If the Pennsylvania Dutch are known for anything, it’s their comforting, homemade cooking. From dishes to desserts, and even beverages, their recipes have stood the test of time.
If you’re from PA Dutch county in South Central Pennsylvania, you might recognize some of these recipes. We’re sharing 5 of our favorite Pennsylvania Dutch side dishes that are delicious and super easy to make. Read on to get a taste of Amish culture.
1. Pan-Fried Corn Fritters
“Fritter” is a term used to describe a type of food that’s been battered with flour and fried. The Amish love to make fritters — potato fritters, onion fritters, tomato fritters, etc. — as different produce comes into season. One of our favorite recipes to make is sweet, Amish corn fritters.
Pan-fried corn fritters are a delicious Summertime recipe made from sweet corn. When cooked, they look sort of like pancakes. They can be served with maple syrup on top for breakfast, or they can balance out a savory meal with a side of sweetness.
The first step is to remove the kernels from the cob. Make sure to scrape the juice out of the cob, too. (Don’t be afraid if your bowl of kernels looks more like creamed corn.) Next, you’ll create your batter by mixing in some flour, egg, milk, and seasonings.
The rest is easy. Add spoonfuls of your batter mixture into a pan and cook over medium to medium-high heat until golden brown on both sides. Enjoy them while warm. Any leftovers can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days.
2. Amish Ham Balls
Ham is a staple dish for the Amish and non-Amish around the holidays. For Easter and Christmas, the Amish like to prepare some of their ham in meatball form. Topped with a brown sugar sauce, this PA Dutch ham balls recipe is a sweet and savory addition to any meal.
They can be made using ham steak or sliced deli ham. (Keep in mind: less processed meat yields better meatballs.) You’ll start by cutting your ham into small 1-2 inch pieces and grinding it down with a food processor or meat grinder.
To complete the base of your meatballs, you’ll add in eggs, milk, and bread crumbs for a subtle crunch. This recipe also suggests adding in some ground beef to balance out the “hammy” taste, but if you prefer it, make sure to swap the small amount of beef with ham instead.
After you form your meatballs, it’s time to prepare the sauce. Bring a saucepan of brown sugar, ketchup, water, apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and ground mustard to a boil, then simmer. After about 4 minutes, your glaze should have thickened.
Pour your thickened glaze over your pan of meatballs and cook for 80 minutes or until your meatballs are browned. Serve and enjoy.
Any leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days and in the freezer for about a month.
3. Amish Potato Salad
Perhaps one of the more well-known Pennsylvania Dutch side dishes is potato salad. You may be asking, what is Amish potato salad? The truth is, it’s just like most potato salads, but its taste is slightly sweeter — a common trait of most of their recipes.
Amish potato salad is a mayonnaise-based dish that uses onion, celery, hard-boiled eggs, and most importantly, potatoes. They prefer to use waxy potatoes, which hold their shape after being boiled and soak up the sweet and tangy flavor of the dressing.
You’ll start by peeling and dicing your potatoes, and cooking them in boiling water until tender (about 15 minutes). Remove them from heat and allow them to cool.
This step is crucial. Warm potatoes plus a mayonnaise-based dressing results in an oily mess. If you’re in a rush, you can run them under cold water to speed up the process.
Use the cooling time to make your dressing. Combine your mayonnaise, mustard, white vinegar, sugar, and salt in a bowl. When ready, add your potatoes, diced onion, and celery to the sauce bowl and mix until coated. Gently stir in your hard-boiled eggs.
Place in the refrigerator and serve chilled. To let your potatoes really soak in the moisture, let your potato salad chill overnight.
The fact it can chill in the fridge overnight makes it a perfect side dish to prep ahead of time. Save yourself some time before your picnic, potluck, or holiday meal — and maybe even improve the taste — by making it the night before.
Amish potato salad can last up to 5 days in the refrigerator, but we’d be surprised if it lasts that long!
4. PA Dutch Potato Filling
What you might call “stuffing,” the Amish refer to as “filling.” This recipe for PA Dutch potato filling, however, is probably quite different from the stuffing you’re used to eating at holiday dinners. Instead of using a bread base for this dish, the Amish use potatoes.
While its most common appearance is at Amish holiday feasts, this PA Dutch side dish can also be made throughout the year as a substitute for other potato side dishes. It lasts in the freezer for up to 6 months, so some Amish folk prefer to make it in bulk and freeze it to enjoy leftovers at a later date.
To make this dish, you’ll use celery, onions, mashed potatoes, and a few slices of bread. You’ll start by making your mashed potatoes using any all-purpose potatoes like whites. Next, you’ll sweat your chopped onion and celery down with some butter until soft.
Add some ripped or cubed slices of bread into the dish of onion and celery and lightly toast. Thoroughly mix the contents of your saucepan into your bowl of mashed potatoes. Stir in a cracked egg and any seasonings you like — salt, pepper, and parsley are common, but you could also try sage, rosemary, or thyme for a stronger flavor.
Transfer your filling to a buttered casserole dish and bake for 35-40 minutes. If you prefer more of a crunch, bake for a few minutes longer until the crust is browned.
Your leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, or in the freezer for up to 6 months.
5. Amish Red Beet Eggs
Made from just a few ingredients, this PA Dutch side dish is a sweet, tangy addition that pairs well with just about any meal. You’ll find them at pretty much every Amish picnic, potluck, holiday meal, and even on weeknights for dinner.
It’s prepared using hard-boiled eggs, a can of red beets, and apple cider vinegar. Start by hard-boiling your eggs in a pan of boiling water. As these boil, drain your beets, being sure to reserve the juice — it will be used to make your brine.
Peel your eggs and place them in a large glass jar with the drained red beets. Add the reserved beet juice, vinegar, water, and sugar to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring regularly. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 5 more minutes.
When it’s finished, pour your brine mixture over your eggs and beets. Let your jar cool before closing it tightly and storing it in the fridge.
You’ll want to give your eggs some time to soak up the brine, so let your jars refrigerate for a minimum of 48 hours. Try waiting a week for a stronger flavor.
If kept in a proper, airtight container, your Amish red beet eggs can last up to 3-4 months in the fridge.
We hope this list has inspired you to taste the unique style that is PA Dutch cooking. If you want to try these Pennsylvania Dutch side dishes but don’t want to make them yourself, look for them at your local Amish farmers market.