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Traditional German Food You Must Try When Visiting Germany

Spargel

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When you initially think of German food, you automatically think of the classics – Bratwurst, Bretzel, and Schnitzel. However, traditional German food is so much more than these typical dishes. Not only is there a wide assortment of food options due to regional differences, but the cultural and historical background of Germany has heavily influenced the local cuisine. Check out some of the traditional German dishes you must try on your next trip to Germany!

Bretzel – Pretzel

Pretzel (Brezel in German) is a baked pastry in a distinct intertwined shape. Today, you can find pretzels in Germany in different sizes, shapes, textures, and even different fillings.

The dough is made of warm water, sugar, salt, yeast, flour, butter, oil, baking soda, and egg. After making dough, you roll it into a rope, form it into a distinctive symmetrical form, sprinkle it with salt, and bake it. By putting it into the baking soda water bath before baking it, you form the crispy outside and chewy inside.

You can eat pretzels anytime during the day and can buy them everywhere from supermarkets and bakeries to cafés and beer gardens, as well as traditional restaurants.

It is an extremely popular snack but it can also serve as a full meal if you have it filled with ingredients such as butter, bacon, cheese, and cucumber. Moreover, you can have it as part of a bigger meal. In Bavaria, a plate of snacks including bread, butter, Obatzda (Bavarian cheese spread), cheese, wurst, eggs, pickles, onions, and radishes with Weisswurst (traditional Bavarian sausage made from minced veal and pork), sweet Bavarian mustard, and pretzels is the most traditional pretzel meal.

Pretzels can be consumed any time of the year. However, the most popular time of the year to eat pretzels is during the Volksfest (beer festival) season. One of the most famous Volksfests is Oktoberfest, which takes place every year in the Bavarian capital of Munich.

Contributed by Diana from the Globetrotting Detective

Pretzel
Photo credit: Ana Ulin

Kartoffelpuffer – Potato Pancake

Kartoffelpuffer (Potato pancake in German) is a traditional German food you must try when visiting Germany! These crispy fried potato pancakes are very popular across several countries and cultures worldwide, and even different areas of Germany call this ultimate comfort food various names like Reibekuchen or Reiberdatschi!

It is made by finely grating raw potatoes and wringing them out in a cloth. Then you add in grated onions, eggs, flour, salt, and a bit of nutmeg before frying them up in some oil.

Kartoffelpuffer is either eaten as a snack food or a side dish. It is also either served savory with herbed yogurt, or, more commonly, with applesauce, jam, or powdered sugar for a sweet treat!

These potato pancakes are a very popular street food and often served at festivals, most notably around the holiday season! You certainly won’t have any trouble finding these at various Christmas markets in Germany like at the Cologne Christmas markets!

If you ever get a chance to try them, definitely get it with applesauce. The sweet/savory combination is a thing of beauty, and it makes sense that these simple but delicious treats are a fan favorite throughout the country.

Contributed by Kat from World Wide Honeymoon

Kartoffelpuffer

Spargel – White Asparagus

When spring arrives in Germany, it’s time for Spargelzeit (asparagus time)! Almost a religion in Germany, there is an obsession with white asparagus and it’s used in almost all foods for a duration of about 10 weeks a year – salad, soup, pizza topping, etc. While green asparagus can also be found in Germany, the white asparagus reigns supreme!

The most traditional way to eat Spargel is with hollandaise sauce, boiled potatoes, and pieces of ham. They also serve it with other meats including schnitzel. Unlike green asparagus, it’s important to first peel white asparagus and cut off the hard ends. It is then placed in boiling water until it’s softened. If cooked properly, Spargel should start falling apart as you eat it and the more hollandaise sauce, the better!

Because it’s harvested in the springtime, it’s a common festival food from April to June. Many Germans create special dinners and get-togethers to eat this delicious!

Contributed by Jordan from Wayfaring With Wagner

Spargel
Photo credit: Katrin Gilger

Königsberger Klopse

Königsberger Klopse, also known as Soßklopse and Saure Klopse, is an East Prussian classic dinner food. It was originally created in the town of Königsberg, which is now called Kaliningrad in the westernmost oblast of Russia. However, it quickly became a popular dish throughout Germany, especially in the east. You’ll often find it on the menu in traditional German restaurants.

