Deep-fried meatballs with a crispy golden-brown crust and a creamy potato and beef patty. Serve these Dutch-influenced Indonesian snacks with mayo and chili sauce.
Indonesia was under Dutch colonial rule for a long time, and many Dutch recipes are now common in everyday Indonesian life. Among the many Dutch-influenced foods, bitterballen is easily at the top of my favorites.
Bitterballen has a crunchy golden brown skin encasing a soft and flavorful potato and beef mixture. You can serve them as a side dish, an appetizer, or as a snack to go with your afternoon tea or coffee. They are always served piping hot with a side of mayonnaise and chili sauce. ♥
For the bitterballen itself, we will need butter, onion, white button mushroom, ground beef, all-purpose flour, milk, mashed potato, nutmeg, salt, ground white pepper, sugar, cheddar cheese, and Chinese celery.
You can also use regular celery instead of Chinese celery, but choose the thinner one with plenty of leaves.
For the coating, we will need bread crumbs (preferably panko) and eggs.
We usually serve bitterballen with a simple sauce by mixing mayonnaise and bottled chili sauce. You can use Sriracha, though I prefer Indonesian bottled chili sauce.
Part 1: Prepare bitterballen dough (ragout)
1. Sauté onion in butter
Melt butter in a frying pan over medium heat. Sauté onion until translucent.
2. Add mushrooms and ground beef
Add mushroom and cook until wilts. Then add ground beef and cook until no longer pink.
3. Add all-purpose flour and milk
Add all-purpose flour, and stir until the mixture clumps together. Slowly pour the milk, and keep stirring until the sauce is thick and smooth.
4. Add celery, cheddar, seasonings, and mashed potatoes
Add mashed potato, nutmeg, salt, ground pepper, sugar, cheddar, and celery leaves. Mix well, and cook until the sauce is dry with no standing liquid. Turn off the heat and set aside.
Part 2: Shape the meatballs
1. Shape into balls
Once the dough is cool enough to handle, shape it into round balls.
For appetizer/snack size meatballs, use a #60 cookie scoop (~ 1 tablespoon) to get about 40 meatballs from one recipe. I find that these are easier to serve as finger/party food.
Alternatively, you can use a medium-size cookie scoop (#40 cookie scoop / ~ 1 1⁄2 tablespoon) to get about 28 meatballs from one recipe.
2. Coat with panko and eggs
Coat each meatball with bread crumbs, followed with lightly beaten egg, and finally, another coat of bread crumbs.
I love using panko breadcrumbs for its crispy finish, but you can use regular bread crumbs too.
If you don’t have enough breadcrumbs, you can use all-purpose flour for the first coating, but please use bread crumbs for the final coat.
Part 3: Fry the meatballs
Fill a pot with at least 2 inches of oil. Heat the oil over medium heat until it reaches 170 Celsius (340 Fahrenheit).
Once the oil is hot, gently fry coated meatballs until golden brown and crispy. Please don’t crowd the pot to maintain the oil temperature. You will most likely need to fry the meatballs in batches.
Remove fried meatballs with a slotted spoon and drain over a wire rack/stainless steel strainer to remove excess oil.
Serve bitterballen immediately with mayo and chili sauce.
Storing and reheating bitterballen
Store any leftover bitterballen in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.
For longer storage, arrange fried meatballs on a lined baking sheet and freeze until solid, then transfer into a freezer-safe ziplock bag. You can store frozen bitterballen for up to 3 months.
To reheat, bake bitterballen in a 180 Celsius (350 Fahrenheit) preheated oven or a toaster oven to return them to a just-fried state of crispy goodness. It should take about 5-8 minutes for non-frozen meatballs, and about 10-13 minutes for frozen meatballs.
Please do not reheat bitterballen in a microwave since they will lose all the crispiness.
Originally published on May 12, 2014. Updated on Oct 26, 2020 with new photos.
Bitterballen - Dutch Meatballs
- 3 tablespoon butter (Indonesian: mentega)
- 100 gram onion (Indonesian: bawang bombay), minced
- 100 gram white button mushroom (Indonesian: jamur kancing putih), minced
- 200 gram ground beef (Indonesian: daging sapi cincang)
- 40 gram all-purpose flour (Indonesian: tepung terigu)
- 250 ml milk (Indonesian: susu)
- 400 gram potato (Indonesian: kentang), peeled, boiled, and mashed
- 2 teaspoon ground nutmeg (Indonesian: bubuk pala)
- 2 teaspoon salt (Indonesian: garam)
- 1 teaspoon ground white pepper (Indonesian: bubuk merica)
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar (Indonesian: gula)
- 40 gram cheddar (Indonesian: keju cheddar), grated
- 4 stalks of Chinese celery (Indonesian: daun seledri), thinly sliced (Note 1)
- enough oil for deep frying
- 2 cups panko bread crumbs (Indonesian: tepung panir)
- 3 eggs, lightly beaten
- Sauce (mix together the following)
- 2 tablespoon mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoon bottled chili sauce of your choice
- Prepare bitterballen dough: Melt butter in a frying pan over medium heat. Sauté onion until translucent. Add mushroom and cook until wilts. Then add ground beef and cook until no longer pink.
- Add all-purpose flour, and stir until the mixture clumps together. Slowly pour the milk, and keep stirring until the sauce is thick and smooth.
- Add mashed potato, nutmeg, salt, ground pepper, sugar, cheddar, and celery leaves. Mix well, and cook until the sauce is dry with no standing liquid. Turn off the heat and set aside.
- Shape bitterballen: Take a tablespoonful of the potato and beef mixture, and shape it into a round ball. Coat it with loaf crumbs, then egg, and finally coat with bread crumbs again. You should be able to make roughly 40 meatballs. (Note 2)
- Fry bitterballen: Heat a pot of oil for deep-frying. Fry meatballs in hot oil until golden brown and crispy. Drain meatballs on a wire rack.
- Serve bitterballen immediately with mayo and chili sauce.
- (1) You can also use regular celery instead of Chinese celery, but choose the thinner one with plenty of leaves.
- (2) A tablespoon cookie scoop (#60) yields 40 meatballs, a medium-size cookie scoop (#40) yields 28 meatballs.