Explaning a typical Dutch lunch tradition



Some time ago, me and my English counterpart received an invitation from a corporate giant to have lunch. Expecting a fancy restaurant, we found ourselves in their cafeteria instead. And there it was, a typical Dutch lunch: sliced bread with milk. Yes, milk. “To save time,” they said.


The Dutch lunch: An expat’s love-hate relationship

My British colleague’s eyes widened—the horror! Years later, he’d regale friends with the tale: “A dash of Versailles meets IKEA—utterly magical yet strangely practical.” Lesson learned: When in the Netherlands, not only learn to speak Dutch and understand the Dutch culture, but also embrace the dutch lunch tradition: milk-and-bread combo—even if you’re a multinational powerhouse.


Let’s explore the background of this remarkable Dutch lunch (and breakfast) tradition. From the initial shock expats experience when faced with the Dutch sliced bread tradition, one might wonder: what makes this simple lunch staple such a cornerstone of Dutch culture?


Let’s talk about Dutch bread

Delving deeper, we uncover a rich tapestry of history, tradition, and culinary craftsmanship that transforms what might seem mundane into a beloved cultural institution. Dutch bread aficionados revel in their bread diversity.


While other countries might have a handful of standard loaves, the Netherlands boasts a bread mosaic. From crusty loafs to dense rye slices, there’s a loaf for every mood, meal or holiday. Welcome to the world of Dutch bread! Let’s dive into the varieties of Dutch bread and why we think it is so healthy.


Volkoren versus Melkwit

The key lies in the ‘flour power’: Volkoren bread is crafted from whole wheat flour, retaining every part of the wheat kernel—bran, germ, and endosperm. This results in a higher content of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Conversely, melkwit bread is produced using refined white flour, stripped of the bran and germ. And even if you’re looking for ‘glutenvrij’ (gluten-free) bread, whether you’re a dedicated gluten-free aficionado or just starting out, the choice is again typical Dutch – extensive.


The Dutch treat bread as an art form. It’s not just sustenance; it’s a blank canvas waiting for toppings. Whether it’s creamy cheese, herring, or a smear of chocolate sprinkles (‘hagelslag’), Dutch creativity knows no bounds. And bread and butter are also inseparable. The Dutch take their butter seriously – it’s not just a spread; it’s a ritual. Slathered generously on a slice of fresh bread, it’s a taste of home.


When it comes to a lunch in the Netherlands, simplicity and practicality take center stage. Dutch people have a longstanding tradition of preparing their own sandwiches at home and bringing them to work or school. To add some crunch and freshness, Dutch sandwiches often feature toppings like cucumber, tomato, or lettuce. A few slices of cucumber or a juicy tomato can transform a simple cheese sandwich into a satisfying meal.



To make things more complex, check out some other varieties of Dutch bread (just a small selection!):


Suikerbrood (Sugarbread): Originating from Friesland, Suikerbrood is a sweet, sticky Dutch bread traditionally prepared during Easter festivities.

Krentenbollen (Currant Rolls): These slightly sweet Dutch bread rolls are filled with currants and raisins. Krentenbollen make for a delightful brunch or late-night snack.

Kerststol (Christmas Stollen): Kerststol or Paasstol (at Easter) is a special Dutch bread reserved for Christmas (or Easter) celebrations. It’s typically stuffed with raisins, almond paste and candied fruits, crowned with a dusting of powdered sugar.


Mag ik een halfje volkoren gesneden, alsjeblieft?

So, there you go! The next time you find yourself in a Dutch bakery, summon your inner Gandalf and opt for ‘volkoren’ bread. Both your taste buds and your gut will be grateful. The typical order in a Dutch bakery would be: “Mag ik een heel volkoren/wit/bruin brood van u, alstublieft?”



We would be happy to help you develop your favourite type of bread and order it yourself. Hire our private Flowently tutors Dutch to help you find your own slice of Dutch bread.


Published by: Flowently