Germany is known for its various attractions. Whether it’s the amazing castles, the Black Forest, or the delicious German food, there’s always something nice in Germany. If you want a taste of Germany’s most delectable cuisines, here’s a great overview.
There are many different kinds of German food available. They range from super popular recipes like German sausages to more specific ones like Christmas dishes.
You may consider trying out all German delicacies available regularly or first go with something a little lighter.
Whatever the case, if you’re interested in trying out some new German food, it is crucial to first understand the typical German food existing in order to have a great experience.
Let’s first look at a short history of food in Germany:
Table of Contents
- History of Food in Germany
- Typical Food Served at German Restaurants
- Best German Foods Options
- Traditional German Foods You Need to Know
- 1. Traditional German Potato Salad
- 2. Wurst and Sauerkraut
- 3. Pretzel
- Traditional Meat Dishes
- 3. Sauerbraten or Roast Beef Stew or German Pot Roast
- 4. Beef Roll/ Rinderroulade
- 5. Pork Knuckle/ Schweinshaxe
- 6. Rabbit Stew/ Hasenpfeffer
- 7. Königsberger Klopse
- Traditional German Sausages
- 8. Bratwurst
- 9. Weisswurst
- 10. Saumagen
- Other Popular German Dishes
- 11. Käsespätzle
- 12. Döner Kebab
- 13. Spargel
- 14. Zwiebelkuchen and federweisser
- 15. Reibekuchen
- Traditional German Dessert Foods
- 16. Black Forest Cake
- 17. Schwarzwaelder Kirschtorte (a cake with sponge cake, liqueur, and cherries)
- 18. Apfelstrudel (an apple pastry)
- 19. Eierkuchen (a German pancake with bacon and onions)
- 20. Bratapfel (a caramelized apple)
- Weird Rare German Dishes
- 21. Himmel un ääd
- German Christmas Foods
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- What is German food?
- What is traditional German food?
- What is German food like?
- Is German food good or bad?
- Brewery Guides
History of Food in Germany
Germany’s culinary history reflects in its roots and geography. Over time, German food has evolved through different periods of 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 the 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 German Restaurants
When it comes to German food, there are many variations. Depending on what German-speaking country or what part of Germany you’re visiting, you can get more than one kind of German food available for your consumption.
One of the best ways to find the best German restaurants is to ask around. Many German restaurants have bulletin boards and websites where people post information and photos of their favorite German restaurants.
So, consider searching for the restaurants that are more popular on your favorite search engine. Their online reviews will tell you the sort of restaurant it is and if it’s known for excellent service and quality.
Also, if you don’t know much about German food served in restaurants or German street foods, get a translator.
In fact, many restaurants have a designated staff to translate and help visitors with any questions they may have.
The translator can also help with ordering the food you want, especially if you are unfamiliar with the language here.
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 foods. Thus, the translator will guide you on this and even teach you one or two things about different German cuisines.
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.
If you are willing to spare some time to learn the various cooking techniques and ingredients that go into preparing each dish, you can ask.
Best German Foods Options
If you are looking to try one or more of the different types of German food available, you need to understand the different styles used to cook them as well. 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.
If you don’t know much about German food, it’s your lucky day. We have compiled this comprehensive German food list consisting of the traditional, Christmas, and various other types of German foods.
Let’s delve in:
Traditional German Foods You Need to Know
1. Traditional German Potato Salad
A common traditional German food found in almost every other region is potato salad. This type of salad was popularized in the early 1900s and has since become very common all over the world.
German potato salad is made with a mixture of potatoes, mayonnaise, and onions, which gives them a sort of tang. Sometimes the potato salad is served with fried eggs mixed into the salad.
This type of potato salad is commonly served at any event, and so you may want to try it at least once, if not severally.
2. Wurst and Sauerkraut
Other types of German food to try out include wurst and sauerkraut, both of 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 to have on your next meal at home or as a side dish to your main course.
German pretzels are excellent. There’s something about them that just 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.
Traditional Meat Dishes
Traditionally, a typical German food must have meat as a key ingredient. Every midday or evening meal has hearty portions of meat, and in some cases, even breakfast.
Most of the time, the meat is dipped in creamy sauces and served along with baked squash, buttery rolls, and a full glass of German beer.
Some of the best traditional meat dishes in Germany include:
3. Sauerbraten or Roast Beef Stew or German Pot Roast
Sauerbraten is a national German main dish, and it doesn’t miss in 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 its roasted.
It’s traditionally served along with potato dumplings, boiled potatoes, and red cabbage.
4. Beef Roll/ Rinderroulade
This is a common dish in Saxony that has different flavors, all packed in one single dish. It is prepared by rolling quality thin slices of beef around bacon, pickles, onions, mustard, and 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.
5. Pork Knuckle/ Schweinshaxe
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 till the skin falls off from 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.
6. Rabbit Stew/ Hasenpfeffer
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.
7. Königsberger Klopse
These are tasty meatballs meals 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 along with lemon juice gives this dish a perfect finish.
Officials in the German Democratic Republic renamed this 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 a common staple in Germany with long traditional roots.
In fact, Germany is known for its variety of sausage types, going up to 1,500 varieties.
Several regional sausage specialties are made and are probably the most popular 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.
You’ll see sausages grilled, smoked, pan-fried, and even 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:
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 a great 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.
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 to get 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 pretzel, mustard, and a glass of beer.
Made from the ‘sows stomach’ literally, saumagen is a tasty dish that was 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 down perfectly well with mashed potatoes, sauerkraut, and a glass of dry white wine from Palatinate or a traditional wheat beer from Bavaria.
