Dutch Beef Bitterballen

Beef bitterballen recipe

The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  • Total: 50 mins
  • Prep: 30 mins
  • Cook: 20 mins
  • Boiling Beef: 2 hrs
  • Yield: 60 bitterballen (20 servings)
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
310 Calories
13g Fat
25g Carbs
22g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 60 bitterballen (20 servings)
Amount per serving
Calories 310
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 13g 17%
Saturated Fat 6g 30%
Cholesterol 59mg 20%
Sodium 438mg 19%
Total Carbohydrate 25g 9%
Dietary Fiber 2g 8%
Protein 22g
Calcium 111mg 9%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

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.

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. Just serve with a smooth mild mustard, such as Dijon.

Ingredients

  • For the Meat
  • 2 pounds 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 ounces butter
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 shallots (chopped)
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups beef stock (made from cooking the meat)
  • 5 sheets unflavored gelatin (or 5 teaspoons powdered unflavored gelatin)
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Pepper (to taste)
  • 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 eggs (beaten)
  • 4 cups breadcrumbs (fresh)

Steps to Make It

Note: while there are multiple steps to this recipe, these bitterballen are broken down into workable categories to better plan for cooking.

Cook the Beef

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Cook the beef
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  2. Place the beef in a large pan with just enough water to cover the meat. Bring it to a simmer.

    Place beef in pan
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  3. Skim off the foam and add the onion, peppercorns, bay leaf, cloves, and thyme.

    Skim off foam
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck 
  4. Bring back to a boil, reduce the heat and let simmer for a few hours until the meat is tender.

    Cook
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  5. Remove the meat and let it cool.

    Remove meat
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  6. Strain the cooking liquid and set aside to use later.

    Strain
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  7. When the meat is cool, cut it into small cubes.

    Let cool
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

Make the Beef Ball Mixture

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for meatballs
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  2. In a large skillet, make a roux with the butter, flour, and chopped shallots.

    Make balls
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  3. Use the roux to make a salpicon (ground beef mixuture) by adding the milk and 2 cups of the strained beef cooking liquid.

    Mix roux
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  4. Let it come to a boil, reduce the heat, and let it simmer for 30 minutes, stirring frequently.

    Stir
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  5. Dissolve the gelatin in 1/2 cup cold water and add to the simmering salpicon, stirring regularly.

    Dissolve gelatin
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  6. Add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, parsley, mustard, and diced beef, mixing well.

    Add salt, pepper, nutmeg
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  7. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold.

    Cover
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

Shape and Fry the Beef Balls

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for balls
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  2. Roll heaped teaspoons of the salpicon mixture into neat, even-sized balls—about 60 in total.

    Roll balls
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  3. Bread them twice.

    Bread the balls
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  4. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a deep fryer to 356 F/180 C.

    Heat oil
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  5. Fry the bitterballen in batches until golden.

    Fry the bitterballen
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  6. Remove from fryer and drain on paper toweling.

    Remove from fryer
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  7. Serve them hot with Dijon mustard. 

    Bitterballen
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  8. Enjoy!

    Beef bitterballen
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck