Sep 17, 2009

Dutch Meatballs & Gravy

In my country any recipe that starts with the word “Grandma’s” is a guaranty to success. It’s a universal rule: everything tastes better the way grandma made it.

I’ve received so many emails asking me for an authentic and traditional Dutch meatballs recipe. Crazy amount of emails! What’s the fascination for Dutch meatballs? Now let me start by saying there is no such thing. There are a gazillion different recipes out there. A lot of them use similar ingredients such as nutmeg and mustard, but mainly they’re family recipes with varying ingredients. They do have one thing in common: butter. Lots and lots of butter. Our traditional gravy differs from American gravy. You’ll see.

What I can give you is the recipe I grew up with. It’s not an exact one-on-one because certain ingredients such as Ketjap—a thick and sweet Indonesian soy sauce—can’t be purchased all over the world and it’s big part of the recipe as it lingered around my family. 

But I found a work around … the recipe behind the cut comes pretty close to our family recipe! If you’re not a fan of nutmeg, you might want to opt out of this one!


1 pound ground beef
2 tbsp sweet chili sauce
1/2 a tbsp ground nutmeg
2 tbsp coarse mustard
1/2 tsp white pepper
6 tbsp breadcrumbs
1 tbsp milk
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
butter (lots of it)
1 cup beef broth


Start with 1 pound good-quality ground beef. Not hamburger, mind you, that comes from a different part of the cow.

Add 1 egg, salt to taste (we like them salty, so I add 1 1/2 tsp), 1/2 a tsp ground white pepper, a pinch of cayenne and 1/2 a tbsp ground nutmeg, mine wasn’t freshly grated or I’d still be grating. This seems like a lot of nutmeg but trust me, it works.

Tip: adding a finely minced small onion is also really tasty.

Wrecked my brain over a Ketjap substitute (any ideas?) and decided to go for 2 tbsp sweet chili sauce. It was perfect.

Add 1 tbsp milk and 2 tbsp coarse mustard. The milk makes the meat somehow taste better. Almost juicier. The mustard adds a lovely tang and slight flavor but doesn’t make it mustardy.

Now I know Paneer is also the name of an Indian cheese, but overhere it stands for breadcrumbs. Add 6 tbsp breadcrumbs.

Dig your hands in there and mix it all up. Make your hands slightly wet and form 4 to 5 meatballs. Make them firm. Really press them on all sides to remove as much of the air trapped inside as you possibly can. It’s the air that makes them crack during browning.

Note: I ran out of flour, but this is the moment you sprinkle a little flour all over each meatball!

You shouldn’t be afraid of butter in order to make Dutch meatballs, that’s for sure. Heat lots of it. This was roughly 3 oz.

As soon as the butter stops bubbling, add the meat balls and brown them on all sides. When they’re brown enough for your liking, pour in 1 cup of beef broth and pop the lid on. Reduce heat and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes, crack the lid slightly allowing moisture to escape.

Here’s what it looks like after 25 minutes. Now this is Dutch gravy. Loads of butter, meat juices and broth combined and cooked down. Fattening like crazy but oh-so good. You can add a little mustard (or ketjap) for extra flavor.

Serve with curly endive mash to get the full Dutch effect and drizzle lots of gravy on top.

Honey, I’m home!!

These meatballs are delicious as is, but what I can wake my guys for in the middle of the night is a meatball sandwich. It’s why I usually make a few extra and store them in the fridge. Slather some mayo on two slices of bread, top with cold meatball slices and a little ketchup and mustard. Yum.

    Click here to print recipes older than 2010
    e-mail this post to a friend


    1. 1

      looks yummy! kecap is called sweet soy sauce in the US.

      xiuxiu on Sep 17, 2009 @ 11:37 am Reply
    2. 2

      Thanks you so much for posting this one. I’ve been dying for a good meatball recipe! Your recipes are always the best.

      Sarah on Sep 17, 2009 @ 12:03 pm Reply
    3. 3

      Thanks, Kay. Just sent this to a friend in the US who went crazy for stamppots when she was in Holland visiting me. I made one with potatoes and endive for her, and she was in heaven. Next time, with your meatballs!

      Judy on Sep 17, 2009 @ 12:39 pm Reply
    4. 4

      I made my first Dutch meatballs last week — although with a slightly different recipe mainly using the gehakt spice blend — but now I’m going to have to give your version a try. I love the idea of mustard and ketjap manis in the mix!

      Alison on Sep 17, 2009 @ 1:05 pm Reply
    5. 5


      There’s only one commercial ‘gehakt mix’ we like, it’s the Maggi kruidenmelange Nootmuskaat. But the AH stopped carrying it, so I went back to this one. Old school.

      Just replace the chili sauce with 2 or 3 tbsp ketjap. It’s SO delicious!!!

      Kay on Sep 17, 2009 @ 2:05 pm Reply
    6. 6

      Hi Kay,
      I guess what you mean by ground beef and not hamburger is a leaner cut of ground beef? Over here in the states our ground beef has a grade (lean/fat ratio) starting with ground beef at 70/30 and and ground sirloin at 85/15 or ground round at 90/10. Sorry, if I’m confusing you. I guess I should just ask more simply…just use the leanest I can buy? These do look and sound really tasty. I love meatballs…
      Italian, Swedish, Greek, etc. Now, I can add Dutch meatballs to my list. Putting them over the curly endive mash was the topper for me. I can’t wait to try them!

      Andilynn on Sep 17, 2009 @ 2:18 pm Reply
    7. 7


      No, I literally meant the difference between the two. They’re different parts of the cow, so to speak. At least they can be.

      As I learned it when I was in the US is also how I found it online. Ground beef’s fat is predetermined by the particular cut of beef used, whereas for hamburger, pretty much any cut of beef can be used.

      Kay on Sep 17, 2009 @ 2:35 pm Reply
    8. 8

      Do these ever look good. My hubby and grandkids would love this…and me, too! But what I really liked, is the pot you used in the photo with the finished dish. Very pretty! Again, you have the best props.

      Lana on Sep 17, 2009 @ 2:41 pm Reply
    9. 9

      Oh good! Another recipe to use the sweet chili sauce I purchased to make your mango/cucumber salsa (yummy!). These look fantastic. I will have to look for ketjap, however. Thanks for another good one :)

      Debbie on Sep 17, 2009 @ 2:46 pm Reply
    10. 10


      This was more than just props. In the bokeh you see one of those grey clouded old Dutch petroleum cookers that belonged to my grandmother. I think it’s more than 100 yeas old. And when I found a matching pan that was still in perfect shape I was in heaven!

      Kay on Sep 17, 2009 @ 2:50 pm Reply
    11. 11

      Oh my.. ohohohmy this is going on next week’s menu as I try to come up with more economical meals to make with ground beef (no, not hamburger..I promise!)

      Trish in MO on Sep 17, 2009 @ 3:33 pm Reply
    12. 12

      YAY thank you so much for posting this…
      I am always looking for “traditional” dutch recipes to practice
      for when I move over to be with my man!

      thank you! thank you!

      yum. I will be in holland for xmas, and know i will get to look forward to this meal, :)


      PolliesGril on Sep 17, 2009 @ 3:37 pm Reply
    13. 13

      Oh! I meant to ask, the other site where I saw a recipe for gehaktballen said that it was a traditional Wednesday dish. Is that still remotely true? And why Wednesdays?

      Alison on Sep 17, 2009 @ 4:11 pm Reply
    14. 14

      I am definetely making these for my family. My MIL always used white pepper. Why is that a stable in The Netherlands? Just asking.

      deb on Sep 17, 2009 @ 4:13 pm Reply
    15. 15


      They still do it every now and then but more as a wink to the old times! Wednesday used to be meatball day here and most butchers sell minced meat at discounted prices on that day. But now that a lot of people buy their meat at the supermarket in stead of at the butcher, you see it less and less these days.

      Kay on Sep 17, 2009 @ 4:17 pm Reply
    16. 16


      White pepper is not really a staple in the Netherlands. It’s just that black pepper is slightly hotter than white pepper, and though you want a slight kick to your meatballs they shouldn’t be really spicy.

      Kay on Sep 17, 2009 @ 4:20 pm Reply
    17. 17

      Oh my, how could this possibly not taste good! Great photos too. I could probably just eat that gravy with a spoon!

      Kalyn on Sep 17, 2009 @ 4:33 pm Reply
    18. 18

      Thanks Kay, for another wonderful sounding and looking Dutch recipe!! Always looking to add new ones to my repertoire!!


      farmkat on Sep 17, 2009 @ 6:26 pm Reply
    19. 19

      AAhh Dutch meatballs. That was the first thing I was served here..that and stamppot with endive..LOVED it! back home you never put your veggies in with your mashed potatoes like that and it’s really good. I havent been able to get used to the gravy here though but I like the way you make yours..

      Sonya on Sep 17, 2009 @ 8:41 pm Reply
    20. 20

      @Kay: And it’s just beautiful, too! Those old family heirlooms mean so much, don’t they?

      Lana on Sep 17, 2009 @ 9:33 pm Reply
    21. 21

      Like usual, I made a vegetarian version of your recipe and it was awesome! Thanks so much for all of your wonderful ideas! I didn’t have time for the curly endive mash this time, but someday I’ll have to try it for the full Dutch effect. (FYI: referred to your post in my blog)

      Lizzy on Sep 17, 2009 @ 10:02 pm Reply
      1. Would you please share your vegetarian recipe with me?
        Thanks so much!

        Kristi on Nov 16, 2014 @ 6:04 am Reply
        1. Not sure what vegetarian recipe you mean.

          Kay on Nov 16, 2014 @ 9:15 am Reply
    22. 22


      I immediately went to your blog to see how you did it! Love the idea. Gonna be trying it on some of my vegetarian friends! Thanks :)

      Kay on Sep 17, 2009 @ 10:35 pm Reply
    23. 23

      This is my all time favourite dinner. It never gets boring. You are so right about the variations in recipes.

      randi on Sep 17, 2009 @ 10:40 pm Reply
    24. 24

      Re: grandmas cooking

      I must be the exception here, both my grandmothers were terrible cooks :)
      Not their fault really, in both cases my grandfathers liked food that was overcooked and bland, so thats what they did : LOL :

      Thankfully, my mother was a good cook, and gave me the love of food that I know have.

      … and BTW, the photos here are excellent, it makes such a difference to how I feel when I read the recipes – thanks


      SallyH on Sep 18, 2009 @ 12:44 am Reply
    25. 25

      OK….I was not even going to open this post from my Reader site cause meatballs are not my fav thing…but I did and they look amazing…I might even try them…and I never make meat balls!! OMG what are you doing to me woman???

      Sue on Sep 18, 2009 @ 1:10 am Reply

    RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

    Leave a comment