The Best Local Foods to Eat in Rotterdam

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The Best Local Foods to Eat in Rotterdam

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Rotterdam’s culinary landscape is a reflection of its multicultural population and bustling port activity. The city boasts an impressive variety of dishes influenced by the 170 nationalities that call Rotterdam home. The port, one of the busiest in the world, is a gateway for international flavors and ingredients, enriching the local food scene.

For those eager to explore Rotterdam’s unique flavors, you’re in for a treat. The city’s food staples include Kroketten – deep-fried rolls filled with meat ragout, Stroopwafels – a sweet treat composed of thin waffle layers bonded with syrup, Haring – raw herring typically served with onions, Bitterballen – savory meat-based balls encased in a crunchy breadcrumb coating, and Oliebollen – doughnut-like pastries dusted with powdered sugar, especially popular during New Year celebrations.

But why are these dishes so beloved in Rotterdam? Kroketten and Bitterballen are tied to the Dutch tradition of ‘borrel’, a social gathering with snacks and drinks. Stroopwafels represent the Dutch sweet tooth and ingenuity, using simple ingredients to create an irresistible confection. Haring is a nod to the Netherlands’ strong fishing heritage, and Oliebollen are a festive symbol, marking the end of the year with a sweet bite.

Sampling these foods is not just a culinary experience; it’s a dive into the heart of Rotterdam’s culture and history. Each bite tells a story of the city’s global connections and local traditions. For an authentic taste of Rotterdam, indulge in these local favorites and savor the city’s rich, cultural tapestry.


Kroketten, a beloved Dutch snack, are widely available throughout Rotterdam, a city buzzing with culinary delights. These crispy, deep-fried treats boast a storied tradition and come in a variety of tantalizing versions.

Tracing their roots back to the 19th century in the Netherlands, the original kroketten were crafted from a mixture of beef or veal ragout, breadcrumbs, and a blend of spices and herbs. Over time, the recipe has expanded to embrace an array of fillings, catering to diverse palates with options including cheese, shrimp, and vegetarian choices such as a spinach-cheese combo. Each type promises a distinct flavor experience.

For those on a quest to discover Rotterdam’s finest kroketten, certain eateries stand out. Febo, a famed fast-food chain, dispenses kroketten through vending machines — an unconventional yet memorable way to enjoy a hot and crispy kroket. Meanwhile, Cafetaria De Ballentent is celebrated for their classic approach, prioritizing premium ingredients and mastering the fryer to produce kroketten with a perfectly crunchy shell and a rich, melting center.

Sampling Rotterdam’s signature kroketten is an essential part of the city’s experience. Whether you’re drawn to the timeless beef or veal ragout variety or are keen to explore innovative flavors, Rotterdam’s selection will undoubtedly fulfill your culinary desires.


Having delighted in the crunchy and savory kroketten in Rotterdam, it’s a perfect moment to treat oneself to another Dutch specialty: stroopwafels. These mouth-watering sweets, with their origins in the Netherlands, have won hearts globally. Stroopwafels are essentially two slim, crisp waffles joined by a layer of rich, gooey caramel-like syrup.

The preparation of stroopwafels begins with a dough made from basic ingredients such as flour, butter, sugar, eggs, and yeast. This dough is then cooked in a specialized waffle press, producing thin, beautifully patterned golden waffles. Freshly baked, these waffles are cut into halves and smothered with a homemade syrup crafted from brown sugar, butter, and a hint of cinnamon. This fusion of crunchy waffle and soft caramel offers an irresistibly satisfying taste and texture.

Typically, stroopwafels are paired with a hot drink like coffee or tea. The heat from the beverage gently warms the waffle, making the caramel even more luscious. While they make a wonderful treat on their own, stroopwafels can also be served as a dessert or snack. There are creative variations too, including those dusted with powdered sugar, drizzled with chocolate, or filled with different sweet flavors such as chocolate or fruit.

Make sure to experience these authentic Dutch confections when visiting Rotterdam. The delightful interplay of the crunchy waffle and the sweet syrup, coupled with their warm, inviting taste, makes stroopwafels an unmissable Dutch treat.


Haring, known to many as Hollandse Nieuwe, stands as a pillar of Rotterdam’s culinary offerings, deeply rooted in the city’s history. This fish, a staple in the local diet, is sourced directly from the North Sea’s bounty. The preparation of Haring involves meticulous cleaning and filleting while keeping the skin and tail. A light salting follows before the fish is left to cure in a simple brine of water and vinegar, thereby enhancing its natural flavors and achieving a tender texture.

For an immersive encounter with Haring, the herring stands scattered throughout Rotterdam offer a window into the skillful art of serving this dish. Observing the finesse with which the herring is prepared adds to the gastronomic experience. The traditional method of enjoying Haring involves holding the fish by the tail and nibbling it from top to bottom, a practice that accentuates the fish’s subtlety and richness.

Beyond its gastronomic delight, Haring embodies the maritime spirit of Rotterdam and its longstanding affinity for oceanic cuisine. It’s not merely food; it’s a nod to the city’s seafaring legacy. When in Rotterdam, seize the chance to savor Haring, and let your palate explore the depths of this local culinary gem.


Bitterballen, the much-loved snack from the Netherlands, delight with their crunchy coating and rich, flavorful center. These small, round treats are a favorite in Rotterdam, both for those living there and visiting.

The history of bitterballen stretches back to the 1600s, when they first appeared in a Dutch cookbook. They were initially created using leftover meat and have since become an essential part of Dutch food culture.

Nowadays, you can find a variety of bitterballen. The classic ones are stuffed with a beef or veal ragout and seasoned with a blend of herbs and spices. For those who don’t eat meat, there are options like bitterballen filled with mushrooms or cheese, catering to different tastes and diets.

If you’re in Rotterdam and want to experience the best bitterballen, head to Café de Witte Aap on the lively Witte de Withstraat, renowned for its superb version of the snack. Alternatively, try Café Rotterdam for a contemporary take on the time-honored treat.

Sampling bitterballen is a must when you’re delving into Rotterdam’s food scene or simply want a tasty snack with your drink. Treat yourself to these Dutch culinary gems at some of the city’s top spots.


Oliebollen are a delightful part of Dutch cuisine and a treat that’s synonymous with Rotterdam’s culinary scene. These scrumptious, deep-fried dough balls are typically studded with raisins and given a liberal dusting of confectioner’s sugar. The term ‘oliebollen’ translates directly to ‘oil balls,’ aptly describing their rich and lavish character.

Rotterdam boasts several standout establishments for oliebollen enthusiasts. For instance, the renowned Oliebollenkraam op de Meent is a must-visit. Nestled on the vibrant Meent street, this stall is celebrated for serving oliebollen with an irresistible combination of a crunchy exterior and a tender, sweet interior.

Not to be missed is the Oliebollenkraam op de Lijnbaan, a fixture in the city with a history spanning over six decades. It’s cherished by both residents and visitors for its exceptionally airy oliebollen, filled to the brim with delicious ingredients.

For those seeking a contemporary take on the classic oliebollen, the Fenix Food Factory is the place to be. This culinary hub features a variety of food artisans, including a stand that prides itself on crafting oliebollen with innovative twists, such as apple cinnamon and chocolate hazelnut varieties.

Indulging in oliebollen in Rotterdam is a must for any food lover. Each bite is a testament to the treat’s storied history and the city’s commitment to preserving and innovating upon this beloved dessert. So, when you’re in Rotterdam, give in to the temptation of these Dutch delights—they’re an integral part of the city’s rich gastronomic heritage.

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