22 Best German Food to Try | Traditional Types of Food

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Traditional German Food Top View

Germany is known for its various attractions. There’s always something nice in Germany, whether it’s the impressive castles, the Black Forest, or the delicious traditional German food. If you want a taste of Germany’s most delectable cuisines, here’s an excellent overview.

There are many different kinds of German food available. They range from popular recipes like German sausages to more specific ones like Christmas dishes. Try all German delicacies available regularly, or add something a little lighter.

I’ve visited several regions in Germany, and this cuisine might be the most underrated in Europe. It doesn’t always photograph well like Italian food, but it’s well-balanced, hearty, and good for the soul.

Below, you’ll find a series of photographs from my time at different restaurants, beer halls, and cafes across Germany, from the bustling streets of Berlin to the serene landscapes of Bavaria. Each dish I savored was a testament to Germany’s culinary prowess.

My experiences in Germany were not just about indulging in food but immersing in a culture that intricately weaves history, tradition, and innovation into every bite, such as the meticulous perfection of a bratwurst in Munich or the simplicity but wholesomeness of a good potato soup.

Whatever the case, if you’re interested in trying out some new German food, it is crucial to understand the typical German food to have a great experience. Let’s first look at a short history of food in Germany:

History of Food in Germany

Close-up of traditional German Sauerbraten with mashed potatoes, glazed carrots.
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Germany’s culinary history reflects its roots and geography. Over time, German food has evolved through different social and political changes. Today, every region has varying food specialties with unique flavors. But one thing they all have in common is heartiness and richness.

The food of Germany consists of numerous different national or local cuisines, as well as regional recipes unique to German culture.

Since Germany is located in the middle of a large cultural area, Central Europe, it shares many culinary traditions with neighboring countries, including the Czech Republic and Poland.

Typical Food Served at a German Restaurant

delicious German food
German Cuisines

When it comes to traditional German food, there are many variations. Depending on what German-speaking country or part of Germany you’re visiting, you can get more than one kind of German food available.

One of the best ways to find the best German restaurants is to ask around directly from the locals. When you visit an authentic German restaurant, most menus are in German, so it’s easy to get disoriented on what to order or the quantity, especially if you have never had German food. Thus, a translator will guide you on this and even teach you one or two things about different foods from Germany.

A large part of eating German food is eating it raw. But you can try it in whatever form that you find most appealing. You will get a great variety of different tastes out of different dishes. You can ask if you can spare time to learn the various cooking techniques and ingredients used to prepare each dish.

Best German Foods Options

Authentic German potato soup and Weissbier at Ratskeller in Munich.
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

If you want to try one or more of the different types of German food available, you need to understand the different styles used to cook them. Whether you prefer mild or spicy German dishes, bread dumplings like brotknoedel, or a vegetarian German-style dish, the results differ with each style. 

Some chefs may use certain kinds of spices, mustard, and herbs to season different dishes for that zesty, flavorful taste.

It also helps to know the best German beer or wine pairings for your meal. There are many delicious German wines and beers, and any good German menu will offer a decent set of choices.

It would be worth asking your waiter for the best recommendations to round off your classic German food experience most memorably!

If you don’t know much about German food, it’s your lucky day. We have compiled this comprehensive list of various types of German foods. Let’s delve into the best options:

Best German Food to Try | Traditional German Food

Traditional German Foods You Need to Know

1. Traditional German Potato Salad

Traditional German Potato Salad

Potato salad is a typical traditional German food in almost every other region. This type of salad was popularized in the early 1900s and has since become very common worldwide.

German potato salad is made with a mixture of potatoes, mayonnaise, and onions, giving them a tang. Sometimes, the potato salad is served with fried eggs mixed into the salad.

This potato salad is commonly served at any event, so you may want to try it at least once, if not several.

See Related: German Potatosalat (Potatoe Salad) Recipe

2. Wurst and Sauerkraut

Wurst and Sauerkraut

Other types of popular German food to try out include wurst and sauerkraut, which are exceptionally delicious. Sauerkraut is a combination of vegetables that have been prepared to resemble the flavor of kraut.

