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12 Foods You Must Try in Amsterdam

Picture of Tom Coggins
Updated: 9 April 2018
There are many mouthwatering local delicacies on offer in Amsterdam ranging from tasty, sugar-filled desserts like tompouce or bossche bol to savoury, fast-food favourites such as patatje oorlog or frikandel speciaal. Here’s a round-up of some of the most popular dishes in Amsterdam, which are readily available at restaurants, stores and bakeries throughout the city.

Pick up a kroket from one of Amsterdam’s vending machine fast-food restaurants

These crispy meat-filled, sausage-like snacks are among the most popular fast food dishes in the country. Though there are several versions of the dish, most krokets in the Netherlands are filled with either lamb or beef ragout. This filling becomes molten after the kroket is deep-fried, but remains safe inside the snack due to its crispy outer layer. Krokets are very easy to find in Amsterdam and are almost always on offer inside FEBO – a fast-food chain that sells snacks via wall-spanning, coin-operated vending machines.

During the festive season, buy some freshly baked speculaas

These delicious spiced cookies are eaten around Christmas in the Netherlands and seemingly contain every spice associated with the festive season, including nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves. These aromatic spices are mixed together with butter, flour and sugar to make speculaas batter, then cooked in a hot oven to give the cookies their distinctive, brittle texture. The cookies are exceptionally popular among Dutch people and are traditionally eaten during Sinterklaasavond – the main, gift-giving celebration in the Netherlands. There are also several varieties of peanut butter-like spreads made from smashed speculaas cookies available in the Netherlands and Belgium, which are based on well-known folk recipes.

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A stack of speculaas cookies | © kakuko / Pixabay

Order patatje oorlog for a carb-heavy treat

This classic Dutch fast-food dish combines several ingredients that aren’t usually considered complementary, creating a bizarrely satisfying, highly-calorific hodgepodge. To prepare the dish, cooks arrange a bed of crispy, Dutch-style french fries, then top this carb-heavy base with mayonnaise, raw onions and the pièce de résistance, spicy, peanut satay sauce. Though this mélange might sound rather strange to foreigners, it is surprisingly balanced and its ingredients work surprisingly well together, creating a dish that is simultaneously spicy, salty and incredibly filling. It is also usually served in a cone by fast-food vendors, which makes it perfect for anyone looking for a quick, hearty snack to fuel daylong excursions around Amsterdam.

Patat oorlog with a kroket
Patat oorlog with a kroket | © David Huang / Flickr

Stop by a market and buy some freshly-baked stroopwafel

Although these circular, syrup-filled waffles are available at basically every supermarket in Amsterdam, nothing beats freshly-baked stroopwafels. Thankfully there’s several old-school stroopwafel stands at markets around Amsterdam, including spots at Albert Cuypmarkt and Dappermarkt.

Chow down on frikandel speciaal, a sausage served with curry ketchup

Another fast-food classic, frikandel speciaal consists of a long, skinless sausage served with raw onions, curry ketchup and mayonnaise. Sometimes, during national holidays, miniature Dutch flags are mounted onto the dish turning it into a meaty symbol of patriotism. The sausage in question (a frikandel) is also commonly served by itself as a quick snack or served with a portion of fries (think fish and chips, but with sausage). Like many other entries on this list, frikandel is sold at snack bars throughout Amsterdam, including at the city’s infamous FEBO vending machine restaurants.

Frikandel speciaal
Frikandel speciaal | © Franklin Heijnen / Flickr

Make a huge mess eating a bossche bol

These cream-filled, chocolate glazed profiteroles are relatively similar to éclairs au chocolat but are formed into spherical shapes rather than oblongs. The dessert is roughly the size of a tennis ball and is almost completely covered in brittle milk or dark chocolate. Due to its size, shape and chocolatey-ness, a bossche bol is notoriously difficult to eat without causing a huge mess. As its names suggests, the dessert originated in the city of ’s-Hertogenbosch (which is colloquially known as Den Bosch) and started appearing in bakeries in the early 20th century. The dessert has since become a national staple.

Try tompouce, a cream-filled puff pastry sandwich

Heavy dessert cream plays a large role in Dutch confectionary and it appears in many of the most popular desserts made in the Netherlands. For instance, tompouce is essentially a cream sandwich that is made by stuffing the aforementioned ingredient inside of two slaps of puff pastry and then topped with pink icing. During national holidays, like King’s Day, it is common to find this dessert covered with orange, rather than pink icing, in honour of the Dutch royal family, the House of Orange-Nassau.

Pick up some soused herring at a traditional fish stand

Yes, Dutch herring is raw, funny looking and kind of smelly, but damn, does it taste good (especially with raw onions and pickles). This classic Dutch delicacy is sold at specialised fish stands throughout Amsterdam and usually costs somewhere between €3 to €5. It is also commonly stocked in supermarkets and packaged in ready-to-eat containers with a little compartment filled with chopped onions. Want to eat these little fish like a local? Grab the herring by its tail, lower it vertically into your mouth, then take big chomps out of the dangling morsel. Alternatively, order a broodje haring (herring sandwich) and enjoy the fish inside a crispy, bread roll.

Stave off beer munchies with a platter of bitterballen

Bitterballen, the quintessential bar snack in the Netherlands, are served in hundreds of pubs around Amsterdam. Each individual bitterbal is stuffed with a meaty (or vegetarian) ragout that is very similar to the molten filling found inside a kroket. Similar to other Dutch bar snacks, these deep-fried meatballs are quite tasty after a couple of pints and were seemingly designed to stave off beer munchies.

Enjoy a rijsttafel with friends or family

Rijsttafel is a large meal served mainly at Indonesian restaurants in Amsterdam that features numerous small sides like egg rolls, pickles, satays and cooked vegetables alongside a variety of rice-based dishes. Eating a good rijsttafel with friends or family is always a treat, especially at more high-end restaurants.

Try the Dutch version of liquorice drops

Even though these black liquorice candies share many traits with other similar sweets from around the world, Dutch drops are often laced with a rather puzzling ingredient called salmiak that has a salty, almost umami flavour. This unusual seasoning gives the drops a subtle kick, which balances out their sharp sweetness, creating a moreish blend of flavours. The candies are often formed into fun, penny-sized shapes and it is common to see drops that resemble tiny cars, animals or smiley faces. These candies are sold at basically every Dutch supermarket and are packaged in tubes, bags and old-timey cardboard boxes.

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Salmiak covered in liquorice | © Marcin Floryan / WikiCommons

Order a roti to go in a Surinamese restaurant

This classic Surinamese dish is named after its main ingredient, roti flatbread, but usually contains several other components including fiery curry, potatoes, boiled eggs and yard beans. It is also common for Surinamese restaurants or takeout joints in Amsterdam to serve roti with homemade sambal – a super spicy condiment made from crushed chilli peppers. As the dish centres around a handy, rollable flatbread, it is easy enough to eat without the aid of cutlery.

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Roti with curry | © Laig / WikiCommons