Dutch Language Blog

Recipe: The Oldest Dish in the Netherlands Posted by on Nov 20, 2019 in Culture

I have lived in the southern-most region of the Netherlands for 6 years now, and I must say that there is one thing I absolutely love about it: zuurvlees! Zuurvlees literally translates to “sour beef,” but it isn’t as bad as the translation would have you believe. In this post, I will tell you a bit of the history of this Limburg delicacy and a nice recipe you can experiment with.

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What is zuurvlees?

Last week, the Dutch newspaper Volkskrant published a very interesting article about zuurvlees. In this article, Marcel Maassen explains his love for the dish and his research trajectory to find out how old this dish actually is. First, he starts off explaining the misleading name this dish has. According to Maassen, the dish is not just sour but sweet and sour. He proposes we change the name to zoetzuurvlees which I must say makes a lot more sense.

Zuurvlees is essentially a beef stew. Zuurvlees was originally made with beef, but during times of crisis it was switched to paardenvlees or horse meat because it was cheaper. Nowadays, well I guess it depends where you get it at. The sauce is predominantly azijn or vinegar with some herbs and spices mixed in.


According to Maassen, zuurvlees is the Limburg variation of the German dish Sauerbraten. The only variation between the Limburg version and the German version is the cookie added to the sauce. In Limburg, we use peperkoek, in Aachen printen and in Cologne lebkuchen. My guess is that in other regions of Germany, a similar but more local type of cookie is used.

And if zuurvlees and sauerbraten are one of the same, then the dish is said to go back to Julius Ceasar and the Romans or approximately 50 B.C.


So, how do you make this historic dish? Well, it’s actually not that complicated. One of the many recipes and instructions are below.

1 kg / 2.2 lb sucadelappen of niet te magere runderriblappen (shoulder steak or beef ribs)
500g / 1 lb uien in ringen gesneden (onions)
4 kruidnagels (cloves)
3 laurierbladen (bay leaves)
4 eetlepels appelstroop (apple syrup)
200 ml / 1 cup witte wijnazijn (white wine vinegar)
200ml / 1 cup water
olie om in te bakken 

2 plakken ontbijtkoek

  1. Snijd de vlees in stukjes.
    (Cut the meat in pieces)
  2. Doe het vlees in een kom en voeg 200 ml witte azijn en 200 ml water toe. Voeg zout en peper toe en de laurier en de kruidnagel. Laat tussen een uur tot een hele nacht marineren.
    (Place the meat in a bowl and add the vinegar and water. Add salt, pepper, bay leaves and the cloves. Let it marinade an hour or overnight.)
  3. Snijd de uien in halve ringen. Bak ze rondom zacht in een grote stoofpan in olijfolie.
    (Cut the onion in half rings and cook until soft in a big pan with oil.)
  4. Haal het vlees uit de marinade maar gooi de marinade niet weg. Breng het vlees extra op smaak met peper en zout en bak dit mee.
    (Take the meat out of the marinade but don’t throw it away. Add more salt and pepper to the meant and cook it until brown.)
  5. Voeg de marinade en de appelstroop bij het vlees en laat het zuurvlees ongeveer 2 uur stoven op een laag vuur.
    (Add the marinade and the apple syrup to the meant and let it cook about 2 hours on a low flame.)
  6. Voeg de stukjes ontbijtkoek bij het zuurvlees en roer nog even door.
    Add the ontbijtkoek in small pieces and mix well.
  7. Serveer het zuurvlees met aardappelpuree of frieten.
    (Serve with mashed potatoes or fries.)


  • Take the meat out of the refrigerator before cooking to let it come to room temperature.
  • Use a wooden spoon to loosen the bottom of the pan as your are cooking. There is a lot of flavor in those bits and pieces.
  • You can pat the meat dry before you cook it so it browns better.
  • To add more flavor, you can add some dark brown beer or a glass of port while you are cooking.
  • Instead of cooking it for 2 hours on the stove, you can put it in the oven, preheated to 11o°C or 230°F. Just make sure you use an oven safe pan.
  • If, after 2 hours of cooking the meat is too sour, add some more ontbijtkoek or syrup and stir well.
  • You can serve it with applesauce.
  • If you can’t find peperkoek/ontbijtkoek at your grocery store, Amazon has it!

You can also follow Marcel Maassen’s recipe that he includes in the Volkskrant article. He doesn’t marinate the meat before cooking and his recipe also has a few more spices. The video is below.

Have you ever had zuurvlees? Is there a dish in your country that is similar to it?

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About the Author: Karoly Molina

Since I was a little girl, I was fascinated with languages and writing. I speak English, Spanish, Italian, Dutch and a little bit of French. I am a writer, reader, language teacher, traveler, and a food lover! I now live in The Netherlands with my husband Riccardo, our cat Mona, and our dog Lisa, and the experience has been phenomenal. The Dutch culture is an exciting sometimes topsy-turvy world that I am happily exploring!


  1. Maryan:

    So really disappointing and sad to see you promoting animal abuse! The same goes for this ridiculous article in “de Volkskrant” ! Just as people are starting to be aware that there are plant based products, you give them here a recipe for horrible animal abuse. Please write something about people are seeing the truth and #GoVegan Thank you!

  2. Miss Footloose:

    I grew up in Amsterdam and Rotterdam with Frisian parents and I never had zuurvlees. I do remember a funky buttermilk and barley porridge – karnemelkse pap- that you eat with stroop, for dessert or breakfast. I think in Friesland they call it supenbrei. Now I’ll make me some zuurvlees next week.