The main difference between the two is that sauerkraut is made with cabbage that has been cooked and salted to make it taste like what is used on the other side of the globe, while wurst is made with meat and a variety of vegetables. Buy sauerkraut for your next traditional German meal at home or as a side dish to your main course.

See Related: Essential Reasons To Visit Germany

3. Pretzel

Baked Pretzels with Side of Mustard

German pretzels are excellent. There’s something about them that tastes that much better in Germany. They make a great pairing while you are drinking the finest German beers at a beer garden.

Maybe that’s why? You can get these delicious knots of bread sprinkled with salt or try it with other dippings such as sugar, cheese, and cinnamon. German pretzels were made to represent arms folded in prayer, and this is where the distinctive knot comes from.

Buy authentic German pretzels from Whole Foods for your next gathering. It’s 100% worth it and a great pairing with beer.

See Related: Best German Street Food You Need to Try

Traditional Meat Dishes

Traditionally, a typical German meal must have meat as a key ingredient. Every midday or evening meal has hearty portions of meat and sometimes even breakfast.

Most of the time, the meat is dipped in creamy sauces and served with baked squash, buttery rolls, and a full glass of German beer. Some of the best traditional meat dishes in Germany include:

4. Sauerbraten

Sauerbraten

Sauerbraten (or Roast Beef Stew or German Pot Roast) is a national German main dish that isn’t missing from most restaurant menus. Usually, a slice of horse meat, beef, or venison is marinated in vinegar, spices, and wine mixture and left to rest for several days before it is roasted. It’s traditionally served with potato dumplings, boiled potatoes, and red cabbage.

Read our full German Sauerbraten Recipe.

5. Rinderroulade

Rinderrouladen

Rinderroulade, or Beef Roll, is a common dish in Saxony with different flavors, all packed in one dish. It is prepared by rolling quality thin slices of beef around bacon, pickles, onions, and mustard. Then, it’s roasted with red wine to create a deep rich flavor.

Traditionally, Rinderroulade is served at dinner with mashed potatoes or potato dumplings, pickled red cabbage, and sometimes with winter vegetables in a saucer. The meat is dunked in thick gravy to make the meal tastier.

6. Schweinshaxe

Parkhotel Quellenhof Aachen gourmet dining experience with traditional European cuisine featuring pork shank, mashed potatoes, asparagus, and fried onions
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Popular in Bavaria, Schweinshaxe or pork knuckle is a delicious meat dish. It involves roasting pork at low temperatures for two to three hours or until the skin falls off the bone. The meat becomes juicy and tender, and the skin brittle and crispy.

Before roasting, the meat is marinated for several days. Schweinshaxe is served with potatoes and different types of cabbages.

See Related: The Ultimate German Food Tour

7. Hasenpfeffer

Plate of Hasenpfeffer (German Rabbit Stew)

To prepare this deliciously rich rabbit stew, rabbit meat is braised with wine and onions and left to rest for hours. The marinade is made with vinegar and wine, and it’s made thick with some rabbit blood.

Hare is called ‘Hase,’ and pepper is ‘pfeffer’ in German. This stew involves using seasonings and spices to make it tasteful. In Austria and Bavaria, Hasenpfeffer is made with sweet and hot paprika.

8. Königsberger Klopse

Königsberger klopse

These are tasty meatballs dipped in a creamy white sauce with capers. Traditionally, the meatballs are made with minced veal, eggs, onions, pepper, anchovies, and other spices. The sauce with capers and lemon juice gives this dish a perfect finish.

Officials in the German Democratic Republic renamed these boiled meatballs kochklopse. This was to avoid confusion with its namesake, which the Soviet Union annexed. This meal may be available in German restaurants under the traditional name, but it’s more common in Brandenburg and Berlin.

Traditional German Sausages

Sausages are an everyday staple in Germany with long traditional roots. Germany is known for its sausage types, up to 1,500 varieties.

Several regional sausage specialties are made and are probably the most famous traditional German food. For example, currywurst, a steamed pork sausage spiced with curry powder and ketchup, is popular in metropolitan Berlin, while Muncher Weibwurst, a white sausage, is common in Bavaria.

