These beef gravy-filled, deep-fried croquette balls are the most amazing Dutch snack to have at Happy Hour or as a main meal with mashed potatoes or vegetables. They can also be shaped into an oblong shape and served in a slice of bread with mustard. There is quite a bit of preparation involved, but they are worth the effort for that special occasion or simply to treat yourself. At this stage, there is only one gluten-free bitterballen frozen product available in Holland’s major supermarkets- Jumbo and Albert Heijn. With limited gluten-free choices out there, I hope this blog is welcome news for those looking for a gluten-free bitterballen recipe.

Although I am married to a Dutchman who loves bitterballen, my first introduction to these addictive snack delights was by my very good friend from secondary and catering schools – Dutch buddy, Nicole – who introduced them to me at many rendezvous at the notorious Dutch Club in Singapore, the only place on the island that served bitterballen. After my first sample, I was hooked and from then on forever looking for them during my travels in Europe. Oddly enough, it was easier to find frozen, pre-prepared bitterballen in Australia than Austria. Of course, Holland and Belgium have a healthy supply, whether it is served at their many coffee shops, restaurants, train station self-service vending machines or supermarkets. Naturally, there are many dedicated cooks out there that make their own fresh bitterballen – gluten or gluten-free – Big respect!

Gluten-Free Bitterballen (Dutch Beef Croquettes)

For the slow cooked beef:

  • 500g stewing beef, cut in 3cm cubes
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 small onions, finely chopped
  • 500ml water
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp juniper berries
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

For the bitterballen:

  • 100g butter
  • 100g store-bought or homemade gluten-free plain flour
  • 750ml store-bought or homemade beef stock
  • 500g slow cooked beef, shredded
  • 1 onion, very finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons fresh parsley, very finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

For the coating:

Step by Step Instructions
Start preparing the slow cooked beef aka Draadjesvlees from Holland the day before you plan to make Bitterballen by following this traditional Dutch slow-cooked beef in butter, onions and spices, until it is so tender, it falls apart and melts in your mouth.
1. Melt the butter in a large pot and brown the beef.
2. Add the onions, salt and pepper.

3. Add the stock, spices and vinegar and bring to the boil. I like to put the whole spices in a tea sieve that can stew in the pot. Alternatively, tie them up in a muslin cloth.

4. Lower the temperature to the lowest setting, cover the pot and leave to slow-cook for at least 4 hours.

5. Check regularly and add more water if necessary.
6. The beef is ready when the meat starts to fall apart. Remove the tea sieve or muslin cloth. Sieve the beef from the cooking juices and shred the beef with two forks.

7. Add the sieved meat juices to the beef stock to add more flavour.

8. Make the roux/sauce by melting the butter gently in a large saucepan.

9. Add the flour and stir constantly for 2 minutes.

10. Gradually, add the stock & meat juices allowing the liquid to absorb before adding more liquid.
11. Keep stirring until the roux thickens.
12. Mix in the onions, parsley, and shredded beef.

13. Continue cooking for 5 minutes, until a thick gravy-like sauce has formed.

14. Season with the nutmeg, salt and pepper.

15. Allow the mixture to cool down and store in the fridge until the gravy becomes semi-solid. This usually takes 2 hours.

16. Prepare the coating ingredients by placing the cornflour, eggs and breadcrumbs in three separate bowls.
17. Roll each bitterbal * using a small ice-cream scoop or two teaspoons into balls measuring 3 to 4cm in diameter.

18. Roll the bitterbal first in the cornflour, followed by the egg and finally the gluten-free breadcrumbs.

19. Place them on a large flat tray or several plates.
20. If time allows, place them in the fridge for 30 minutes to help keep their shape.
21. Heat a deep pan with oil on medium-high and begin frying 8 at a time to avoid overcrowding.

22. Turn the bitterballen constantly in the hot oil to ensure even frying.

23. Remove them from the oil when golden brown and lay them out on a paper towel-lined plate or tray.
24. Serve the bitterballen warm with a side of Dijon mustard and toothpicks.
Makes 50 bitterballen

Bitterbal * Singular for Bitterballen in Dutch

Bitterballen can be made ahead of time and kept in the fridge for up to 2 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month.