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Klopse is an old word for meatball, so the name literally means meatballs from Königsberg. The meatballs are made from a veal and pork mince mix, so they are very tender and juicy. Traditionally, sardines or salted herring would be would added as well. The meatballs are poached in a spiced broth and finished in a creamy sauce with capers.

The combination of salty, tangy, and creamy makes it a very satisfying and hearty dish. Königsberger Klopse is usually served with boiled or mashed potatoes or rice. Because it is so filling and hearty, Königsberger Klopse is a perfect winter dish.

The meal reflects the German and Prussian culture, with flavors and ingredients that are typical for both Germany and Eastern Europe. Eating Königsberger Klopse is like a little culinary trip through Germany’s history.

Contributed by Sophie from Just Heading Out

Traditional German Food - Königsberger Klopse

Labskaus

Labskaus is one of those dishes that you either love or hate. It originated in northern Germany, around Hamburg and Bremen, and was a popular dinner among sailors because it was cheap and easy to make.

Labskaus doesn’t look particularly appealing which is why many people say they don’t like it before they even taste it! The main ingredients in Labskaus are corned beef or salted beef, potatoes, and onions served alongside beets, herring, pickles, and a fried egg on top. The corned beef, potatoes, and onions are mixed together, creating a red porridge consistency. When plated, the juice of the beetroot mixes in as well, giving the dish a reddish color. The rest of the ingredients are added on the side and on top of the dish. Each restaurant adapts the recipe a little bit but the main ingredients remain the same.

If you visit Hamburg, you will find Labskaus served in most of the restaurants that serve traditional German food. There are quite a few very good ones close to the train station, including Nagel and Baumann’s. Labskaus is a filling dish, perfect to eat before going out to party in the best clubs on the Reeperbahn.

Contributed by Joanna from The World In My Pocket

Traditional German Food - Labskaus

Kartoffelsalat – Potato Salad

Kartoffelsalat – also known as German Potato Salad in English – is a classic German side dish. There are many different variations of potato salad across the country.

Swabian potato salad, for example, is made with oil and vinegar and can be enjoyed warm. Other versions are made with mayonnaise, dill pickles, eggs, and sometimes a meat component. These salads are usually enjoyed chilled.

One constant for making potato salad, however, is that the main ingredient is boiled potatoes. These potatoes are then peeled, cut up, and mixed with a variety of ingredients.

Kartoffelsalat is a great lunch and dinner dish. It can be eaten on its own, enjoyed with bread, and makes a nice side to different types of meats or vegetarian/vegan alternatives. It is also a popular addition to BBQs when family and friends get together to share food! You will also find potato salad on the menu of many classic Gasthäuser and beer gardens. Often it is offered as a side for Schnitzel or similar dishes.

One popular combination is Kartoffelsalat with Vienna sausages – called Wiener Würstchen in German. In fact, in lots of German families, it is common to eat this simple dish on Christmas Eve.

Contributed by Lisa from Recipes From Europe

Kartoffelsalat

Schnitzel

Schnitzel, a traditional dish that’s been around for centuries in Germany and Austria, is made using any meat ranging from beef, pork, chicken or even turkey. In order to make Schnitzel, a steak is pounded until it is flat and very thin (sometimes with the help of a meat tenderizer) and then it is coated in egg, flour, and bread crumbs and deep-fried until crisp.

It is also sometimes called Wienerschnitzel. However, this means that the meat used is veal. Interestingly, Wienerschnitzel is a protected term in Germany and Austria and should only be used when describing Schnitzel made using veal or beef.

Schnitzel is usually eaten for lunch or dinner and is served with Spätzle, gravy, and sometimes fries. Some places may also serve a green salad to go with it. The dish isn’t reserved just for festivities and special occasions – it is prepared and served throughout the year at bars and restaurants.

Depending on the type of meat and the gravy it is served with, certain regions are more popular for a specific Schnitzel type. There’s Zigeunerschnitzel served with a bell pepper sauce, Rahmschnitzel served with a cream sauce, and Jagerschnitzel served with a mushroom gravy. In East Germany, Jagerschnitzel is made with Jagdwurst sausage (hunter’s pork sausage) and without any sauce.

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Contributed by Lavina from Continent Hop

Schnitzel

Currywurst

Currywurst is a modern fusion food from Germany. It takes a simple Bratwurst, steams it, and then fries it. It is often served chopped into pieces with a curry-fused tomato sauce. In Germany, it is a snack food found commonly as a street food option from vendors. It is usually served in disposable cardboard containers with a plastic skewer or fork to make it easy to eat while on the move.