German sausages are best paired with top-notch German beers, like a light and refreshing pint of Hefeweizen for Bratwurst. Alternatively, you could always go the wine route. Germany has some delicious wines, and you won’t go wrong with pairings like a nice Dry Riesling for your Bratwurst meal, either!

You’ll see sausages grilled, smoked, pan-fried, cured, or boiled. Most sausages are served with a German bread roll, mustard, and Sauerkraut in restaurants and big hotels. Without further ado, here is our list of delicious traditional German sausages:

9. Bratwurst

Fried Bratwursts in a Pan

This is one of the most famous street foods in Germany. Typically made with veal and pork, bratwurst is a fresh sausage seasoned with nutmeg, ginger, coriander, and caraway. The sausage is usually grilled over sizzling barbecue stands in German streets, especially in summer.

This grilled sausage typically has a slightly crispy skin. It is served with mustard and ketchup, mustard and sauerkraut, or in a bread roll.

This is an excellent example of German street food and pairs extraordinarily well with German beer. Buy authentic German bratwurst for your home and make an authentic meal for your family or friends.

If you want to make this popular food from Germany, the recipe is simple for brilliantly tasty results you can enjoy at home.

10. Weisswurst

Weisswurt on a Plate with Mustard

This is a traditional bacon sausage most common in the Bavaria region. It’s made of pork back, bacon, and veal. The sausage is seasoned with parsley, mace, lemon, ginger, onions, and cardamon for a rich flavor.

Weisswurst is served as a breakfast and mid-morning snack. It’s cooked in relatively hot water as boiling water can easily break its casing. This snack is usually eaten with pretzels, mustard, and a glass of beer.

Are you not going to Germany anytime soon, or do you lack a good German restaurant nearby? Don’t fret! The recipe for making Wisswurst sausages doesn’t involve too many steps, and anyone can enjoy this classic food from Germany from home.

11. Saumagen

Saumagen with Sauerkraut

Made from the ‘sows stomach’ literally, Saumagen is a tasty dish made more popular by German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. It was his favorite typical dish that was even served to his visiting dignitaries, including Mikhail Gorbachev, Bill Clinton, Margaret Thatcher, and Ronald Reagan.

This sausage somehow resembles Scottish haggis. It involves stuffing potatoes, pork, carrots, marjoram, onions, nutmeg, and white pepper in the stomachs of a pig casing, but on rare occasions, on artificial casings.

The sausage is then diced and roasted in an oven or pan-fried. This goes well with sauerkraut, a glass of dry white wine from Palatinate, or a traditional wheat beer from Bavaria.

Other Popular German Dishes

12. Käsespätzle

Käsespätzle

Commonly popular in Southern Germany, especially Bavaria, Swabia, and the Allgäu region, Käsespätzle is an excellent example of a popular German food to enjoy while drinking beer. One of my favorite things in Munich is to hole up at a beer hall and order käsespätzle while people-watching and enjoying good company.

This traditional German dish originated from Baden-Württemberg and is, in essence, pasta. These noodles are a mixture of flour, eggs, salt, and fizzy water to fluff the dough.

Traditionally, it was served as a side dish in meat stews or dipped into a soup. It’s usually seasoned with cheese where hot spätzle and grated granular cheese are alternately layered, and finally, some fried onions are poured on top.

After adding all the layers, it’s put into an oven to melt the cheese and avoid cooling. You won’t miss this traditional German dish in beer gardens, especially in summer, in Munich pubs, or even in winter.

13. Döner Kebab

Man Eating a Berliner Döner Kebap

Introduced to Germany by a Turkish immigrant who came here between the 1960s and 1970s, the Döner kebab became a popular delicacy in Germany. In 1972, Kadir Nurman, a street seller, began to offer sandwiches made with Döner kebab at West Berlin’s Zoo Station.

From there, the dish took East and West Berlin by storm, flooding the rest of Germany. A Döner kebab traditionally contained meat, onions, and a bit of salad. But it has now been developed into a dish with other vegetables and a range of sauces from which to choose.

