German Food

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Germany has established itself as the land of the ex-pats and a massive melting pot of different cultures. German culture has changed exponentially in all areas, including its food. You can find the crème de la crème of many cuisines in all the major German cities, especially Berlin. And it’s often difficult to find traditional eats or even know what German food to look for. But German gastronomy is much deeper than just sausages and beer (which are still some of the best I have ever tasted!).

Once you’ve discovered German bakeries, you’ll realise that Germany’s baked goods are right up there with the French. In fact, German gastronomy has been flying under the radar for quite some time. Here are some German dishes to try.  

German Food

Food Tours in Berlin

Food In Germany – A great start or perhaps a meal in itself

1- Knödel

Knodel Or Canederli
Knodel is another tasty morsel to tick off your German food list.

Extremely common in Eastern and Central Europe, these potato dumplings are one of the best accompaniments to any saucy dish.

While this dish is fantastic as a side, the German Knödel can be enjoyed just by itself.

There are different ways of making these dumplings, they can be done using old bread, boiled potatoes and in some cases, even quark.

The dumplings are boiled once formed and then can be served in a clear broth or in some versions, they are pan fried.

Either way, these dumplings are light, airy and really comforting.

Why they work great with sauces is due to their texture.

If you cut open a boiled dumpling, you will see lots of air pockets which are perfect to soak in any flavour presented to them.

2- Kartoffelsalat

Potato Salad On Wood Background
Potato salad is big in German food culture.

This dish is presented differently based on which region you are in but there is something about potato salads that always hits differently.

In Northern Germany, kartoffelsalat is made like any other potato salad where the base uses potatoes and mayonnaise.

It is in the south where the true German potato salad really shines.

The salad is mostly served hot and has a dressing that is made of vinegar, mustard, a type of broth and other basic seasonings.

There is no use of mayonnaise in the southern version and trust me you won’t miss it.

The boiled potatoes really soak in the flavour of the broth and the vinegar, and in many versions the final dish is topped off with crispy bacon bits.

It tastes even better than it sounds.

3- Eintopf

Soup Eintopf In A Clay Bowl On Towel
Eintopf is a famous German food dish that’s especially popular in winter.

It can get really chilly during the winters in Germany and the best dishes to keep you warm are stews.

Eintopf is not really just one dish but the word literally means ‘one pot’ referring to dishes that are made using just one pot and mostly stews or soups.

Because of how vast this idea behind this word is, you will find eintopf being prepared and served differently at different places.

The idea of eintopf is also to be a complete meal, serving all the nutritional values at once.

So, the base is usually made of tons of vegetables and then meat and/or potatoes are added to it.

It is a really hearty and basic dish but a lot of times that is exactly what you crave.

4- Kartoffelpuffer

Potato Pancake Or Fritter With Apple Sauce
Potato pancakes are a great side dish when preparing meat dishes with German food recipes.

There is just something about the relationship of potatoes and meat in the west.

I don’t have anything to complain about as I love the combo.

These potato pancakes are usually seen as the crispy side to many German meat dishes.

I look at these and think of them as one of the best breakfast options out there.

Kartoffelpuffer are very similar to hashbrowns, latkes and rösti.

Potaoes are grated with onions, water is squeezed out of them and then they are fried to golden perfection.

The slight difference that takes place is while spicing these German potato pancakes.

Amongst other basic spices, nutmeg is also added, which gives them a touch of warmth.

They are either served with pickled cabbage and sour cream or surprisingly, even with sugar and apple sauce.

5- The German Bread

Sourdough Bread
Sourdough bread is another popular food in Germany.

I know this is not a dish but you need to know about the German bread culture.

For Germans, their bread is their crown jewel and it is rightfully so because the rye breads that you find in Germany are unlike any other and a lot of people would argue that it is an acquired taste.

Bauernbrot is one of the most common types and the one that Germans adore.

The crust of this bread is crackily, full of flour and has an extremely rustic look to it.

The loafs are prepared with rye instead of normal wheat flour.

The base of this bread is made with a sourdough starter and on top of that rye requires a long fermentation time.

The result of these two things lead to a bread that has a very sharp and sour taste but a texture to die for.

6- Pretzel

Close Up Pretzel Bread And Buns In Basket
You can try pretzels anywhere in the world but if you’re visiting Germany, it’s one treat you will love eating.

I will be honest, I had no idea that pretzels were German until I actually visited.

This iconic knot baked good is famous all over the world and makes for a perfect snack to enjoy while traversing the German streets.

The shape of the pretzel or brezel is so iconic that it is even the emblem of the bakers’ guild in Germany and you would notice it in so many traditional bakeries.

The pretzel dough is extremely yeasty and lots of butter is mixed in giving it that beautiful soft yet flaky texture.

Before being baked, the dough is boiled in a solution of baking soda or more traditionally, in caustic soda or lye.

The flavour and chew of a good pretzel is quite an experience.

