Dutch Beef Bitterballen


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.
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
Gather the ingredients.

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.

Bring back to a boil, reduce the heat and let simmer for a few hours until the meat is tender.

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
Gather the ingredients.

In a large skillet, 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 of the strained beef cooking liquid.

Let it come to a boil, reduce the heat, and let it simmer for 30 minutes, stirring frequently.

Dissolve the gelatin 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
Gather the ingredients.

Roll heaped teaspoons of the salpicon mixture into neat, even-sized balls — about 60 in total.

Bread them twice.

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.



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