes like it was made by your Dutch mother. With a name that literally translates to mothers, you’ll also see Moeders’s hall of fame, where all mothers are heroes. Bring a photo of your mum and the people there will stick it to the wall. And if it’s your mother’s birthday, you can bring them in for a surprise. Moeders is also known for its delectable stamppot, so you can order this hearty dish alongside other traditional Dutch dishes your metaphorical Dutch mother would have made for you.

IX. Brown cafés

To say that brown cafés are the equivalent of English pubs is a bit of a simplification. They’re a veritable part of Dutch history, offering a cozy, familiar setting to Amsterdam’s residents, from bright-eyed students to yuppie corporates and hardened seniors, for literally centuries. With its brown wood furniture and walls brown and stained from smoke (hence the name), these iconic venues are for relaxing with friends in a cozy setting. And here you can also drink alcohol alongside a typical Dutch snack like bitterballen, kroket and cheese.

Café ‘t Mandje (basket café) is owned by legendary bar owner, Bet van Beeren, who is one of the Netherlands’ LGBTQ+ pioneers and a lesbian herself. Opened in 1927, while this brown café wasn’t the first gay bar, this place was known for catering to a very diverse clientele back when it was not very socially acceptable to do so. Today, travelers and locals alike frequent the place to have fun and drink alcohol. The whole place is a feast for the eyes, too, and displays many different items that it has collected since its opening, such as photos of its clientele, men’s ties, a stuffed iguana and other interesting types of paraphernalia.

Cafe De Dokter is one of the oldest places in Amsterdam, having opened in 1798 by a surgeon from a nearby hospital that’s now closed. It’s also the smallest brown café in Amsterdam. This place is known for its excellent selection of whiskeys and features a monthly choice for its clients. Drink whiskey alongside their tasty cheese and smoked sausage!

De Oranjerie is a popular spot for students and for people who love specialty beer. You can also play some board games like Scrabble for a nice social time between friends. This place is a bit of a local favorite and not frequented by many tourists. There’s a whole art Déco vibe, and there’s also a section of the wall that is filled with layers of posters… literally, layers of posters that have been glued one after the other.

X. Hidden gems in the Dutch capital

Here are some more hidden gems in the Dutch capital that serve Dutch food worth mentioning.

De Kas

A favorite in the local Amsterdam foodie scene, De Kas should be in any visitor’s bucket list, when it comes to discovering what the best restaurants in Amsterdam have to offer. Located in a former greenhouse at Frankendael Park, floor-to-ceiling windows allow guests a full view of the surrounding greenery, lending to an atmospheric setting during day and night. De Kaas produces dishes sourced locally — that is, straight from its own plant nursery next door, while meat and fish come from local suppliers. The menu also changes every week, based on the availability of its produce. Taste yummy white asparagus, edible flowers, stuffed courgette flowers, ceviche with red onions and gremolata. All of the dishes are exquisitely presented, and some with ingredients freshly picked during the morning of the same day.

Conservatorium Brasserie and Lounge

If you want to indulge yourself in a great Dutch cuisine dining experience in a stunning restaurant in Amsterdam, Conservatorium Brasserie is for you. With a focus on using local and seasonal produce, its dishes have a clear Dutch influence with a hint of experimentation. Think Dutch dairy cow tartare with Remeker cheese, Pike perch fillet with fenugreek beurre blanc and the famous Dutch-Belgian dessert, Dame blanche. Bon appétit.

Foodhallen

This converted tram shed is the type of place foodies dream about. Located in the De Hallen cultural complex, Foodhallen is a classy food market and bar that serves top-notch food from around the world. The 20 food vendors here serve everything, from rice-paper rolls and crispy soft shell-crab buns to artisanal burgers and Greek meze.

Choux

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As times are changing, the restaurant scene is changing as well. People are getting more conscious about what they want to eat and drink, but even more about what they don’t want to eat and drink. From the start in 2015 we’ve tried to fulfill this demand by offering multiple versions of our tasting menu’s. We try to serve a vegan or glutenfree dish which is at least as tasty as the dishes served in the regular tasting menu. But how to replace langoustine then?! Well, this beautiful vegetarian dish makes everyone else at the table jealous! Roasted pumpkin with pumpkinseed crème, pied de mouton mushrooms, bergamot gel and macadamia nuts. All this is covered by endive cooked sousvide with cardamom and bergamot. We dust it with fermented pumpkin powder inspired by our lovely friends of @amassrestaurant and serve it with a grapefruit beurre blanc. In the wine pairing we serve this stunning Vespri Orange by the talented @ilceovini. 100% Vespaiola, with 48 hours of skin maceration from volcanic soils! #chouxrestaurant #vegetableforward #vininaturali

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At Choux, each dish doesn’t have a name, only the list of ingredients that it has, such as “pigeon, gravy, thyme”. Still, the quality of the food speaks for itself. You can choose a vegetarian or meat option with wine suggestions, and these change regularly. Give into the mystery and enjoy the surprising combinations.

Café Binnenvisser

Founded by two childhood friends Bob and Maarten with a penchant for good wine, Café Binnenvisser is the place to enjoy a 3-course menu over its nice selection of wine. The menu itself is also quite interesting; it’s only in Dutch, changes every week, and has untranslatable ingredients. These aren’t bad, per se, especially if you’re here to experience Dutch cuisine at its finest. It’s a hidden gem of a restaurant in Amsterdam to hang out with friends.

The White Room

Having opened in 1885, The White Room is the oldest restaurant in Amsterdam. This culinary institution has put an imprint on Amsterdam’s history, with its fine-dining cuisine that’s been recently awarded with 1 Michelin star in 2017. Its two chefs, Jacob Jan Boerma and Arturo Dalhuisen, both have worked in several Michelin-starred restaurants. Owing to the star power of its team and its beautiful and historic location in NH Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky, this restaurant in Amsterdam doesn’t fail to impress. Think of mackerel served with yogurt, herbs and buckthorn grapes, macaron with smoked cucumber, tomato with spicy meringue. All of these dishes are artfully presented so that you’d think twice about eating them!

Other great reads: Exploring Amsterdam’s unique boutique hotels 🏗️

XI. Dutch food isn’t glamorous – that’s not the point

In the last few years, Amsterdam has also emerged as a culinary heavy hitter, with chefs applying the creative and entrepreneurial ethos that makes Amsterdam so great to their dishes. As such, the scene for indigenous Dutch cuisine in Amsterdam is flourishing, as traditionally Dutch dishes are revitalized with more contemporary and multicultural garnishes.

In times of pandemic like this, Dutch food particularly shines for its simplicity and heartiness, for its feel-good gezelligheid that reminds everyone of their mother’s cooking. It’s not glamorous, but that’s exactly the point. Its cuisine is delicious, yet seasonal and uniquely rooted in Dutch practicality (emphasis on unique… raw herring, enough said).

Keen to discover these amazing Dutch restaurants in Amsterdam that we have just mentioned? Download TWISPER for free and put them to your Try Outs! And who knows, you might even discover new places through personal recommendations from your own circle of friends.

Julian Canlas
By Julian Canlas

Julian Canlas leads content and community at TWISPER. He is a 20-something content strategist who loves to travel and write about online culture. You can email him at [email protected] for blog collaborations with TWISPER and other partnerships.

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