Dutch love for spices

Exploring the Dutch Love for Spices

Spices have played a significant role in Dutch culture for centuries, with the Netherlands being renowned for its love affair with aromatic flavors. From the historical significance to the influence of colonization and trade routes, let’s delve into the fascinating world of spices and their impact on Dutch culinary traditions.

During the Golden Age, when the Netherlands was at its peak of prosperity, spices were considered symbols of wealth and power. The pursuit of exotic flavors drove explorers to embark on daring voyages in search of new trade routes to spice-rich lands.

spice trade dutch east india company

Image source: Playground AI

Today, the love for spices remains deeply ingrained in Dutch cuisine. Traditional dishes like “hutspot” (a hearty stew made with carrots, onions, and potatoes) often incorporate flavorful spices such as cloves or nutmeg. Additionally, popular Indonesian-influenced dishes like “rijsttafel” (rice table) showcase an array of vibrant flavors derived from an assortment of spices blended harmoniously.

The Spice Trade and Dutch History

Established in 1602, the Dutch East India Company (VOC) monopolized the spice trade in Southeast Asia by establishing trading posts and colonies, particularly in present-day Indonesia. The company’s successful ventures not only brought immense wealth to the Netherlands but also shaped global commerce. The popularity of Indonesian cuisine in the Netherlands today can be traced back to this era when Indonesian spices were introduced.

Notable spices that made their way to the Netherlands through the VOC’s efforts include nutmeg and cloves from Maluku (also known as the Spice Islands). These aromatic treasures were highly sought after for their medicinal properties as well as their ability to enhance food flavors. Cinnamon from Ceylon (present-day Sri Lanka) was another prized spice that influenced Dutch culinary traditions.

Beyond gastronomy, spices influenced various aspects of Dutch society. They became status symbols that adorned homes and clothing. The allure of these precious commodities led to fierce competition among European powers seeking dominance over spice-rich regions.

The legacy of the Dutch spice trade is still evident today. It shaped not only the culinary landscape but also the economic and cultural development of the Netherlands. The VOC’s impact on global trade and its role in establishing Dutch colonial rule in Southeast Asia cannot be overstated.

Traditional Dutch Spices Used in Everyday Cooking

Here are some of the commonly used spices in traditional Dutch cooking, their origins, flavors, and their importance in local cuisine.


One of the most popular spices in Dutch cooking is nutmeg. Originating from the Banda Islands in Indonesia, nutmeg has a warm and sweet flavor with hints of clove. It is often used in dishes like stews, soups, and meatballs to add depth and richness to the flavors.


Cinnamon has a sweet and aromatic taste that pairs well with both savory and sweet dishes. It is commonly used in desserts such as apple pie and speculaas cookies. Additionally, cinnamon is also found in savory dishes like stews and sauces for a touch of warmth.


Cloves are another staple spice in traditional Dutch cooking. These dried flower buds have a strong, pungent flavor with hints of sweetness. Cloves are often used in pickling liquids for vegetables like onions or beets. They are also added to traditional winter drinks like mulled wine or hot chocolate for an extra kick of flavor.


Pepper plays a crucial role in Dutch cuisine as well. While black pepper is widely used, white pepper holds a special place due to its milder flavor. White pepper is often added to mashed potatoes or creamy sauces to enhance the taste without overpowering other ingredients.


Lastly, ginger adds a zesty touch to many Dutch dishes. Its warm and slightly spicy flavor complements both sweet and savory recipes alike. Ginger can be found in traditional treats like gingerbread cookies (ontbijtkoek) or added to meat marinades for an extra kick.

These spices not only bring unique flavors but also reflect the historical connections between the Netherlands and its former colonies such as Indonesia and the Caribbean. They have become an integral part of Dutch cuisine, adding depth and character to traditional dishes.

Modern Spice Culture in the Netherlands

The influence of immigrants from various countries has brought a plethora of new flavors and spices to the table. As Dutch society becomes more diverse, so does its palate. From Middle Eastern za’atar to Indonesian sambal, these exotic spices have found their way into Dutch kitchens, adding a vibrant twist to traditional recipes.

As people explore these diverse flavors such as Indian curries and Thai stir-fries, they begin incorporating them into their own cooking at home. This changing spice landscape has not only added depth and complexity to Dutch cuisine but has also expanded traditional recipes.

spices used in dutch food

For instance, a simple pea soup may now be enhanced with cumin and coriander for an extra kick of flavor. Similarly, a classic apple pie might feature cardamom or ginger alongside cinnamon for a more adventurous taste experience.

Social media platforms like Instagram have contributed to the popularization of international spices. Whether it’s a fusion dish or a traditional recipe with a twist, spices have become an integral part of contemporary Dutch cooking, adding depth and excitement to every bite.

Exotic Spice Markets in the Netherlands

From bustling spice markets to charming specialty shops, there are plenty of places where you can find an array of unique spices and products here in the Netherlands.

One notable spice market in the Netherlands is the Albert Cuyp Market in Amsterdam. This lively market is known for its diverse selection of spices from around the world. As you wander through the stalls, you’ll come across aromatic spices like saffron, cardamom, and cinnamon. The vibrant colors and intoxicating scents create an immersive experience that will transport your senses to distant lands.

Amsterdam spice market

Another must-visit destination for spice lovers is De Volkskruidentuin also in Amsterdam. This hidden gem is a specialty shop that specializes in rare and hard-to-find spices sumac, za’atar, and fenugreek. It’s a treasure trove for those seeking unique flavor profiles and ingredients.

Visiting these spice markets and specialty shops goes beyond just shopping for ingredients; it’s an adventure that allows you to explore different cultures through their culinary traditions. 

With That Being Said

Spices have played a pivotal role in shaping Dutch culinary traditions, reflecting the country’s rich history of trade, exploration, and cultural exchange. Whether it’s the warmth of nutmeg in a traditional stew or the zesty kick of ginger, all of these have left an indelible mark on Dutch cuisine and culture. 

If you are passionate about food and eager to explore the depths of Indian cuisine, or simply looking to explore new flavors, our collection of delicious curry recipes and authentic products will transport you to the vibrant streets of India. Join us now and explore this culinary journey with us!

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