The name bitterbal, literally bitter ball, does not indicate that its taste is bitter.
They were originally meant to be served with a bittertje (a small glass of Dutch Jenever, not quite the same as Gin).

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  • 4 tbl. Butter or margarine

  • 1/4 Kg ground beef or veal - Veal is prefereable

  • 1/4 cup carrot, finely diced

  • 1/2 cup onion, finely chopped

  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

  • A grating of fresh nutmeg

  • 1 tbl. fresh lemon juice

  • 2 tbl. parsley, finely chopped

  • 5 tbl. flour

  • 1 cup beef broth or milk

  • For Coating

  • 1/2 cup dry bread crumbs

  • 1 egg, beaten with 1 tsp. water

  • For Cooking

  • Oil for deep frying


  • 1.

    Heat one tablespoon of the butter in a large skillet over moderate heat and cook the meat, carrots, and onions until the meat is browned and the carrots are tender.

  • 2.

    Drain the meat in a colander, then place in a mixing bowl. Add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, lemon juice, and parsley and stir to combine. Set the meat mixture aside.

  • 3.

    Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan over moderate heat and stir in the flour to make a roux. Cook this for 2 to 3 minutes, and then add the beef broth or milk. Continue heating, stirring constantly, until the sauce boils and becomes quite thick.

  • 4.

    Combine the sauce with the meat mixture, stirring to combine them thoroughly, and chill this mixture for at least two hours in the refrigerator, until it has become solid.

  • 5.

    When the mixture has solidified, roll it into balls about 1 inch in diameter, using your hands.

  • 6.

    Roll the balls in the bread crumbs, then in the egg and water mixture, then in the bread crumbs again.

  • 7.

    Fry a few at a time in a deep fryer with at least 2 inches of oil at 375 degrees until golden (about 2 to 3 minutes).

  • 8.

    Drain on paper towels and serve immediately.


Bitterballen are still served in bars to accompany a glass of beer or wine (like Spanish tapas), or served as finger food at stand-up receptions.

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