20 Traditional Dutch Food Items to Try in Curacao

Curacao should be on your bucket list if you’re looking for a place for a taste of the Netherlands in the southern Caribbean, as the island oozes Dutch culture.

Regardless of whether you’re interested in speaking Dutch, eating traditional Dutch food, drinking Dutch beer or exploring the quaint houses reminding of homes in the Netherlands, Curacao really has it all.

The main advantage of vacationing in Curacao, as opposed to really going to the Netherlands, is the fact that you can spend your days on the island enjoying wonderful weather, fabulous beaches, and doing lots of Caribbean activities.

Although the Netherlands may not be known for its cuisine, we think that you shouldn't leave Curacao without trying, at least, one of these 20 traditional Dutch food items.

Dutch food in Curacao

Photo by: Damsterdamer

Bitterballen Curacao

1. Bitterballen

Regarding snacks, there is no other country that can beat the Dutch! 'Bitterballen' are deep fried meaty balls that are usually eaten alongside a 'biertje' (beer).

The traditional filling is a beef or veal ragu, which is shaped into a ball and coated with coarse breadcrumbs. This tasty snack originated as a way of using up leftovers and derived its name from the bitter, herb flavored liquors that used to be served alongside.

'Bitterballen' can be ordered in many cafes, snack places, and restaurants in Curacao and are often part of a 'bittergarnituur', a platter laden with huge chunks of Gouda cheese, 'loempias' (spring rolls), and spicy mustard.

Try to resist the first bite of your 'bitterbal' for as long as possible as the inside is always piping hot. You have been warned!

2. Stroopwafels

If you are going to try one traditional Dutch sweet treat, make it a 'stroopwafel'. These amazing Dutch cookies consist of a thin layer of caramel-like syrup in between two waffles.

The ‘stroopwafel’ originates from Gouda, a place south of Amsterdam, better known for its cheese. They were first made during the late 18th century by a baker using leftovers, such as breadcrumbs, spices, and sweet syrup.

'Stroopwafels' are meant to be eaten with coffee or tea. You put the round disc on top of your mug and let the steam soften it for a couple of minutes. The steam heats the 'stroopwafel' and melts the inside layer so that it’s warm and soft. If you can’t wait that long, 'stroopwafels' are great from straight from the package, too.

You can buy ‘stroopwafels’ in every Curacao supermarket. But for the best fresh made ‘stroopwafels’ in Curacao you should definitely go to Dushi Wafels, present every Friday and Saturday from 10 am tll 6 pm, next to the Albert Heijn supermarket at Zeelandia.

Stroopwafels Curacao

Patat oorlog Curacao

3. Patat oorlog

Call them what you like: friet, frieten, or patat. The Dutch like them so much that they eat more than 40 lbs on average a year of 'patat' per person.

In English, they are called French Fries, but the French can't actually take credit for them. The Dutch neither, as they were invented by the Belgians. It are really the toppings that make the traditional Dutch 'patat' so different from other country's variations.

The Dutch really like them with a lot of toppings such as mayonnaise, tomato ketchup, curry or peanut sauce. A famous combination of toppings is: mayonnaise, raw chopped onions and peanut sauce, and is called a ‘patatje oorlog’ in Dutch. This literally translates to “fries war”. It is tasty, but it does not look that way.

For the best 'patat oorlog', go to Friethuis (Caracasbaaiweg), Grote Berg Patat (Grote Berg), De Hollandse Friettent (Brievengat), Daaibooibaai Beach, Annie & Hilda (Fontein), Lik Je Vingers (Salina), or Dutch Treat (Otrobanda, taxi stand).

4. Rauwe haring

Herring is a small fish that is very popular among Dutch people. It is caught in the North Sea and the East Sea (near Denmark) from mid May to mid July. The Dutch have been eating 'rauwe haring' (raw herring) for over 600 years. Many people from Curacao that have lived in the Netherlands have learned to appreciate 'rauwe haring', and that is how the 'rauwe haring' became popular in Curacao as well.

For foreigners, it might be a bit strange to eat a raw fish that has nothing to do with sushi.

Strictly speaking , it is not raw herring though, because the herring has been frozen and then laid in salt for a couple days to ripen the fish (soused herring). A good 'rauwe haring' must have a soft texture with a nice bite. It tastes and smells fresh and salty. It must be big and have a high percentage of fat (over 15%).

The 'rauwe haring' is served on a paper plate with onions and pickles. Generally, they chop the fish into little pieces or served on bread (‘broodje haring’). Traditionally, however, 'rauwe haring' is to be eaten by holding the fish by its tail, dipping it in onions and letting the slippery raw fish then slide into your mouth with your head thrown back.

'Rauwe haring' may sound a little scary to the uninitiated, but every visitor to Curacao should give it a go. You’ll spot a herring cart serving up this traditional Dutch specialty next to the Albert Heijn supermarket - ask for a ‘broodje haring’ to get the fish served in a small sandwich with pickles and onions.

The best time to try 'rauwe haring' is between May and July when the herring is said to be at its sweetest.

5. Kibbeling

If you’re not brave enough to try raw herring (see above) but you like fish, you can still try delicious 'kibbeling'. The battered and deep fried bites of white fish, usually cod, are every bit delicious as they look. They are usually served with a mayonnaise herb sauce and lemon.

