Dutch cuisine doesn’t get the recognition it deserves! With flavors described as ‘hartig’ (savory), and ‘zoet’ (sweet), trying popular Dutch desserts is one of the best parts of visiting the Netherlands.
There's more to Dutch meals than just ‘kaas’ (cheese) and ‘worst’ (sausage)! The Dutch love their ‘gebakes’ (pastries) and sweet breakfast foods, so much so that you can expect to have dessert for breakfast at almost any Dutch restaurant.
There’s a reason the Dutch are consistently ranked the happiest people on earth! Between delectable pancakes, savory puff pastries, spiced biscuits, and creamy cakes, this list of traditional Dutch desserts will make your mouth water and have you hopping on the next flight to the Netherlands!
The Dutch definitely have a sweet tooth, so make sure to sample the pastries and local treats from Dutch bakeries whenever traveling through this beautiful European country.
If you're traveling through Amsterdam, you're sure to see 'Poffertjes,' tiny, delectable pancakes made in a cast iron pan cleverly called a 'Poffertjes Pan.' One batch makes 30 of the Dutch specialty, and they are commonly found being made by the hundreds at street markets!
Poffertjes are best served soft with melted butter and powdered sugar. However, you can get creative and add chocolate, strawberries, and whipped cream!
Due to their origin in the Catholic church, poffertjes are usually saved for festivals and holidays in the south of the Netherlands, though they are accessible at popular markets year-round.
Fun fact! The difference between Dutch pancakes ('Poffertjes') vs. Danish pancakes ('Aebleskiver') is that the Dutch leaven their pancakes with yeast, while the Danes use baking powder.
Popularized during medieval times, the appelflap is a Dutch sweet pie pastry made from dough, apples, and raisins, then coated heavily in powdered sugar.
To lessen the intense sweetness flavor, some bakeries will add sausage or cheese for a more savory bite. Sign me up!
Served hot with a cup of tea, you can either fry this traditional Dutch apple pie in hot oil or bake it in the oven. You can customize the fillings precisely to your liking. My mouth is watering, imagining that first bite into the crispy golden crust of appelflap right out of the oven.
Unexpectedly becoming a worldwide phenomenon, stroopwafels are the most popular Dutch dessert adopted by other countries. First made in Gouda, a small town in South Holland, stroopwafels blew up and are now well-known across the world.
Stroopwafels are made with a waffle iron and a thin double layer of sweet dough held together by the sugary stickiness of caramel filling.
Traditionally, stroopwafels are placed on top of a cup of coffee, tea, or hot chocolate. One side of the thin layer of waffle softens slightly from the heat of the beverage, while the other stays crisp.
Calling all spiced cake lovers! An ontbijtkoek is a speciality traditional Dutch spiced cake colored brown from the use of rye in the baking process.
The recipe uses an assortment of spices such as cinnamon sugar, ginger, vanilla, nutmeg, and cloves, and the cake is served with a dense layer of butter on top.
Different regions of the Netherlands bake several varieties, of which the most famous is 'oudewijvenkoek' (old woman's cake) in the north. It distinguishes itself through the strong flavor of anise, which you either love or hate!
Most Dutch people buy ontbijtkoek from bakeries or restaurants, as the preparation process can be pretty tricky and time-consuming.
Many European countries have their variations of bread baked on holidays such as Christmas and Easter. For example, the Germans have their ‘osterbrot,’ while the Spainards have ‘hornazo.’
The Netherland’s version is called Paasbrood, a traditional rich loaf made with dough, candied raisins, sweet almond paste, and zested with lemon juice eaten during Easter.
Fun fact! When this loaf is served at Christmas, the name changes to Kerststol.
Continuing with the theme of special occasions, the banketstaaf is a Dutch dessert eaten during the festive season of Christmas, usually paired with hot coffee, chocolate, or tea.
Not surprisingly, the recipe calls for a light, puffy dough and sugary almonds. The Dutch sure do love their sweet dough and nuts!
Imagine sitting by the fireplace at Christmas, the slightly nutty aroma wafting from your banketstaaf, sipping on tea, and spending time with loved ones. So cozy!
Still, on Dutch desserts for the holidays, the speculoos is a spiced biscuit made during 'Sinterklaas' (St. Nicholas Day) on December 6th. The name speculoos is derived from the Latin word 'speculator,' meaning 'the one who sees everything' aka St. Nicholas!
The recipe has similar ingredients and spices to ontbijtkoek, such as cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves. So, it's no surprise that these delectable spiced biscuits rule the Dutch bakery world.
Pepernoten (pepper nuts) are mini speculoos, and they derived from an old wives tale still told in the modern day. It has been said that St. Nicholas tossed gold coins through windows and left gold money in the shoes of those who left things out for him.
Because of that tale, a distinct custom the Dutch still do today is to throw handfuls of pepernoten in children's rooms to hunt for them when they wake up on 'Sinterklaas' (St. Nicholas Day).
Created as a variation to the Frenchdelicacy ‘mille-feuille’ (Napoleon dessert), tompouce is an iconic, rich cake in the Netherlands.
Tompouce is so iconic that the frosting turns orange on King’s Day (April 27th) to honor the Royal Family of the Netherlands. So if you’re traveling through the Netherlands in April, order a piece of tompouce to see what color frosting you’ll get!
Last but not least, one of the most simple Dutch desserts on this list, hagelslag. The story goes that candymaker B. E. Dieperink created this dessert while trapped inside during a hailstorm in 1919, and creatively named it ‘hagelslag’ (Dutch word for hailstorm).
Hagelslag refers to the chocolate sprinkles used to top buttered bread. Pretty simple, right? The Dutch love their hagelslag and will eat it for breakfast, snacks, or after meals.
This iconic dessert became a huge success. Sometimes the simplest ideas turn out to be the best!
The Netherlands isn't famous for its cuisine like other western European countries like Italy or France, but it should be! The most famous Dutch desserts listed above satisfy even the strongest sweet tooth and come with fascinating backgrounds!
Variations of pancakes, tarts, and spiced biscuits show the Dutch's creativity in baking and how unique their culinary cuisine can be. Next time you're in the Netherlands, sit down with a cup of coffee, people-watch, and give one of these delicious desserts a try.
Want to master Dutch before your culinary tour through the Netherlands? Communicating with locals enhances your cultural experience, especially while at restaurants and cafes!
You never know what friends you can make while abroad, and speaking a little of the language never hurts!