Despite the fact that most people consider Amsterdam a “must-visit” destination in Europe, it was never a city I was particularly drawn to. Maybe it was its reputation as a party city. Maybe it was the fact that it’s expensive and doesn’t have particularly amazing weather. Whatever the reason, it wasn’t high (ha!) on my list of cities to visit.
Despite this, I found myself in the city of canals in September of 2015, visiting my good friend who was living there at the time. Amsterdam surprised me in a multitude of ways, but what particularly surprised me was how quickly I was charmed by the quirky neighborhoods and beautiful canals. And what surprised me the most was the delicious food I ate there (not that I’d ever really thought about what to eat in Amsterdam).
If my expectations for the city were low, my expectations for good food were even lower. The Netherlands isn’t exactly renowned for its world-class cuisine, but I was impressed – I didn’t eat a single bad meal or snack while I was there.
While I don’t think I ate any particularly traditional Dutch meals, I did consume my weight in Dutch snacks. In fact, I’d say I probably only ate three or four “real” meals while I was there, and spent the rest of my time snacking away. Clearly I make healthy choices
while I travel.
Anyway, now that you’ve sufficiently read the world’s longest introduction to a post, here’s my guide of what to eat in Amsterdam – a list of the five Dutch snacks you must try.
Translating directly to “bitter balls,” these are essentially deep-fried meatballs. But guys, these are not your ordinary meatballs. They’re made with a mix of beef broth and other spices then deep-fried, which results in crispy-on-the-outside and soft-on-the-inside bites of deliciousness. I ate these every single day because they’re that good. They’re often served with a side of spicy mustard. You can find bitterballen at virtually any café, but if you want to try some fusion bitterballen, check out De Ballen Bar.
Dutch pancakes are in no way similar to American pancakes, except for the name. Served either savory or sweet, they’re giant and thin and remind me more of a crêpe than a pancake. But they are delicious. The best place to eat them? The aptly named Pancakes! Exclamation point included because eating a good pancake is an exciting endeavor y’all.
I’m going to be honest here. French fries are my food weakness. No matter where I am or what I’m eating, if French fries are an option, I’m getting them. Imagine my excitement to find that Amsterdam has shops dedicated entirely to fries! Dutch frites are thicker cut and less crispy than American fries, but still incredibly tasty. They’re often served with fritessaus, a sweeter and creamier version of mayonnaise, and raw onion. Depending on the shop, you usually get lots of different sauce options. I tried them the traditional way, with curry, and with garlic aioli. Get your fix at Vers Gesneden Friet or Frietboutique.
Though you’d think it would be like the Dutch Apple Pie found in an American pie shops, apple pie (or appeltaart in Dutch) in Amsterdam is quite different. It’s significantly less sweet, much more dense, and is a lot heavier on the apples. Frankly, I wasn’t the hugest fan (I’m either really used to the sugary American version or I didn’t try a particularly great piece) but I do think it’s worth trying to taste the difference. I tried it at Kwekkeboom but my friend swears by the pies at Winkel43 and Cafe ’T Papeneiland.
These are not the fluffy light waffles you’re imagining. A stroopwafel is basically a dense cookie – really thin and baked with a caramel type syrup. If you order a coffee or tea at any café, you’ll likely get a small one on the side. There’s also a “correct” way to eat these (that I didn’t know about initially). The regular sized ones are the perfect size to fit on top of a mug of tea or coffee. You top the mug with the wafel for a minute so that the steam softens the syrup, and then voila – a soft and gooey stroopwafel to go with your tea. They’re highly addictive and can be found at any café or grocery store.
What to eat in Amsterdam – the honorable mentions:
Dutch cheese: I didn’t have enough time to go to a cheese shop and sample a bunch, but I did have a dutch cheese croissant. That counts, right? If you’re planning on getting your connoisseur on, check out De Kaaskamer or KaasHuis Tromp. I may have to go back just to get my hands on some…
Poffertjes: These are basically small pancake puffs made with buckwheat flour and dusted with sugar. De Vier Pllaren seems to be quite the popular locale for these.
Indonesian food: I know this isn’t technically a Dutch snack, but I couldn’t resist adding it as a must if you’re figuring out what to eat in Amsterdam, because the Indonesian food in Amsterdam is amazing. I say this after having spent two months in Indonesia. Go to Blauw (make reservations) and order the Selera Blauw Rijsttafels Indonesian platter. You’ll get a huge sampling of Indonesian food, and your life will be complete.
If you want to see the complete guide to what to eat in Amsterdam, check out this post and scroll to the TLDR section at the bottom.
Have you ever been to Amsterdam? What other snacks would you add to this list of what to eat in Amsterdam? Share in the comments below!