One of the best fresh fish restaurants on Curacao, Fishalicious, located in Willemstad across the Avila Beach Hotel, serves 'kibbeling' as a starter.

You can also go to the bakery and restaurant Mijn Broodje at the Caracasbaaiweg. Besides all kind of Dutch delicacies, they also serve rolls with 'kibbeling'.

Kibbeling Curacao

Photo by: Fishalicious

Oliebollen Curacao

6. Oliebollen

The name literally means ‘oil balls’, but don’t let that put you off. Basically, they are deep fried sweet dumplings dusted with powdered sugar.

Traditional 'oliebollen' have often been called the predecessor of the donut. In fact, it seems very probable that early Dutch settlers took their tradition over to the New World, where it developed into the anytime snack the donut is today.

In the Netherlands and also in Curacao, they pretty much remain a seasonal treat: made and enjoyed specifically to ring in the New Year.

You can find 'oliebollen' at all Curacao bakeries and supermarkets between Christmas and New Year.

7. Kaas

'Kaas' or cheese is big business in the Netherlands. The Dutch have been making 'kaas' since 800 B.C. and besides that the Netherlands is the largest cheese exporter in the world. With an average of 46 lbs per year per person, we can say the Dutch love their own 'kaas'.

From the time that the Dutch gained control of Curacao in 1634, the Dutch plantation masters would ship big wax-covered wheels of their beloved Edam and Gouda cheese to the island.

The wealthy Dutch would only eat the sweeter and creamier core of the cheese, and wouldn't bother with the hard outside. They would offer these pieces to their slaves to eat.

The slaves would soak the hard pieces and create a filling from other leftovers such as chicken and vegetables, and steam everything. This way the local dish Keshi Jena was born.

Keshi Jena is still a local specialty that can be found in many local restaurants. Besides the local dishes, you can nowadays also find a wide variety of 'kaas', both the big wheels and smaller pieces.

So don’t go home without tasting some Gouda, Geitenkaas or Maasdammer. For an introduction to the most popular Dutch 'kaas', stop by the Royal Dutch Cheesery for a professionally-guided tasting of award-winning 'kaas'. The Royal Dutch Cheesery is a specialty shop located in the Rif Fort in Willemstad.

Kaas Curacao

Photos by: Royal Dutch Cheesery

8. Poffertjes

"Poffertjes" are fluffy baby pancakes, traditionally prepared using yeast and buckwheat flour.

There are a number of theories about how the 'poffertjes' became such a treasured Dutch institution. Food historians have suggested that slightly more puffed up ball-shaped 'poffertjes', have been around since at least the early 1700s, citing old Dutch cookbooks and journal entries.

Others believe that this traditional Dutch treat has its roots in a Dutch church, where the baby pancakes were used for weekly communion, and that the recipe changed during the French revolution when there was only buckwheat to make the pancake batter. Once the church goers tasted these more delicious baby pancakes they became hooked. Local market stall holders quickly saw the opportunity to sell them as a sought-after snack. The baby pancakes, which were prepared using a special cast iron poffertjes pan, quickly became known as ‘poffertjes’ because they puffed up considerably during the cooking process.

Today Dutch poffertjes are typically served as a satisfying lunchtime meal, at weddings or as a special treat at children’s birthday parties. They are typically served on a small cardboard plate with a lump of butter and powdered sugar.

In Curacao, you can find poffertjes at Lekker en Zo at Sea Aquarium Beach.

Poffertjes Curacao

Photos by: Lekker en Zo

Ontbijtkoek Curacao

9. Ontbijtkoek

The name of this delicious cake literally translates to breakfast cake. It's a spiced cake with cloves, cinnamon, and ginger. The most important ingredient which colors the cake a light brown is rye.

As it's name suggests it's traditionally served at breakfast with a thick layer of butter on top, as a replacement for bread. However, due to its sweet taste, it is also served as a snack with afternoon tea or coffee.

Municipal records indicate that 'ontbijtkoek' was professionally baked in the Netherlands as early as the 16th century.

Today the most famous Dutch 'ontbijtkoek' brand is Peijnenburg, which has been producing its superior range of tempting 'ontbijtkoek' for more than 125 years.

'Ontbijtkoek' made by Peijnenburg can be found in Curacao in the larger supermarkets, such as Albert Heijn, Centrum, and Vreugdenhil.

10. Stamppot

Classic Dutch food consists of boiled potatoes mashed together with a raw or cooked vegetables such as such as kale, sauerkraut, or endive, usually served with a juicy 'rookworst' (see 14), a smoked sausage and some gravy.

'Stamppot' is the ultimate Dutch comfort food for cold winter evenings. So how come that you will also find 'stamppot' on tropical Curacao? Well, that's simply because there are so many Dutch living on the island, and while it may be that 'stamppot' isn't the most sophisticated dish, the Dutch simply miss their good old 'stamppot' even when living on a tropical island.

You will find the best 'stamppot' every Monday at Plein Cafe Wilhelmina in Punda, or every Thursday at Eetcafe Old Dutch in Pietermaai.

Stamppot Curacao