Food lovers and hungry travelers no longer have to wonder what to eat in Amsterdam. Whether you’re craving Dutch pancakes like Poffertjes, looking for Michelin-standard cuisine, or the best street food in Amsterdam, there’s always something in the Netherlands’ capital to please your palate.
Like most major cities, its diverse food is a blend of different cultures and culinary traditions. It’s one of Europe’s top cultural meeting points, evident through its colorful menus of delicious flavors. So to truly experience all that the city has to offer, you must try its cuisine by sampling the Dutch foods the locals love. Even vegetarian restaurants in Amsterdam have their own take on its gastronomic tradition.
Food is among Amsterdam’s major attractions, with a booming food scene and new culinary discoveries around every corner. No matter your dining style, budget, or preference, a plate of tasty Dutch food won’t leave you disappointed. So if you’re ready for the ultimate Amsterdam food tour, place your bags at a secure luggage locker in Amsterdam. Let’s discover the best treats and local delicacies in the city.
Amsterdam Food: Rijsttafel
Rijsttafel, which means ‘rice table’ in Dutch, is an Indonesian food developed in the Dutch colonial era. Its concept was inspired by nasi padang, an Indonesian dish made with rice, surrounded by various vegetables and meats.
When Dutch colonists returned from Indonesia, they brought this massive feast now known as rijsttafel. It consists of rice and other ingredients, including fruits, pickles, chicken, fish, curried meat, eggs, nuts, sauces, and more. Every rijsttafel is different, and Indonesian restaurants serve their version of the ‘rice table.’ So no matter your tastes, you’re sure to find a dish or two you’ll enjoy.
This feast is one of the remaining legacies of the Dutch’s four centuries of rule in Indonesia. Some historians believe it should be considered a hybrid feast of traditional Indonesian food because it’s the Dutch who added more dishes and gave it its collective name.
Amsterdam Food: Poffertjes
Poffertjes are mini Dutch pancakes typically served with powdered sugar and topped with butter. It’s generally served as an afternoon snack or as a dessert rather than breakfast food. It’s a favorite street food during festivals and holidays, but you’ll also find it at stalls or seasonal stands in city squares and street markets.
Also called baby pancakes, poffertjes have their origins that can be traced back to the Dutch Abbey, served for weekly communion. Traditionally, they’re made in a specialty cast iron pan to create the shape and fluffy texture.
Making poffertjes is actually easy, and the ingredients are simple. The challenging part is flipping them, as getting a spatula under the tiny divots can be tricky. But once you learn the flipping technique, you’ll be rewarded with tasty pancake puffs to share with your loved ones.
Amsterdam Food: Raw Herring
A trip to Amsterdam would not be complete without having a taste of its very own delicacy: the raw herring. This traditional Dutch food is a soused raw fish with a flavorful taste and has been hugely popular among locals. Some tourists frown upon this food as they find it a little unusual. But if you’re up for a new challenge, you must give this a try.
You’d be surprised to see several food stalls selling this delicacy in the city. This ultimate Dutch food is usually served on a paper tray with sliced pickles and finely diced onions on the side. You can also find food stalls serving herrings on a white bun.
For visitors, don’t be intimidated by raw herring, as it isn’t entirely raw. The fish has already been gutted partially on the fishing vessel while either on board or upon arrival. It will then be salted and frozen for at least two days. This process gives the fish its flavor and tenderness. The food stalls selling the street food will further clean and prepare it.
Herring is available all year long, so you can enjoy this best anytime. However, if you want to experience more of the Dutch food culture, come in June and celebrate the festive month with herring lovers. It’s when the popular Hollandse Nieuwe or New Dutch herring is brought in, ready to be served.
Amsterdam Food: Stroopwafel
The Dutch have so much to offer, and options can be overwhelming. If you're up for an adventure in Amsterdam, one thing you shouldn’t miss out on is its food. Exploring the capital can be a bit of a job, so if you're in for a fast grub, nothing can go wrong with a feast on a traditional Dutch specialty—the stroopwafel.
This delightful treat originated in Gouda and was first made between the 18th and 19th centuries. Culinary folklore says that bakers would make the dough by mixing up scraps and cookie crumbs to avoid wastage, and from this, waffles were made. They were then sweetened and glued together with sugar syrup. Today, you can find stroopwafels in almost every street and food stall in the capital.
Stroopwafel is a waffle cookie that consists of two pieces of thin and round baked waffles that are layered together with sugar syrup or caramel filling. The thin waffle dough is usually made by pressing it in a hot waffle iron until it becomes crisp. Stroopwafels are best paired with warm milk. You can also find stroopwafels with a rich selection of variants and different choices of toppings—the options are endless.
Amsterdam Food: Pannenkoeken
If you want to know what food travelers love to seek out in Amsterdam, Pannenkoeken will always be high on the list. The Dutch culture has a strong pancake tradition. And although pancakes are also available in other areas all over the world, you’ll only be able to experience the real thing once you’ve had a taste of it in Amsterdam.
