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Beef Bitterballen Recipe

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Beef Bitterballen Recipe

Dutch Beef Bitterballen

Photo © Karin Engelbrecht
Bitterballen are a smaller, rounder version of the sausage-shaped croquette. 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 croquettes were once made with leftover bits of stewed meat, bitterballen were, in turn, a waste-not-want-not way to use up the remaining ragout from making croquettes.

While often translated as 'bitter balls', the 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.

Yield: Makes about 60 bitterballen


  • 2 pounds (1 kg) stewing beef
  • 1 onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cloves
  • A few sprigs of thyme
  • For the roux:
  • 1 stick (100 g) butter
  • 1 cup (120 g) flour
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 1/2 quart (500 ml) milk
  • 1/2 quart (500 ml) beef stock (made from cooking the meat)
  • 5 sheets gelatine
  • Salt, pepper and a little nutmeg, to taste
  • 1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • For the breading:
  • Flour, egg and fresh breadcrumbs


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. Allow to simmer for a few hours until the meat is tender.

Strain the beef stock and set aside to use later. Allow the meat to cool. Cut the beef into small cubes.

Make a roux (see how to make a roux) with the butter, flour and chopped shallots. Use the roux to make a salpicon by adding the milk and 1/2 quart (500 ml) of the beef stock. Let it simmer for half an hour, stirring thoroughly.

Dissolve the gelatine in cold water and add to the simmering salpicon, stirring regularly. Add the rest of the ingredients and the beef. Cover with plastic wrap and let the salpicon cool in the refrigerator.

Roll heaped teaspoons of the mixture into neat, even-sized balls - you should get about 60 in total. Bread them twice. Deep-fry at 356 degrees F (180 degrees C). See how to bread a croquette, a step-by-step guide that will lead you through this process in detail (the breading process is the same as for croquettes).

Tips: Salpicon refers to a preparation made of one or more ingredients that are minced or diced, and bound with a sauce. A roux is a mixture of fat and flour that is cooked until thick and bubblying.

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