Food Culture and Tradition

Food, People and Culture Resources

Dutch Foods



Milk and buttermilk as beverages are consumed more by children than adults, although a substantial amount of milk is used in tea and coffee. The cheeses of the Netherlands are famous, such as Edam, Gouda, and the spiced Leiden, all named for the towns where they are produced. The Dutch traditionally prepare few dishes with cheese (although cheese dishes seem increasingly popular), nor is cheese used as a dessert. They enjoy their mild nutty cheeses thinly sliced and served with bread either for breakfast or as a snack with Genever gin.


Frozen and canned vegetables are readily available, but fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables are preferred. Potatoes are used in an infinite variety of ways: boiled, mashed, pureed, fried, as a souffle, pudding, baked or sautéed. Vincent Van Gogh’s famous painting, The Potato Eaters, is still representative of some rural areas in the Netherlands where the evening meal may consist of a huge bowl of potatoes centered on the table, each person spearing his or her own and dipping it into gravy or bacon fat before eating. White asparagus, red and green cabbages, cauliflower, Belgian endive, brussels sprouts, leeks, onions, kale, and car-rots are favorites.

Apples are the most popular fruit. Other fruits are expensive and therefore used sparingly. Dried fruits often accompany cooked meat dishes.


Beef and pork are preferred and, frequently, offal and variety meats are imaginatively used for economy and flavor. All types of cured, smoked, and pickled meats and sausages are also enjoyed for flavor and economy. Fowl and hare are used only occasionally.

The favorite fish is herring, in many forms. Green or spring herring is lightly smoked and brined and called Hollandse nieuwe. These are usually purchased from street vendors, sprinkled with raw sliced onions, and eaten as a snack. Cod, haddock, plaice (flounder), and snoek (pike) have a place in the Dutch diet, too, as well as shrimp and eel. It is a New Year’s custom to down as many oysters as possible. The Dutch generally prefer their meats well cooked, but enjoy their fish about raw.

Legumes are sometimes incorporated into sever-al vegetables that are cooked, mashed, and served with butter or gravy. More common is the use of dried peas in the soup called erwtensoep. Nuts are only seen in bakery and then almonds are prevalent.


A great variety of breads made from wheat and rye flours are served at every meal and customarily eaten in quantity. Hot cooked cereals or cold prepared cereals are not used. The exception is pap, a hot cereal of oatmeal and milk, but more usually prepared from stale bread with hot milk poured over and served to children for breakfast.


Unsalted butter is the preferred fat. All the well cooked meat and vegetable dishes are always serve, together with gravies or sauces, drippings or butte “Dry” meats or vegetables are not served.


Chocolate, cocoa, and candies are considered special treats. A great variety of baked goods, especially cookies and unfilled, un-iced cakes are eaten wit tea or coffee as between-meal breaks. Red currant jellies and jams are used on bread or as dessert sauce: Snacks are often hearty meat sandwiches or fish specialties such as smoked kippers, sardines, and man varieties of herring.


Daily Dutch home cooking is well cooked but never highly seasoned. Onions, salt, and pepper with the added flavor from butter or drippings provide zest to soups, meats, and vegetables. Some fresh herbs at used when available. Ginger and cinnamon are use in baked goods with honey and molasses often providing sweetness as well as distinct taste and texture in honey cakes and honey and gingerbread cookie:


Milk is the children’s beverage while adults prefer tea or coffee taken with milk and sugar. Afternoon often find women enjoying tea and cookies while men drink a few beers. The traditional dinner aperitif is Genever gin, sometimes called Borrel by the Dutch. The rest of the meal will be served with watt or mineral water and, on special occasions, wine.

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