Dutch Bitterballen – beef ragout-style meatball in a crispy coat

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Bitterballen. Oh glorious bitterballen, my favourite lekker eten – so they say in the Netherlands, if I’m correct. The first time I tried these were at Slugg and Lettuce in Newlands, Cape Town and we ate them with a yellow mustard. It was rad, but I never thought to try make them until I browsed Kyle’s oma’s recipe book and came across its recipe and my mother-in-law, Bernie, was kind enough to translate it for me. But what a process it was.

Traditionally it’s made with beef (and or veal), beef broth, flour and seasonings, bitterballen was pub snacks made from leftovers in the kitchen. The name comes from its pairing with ‘bittertjies’ (Dutch bitters) which are herb-flavoured alcoholic beverages. Today you’ll find them paired with beer, and of course, mustard.

I suppose the simplest way is actually to just buy them frozen and fry they up. In my second batch, I used a chopped green apple with the onion (because i only had small onion – I wanted to make more to make it last longer).

But IF and IF you want to make your own from scratch, check out my setup and I highly recommend this recipe.

Dutch Bitterballen (meat croquette)


  • 400g pulled/shredded beef
  • 1/2 C beef/vegetable broth
  • butter
  • 1 onion (finely chopped)
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp flour
  • 1/2 C milk
  • handful of Italian parsley (chopped)
  • pinch of nutmeg


  • Slow cook the beef so the meat can be shredded. I slow cooked mine with onion, leek, carrots and celery and used the liquid as a broth. Alternatively you can use stock cubes to make a broth.
  • Separately, melt butter in a saucepan and lightly fry the finely chopped onion and carrot till soft.
  • Add flour and stir continuously till it makes a paste.
  • Add milk to thin the paste out a little.
  • Take it off the heat and mix in broth, beef, parsley and nutmeg.
  • Allow the mixture to cool.
  • Make balls, freeze.
  • Beat an egg and lay out some breadcrumbs, dip in egg and coat in crumb. Refreeze.
  • Deep fry in cooking oil and enjoy fresh.

This recipe is featured on WinePair.co.za and paired with a Cape Rock Cabernet Sauvignon 2015. See the pairing here.

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