Deep fried round snacks on a plate with a jar of mustard in the background.

Bitterballen Recipe (Dutch Meatballs): The Better Beer Snack

Mark Stewart Recipe Leave a Comment

Bitterballen are an incredibly tasty beer snack that are here to shake up your snacking game. Because who doesn’t love salty beer snacks? Pretzels, chicken wings, dry ribs, mozza sticks… They’re all fantastic and wonderful and delicious.

But they’re also a little played out.

This bitterballen recipe from the Netherlands is going to change the way you snack.

After all, we’re needy creatures, we want variety.

A few years ago when we were visiting some family and friends in the Netherlands, we were introduced to this delightfully tasty snack. The crispy, deep-fried coating was familiar to us, but everything changed the moment I popped the first one into my mouth. Biting down, the salty crust broke open, revealing a rich, warm, soft and meaty filling. The flavour was simple and not overpowering, yet full of depth – it tasted like nothing I’d ever had before.

What are Bitterballen?

Bitterballen are in their most basic form, Dutch meatballs. It begins with a very thick beef stew, that, when chilled, is just solid enough to form into balls or patties for frying. While its main flavour comes from the garlic and mustard, it’s the toasted roux (essentially a fat and flour mix) and a hint of nutmeg that give it such depth.

This recipe is fairly easy to make, as long as you can make a basic stew you’ll be fine. The trickiest part is getting the thickness just right. If it’s too thick, the mixture may burn before the starch is cooked out, and if too thin, you won’t be able to shape them for breading.

Mustard is a key component here. While we’ll suggest using a good quality Dijon for the actual filling, you can use whatever you want for the dip. My go-to is almost always Colman’s hot mustard. I have a bit of an addiction to the stuff.

Now, crack open a beer and say goodbye to your waistline.

Three deep fried Dutch meatballs on a plate with mustard
Simple, but incredibly tasty!

How to Make Bitterballen

For the Bitterballen Mix
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 pound cooked beef, shredded and chopped (see note below)
  • 1L beef broth
  • 1 tbsp mustard
  • 1 tsp Lemon zest, finely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
This version doesn’t use any specific cut or method of cooking the beef. You can use anything you want, as long as the final result is shredded and chopped. For example, this is a great way to use leftover roast beef. If you don’t have leftovers, you can take any piece of beef you have and roast, braise or stew it, before shredding it into tiny pieces.
For Breading and Finishing
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • Oil, as needed

Procedure

1. Heat butter in a sauce pot to medium heat.

2. Cook onions and carrots until soft and beginning to caramelize, 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and thyme and stir for another 2 minutes.

3. Stir in the 100 g flour small bits at a time to incorporate the fat, cook for 1-2 minutes stirring constantly, this should look like flaky pie crust. Continue cooking until the mixture begins to turn light brown.

4. Whisk in 1 cup of beef stock. Mix until there are no clumps of flour, adding stock as needed. Add shredded beef and the rest of the stock. Turn heat to med-low and simmer 30 minutes. Season to taste.

5. Stir in lemon zest and parsley, remove from heat, and cool. Transfer to a large bowl and place in the fridge for several hours or overnight.

6. Set up a breading station by filling three bowls with flour, beaten eggs and bread crumbs. As well, heat oil (around 2cm deep) in a saucepan or pot.

7. Once the mixture has set and is relatively solid, with a spoon or small ice cream scoop drop the mixture into the flour and form into small balls — roughly 2-3cm in diameter.

8. Transfer the balls to the egg mixture and then coat in breadcrumbs (If the mixture is too soft, place it in the freezer for a few minutes)

9. Fry the balls in oil until golden brown on all sides.

10. Serve warm with your favourite mustard and a cold beer.

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About the Author

Mark Stewart

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Mark is the co-founder, photographer, author, and part-time editor of These Foreign Roads. A former chef, he left the professional kitchen in search of interesting experiences and unique cuisines from around the world.

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