Hachee / Dutch Beef and Onion Stew

Hachee is a traditional stew made with meat and vegetables. In the Netherlands, the most common version of this stew is made with beef, onions, vinegar, spices such as clove and bay leaf, and, occasionally, a slice of breakfast cake known as ontbijtkoek and/or apple butter. The thick, gravy-like stew is often served with potatoes on the side – either fried, boiled, or mashed – and a scoop of boiled red cabbage with apples (rode kool met appeltjes). For the Dutch, this is one of the ultimate dishes to make it through the cold, dark winter days.


The name ‘hachee’ derives from the French verb hacher, which means to chop or ground. I assume the dish gets this name from the way both the meat and onions are cut up relatively small (though not ground) before being added to the cooking pot. It’s not unlikely that this dish originally used to be a way to use up small bits and pieces of leftover meat and vegetables, which would explain why the (few) ingredients are cut up relatively small in the first place.


In some recipes, a slice of Dutch spiced breakfast cake is added to the vegetables and meat mostly to add some extra flavour to the stew (cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg are all part of the spice-mix used to make the cake) but also to thicken the cooking liquid and turn it into a thicker gravy. If ontbijtkoek is unavailable however, this step can either be skipped entirely or you can add an (extra) amount of each of the spices yourself and add a little extra flour mixed with water to thicken the stew. In some other recipes, a spoonful of apple butter is also added to make the stew even sweeter and a little bit tart– though, this can be substituted by a spoonful of dark brown sugar or omitted entirely since the dish is already quite sweet from the onions.

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This is a dish that can easily be made a day or two ahead of serving and it’s one of those dishes that actually tastes even better the day after making it. It also freezes really well, so can be made in big batches.


Hachee / Dutch Beef and Onion Stew

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Simple Traditional Dutch Stew with Beef and Onions
  • Difficulty:Easy
  • Prep Time:10 mins
  • Cook Time:160 mins
  • Serves:4
  • Freezable:Yes

Nutrition per portion

  • 1kg well-marbled boneless beef chuck, or other boneless beef for stew with some fat (sukade-, or riblappen)
  • 1kg onions, cut in half and sliced (same amount as meat)
  • 2 heaped tablespoons plain flour
  • 50g butter
  • 3 bay leafs
  • 6 cloves
  • 10 white peppercorns
  • 750ml water, or (dark)beer or beef stock
  • 3 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon (dark) brown sugar, optional especially when using ‘ontbijtkoek’
  • 1 - 2 slices (35 - 70g) ‘ontbijtkoek’ (Dutch spiced breakfast cake, can be substituted with soft gingerbread or Jewish honeycake (lekach)), or use 2 tbsp extra flour mixed with a little water to bind the sauce and add spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and extra clove
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Prep: Cut the beef into 3 - 4 centimeter cubes. Peel onions and cut them in half and make half-moon slices of about 1cm wide.
  2. Toss the beef cubes with some salt, pepper and the two heaped tablespoons of flour.
  3. In a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, melt half of the butter.
  4. Brown the meat on all sides, then remove from the pan/pot and keep aside. Do not overcrowd the pot and work in batches.
  5. Melt the other half of the butter in the Dutch oven and sauté the sliced onions until glossy and lightly browned.
  6. Return the meat to the Dutch oven together with the onions and add the bay leaves, cloves, and peppercorns. Sauté for another few minutes until fragrant.
  7. Add the water/beer/stock, vinegar and sugar (if using) and bring to a simmer, then turn heat to low and stew for 2 hours with the lid on. Stir occasionally and make sure the liquid doesn’t fully evaporate.
  8. Once the stew has simmered for 2 hours, crumble in the ontbijtkoek (or add another spoon or two of flour mixed with a little water and extra spices if you like) and allow to stew with the lid off for another 30 minutes or until the meat is very soft and the sauce has thickened.
  9. To finish, season with more salt and pepper to taste (if necessary) and serve hachée with fries, boiled potatoes, rice and/or boiled red cabbage.

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