See Related: Best German Gifts
Other Popular German Dishes
Commonly popular in Southern Germany, especially Bavaria, Swabia, and the Allgäu region, Käsespätzle is a great example of classic German food to enjoy while drinking beer.
This traditional German dish originated from Baden-Württemberg and is, in essence, a sort of pasta. These noodles are a mixture of flour, eggs, salt, and a bit of fizzy water to fluff the dough up.
Traditionally, it was served as a side dish in meat stews or dipped into a soup. It’s normally 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 then put into an oven to melt the cheese and to avoid cooling. You won’t miss this traditional German dish in beer gardens, especially in summer and Munich pubs even in winter.
See Related: Best Things to do in Hessen, Germany
12. Döner Kebab
Introduced to Germany by a Turkish immigrant who came here between the 1960s and 1970s, 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 both East and West Berlin by storm, and then it flooded the rest of Germany.
A Döner kebab is traditionally contained meat, with 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.
In some cases, lamb, chicken, and veal spits are also used. Also, there are vegan and vegetarian versions of the dish in Germany, which are increasingly growing in popularity.
White asparagus make 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 palatable vegetable to their menus.
Spargelzeit is an asparagus time that Germans celebrate with a lot of passion. In fact, Spargel festivals are held each year on spargel route in Baden-Württemberg. During this time, an average German eats asparagus at least once a day.
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.
14. Zwiebelkuchen and federweisser
Federweisser und zwiebelkuchen, which is 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 take place quickly. When the alcohol level rises up to 4%, the white wine is put on sale.
Because of the quick fermentation process, this wine can only last for a couple of 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.
Another authentic German food is this pancake of fried potatoes. There are over 40 names for these pancakes. This is often served with treacle (a type of syrup) or apple sauce on black pumpernickel rye bread.
These are more popular in Rhineland or cologne all year round. This popular German food is mostly eaten during the Karneval festivities in spring.
Reibekuchen vendors flock to German Christmas markets, where liters of potato dough are being processed daily during the holiday season.
Traditional German Dessert Foods
16. Black Forest Cake
Black Forest Cake is a dessert that is popular in Germany and The Black Forest region. The Black Forest Cake was first created in the Schwarzwaldund, a region in Germany.
This is authentic German food that is served after a long traditional meal. It’s a great example of one of the foods that are hard to get anywhere else outside of 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 interesting things about The Black Forest.
17. Schwarzwaelder Kirschtorte (a cake with sponge cake, liqueur, and cherries)
You won’t be able to appreciate German cuisine without sampling its most delectable desserts! The sponge cakes with liqueur and creamed cherries are a delicious combination. The Schwarzwaelders Kirschtorte was no doubt Germany’s favorite dessert. This cake’s official debut came in 1915.
18. Apfelstrudel (an apple pastry)
Apfelstrudel is a traditional pastry that is popular in Germany. The pastry is made with thin layers of dough that are filled with apples and spices.
It is then baked and served with sweet icing, sugar glaze, and/or powdered sugar. Serve it with a side of vanilla ice cream and you’ll be in pure bliss.
19. Eierkuchen (a German pancake with bacon and onions)
Eierkuchen is a German pancake typically made with bacon and onions. It’s a popular dish in Germany and is often eaten as a main course, as a side dish, or even as a dessert. Eierkuchen is simple to make and can be enjoyed by people of all ages.
20. Bratapfel (a caramelized apple)
Bratapfel is a traditional German food that is made with caramelized apples. It is a popular dessert dish that is served during the fall and winter months.
The apples are cooked in a sugar syrup until they are 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 that everyone should try at least once.
Weird Rare German Dishes
21. Himmel un ääd
If you want to try something more erratic or weird, then Himmel un ääd should be top on your list. This is a messy and optically unappealing dish but 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 is made with mashed potatoes, fried onions, black pudding, and apple sauce.
See Related: Best Things to do in Munich, Germany
German Christmas Foods
Most cultures mark traditions with food. Christmas is the time to enjoy some delicious meals for Germans.
Most of the Christmas foods in Germany include some drinks, main meals, and desserts.
Here are some of the German foods that are included in meals during this festive season:
- Crispy roasted goose seasoned with thyme, onions, and fruit.
- Bavarian Bread dumplings (semmelknödel) recipe sopped in rich gravy from the braised roast.”
- German braised red cabbage (rotkohl) topped with green apple, Juniper berries, and tangy vinegar.
- Krautstrudel: an easy savory cabbage roll with soft sauteed strands of cabbage, the savory crunch of caraway seeds, and the smoky flavor of bacon which is all wrapped in a delicate, flaky crust.
- A classic German Dresden Christmas stollen that is flaky, moist, aromatic, and divinely flavorful,
- Almond-filled stollen
- Gingerbread cookies (lebkuchen) common with medieval monks, dating back to the 13th century in Germany and Switzerland.”
- Lebkuchen bars with no fat other than that in the egg.
See Related: Easy German Travel Phrase Guide
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 that is usually served in different regions of the country, from each region representing its very own 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?
Traditional German food is generally served in generous portions, making for a complete and satisfying meal. To have a great taste and savor the best German dishes, they must either be combined or accompanied with a salad or bread right 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?
Most of Germany’s delicacies have captured the taste and palate of most of the world, mainly sausage, which is one of the nation’s staple foods. German cuisine is delicious as well as provides pleasant and full servings. The history and culture that craft the country’s meal can be delightfully tasted and seen on German food presentations.
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