Sometimes, lamb, chicken, and veal spits are also used. Also, there are vegan and vegetarian versions of the dish in Germany, which are increasingly popular.

14. Spargel

Spargel (German White Asparagus)

White asparagus is part of the most popular German staple. Asparagus harvest time is usually around mid-April, which is when most meals and restaurants in Germany add this edible vegetable to their menus.

Spargelzeit is an asparagus time that Germans celebrate with a lot of passion. Spargel festivals are held each year on Spargel route in Baden-Württemberg. During this time, an average German eats asparagus at least once daily.

In restaurants, spaghetti is steamed and boiled. It is then eaten with hollandaise sauce, melted butter, or olive oil. It comes heaped upon schnitzel or wrapped in bacon, asparagus soup, pancakes, fried asparagus, asparagus and herbs, asparagus with young potatoes, or asparagus with scrambled eggs.

15. Zwiebelkuchen and federweisser

Plate of Zwiebelkuchen

Federweisser und zwiebelkuchen, a partially fermented young white wine and onion tart, is a well-known culinary treat in South Germany. This is usually common in October, the month of tasting the first wines of the year in Germany.

Brewers of this wine add yeast to grapes, allowing fermentation to occur quickly. When the alcohol level rises to 4%, the white wine is put on sale. Because of the quick fermentation process, this wine can only last a few days.

Furthermore, those carbonation levels cannot be bottled or transported in airtight cans. Thus, it’s a wine only enjoyed by those near where it’s produced.

So, in October, most people flock to the marketplace and wine gardens along the Mosel River to take a few sips or a glass of this freshly made federweisser. Since it has a light and sweet taste, it combines well with the warm, savory onion cake.

16. Reibekuchen

Reibekuchen

Another authentic German food is Reibekuchen, which is like a potato pancake. There are over 40 names for these pancakes. This is often served with treacle (syrup) or apple sauce on black pumpernickel rye bread.

These are more popular in Rhineland or Cologne all year round. This famous German food is mainly eaten during the Karneval festivities in spring. Reibekuchen vendors flock to German Christmas markets, where significant amounts of potato dough are processed daily during the holiday season.

See Related: Best Traditional German Christmas Foods

Traditional German Desserts

17. Black Forest Cake

Closeup of Black Forest Cake

Black Forest Cake is a dessert popular in Germany and The Black Forest region. This deliciously rich dessert was first created in the Schwarzwaldund, a region in Germany.

This popular German food is served after a long traditional meal. It’s a great example of a food that is hard to get elsewhere outside Germany.

The cake is made with chocolate sponge cake layers and whipped cream. It is usually served with cherry sauce or kirschwasser. Check out these other exciting things about The Black Forest.

See Related: Things to Do in the Black Forest, Germany

18. Schwarzwaelder Kirschtorte

Schwarzwaelder Kirschtorte

You won’t be able to appreciate all German foods without sampling its most delectable desserts! The Schwarzwaelder Kirschtorte, or sponge cakes with liqueur and creamed tart cherries, are delicious. This is no doubt Germany’s favorite dessert. This cake’s official debut came in 1915.

19. Apfelstrudel

Freshly Made Apfelstrudel (Apple Strudel)

Apfelstrudel is a traditional apple pastry that is popular in Germany. The pastry is made with thin layers of dough filled with apples and spices.

It is then baked and served with sweet icing, sugar glaze, and powdered sugar. Serve it with vanilla ice cream, and you’ll be blissful.

20. Pfannkuchen or Eierkuchen

Pfannkuchen (German Pancakes) with Sour Cream and Chives
Ahanov Michael / Shutterstock

Eierkuchen is a German pancake with bacon, onions, or raspberry sauce. It’s a popular dish in Germany and is often eaten as a main course, side dish, or dessert. Eierkuchen is simple to make and can be enjoyed by people of all ages.

21. Bratapfel

Bratapfel (Caramalized Apples)

Bratapfel is a traditional German food that is made with caramelized apples. It is a popular dessert dish served during the fall and winter months.

The apples are cooked in a sugar syrup until soft and caramelized, and then they are served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. Bratapfel is a delicious and decadent treat everyone should try at least once.

