Recipe | Bitterballen (Dutch)

Served to us as a bar snack, with mustard for dipping, these miniature fried meat balls were the most interesting traditionally Dutch food I encountered while in The Netherlands.  It was quite difficult to find a traditional Dutch meal, and when we did find it, the food was very much like Grandma’s home cooking – really good, but not overly flavorful.

These little treats however, were spicy and tangy, crispy and meaty all at the same time!  They were spectacular!  And they were something I had to have again…so I attempted it at home.


4 tbl. butter or margarine
1/2 lb ground beef or veal
1/4 cup carrot, finely diced
1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
A grating of fresh nutmeg
1 tbl. fresh lemon juice
2 tbl. parsley, finely chopped
5 tbl. flour
1 cup beef broth or milk
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
1 egg, beaten with 1 tsp. water
Oil for deep frying

Cooking Directions:

Heat one tablespoon of the butter in a large skillet over moderate heat and cook the meat, carrots, and onions until the meat is browned and the carrots tender. Drain the meat in a colander, then place in a mixing bowl. Add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, lemon juice, and
parsley and stir to combine. Set the meat mixture aside. Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan over moderate heat and stir in the flour to make a roux. Cook this for 2 to 3 minutes, then add the beef broth or milk. Continue heating, stirring constantly, until the sauce boils and becomes quite thick. Combine the sauce with the meat mixture, stirring to combine them thoroughly, and chill this mixture for at least two hours in the refrigerator, until it has become solid.

When the mixture has solidified, roll it into balls about 1 inches in diameter, using your hands.  Roll the balls in the bread crumbs, then in the egg and water mixture, then in the bread crumbs again. Fry a few at a time in a deep fryer with at least 2 inches of oil at 375 degrees until golden (about 2 to 3 minutes). Drain on paper towels and serve immediately.

I used milk as I didn’t have beef stock on hand, and they were delicious, though I will still try the stock on my next batch.  They’re probably amazing both ways.  I’m still trying to perfect the size, as when they are too large they tend to crack open.  This recipe, as is, gives you A LOT of bitterballen (and that’s with my larger size).  That being said, if you’re not having a party just split the meat mixture into four, and freeze the remaining three batches to be saved for your next craving.  That’s what I do.


About katrinamauro

Landlord in Brooklyn, antique rug dealer, food & travel junkie who loves to experience new cultures and customs. On a mission to do big things.
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3 Responses to Recipe | Bitterballen (Dutch)

  1. Pingback: Travel Blog Roundup (April 7) | Budget Your Trip

  2. Ivo says:

    stumbling on your blog, I had to read the Dutch section first of course (my homeland) — what a shame it was difficult to find traditional Dutch cooking. It really does exist you know. Just let me know is you plan on travelling here again and I’ll email you some good places to go to!
    Other than that – nice to read. I’m trying to curtail my jealousy and just gather up the travel inspiration. Good for you and enjoy the rest of your travels!

  3. katrinamauro says:

    Hey Ivo!

    I lucked out by knowing someone in Rotterdam who was able to find us some traditional foods, thank goodness. Otherwise I would’ve been stuck with dutch sweets (not that they’re bad, I just crave salt mostly). I loved these bitterballen, and make them at home every few months. I wouldn’t be opposed to other recipe suggestions from your homeland, and will definitely give a shout if I’m heading back your way.
    Thanks for reading!

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