Food Tours in Munich

German Sausages – Don’t forget the humble sausage

7- Weisswurst

Raw Munich White Sausage Weisswurst
Weisswurst sausages are one of the best German food choices for flavour.

While these sausages are not the best when it comes to looks, they pack a lot of punch when it comes to the flavour.

This is actually one of the most unique sausages I have ever tried.

The Bavarian speciality is of the fresh kind.

These sausages are prepared fresh in the morning without any process of preservation involved; they are not even smoked.

So, weisswurst needs to be consumed no later than lunch time as they are extremely perishable.

Once, the sausages are formed and boiled, there are many different ways of consuming them.

Some locals cut on end of the casing and suck the tender meat out (not a great image but the taste is worth it).

The sausage has the flavour of lemon, parsley, onions, ginger and cardamom, in great balance.

8- Currywurst

German Currywurst
Currywurst is a popular German snack food.

This might be one of the most adored dish of the German locals.

Anywhere I went, I could not hear more of how good this dish is and how I need to try it.

Let me tell you, currywurst is extremely special to the Germans but it is also quite overrated.

But of course, you need to try this iconic dish and then form your own opinion.

It is one of the national dishes and it is sold everywhere in different styles.

Traditionally, a bratwurst is fried, sliced open and topped with curry powder.

The sausage then is served with chilli flakes, onions and Worcestershire sauce or in some cases Ketchup (stay away from that please).

In any case, it is still a good dish and specially when you have had a few pints.

The full German meal

9- Maultaschen

Swabian Maultasche With Onions In An Iron Pan
Swabian Maultasche is an authentic dish in Germany to taste.

There is no evidence linking Italians to Germans but this dish might make you feel so.

When I first had Maultaschen, I was extremely confused as this dish is so similar to ravioli.

Actually, I wasn’t able to find much difference except for the way it is served.

But truly, this Swabian dish is extremely embedded in the Bavarian culture.

Just like ravioli, maultaschen are huge meat filled dumplings that taste fantastic.

They can be served pan-fried or in a soup or even with a German potato salad (the combination shouldn’t work but it really does).

These dumplings are actually an EU protected dish in the region of Swabia.

So, you better believe it that it is a big deal.

10- Labskaus

There is just something special about beetroot and meat for the central and eastern Europeans.

The further east you go the more you find dishes with beetroot incorporated in the meat.

Labskaus is a famous German dish originating in the cities of Hamburg, Bremen and Lübeck.

This dish also makes use of adding beetroot to it but the twist here is that it is pickled.

I must say that it is not the most appetising looking dish but you have to give it a try because weirdly, it tastes really good.

When the beetroot is really mixed in there, you might even mistake it for a beef tartare but it really isn’t.

Here the meat is boiled in its broth until tender and then minced in with potatoes, gherkins and pickled beetroot. And in some cases, even herring is added to it.

11- Zwiebelkuchen

German Zwiebelkuchen Or Onion Cake
Zwiebelkuchen or onion cake is one type of staple food in Germany to try.

If you like onions, this is the dish for you.

This is another flavour packed beauty coming from the Swabian region in the south of Germany.

The name literally translates to ‘onion cake’ and technically it is but there is a lot more to it.

The filling of this pie is made with loads and loads of slowly caramelised onions and they are flavoured beautifully with bacon and caraway seeds.

Everything comes together with cream and the dough can be either shortcrust pastry or yeasted.

The flavours of this pie work like a harmony and the texture is dense in a great way with the flaky dough.

This is a must have with a glass of good red wine (The German way).

12- Rouladen

This is a dish that is equally loved all over the country and you can find it easily at any traditional German restaurant.

It is hearty, meaty with a slight sour kick.

Germans have really nailed down incorporating sour flavours in their dishes because they always add just the right amount.

This meat dish is basically just meat that is thinly cut and then rolled up with gherkins, onions, mustard and bacon.

There are many ways of serving it with different sides that I have talked about before but it works best when served with a luscious gravy, at least for me.

This is also a dish that is closely associated with most German holidays and it is definitely not one to miss out on.

13- Käsespätzle

Spaetzle is a German traditional food to keep up the energy.

At this point, I do think that most amazing dishes come from Bavaria.

This is another classic coming from the Swabian region and it has made its way on to almost every traditional German menu.

Spätzle at its core is a type of pasta or can be termed as a type of dumpling found in many central European cuisines.

While they can be served in many different forms, even sweet and work great as a side dish, Käsespätzle is the way to have these dumplings.

The cooked “pasta” is mixed with cheese and fried onions which make this dish extremely comforting and one to look out for.

14- Sauerbraten with Sauerkraut

German Sauerbraten With Red Cabbage On A Plate
Sauerbraten is a hearty German food dish everyone loves.

I am pretty sure that this is one of the most unique combination of flavours I have ever had.

This hearty pot roast dish is one to die for.

The meat is marinated in a mix of vinegar and aromatics for days before roasting.

In some variations, the marination also uses wine.

It gets its iconic sour notes because of that vinegar but it is not overpowering at all.