Typically, Currywurst is served with fries or a bread roll to make more a meal of this fast food staple. It is a great example of multiculturalism and is often found alongside other now local favorites including pizzas and kebabs. There are also newer variations that fuse other curries and spices into the sauce. One of the best cities for Currywurst is Berlin, where this humble snack was originally invented at a local Schnellimbisse snack stand. It is said to have been created by a woman called Herta Heuwer who mixed together ketchup with curry powder that she had been given by British soldiers who were in Germany at the time. Now, more than 70 years later, Currywurst is considered to be one of Germany’s national dishes.

Contributed by Allan from It’s Sometimes Sunny in Bangor

Currywurst

Spaghetti-Eis – Spaghetti Ice Cream

Created to look like spaghetti, Spaghetti-Eis is an ice cream favorite in Germany! It’s a delicious treat to enjoy on a warm summer day and can be found at almost any ice cream shop in the country.

To build this magnificent creation, a scoop of whipped cream is put in an ice cream cup. Vanilla ice cream is then pressed through a potato ricer or Spätzle press to give the appearance of spaghetti. It is then places on top of the whipped cream in the cup. Strawberry sauce is then drizzled over the ice cream to mimic spaghetti sauce. For the final step, flakes of white chocolate are sprinkled on top to look like grated parmesan cheese.

Invented in Mannheim, Germany, this creation is the perfect mixture of sweet and fruity on a hot summer day!

Spaghetti-Eis

Lebkuchen – Gingerbread

Dense, sweet and absolutely delicious, Lebkuchen (Gingerbread in English) is a Christmas market staple found across Germany. From all corners of the country, the basic recipe is pretty standard – flour, honey, butter, and a host of spices are mixed together, resulting in a traditional gingerbread cookie which is then topped with icing or chocolate. It’s not typical gingerbread that is thin, in the shape of a person, topped with buttons, and breaking with a soft snap. Instead, Lebkuchen is thicker and softer. A deep, ginger flavor balanced perfectly with a sweet topping and most commonly enjoyed as a treat throughout the day.

Lebkuchen can be found at stalls in bustling Christmas markets all across Germany. Although the most common shape is a heart, usually topped with a sweet message, you’ll also find a number of Christmas-themed shapes also available too. All come threaded with ribbon, ready to be hung at home over the festive season. Lebkuchen can also be found on the shelves at the supermarket. These packets of smaller cookies are usually a bit sweeter than those at the Christmas markets, and also come topped with a thin layer of icing or chocolate or with a sweet fruity filling.

Contributed by Becky from It’s Just Becks

Lebkuchen

Wildgulaschsuppe – Wild Boar Stew

The consumption of game meat is steadily increasing in popularity in Germany and of all the game meat eaten, wild boar is by far the most popular. It is not often easy to source game meat in the local supermarkets, but you will find it in local butcheries. Game meat is consumed all around Germany and wild boar are hunted to keep their numbers in balance. The season to eat wild boar is from June up until January.

Most Germans refrain from cooking wild boar at home and prefer to consume it in specialty restaurants, mainly because it is not that easy to find in shops around Germany. However, if you find a good quality wild boar meat, this wild boar stew recipe is perfect to make at home.

Most game meats pair really well with red wine. In this recipe, the wild boar meat is braised in red wine at a low temperature to make the meat soft and tender. Even though the meat is stronger and much more intense in flavor than normal pork, lots of aromatics like bay leaves, cinnamon, thyme, juniper berries, and rosemary are added to provide the best flavor to this dish.

It is usually served with a variation of traditional side dishes like German potato dumplings (Kartoffelklöße), red cabbage (Rotkohl), green salad, spätzle, or cooked potatoes.

Contributed by Sabine from The Tasty Chilli

Wild Boar Soup

Rote Grütze – Red Berry Compote

Rote Grütze (Red berry compote in English) is a northern German and Danish cold dish commonly eaten as a summer dessert. Traditionally, it can even be eaten as a main dish!

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In Low German, the language still spoken by some people in northern Germany, the dish is called “rode Grütt”. However, if you buy a pre-packaged version in the supermarket, the labeling will be “rote Grütze”. In Danish, it is known as “rødgrød”.

