Amsterdam is a buzzing, cosmopolitan city with a diverse culinary scene. However, it is generally lesser known for food than some of its Northern European neighbours. Of course, Dutch pancakes, herring, and famous apple pie are globally recognised, but Dutch cuisine is much more complex.
Many Dutch dishes trace their origins back hundreds of years while other more exotic foods have been integrated since the colonial years. Amsterdam thankfully still has a very strong artisanal food scene with independent bakeries, delis, chocolatiers, and more. These local shops alongside the many fresh food markets are a great way to dive deep and discover Amsterdam's rich food culture.
To navigate this diverse scene, book one of our Amsterdam private tours to enjoy the city stress-free. The trendy district of Jordaan is a food lover’s delight and is deservedly the most popular food destination. To get the most out of it, one of our experienced Amsterdam private guides will showcase the city’s most delicious culinary finds with a customizable private tour. To whet your appetite, here are our top picks for the most popular foods you must try in Amsterdam.
We start off our journey with a savoury appetiser in the form of bitterballen. This quintessential Dutch snack is the perfect accompaniment to a cold beer. These deep-fried meatballs are found in pubs and bars across Amsterdam. Coated in breadcrumbs, fillings normally consist of beef or chicken with onion, nutmeg, and other seasoning.
Served with a side of mustard or French fries, bitterballen is a delicious guilty pleasure, and the snack was even recently awarded cultural heritage food status.
The Dutch love to eat Bitterballen with a beer, and it is also popular as a party or cocktail reception snack. Bar Bitterbal in Amsterdam is the place to indulge in the most varied bitterballen flavours. It serves dozens of varieties from wild boar to freshwater lobster!
The stroopwafel is perhaps the most globally recognised Dutch breakfast snack and is an enduring street food staple throughout the Netherlands. It is basically two circular thin cookies stuck together with syrup or other sweet fillings such as caramel. Served at home or in cafés with a morning coffee, it is also an all-day street snack favorite. You’ll find vendors serving stroopwafel at every street market across Amsterdam. It’s a perfect quick bite to boost energy levels during a busy day of sightseeing.
The stroopwafel originated in the 19th century in the city of Gouda but has gained true global appeal. Starbucks serves chocolate and caramel varieties, while the stroopwafel is a cult favorite with passengers on United Airlines flights in the US.
Kars Alfrink, CC BY-SA 2.0, via flickr
For a hearty Dutch home cooked meal, nothing beats Stamppot. This is the ultimate comfort food and a simple yet filling dish. Its primary ingredient is mashed potatoes mixed with various green vegetables such as kale, spinach and sprouts, as well as onions. It is usually served with a smoked sausage, although fried bacon cubes with sauerkraut are a popular alternative.
The Stamppot concept dates back to the 1600s when it was invented as a simple winter dish for rural communities. The most popular variety is called Stamppot Boerenkool, which includes kale with the mashed potatoes. You can find Stamppot served at many restaurants throughout the city, including favorites such as The Pantry or Restaurant 't Zwaantje.
Takeaway, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
The Rijsttafel had its origins thousands of miles away from the Netherlands. It was developed in colonial times when the Dutch occupied the spice islands of Indonesia. Rijsttafel means ‘rice table’ and features ‘Nasi Tumpeng’ – usually a huge pyramid of white or fragrant yellow rice. Centred around the rice are numerous small plates of fish, chicken, satay, vegetables, sauces, and more. This is a truly elaborate banquet style experience with at least a dozen tasting dishes.
Showcasing Indonesia’s culinary diversity across its 17,000 islands, Rijsttafel was basically created so the colonial Dutch could sample numerous regional dishes from multiple islands. It caught on and remains a very popular option for large celebrations and group dining.
Classic dishes such as Beef Rendang and peanut satay are staples of a Rijsttafel smorgasbord, however each Rijsttafel restaurant normally serves a different combination of dishes. Indonesian cuisine can be extremely spicy, although many Rijsttafel dishes have Dutch influences to make them more palatable for European tastes.
No visit to Amsterdam is complete without a slice of traditional Dutch apple pie. Appeltaart is arguably the most recognisable dessert in the country and is commonly served with a cup of coffee at a streetside café.
Baked in a spring pan, it is deeper than the classic American apple pie. The filling includes large chunks of apple with currants and raisins, and the texture is much drier. There is a distinct aroma of cinnamon and light spices, while some bakeries even add a drop of rum or brandy. Appeltaart has a distinctive lattice crust which is sprinkled with sugar and served with a large dollop of whipped cream. It dates as far back as the Middle Ages, and is available at a large number of cafés, restaurants, and bakeries throughout the city. If you're unsure, swing by Winkel 43 or Patisserie Kuyt for some perfectly baked pies.
Amsterdam is a delight for serious foodies who crave top cuisine, yet are equally at home sampling tasty street foods at the city’s vibrant food markets. The beauty is in its diversity, with every street offering up eclectic treats and traditional specialities.
You’ll find it all – from lavish Michelin starred eateries to tasty pub food, deli delights, and much more. Amsterdam’s food scene is constantly evolving so every visit can seem like a whole new experience. Dive in and savor the city’s food with an Amsterdam tour led by one of our expert Dutch tour guides.