reader recipe by Johanna Byrom
Servings: 24


nourish reader Johanna Byrom shares her recipe for a favourite Dutch snack.

reader’s note:
Bitterballen are an extremely addictive Dutch snack comprising slowly braised beef that’s thickened with a roux and deep fried into little crispy balls. This is a very popular snack served at bars alongside a nice cold beer with a side of mustard for dipping – never double-dipping!

Bitterballen differ totally from your usual meatball. They may take a little longer to cook, but when you bite into one, you are rewarded with a crispy exterior and a soft, gooey interior – heaven! They serve these tasty treats everywhere in the Netherlands, not just because they taste good but because they are perfect for a warm summer day.


for the beef

for the roux 30g butter 30g flour 1 tsp allspice 2 tsp marmite, optional Salt and pepper

to make the bitterballen 1 box panko breadcrumbs 2 whole eggs, beaten 150g flour


for the meat filling

  1. Sear the beef in a cast iron pan with one tablespoon of vegetable oil until nicely browned. Work in batches to avoid cooling down the pan too quickly.

  2. Once the beef is done, sear the onions and carrots and brown nicely.
    Add the rest of the ingredients with the browned meat to a slow cooker.
    Cook for two-to-four hours, until the meat is falling apart and shreddable.

  3. Strain the braising liquor from the beef, reserving 250ml, and discard the vegetables and spices.

  4. Once the beef is cool enough to handle, shred into small pieces with your hands or use a knife if you prefer. Set aside.

for the roux

  1. Begin the roux by melting the butter in a pan, then add the flour and whisk. Cook over a low heat for around three minutes until a light roux is made.

  2. Slowly, add the braising liquor and whisk continually to make a smooth sauce with no lumps.

  3. Once all the liquor is mixed in, add the shredded beef, allspice, marmite, and season with salt and pepper. Cook gently for around two minutes until the mixture thickens slightly. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

  4. Put the mixture onto a tray and cool completely at room temperature.

  5. Once cool, cover with cling film and store it in the fridge for at least two hours or overnight.

to make the bitterballen

  1. When the mixture has set, roll into balls smaller than a ping-pong ball.

  2. Prepare to pane the bitterballen. Take three containers or plates, and fill one with flour, one with the eggs, and the other with the breadcrumbs.

  3. Roll the balls in the flour, then the eggs, and finally the breadcrumbs.

    At this point, you can freeze for later, or just go for it and cook now!

  4. Add some vegetable oil to a high-sided saucepan or deep fat fryer and heat to 170°C/350°F. Add the bitterballen in batches and cook for around five or six minutes until nicely golden and hot in the middle.

  5. Serve with a side of mustard and a cold beer. Enjoy!

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