History of Dutch Snacks

May 23, 2016
  Everybody knows the Netherlands for its beautiful tulips, its artistic heritage and the traditional Dutch clogs! However, the country also has some typical Dutch snacks that you just might fall in love with! When I moved to the Netherlands four years ago, I was aware of the questionable reputation of traditional Dutch cuisine. This was reinforced when I saw that most Dutch apartments have a tiny kitchen. You can imagine the kind of cultural shock this caused for me, as an Italian! However, if you open your mind to different types of delicacies, certain types of foods might surprise and amaze you, so that you won’t regret moving to the Lowlands! There are a few Dutch snacks, for example, that deserve to be mentioned. I’m not talking about anything spectacular or complicated, but if you taste a bitterbal or a raw herring, you will taste what the Netherlands is all about! That’s why I think it’s interesting to know a bit more about the history of some of these Dutch snacks as a way of getting to know this country better!


Bitterballen are definitely among my favourite Dutch snacks! Despite being greasy and containing an indeterminable filling, I can’t help but crave them every time I have a drink outside during ‘borreltijd’! Here are a few interesting facts:
  • The first proof of bitterballen dates from the time the Batavians lived in Holland (200 years BC) in the province of Gelderland. They used to eat roasted ox with vegetables and bread. After the meal, women mixed the leftover meat with water and bread and created a bread stew that could feed the hunters during their trips. The Romans continued the Batavians' food habits when they conquered the area.
  • During the Spanish invasion of the country, in the 16th century, the occupants took the 'Batavian recipe' and modified it by adding their own cooking style: the meat leftovers were covered in a batter of egg and flour, rolled in old breadcrumbs, and then fried, resulting in something very similar to our modern-day bitterballen.
  • At the end of the 18th century, a landlord in Amsterdam, Jan Barentz, noticed that clients in his pub were getting hungry while drinking beer or gin. In order to keep them drinking, he introduced finger food by the name 'schenks': small portions of cheese, bread and croquettes that were introduced by the Spanish. Rumours say that his wife used to use the leftover croquette fillings to make small balls, which she rolled in egg and breadcrumbs and then fried in hot oil.
Have you ever tried make your own bitterballen? Here's the recipe!


Have you ever seen Dutch children and adults eating sprinkles on a slice of bread? Well, that is definitely a very typical treat that many Dutch people can't help but eat on a daily basis. Ever wondered where this tradition came from? Read on and find out!
  • The first hagelslag originated in 1919, when the director of the Venco liquorice factory introduced brittle white aniseed flavoured sprinkles during a very cold autumn weather. For this reason, he named them 'hagelslag', hailstorm, and they soon became extremely popular in the whole country.
  • Chocolate sprinkles were introduced in 1936 by Venz, after receiving several letters from a five-year-old boy who requested chocolate topping for his bread. Venz named them 'Chocoladehagel' as the name 'hagelslag' had already been patented by Venco.
  • After the Second World War, The Netherlands witnessed remarkable economic growth and the popularity of the hagelslag rapidly increased. At this time, the main manufacturers, Venz and De Ruijter, developed a wide range of hagelslag products: chocolate flakes, forest fruit-flavoured sprinkles, biscuit sprinkles, and all the 20 different types of hagelslag that we find today in the supermarket.


Herring How could we skip such Dutch delicacy? Although eating raw herrings is also quite popular in Germany, the Dutch way of doing it is definitely unique! Here a few facts:
  • Dutch people have been eating herrings for 600 years. During the Middle Ages, the Dutch herring fisheries were Europe’s largest fishery, selling herrings all over Europe, thanks to the processing methods that they adopted.
  • Traditionally, eating herring was very practical: not only is it rich in fat and nutrients, but it could be eaten throughout the whole winter by keeping it in barrels of salt.
  • Herrings are caught in the North Sea between the end of May and beginning of July. The 'Hollandse Nieuwe' is the new herring of the fishing season.
  • The herring is served with onions (and pickles in Amsterdam) and sometimes with bread ('broodje haring'). To eat it properly, you need to hold it by the tail, dip it in onions and then bite it, just like in the video below. Eet smakkelijk!


We bet everyone knows the word 'stroopwafel' and its meaning. It's not only delicious, but is considered one of the symbols of the Netherlands. Here are a few facts:
  • It was first made in the late-18th century by a baker in Gouda who used leftovers from his own bakery, such as breadcrumbs, sweetened with syrup.
  • One story attributes the invention of the stroopwafel to the baker Gerard Kamphuisen, at the beginning of the 19th century at the time that he opened his own bakery.
  • The dough for the waffle is made of flour, butter, brown sugar, yeast, milk, and eggs, and is baked on a traditional waffle iron. Two round slices of the dough then get sandwiched together with a generous amount of caramel syrup made from brown sugar, butter and cinnamon.
  • Stroopwafel recipes are generally guarded secrets that are passed down from parent to child, generation to generation.
So? Which Dutch snack do you prefer the most? Which one should I have absolutely mentioned? It’s time for you to complete the list!

Valentina Armini, Kickstart School