Weird Rare German Dishes

22. Himmel un ääd

Himmel und Erde (Heaven and Earth) Dish

If you want to try something more erratic or weird, then Himmel un ääd should be on your list. This is a messy and optically unappealing dish, but it is worth giving a try.

himmel un ääd in Cologne or Himmel und erde, (both mean “Earth and Heaven”). Having been around since the 18th century, this dish is more common in Westphalia, Rhineland, and Lower Saxony. The dish has mashed potatoes, fried onions, black pudding, and apple sauce.

It’s a beloved meal of the many Kölsch breweries and beer halls in Cologne, where it pairs perfectly well with one or several full glasses of beer.

Summary

Dish CategoryDish NameDescription
Traditional German FoodsGerman Potato SaladA tangy, bacon-studded potato salad often served warm.
Wurst and SauerkrautVarious German sausages paired with fermented cabbage.
Pretzel (Brezel)A soft, chewy bread in a unique knot shape, often topped with salt.
Traditional Meat DishesSauerbratenBeef pot roast marinated in vinegar and spices, then slow-cooked until tender.
SchweinshaxeRoasted pork knuckle with crispy skin, popular in Bavarian beer halls.
Traditional German SausagesBratwurstA general term for German sausages, usually made from pork and veal.
WeisswurstA mild, white sausage from Bavaria made with veal and pork, often enjoyed at breakfast.
Other Popular German DishesKäsespätzleSoft egg noodles topped with melted cheese and caramelized onions.
Döner KebabA Turkish dish that has become a popular street food in Germany.
SpargelWhite asparagus, celebrated during spring and served with hollandaise sauce or melted butter.
Traditional German DessertsBlack Forest Cake (Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte)Chocolate cake layered with cherries, whipped cream, and chocolate shavings.
ApfelstrudelA flaky pastry filled with cinnamon-spiced apples, raisins, and breadcrumbs.
Unique German DishesHimmel un äädA savory dish from Cologne featuring mashed potatoes, applesauce, and blood sausage.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is German food?

German food is distinguished goods that are genuinely prepared, consumed, and a product of Germany’s fascinating heritage. German food is a fusion of national, regional, and local German cuisines. Meat, sausages, bread, salads, and potatoes are the staples of German cuisine.

What is traditional German food?

Traditional German cuisine has been crafted and handed down through decades as part of Germany’s long and interesting heritage. Traditional German food is a form of German cuisine usually served in different regions, each representing its traditional meal.

Traditional German cuisine consists of dishes made mostly of meat prepared in diverse manners: slices of bread, potato-based ingredients, and various slices of bread.

What is German food like?

Food from Germany is generally served in generous portions, making for a complete and satisfying meal. To taste great and savor the best German dishes, they must be combined with a salad or bread next to the meat bowl. German cuisine is like a fully-featured meal because it mostly includes meat, bread, salad, and vegetables on a single plate.

Is German food good or bad?

Many German meals have captured the taste and palate of most of the world. German cuisine is delicious and provides pleasant and full servings. The history and culture that craft the country’s cuisine can be delightfully tasted and seen in German food presentations.

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Kyle Kroeger
WRITTEN BY

Kyle Kroeger

Kyle Kroeger is the Founder and Owner of ViaTravelers.com. He is a full-time traveler and entrepreneur. Kyle started ViaTravelers.com to help travelers experience a fully immersive cultural experience as he did initially living in Italy. He's a converted finance nerd and Excel jockey turned world wanderer (and may try to get lost on purpose). After visiting 12 countries and 13 national parks in a year, he was devoted to creating and telling stories like he'd heard.

Plus, after spending more time on airplanes and packing, he's learned some incredible travel hacks over time as he earned over 1 million Chase Ultimate Rewards points in under a year, helping him maximize experiences as much as possible to discover the true meaning of travel.

He loves listening to local stories from around the world and sharing his experiences traveling the globe. He loves travel so much that he moved from his hometown of Minneapolis to Amsterdam with his small family to travel Europe full-time. Read more about his portfolio of work.

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