Gluten-Free Bitterballen – Dutch Beef Croquettes
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.
What are bitterballen?
Bitterballen are Dutch Beef Croquettes that are filled with shredded beef that have been slow-cooked in butter, onions and spices until it is so tender, it falls apart and melts in your mouth.
The beef is added to a roux sauce (white sauce) and chilled until it is thick enough to form small balls.
These balls are then crumbed in eggs and gluten-free breadcrumbs to form a crisp outer shell holding the soft delicious beef roux centre. They are then finished off with a quick deep-fry.
There is quite a bit of preparation to do to make these bitterballen, but once you have tried one, you will understand it was all worth the effort. They are amazing and addictive. Ask any Dutch person!
Where can you buy store-bought gluten-free bitterballen?
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.
How I was introduced to bitterballen
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 in Austria where I am currently living. 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!
- Toothpicks, for serving
- Dutch oven or deep casserole pot with lid, or
- slow cooker/crockpot
SLOW-COOKED BEEF (to be added to Bitterballen filling)
- 2 tbsp butter
- 500 g stewing beef, cut in 3cm cubes
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp freshly cracked black pepper
- 2 small onions, finely chopped
- 500 ml water
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 tsp juniper berries
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 whole cloves
- 1 tbsp cider vinegar
- 200 g cornflour Known as cornflour in the UK and corn or maize starch in the USA
- 3 eggs, beaten well
- 200 g store-bought or homemade gluten-free breadcrumbs
- sunflower or vegetable oil for deep-frying
- Salt & pepper, to taste
- Dijon mustard
- Mayonnaise (optional)
- Melt the butter in a stove-top casserole pan and brown the beef over medium heat.
- Add the onions, salt and pepper and fry for 5 mins.
- Add the stock, whole spices, nutmeg, parsley, bay leaves and vinegar and bring to a 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.
- Once it has reached boiling point, lower the heat to a simmer and cover the casserole pot with a lid. Slow cook the beef for 4 hours on the stove-top or alternatively, transfer the mixture to an electric slow cooker and select LOW.
- 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 keep this beef juice mixture to one side for later.
- Shred the beef with two forks. Cover and set aside.
- In a large saucepan, start preparing the roux sauce by melting the butter gently.
- Add the flour and stir constantly for 2 minutes.
- Gradually, add the stock & reserved meat juice mixture in batches allowing the liquid to absorb before adding more liquid.
- Keep stirring until the roux thickens.
- Mix in the onions, parsley, and reserved shredded beef. Continue cooking for 5 minutes, until a thick gravy-like sauce has formed.
- Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper. Taste and season more if needed.
- Allow the mixture to cool down and store in the fridge until the gravy becomes semi-solid. This usually takes 2 hours.
- Prepare the crumbing ingredients by placing the cornflour, eggs and gluten-free breadcrumbs in three separate bowls.
- Roll each bitterbal * using a small ice-cream scoop or two teaspoons into balls measuring 3 to 4cm in diameter. Bitterbal * Singular for Bitterballen in Dutch.
- Roll the bitterbal first in the cornflour, followed by the egg and finally the gluten-free breadcrumbs.
- Place them on a large flat tray or several plates.
- If time allows, place them in the fridge for 30 minutes to help keep their shape.
Deep-Frying the Bitterballen
- Heat a deep pan with oil on medium-high and begin frying 8 at a time to avoid overcrowding.
- Turn the bitterballen constantly in the hot oil to ensure even frying.
- Remove them from the oil when golden brown and lay them out on a paper towel-lined plate or tray. If you are making many bitterballen, keep the fried bitterballen warm in the oven on a low heat.
- Serve the bitterballen warm with a side of Dijon mustard, mayonnaise (optional) and plenty of toothpicks.
- Keeps for 2 days chilled
- Suitable to freeze assembled either raw or cooked. Layer them in a flat container separating the layers with baking paper.