Rote Grütze is prepared by bringing red fruit (most commonly strawberries, red currants, and/or cherries) to a boil with sugar and vanilla sugar. Cornstarch is then added to allow the fruit to thicken. After adding the cornstarch, the rote Grütze has to be cooked for a few more minutes. Finally, it has to be left to cool completely.

Rote Grütze is most commonly served with milk or vanilla sauce. With more and more plant-based dairy alternatives, it is a great choice if you’re looking for vegan food in Hamburg or in the neighboring state of Schleswig-Holstein. Make sure to taste this delicious summer treat next time you’re in the north of Germany!

Contributed by Nina from Lemons and Luggage

Red Berry Compote

Schweinshaxen – Pork Knuckle

There are so many reasons to visit Bavaria, but one of them is because of all the amazing and delicious regional foods. One of the most authentic Bavarian dishes you can find is Schweinhaxen, which is a perfectly roasted pork knuckle. Haxen can take all day to roast on a spit but the wait will be well worth it when you bite into the crispy skin that practically pops in your mouth, quickly followed by the juicy, tender meat inside. You’ll easily find Haxen at most authentic Bavarian restaurants as well as beer halls but one of the most popular spots is at the “Haxnbauer” in the Altstadt of Munich. Haxen is also extremely popular at Volksfests around Bavaria, including Oktoberfest. Since it takes so long to slow roast the meat, it is typically eaten as a huge dinner feast and pairs perfectly with a delicious German beer. 

Haxen is often plated up with a good amount of “gravy” (leftover, thickened sauce from the roasted meat, often also made with some simmered beer) and in Bavaria, you’ll typically find two giant balls of Kartoffelknödel (potato dumplings) to slop up any gravy that doesn’t get devoured with the pig knuckle. Depending on just how big of a dinner it is, there will also probably be some homemade sauerkraut as a side dish as well. 

While the dish can look slightly intimidating at first, just dig right in and be rewarded with the fantastic flavors of Bavaria!

Contributed by LeAnna of Wander in Germany

Schweinshaxe

Weißwurst Frühstück – White Sausage Breakfast

While it may not always look appetizing for some, a Weißwurst breakfast is a quintessential breakfast in Bavaria. You should still give it a chance and try it at least once as you’ll be positively surprised by how delicious it is.

In order to make this breakfast, you’ll need Weißwurst (of course!), a pretzel, sweet mustard, and in true Bavarian fashion, a Weißbier! Often there is also parsley and radishes in the dish.

The most important thing in its preparation is that the Weißwurst does not burst open! That’s why it is not put into boiling water but just soaks in it. Now you ask yourself how this works? It is very simple! You take the pot of boiling water off the stove and wait until the water stops bubbling. Then you put the sausage in the pot for about 10 minutes with the lid closed. Since the rest of the ingredients are already ready, you can start eating after about 15 minutes.

Many make the mistake of eating Weißwurst with a knife and fork. But the white sausage is “zuzelt” (Have fun pronouncing! ). In the process, a piece is cut off at the front. The rest of the sausage remains in the intestine and is dipped in the sweet mustard at the front. So the white sausage is then sucked out of the intestine piece by piece. It takes some practice! If you want to learn more important tips about Germany, then check out this Germany packing list before your next trip to Germany.

Contributed by Tristan from Traxplorio

Weisswurst Breakfast

Berliner

Berliner is a jelly-filled doughnut baked with history dating back to Berlin in the 1800s. The first recipes are from the medieval times and it is spread throughout Central Europe. You need yeast dough with eggs and milk, a marmalade filling, and then you fry it in oil. On top, you can sprinkle it with sugar. Unlike donuts from the United States, it does not have a hole in the center. Usually, it is eaten around the new year and during Karneval. However, they’re available in German bakeries all year and it’s possible to try it even beyond German borders.

John F. Kennedy’s words “Ich bin ein Berliner” (I am a Berliner) from his speech given on June 26, 1963, in West Berlin involves this doughnut. In this speech, he wanted to stress the United States’ commitment to West Berlin with the statement that he is also a citizen of the walled city. 20 years later it was written that the president stated that he is a Berliner – doughnut, not a citizen. No matter what is your opinion about this historical speech enjoy in the sweet taste of in Berliner.

Contributed by Džangir from Dr Jam Travels

Berliner

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Headed to Germany? This is a full list of traditional German food you must try on your next trip there!
Headed to Germany? This is a full list of traditional German food you must try on your next trip there!
Headed to Germany? This is a full list of traditional German food you must try on your next trip there!

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