Pannenkoeken, or Dutch pancakes, is an egg-based batter thinly spread on a griller. It has a round shape with a thickness that falls between a French crepe and an American pancake. Of course, there are plenty of options to add a twist to this pancake. Pannenkoeken can be combined with sweet or savory toppings like bacon, cheese, chocolate, veggies, nuts, and even fruits, particularly apples.
Over the years, pannenkoeken has become a symbol of Dutch culture. In fact, almost all child birthdays won’t be a celebration without a pancake feast for family, friends, and neighbors. If you want to be one of the locals, you can find plenty of food stalls and even fancy restaurants selling this delicious treat all over the area.
Amsterdam Food: Dutch Apple Pie
When people think of apple pie, America is probably the first country that comes to mind. However, this apple-based treat didn’t originate in the US. Although the first written apple pie recipe was in 1381 in England, the Dutch are also worthy of the name. There’s no occasion when this yummy dessert would be out of place in Amsterdam, along with the city’s favorite sugar-filled desserts.
Unlike typical apple pies with a top layer made from the crust, Dutch apple pie has a streusel topping of flour, butter, and powdered sugar. It creates a sweeter, crunchier twist than a pastry top. Along with Dutch pancake, it’s a treat for those with a sweet tooth paired with your favorite cup of coffee.
Amsterdam Food: Bitterballen
To complete your exciting Amsterdam food tours, be sure to try Bitterballen or Dutch meatballs. It’s a beloved bite-size snack often served with beer. It’s probably safe to say that it’s the Dutch equivalent of tapas, so it’s common to find it in bars and cafes.
Despite its name, Bitterballen isn’t bitter at all. These deep-fried meatballs are actually savory, but the bitter term refers to the alcoholic drink you’ll drink with it. It’s different from usual meatballs, as it’s crispy outside and soft and gooey inside. It’s traditionally made with beef, but modern cooks have also used veal, chicken, and mushrooms for veggie eaters. Other popular variations also include prawns and Gouda Cheese accompanied by sauces.
Head to a snack bar in Amsterdam, and you’ll find this meaty Dutch food on the menu. It’s best served warm and fresh and can be ordered with a portion of French fries and other crispy treats.
Amsterdam Food: Kaas
Whether you’re visiting Amsterdam for the first time or already call this city your second home, you can’t leave without tasting authentic Dutch cheese or Kaas. It’s the capital of one of the world’s biggest dairy producers, so there’s no shortage of places to find the best local cheese in Amsterdam.
You can’t underestimate the taste and deliciousness of Dutch cheese. Even if you’re not a cheese fan, you’ll fall in love with its intense flavor and famous creaminess. If you don’t know where to start, a trip to one of the markets is a surefire way to discover Amsterdam’s food and cheese culture. Or, you can visit its many cheese shops to get a sense of the scope and variety of tasty Dutch cheese.
Amsterdam Food: Stamppot
A warming dish and comfort food of the Netherlands, Stamppot (mashed pot) is a hearty meal made with kale and mashed potatoes served with rookworst or Dutch smoked sausage. Like many dishes, several variations of Stamppot have been made over the centuries, but the main ingredients remain the same.
Stamppot is typically served with smoked sausage on the side or cooked meat. However, bacon can also be used as a perfect accompaniment. If you don’t have kale, you can use turnip, endive, sauerkraut, or spinach as a healthy alternative.
Today, you’ll likely find it in street fairs and restaurants, providing warmth and comfort on cold, gloomy winter days. During wintertime, the kale and mashed potato combination is the most common because kale leaves are usually best when frosted. That’s because the cold helps tenderize the leaves, improving their flavor.
Like many Dutch foods on this list, making stamppot at home is easy. Just cut the vegetables and boil them in a pot. When cooked, drain the water and mash the vegetables together with salt, pepper, butter, and parsley to highlight the flavors.
Amsterdam Food: Oliebollen
If you’re craving one of the best traditional Dutch foods to try, we suggest sampling their delicious doughnuts – oliebollen. The literal meaning of this Dutch word is ‘oil balls,’ but don’t let its name put you off! It’s a deep-fried raisin bun made from flour, baking powder, milk, yeast, and eggs. Then it is coated with powdered sugar and enjoyed with a glass of champagne.
Traditionally, Oliebollen is served on holidays, particularly New Year’s Eve, to celebrate another year. You can share it with family and savor it while watching the sparkling bonfires or holiday fireworks lighting up the city.
This deep-fried treat is like any ordinary pastry. It has a cakelike interior but is crispy on the outside. It also isn’t excessively sweet and doesn’t require too complicated ingredients to make.
Instead of raisins, you can add currants or apples to the dough. Some also add candied cherries, citrus zest, and succade. To add sweetness, you can fill it with pastry cream, jam, or whipped cream – it’s all up to your preference and taste.
Dutch cuisine and the wonderful dishes that come from this country will soon be some of your favorite foods. Try the popular dishes we've mentioned here and pair them with craft beers or local wines. No matter which Amsterdam food you find absolutely delicious, you'll be satisfied and ready to try more the next day.
But first, plan an Amsterdam hike or a tour of local museums like the Rijksmuseum to get you walking and building up your appetite again. Great food and fabulous Amsterdam sights go hand in hand!