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The Netherlands (Holland) - Food and Drink

Dutch cuisine is unique and distinctive, embracing traditional culinary customs and ingredients. Traditional Dutch cuisine is usually relatively simple and most dishes feature potatoes (aardappel) as the main ingredient.

Stamppot (or stew) is a traditional winter dish that consists of meat, potatoes, and vegetables, which are prepared and then mashed together. The most popular types of stew are kale or sauerkraut, with smoked sausage and fried bacon; hodgepodge with potatoes, onions, carrots, and pork rib meat; or rib of beef with stewed potatoes, apples and black pudding. Another popular winter dish is snert, a thick and creamy pea soup made from split peas, usually eaten with rye bread and smoked bacon.

It’s safe to say that the Dutch are big fans of cheese – they produce nearly 674,000 tons of cheese each year and export it to 130 countries across the globe. Every region in the Netherlands produces its own distinctive cheese. Cheeses such as Gouda, Edam, and Alkmaar are named after the areas from which they originate.

When it comes to sweet treats, there’s plenty to choose from in the Netherlands. Usually served topped with butter and sugar, poffertjes are similar to pancakes but are smaller, thicker, and sweeter. Perhaps not surprisingly, this traditional Dutch snack is especially popular with children!

Of course, thanks to the multi-cultural society in the Netherlands, there are also a whole host of external influences found in the country’s dishes. Foods from Indonesia, China, Thailand, Morocco, and Turkey are not only enjoyed in restaurants, but are also cooked at home by Dutch people.

Typically, the Dutch eat three meals each day – breakfast in the morning, lunch between noon and 1pm, and dinner between 6pm and 7pm.

Breakfast in the Netherlands usually consists of a selection of breads, cheeses, meats and pastries served with coffee, tea, hot chocolate, or fruit juice. Uitsmijter is a popular breakfast dish, consisting of three eggs, bread, cheese, and ham or bacon.

Traditionally, a Dutch lunch lasts around half an hour and consists of bread with cold toppings, although eating lunch out is becomingly increasingly popular. As a general rule, the Dutch usually spend considerably more time on dinner than they do on breakfast or lunch.

Dinner is usually eaten earlier than it is in Southern European countries. Typically, dessert is usually served after dinner – usually yoghurt, fruit, cheese, or a dairy-based pudding. Pofferttjes, Stroopwafel, and Liburgse vlaai are popular desserts when dining out.

When it comes to eating out, there is a wide range of cuisines to choose from, including Italian, Turkish, and Mediterranean, through to Indonesian, Chinese, and Surinamese.

Dutch restaurants are considered to offer great quality food for relatively cheap prices, especially when compared to other European countries. However, although the food itself is low in price, the restaurants tend to make the majority of their profits from drinks and desserts, so these are usually comparatively more expensive.

Chinese and Indonesian restaurants are particularly popular, with almost every medium sized town having at least one Chinese or Indian restaurant. These restaurants do not tend to offer the Chinese and Indonesian cuisine that many expats are familiar with, however. Instead, their offerings are influenced by the former colony of the Netherlands, the Dutch East Indies (now known as Indonesia). Dishes include fried rice (nasi goreng), fried bakmi (bami goreng), and prawn crackers (kroepoek).

One of the most popular dishes to eat in Chin./Ind restaurants – as they are locally known – is rijsttafel, a Dutch-Indonesian rice table consisting of a selection of smaller dishes of rice, meats, fish and vegetables, all of which have been cooked in a delicious mixture of spices.

Middle Eastern restaurants are also increasing in popularity throughout the Netherlands, with dishes such as shawarma (shoarma), Iahmacun, and falafel being served up for reasonable prices.

In addition to the numerous cafes, bars and restaurants, vending machines are also a popular place to find snacks. An integral part of Dutch culture, hot vending machines sell a range of snacks such as frikadel (hot dogs), croquettes, and fried croquette balls. In most town centres, you will also find snackbars (also known as frituur or cafeteria), which sell a whole host of typically Dutch snacks, such as French Fries (patat) with mayonnaise (patat met), ketchup, curry ketchup, Indonesian peanut sauce (satesaus), or a combination of all four!

Vegetarians are generally well catered for in the Netherlands, with most restaurants offering at least one vegetarian option. The majority of supermarkets also stock plenty of vegetarian products and many dedicate part of the store specifically to vegetarian products.

All service fees and taxes are included in the menu price, and tipping is seen as a sign of appreciation for good service, rather than a mandatory obligation. If you do decide to tip, then the normal rate is to round up the bill to the nearest euro, or to tip 10% of the total bill.

Unlike in many other European countries, in the Netherlands it is unusual for people to drink alcohol with their meal, unless it is a special occasion. Instead, the Dutch opt for freshly brewed, strong coffee, tea (typically without milk), or water with their meals.

Although alcohol is not usually consumed with meals, there are no licensing laws in the Netherlands, and drinks can be bought in bars and cafes all day. Typical Dutch drinks include bier, which is usually a light, gassy beer, normally served chilled in a small glass. Alcoholic bitters are also popular in the winter months - each town produces its own distinct variety by distilling a variety of herbs, spices, and seeds in wine brandy. Jenever, also known as Dutch gin, is popular in the country as well. It is usually drunk straight and chilled, or with a mixer such as cola or vermouth.

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