This typical German food involves wrapping thinly sliced meat – usually beef but also veal or pork – around a filling of bacon or pork belly, chopped onions, pickles and usually mustard, and then browned and simmered in broth (braised). The mixture changes between regions, with some variations including minced meat. It is common to serve this dish with gravy, dumplings, mashed potato or blaukraut(cooked red cabbage). This was once considered a common dish using cheap meats but is now eaten at festivals, weekends and family meals.
These soft egg noodles are Germany’s answer to pasta. Spätzle is especially popular in the south of Germany and considered a Swabian speciality and associated with the Baden-Württemberg state, although the origin of this dish is disputed and variations are found in neighbouring countries. These noodles made from wheat flour and egg are often served topped with cheese (käsespätzle) – rather like macaroni cheese – and sometimes with roasted onions too. They are also used to accompany German meat dishes that use lots of sauce or gravy, such as Rouladen, or in stews, such as Gaisburger Marsch (a Swabian stew).
They are sometimes served boiling hot, straight from the pan, so be careful. When cooking, a Swabian guide is to use one more egg than the number of guests. In some regions the dough is mixed with other ingredients, such as cherries or apples (Kirschspätzle or Apfelspätzle respectively, common in Allgäu), liver (Leberspätzle), saukraut (Krautspätzle) or even using beer instead of water.
3. Rote grütze
Rote grütze is a red fruit pudding that is a popular dessert in northern Germany. It’s made from black and red currants, raspberries and sometimes strawberries or cherries, which are cooked in their juices and thickened with a little cornstarch or cornflour. It’s served with cream (sahne), milk or vanilla sauce or ice-cream.
A steaming bowl of eintopf will warm anyone on a cold day. The name of this traditional German stew literally means ‘one pot’ and refers to the way of cooking rather than a specific recipe. However, most recipes contain the same basic ingredients: a broth, vegetables, potatoes or pulses and then some meat (commonly pork, beef or chicken) or sometimes fish. There are many eintopf regional specialities, such as lumpen und flöh (which means ‘rags and fleas’) in the Kassel area, similar to Irish stew, or with lentils (linseneintopf) typical in Thüringen.
Germans love their meat dishes, and sauerbraten (meaning ‘sour’ or ‘pickled’ roast) is a pot roast that’s regarded as one of the country’s national dishes. It can be made from many different meats, which are marinated in wine, vinegar, spices, herbs and seasoning for up to 10 days. This recipe is ideal for tenderising cheap meat cuts. Schweinebraten is a delicious roast pork dish usually served with braised cabbage or sauerkraut and dumplings (knoedel), and washed down with a pilsner beer.
6. Kartoffelpuffer, Klösse and Bratkartoffeln
Surveying the top German foods, one might come to the conclusion that Germans love the potato. Certainly it is a common ingredient in many German foods and side dishes.
Kartoffelpuffer are shallow pan-fried pancakes made from grated or ground potatoes mixed with flour, egg, onion and seasoning. You can enjoy them either salty as a side dish to a main course of meat or fish, or sweet with apple sauce, blueberries, sugar and cinnamon. Look out for them in outdoor markets in the winter.
German potato dumplings (Kartoffelknödel or Kartoffel Klösse) are also a common staple in dishes, served either as a side or main dish, in soups or sweet. You may see dumplings on menus called Klösse(or Klöße, said ‘kla-sa’) in west and north Germany and Knödel (said ‘ka-na-del’) in south-east Germany, or sometimes filled with fruit or meat.
Another common German side dish made of potatoes is bratkartoffeln, sometimes referred to as Germany’s answer to fries. It’s a basic but tasty recipe that involves boiling potatoes and then frying them with bacon and onion.
Brezel are soft, white pretzels made from flour water and yeast and sprinkled with salt (and sometimes different seeds). It’s great to eat as a side dish or snack, especially with a strong German beer. They’re in every bakery and on street stands, sold plain, sliced and buttered (butterbrezel) or with slices of cold meats or cheese.
8. Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte
You’ll find lots of cakes and tarts to tempt you in Germany, commonly made with fresh fruit. Few can resist a huge slice of the most famous of German cakes: the delicious Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte, or Black Forest gateau. The cake is named after Schwarzwalder Kirschwasser, which is a liqueur distilled from tart cherries. Alternating layers of rich chocolate cake, cherries and whipped cream are topped off with more cream, maraschino cherries and chocolate shavings.
9. Schnitzel and apple strudel
What do these dishes have in common? They are both the national dishes of Austria, although they have also been adopted into German cuisine and in restaurants worldwide.
A schnitzel is a thin, boneless cutlet of meat, which is coated in breadcrumbs and often served with a slice of lemon. You can choose a Wiener Schnitzel (Viennese schnitzel), which is made of veal, or a Schnitzel Wiener Art made of pork (Schwein). If you order a Hamburg-style schnitzel, it will arrive with a fried egg on top, while a Holsten-style schnitzel will come with an egg, anchovies and capers.
Apfelstrudel (apple strudel) is a popular dessert of buttery pastry filled with apples flavoured with sugar, cinnamon, raisins and breadcrumbs. It became popular in the 18th century under the Habsburg empire. The delicate flakey pastry is made from an elastic dough, which is kneaded and stretched until it’s almost paper thin. The thin pastry layers are buttered together, before being wrapped around the apple filling and baked. It’s served warm in slices sprinkled with powdered or icing sugar.
There are more than 1500 different types of Wurst (sausage) made in Germany and you’ll find street stalls selling them everywhere. The most popular include Bratwurst (fried sausage) made of ground pork and spices, Wiener (Viennese), which is smoked and then boiled, and Blutwurst and Schwarzwurst, which are both blood sausages. Look out for regional specialities like Berlin’s Currywurst (sausage with curried ketchup on the top), Bavaria’s Weisswurst, a white sausage that you peel before eating with a sweet mustard, and Nuremberg’s grilled Rostbratwurst, served with fermented shredded cabbage (sauerkraut). In Thuringian the local Thüringer Rostbratwurst has received protected geographical status and the recipe dates hundreds of years. It is characterised from other sausages by distinctive spices (such as marjoram and caraway).