The use of Sauerkraut as a side is actually my personal choice

because it really brings the roast together and it is all because of the sauce it is served with.

The glaze of the meat is infused with apple sauce, beet syrup and raisins and it has a wonderful sweetness to it.

If you can get your hands on this dish, you have to try it.

15- Döner Kebab

How can I talk about German mains and then not mention the Döner.

Look, I know that it is a Turkish dish but it was actually invented in Germany, so the Germans do deserve some credit.

I don’t need to explain it because I am sure everyone knows about this beauty.

Doner kebabs might be one of the most famous dishes in the world and it was in 1972 that it was born.

Just like any sane person, I have had a ton of them all over the world, even in Turkey but the best I have ever had was in Berlin.

If you are visiting Germany, you have to try it, it is important that you eat one to complete your trip.

German Dessert Time!

Puff Pastry With Mascarpone And Cranberry Sauce
German Christmas food is delicious and you won’t be able to resist the variety of pastries and desserts available when visiting.

16- Dampfnudel With Vanilla Sauce

Typically, this is served as a main or a side dish but it works gorgeously as a dessert.

Dampfnudel are leavened dumplings that are simple and airy.

So, you can see how well they could accompany different sauces but there is something about the texture and the flavours when it is served with a decadent, creamy vanilla sauce.

Once, you have had them this way, you would never imagine these dumplings as a savoury dish.

The way these yeast dumplings are cooked in a pan, gets them all golden and crusty on the bottom.

The bottom crust is a fantastic addition to the array of textures here.

Add some sort of jam or berry compote on top of the vanilla sauce and you get an elevated experience.

17- Spaghettieis

I am not going lie but I legit laughed out loud when I found that Spaghetti ice cream comes from Germany.

I remember how viral this dish got on the internet once people saw that it was ice cream that looked like pasta.

You can only understand that hype once you have had it.

It is not about the looks but mostly about the texture of this dessert, which is absolutely wonderful.

The aesthetic of spaghetti ice cream doesn’t really shout German but it has been a part of their culture since the late 1960s.

There is not one ice-cream parlour in Germany that doesn’t have this on the menu.

I don’t know how Italians co-exist with this weirdness but this is a dish that naturally, tastes great and would bring out the child in any adult.

18- Bienenstich

This is easily one of my favourite German desserts and I am sure most Germans would agree.

It is light, creamy, has a great mouth feel and is not overpoweringly sweet.

The name literally means ‘Bee sting cake’ but there is nothing stinging about it.

The use of bee in the name is because it is honey flavoured.

There are different layers to the cake: There is a thick slab of vanilla cream in between two layers of thin sweet yeast cake and the whole thing is topped with a layer of almonds that are caramelised in honey.

Correct me if that doesn’t sound like a thing you would want to eat the moment you think about it.

19- Quark And Fruit Pastries

I am not sure if I had talked about quark before on this list.

Well, now I need to because this is one of the best ways to enjoy it.

Quark sounds like a weird thing to people who don’t know about it and the last thing you would imagine is that it is a type of cheese.

Quark is used a lot in German cuisine but the best way I have had it is on top of a flaky pastry, topped with some sort of fruit.

This cheese is kind of like a mix between cottage cheese and yogurt.

It is extremely creamy, has a slight sourness to it and when mixed with a fruit glaze, it is a revelation.

You can find it easily in most German bakeries and the way the quark cuts through the sweetness of fruits like peaches and raspberries, would keep you always wanting more.

20- Zwetschgenkuchen

Fresh Plum Cake
Plum cake is another tasty treat to tick off your German food list.

Like most German words, the name of this dessert is a mouthful too.

It is fine because once you have had it, you’ll want mouthfuls of it.

I would like to finish off this list by recommending the cake that I had almost every time I took a coffee in Germany (or at least when I could find it on the menu of the bakery or the cafe).

I will just call it by what the name means ‘Plum cake’ (funny, how simple it is in English).

Anyway, this German plum cake is another must have.

It is deliciously juicy, dense but not super filling and the freshness of the plums just shine throughout.

If you drink coffee, you need to pair it with a slice of this cake.

See, after reading this list, you must have thought to yourself that traditional German food is definitely something that you should try.

Honestly, I was there for a long time and I didn’t try as much traditional food as I should have because gastronomically, they have quite a lot to offer too.

I do think that the dishes I have recommended would work for most, so have fun eating. 

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Growing up in India you are bound to be crazy (or curious) about good food. In search of myself I clichéd out and spent a while travelling in South-East Asia. Eventually, I ended up enrolling in a culinary school in Porto. This is where I live now. It has been almost six years that I have been working as a chef. Until last year, I used to work for a few months, save up and then slow travel to the point of being broke. Last year, I decided to quit working in conventional kitchens and focused on projects where I could write, work privately and have the freedom to travel full time. The most fun aspect of my day now, is working on my blog (shout out to My favourite destination is Azores. It is in Portugal but is truly a different world in itself.