Crispy Chili Balls (Chili Bitterballen)


Some Dutch words are difficult to translate. Two important ones are gezellig and borrel. “Gezellig” means having a good time together with other people. It can be used as an adjective, as in “gezellige avond” (avond = evening), or as an adverb: “het is erg gezellig” (it is very gezellig). A “borrel” is getting together to have a drink, usually around 5 o’clock, often with co-workers or in some other way related to work, and usually in a bar or café. Of course it is supposed to be gezellig at a borrel. Beer is the most popular drink at borrels, although the word itself actually refers to a stronger drink (borrel also means a shot of genever, Dutch gin). Wine is becoming more popular at borrels, and more and more bars and cafés serve decent wine by the glass.


The most popular snack to serve at a borrel is bitterballen. This literally means “bitter balls”, but in fact they do not taste bitter at all. Bitterballen are made of firmed up meat ragout, which is then breaded and deep fried. Click here to read how to make them. When I was talking to Baby Lady about how the chili ravioli of my previous post did not turn out as crispy as I had wanted, she suggested I’d bread them first. I thought breading ravioli would become a bit too heavy, but as I had some leftover chili that had firmed up nicely in the refrigerator, I decided to make chili bitterballen. They turned out very nice with a crispy exterior and wonderful spicy chili inside. Here’s what I did.



chili, thickened with masa, firmed up in the refrigerator


beaten egg

dried breadcrumbs

oil for deep frying



Set up an assembly line. First shape balls of the chili with your hands. Then roll the balls in cornflour, beaten egg, and dried breadcrumbs. Make sure they are coated completely with each layer, as otherwise they will leak.


Allow them to dry on paper towels while you continue until you have used up the chili.

Deep fry them right away, or freeze them and deep fry them directly from their frozen state. If you wait too long before deep frying them, the crust will become soggy.


Deep fry at 180C/350F until brown on the outside and hot on the inside, about 5 minutes.


Drain them well…


…and allow them to drain some more on paper towels.

It would be nice to serve them with a fresh dipping sauce, like mayonnaise mixed with lime juice, or Thai chilli sauce.



Simple pasta dishes are always nice to prepare when coming home from work. Pasta with celeriac and blue cheese is done in 20 minutes and very tasty.


7 thoughts on “Crispy Chili Balls (Chili Bitterballen)

  1. You could add extra chilli powder first then serve with a cooling yogurt based sauce to cool the palate.
    They do look very appetizing, it must be difficult to stop at one or two.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. This is why I like to bars in later afternoon when I travel — well, sipping a good beer does figure into the equation. Anyway, seeking out a town’s favorite nibbles is a great way to spend an hour or so. I bet I’d love your bitterballen, too, and I agree with Nadia. I’d never be able to stop after one or two. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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