Dutch Beef Bitterballen Recipe

Meet the perfect partner for your IPA, Dutch beef bitterballen
Amy Neunsinger/Getty Images
  • 50 mins
  • Prep: 30 mins,
  • Cook: 20 mins
  • Yield: 60 bitterballen (20 servings)
Ratings (25)

Bitterballen are a smaller, rounder version of sausage-shaped croquettes. Typically containing meat ragout, these deep-fried delicacies are often served as a snack in Dutch bars and cafés, and may also form part of a selection of fried finger foods, called bittergarnituur.

These croquettes once were a frugal way of using the remaining ragout mixture from making croquettes.

While often translated as "bitter balls," this delicacy does not have a bitter taste. The name, in fact, refers to the tradition of serving these deep-fried snacks with bitters, such as jenever, although they are more often enjoyed with beer these days. And a mighty fine combination that is, we might add.

There are countless variations on the theme, from veal to vegetable, and from shrimp to cheese, but this beef version is a classic. Serve with a smooth mild mustard, such as Dijon.

What You'll Need

  • For the Meat:
  • 2 pounds (1kg) stewing beef
  • 1 large onion, quartered
  • 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cloves
  • Few sprigs fresh thyme
  • For the Beef Balls:
  • 4 oz (100g) butter
  • 1 cup (120 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 2 cups (500ml) milk
  • 2 cups (500ml) beef stock (made from cooking the meat)
  • 5 sheets unflavored gelatin or 5 teaspoons powdered unflavored gelatin
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • Salt, pepper and a little nutmeg, to taste
  • 1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • For the Breading:
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 to 2 large beaten eggs
  • 4 cups fresh breadcrumbs

How to Make It

Cook the Beef

  1. Place the beef in a large pan with just enough water to cover the meat. Bring to a simmer. Skim off the foam and add the onion, peppercorns, bay leaf, cloves, and thyme.
  2. Bring back to a boil, reduce the heat and let simmer for a few hours until the meat is tender.
  3. Remove the meat and let it cool. Strain the cooking liquid and set aside to use later. When the meat is cool, cut it into small cubes.

    Make the Beef Ball Mixture

    1. In a large skillet, make a roux (see how to make a roux) with the butter, flour, and chopped shallots. Use the roux to make a salpicon (see the Note below) by adding the milk and 2 cups (500ml) of the strained beef cooking liquid. Let it come to a boil, reduce the heat and let it simmer for 30 minutes, stirring frequently.
    2. Dissolve the gelatine in 1/2 cup cold water and add to the simmering salpicon, stirring regularly. Add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, parsley, mustard and diced beef, mixing well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold.

    Shape and Fry the Beef Balls

    1. Roll heaped teaspoons of the salpicon mixture into neat, even-sized balls -- about 60 in total. Bread them twice. See how to bread a croquette in this step-by-step guide that will lead you through this process in detail (the breading process for the bitterballen is the same as for croquettes).
    2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a deep fryer to 356 F (180 C). Fry the bitterballen in batches until golden. Remove from fryer and drain on paper toweling. Serve them hot with Dijon mustard. 

    Note: Salpicon is a French term that refers to a preparation made of one or more cooked ingredients that are minced or diced, and bound with a sauce.