German food is rich, hearty and diverse. It’s comfort eating with high-quality, often locally sourced ingredients.
The cuisine of Germany has been shaped not only by the country’s agricultural traditions but by the many immigrants that have made the country home over the centuries.
It’s definitely more than a mere mix of beer, sauerkraut and sausage.
Today Germans appreciate well-prepared, well-served meals as much as they do a quick bite on the go. This is a country of food markets, beer gardens, wine festivals, food museums and high-end restaurants.
So: Haben sie hunger? Are you hungry now? Check out our list of 20 traditional German dishes that you need to try when you travel there.
Named after the former East Prussian capital of Königsberg (now Kaliningrad in Russia), this tasty dish of meatballs in a creamy white sauce with capers is beloved by grandmothers and chefs alike.
The meatballs are traditionally made with minced veal, onion, eggs, anchovies, pepper and other spices. The sauce’s capers and lemon juice give this filling comfort food a surprisingly elegant finish.
In the German Democratic Republic, officials renamed the dish kochklopse (boiled meatballs) to avoid any reference to its namesake, which had been annexed by the Soviet Union. Today it’s possible to find königsberger klopse under their traditional name in most German restaurants, but they are especially popular in Berlin and Brandenburg.
Maultaschen from Swabia, southwestern Germany, are a lot like ravioli but bigger. They are typically palm-sized, square pockets of dough with fillings that run the gamut from savory to sweet and meaty to vegetarian.
A traditional combination is minced meat, bread crumbs, onions and spinach – all seasoned with salt, pepper and parsley. They’re often simmered and served with broth instead of sauce for a tender, creamier treat, but are sometimes pan-fried and buttered for extra richness.
Today you can find maultaschen all over Germany (even frozen in supermarkets) but they’re most common in the south.
Here the delicious dumplings have become so important that in 2009, the European Union recognized Maultaschen as a regional specialty and marked the dish as significant to the cultural heritage of the state of Baden-Württemberg.
Labskaus is not the most visually appealing dish, but a delectable mess that represents the seafaring traditions of northern Germany like no other. In the 18th and 19th centuries, ship provisions were mostly preserved fare, and the pink slop of labskaus was a delicious way of preparing them.
Salted beef, onions, potatoes and pickled beetroot are all mashed up like porridge and served with pickled gherkins and rollmops (see below). It has long been a favorite of Baltic and North Sea sailors.
Today the dish is served all over northern Germany, but especially in Bremen, Kiel and Hamburg. And while on modern ships fridges have been installed, it remains popular as a hangover cure.
There is no Germany without sausages.
There are countless cured, smoked and other varieties available across wurst-loving Germany, so, for this list we will focus on some of the best German street food: bratwurst, or fried sausages.
There are more than 40 varieties of German bratwurst. Fried on a barbecue or in the pan, and then served in a white bread roll with mustard on the go, or with potato salad or sauerkraut as the perfect accompaniment for German beer.
Some of the most common bratwurst are:
– Fränkische bratwurst from Fraconia with marjoram as a characteristic ingredient.
– Nürnberger rostbratwurst that is small in size and mostly comes from the grill.
– Thüringer rostbratwurst from Thuringia, which is quite spicy. Thuringia is also the home of the first German bratwurst museum, which opened in 2006.
The most popular incarnation of bratwurst, however, is the next item on our list.
Practically synonymous with German cuisine since 1945, currywurst is commonly attributed to Herta Heuwer, a Berlin woman who in 1949 managed to obtain ketchup and curry powder from British soldiers, mixed them up and served the result over grilled sausage, instantly creating a German street food classic.
Today boiled and fried sausages are used, and currywurst remains one of the most popular sausage-based street foods in Germany, especially in Berlin, Cologne and the Rhine-Ruhr, where it’s usually served with chips and ketchup or mayonnaise or a bread roll.
Not the most sophisticated of dishes, but a filling street snack born out of necessity about which all of Germany is still mad: some 800 million are consumed a year.
Döner kebab was introduced to Germany by Turkish immigrant workers coming here in the 1960s and ’70s. One of the earliest street sellers was Kadir Nurman, who started offering döner kebab sandwiches at West Berlin’s Zoo Station in 1972, from the where the dish first took both West and East Berlin by storm and then the rest of Germany.
From its humble Berlin beginnings when a döner kebab only contained meat, onions and a bit of salad, it developed into a dish with abundant salad, vegetables (sometimes grilled), and a selection of sauces from which to choose.
Veal and chicken spits are widely used as is the ever-popular lamb, while vegetarian and vegan versions are becoming increasingly common.
Some might argue that schnitzel is Austrian and not German, but its origins are actually Italian.
This controversy hasn’t stopped the breaded and fried meat cutlets to become popular everywhere in Germany, however. While the Austrian or Vienna schnitzel is by law only made with veal, the German version is made with tenderized pork or turkey and has become a staple of most traditional restaurants.
Whereas Vienna schnitzel is served plain, Germans love to ladle a variety of sauces over their schnitzel. Jägerschnitzel comes with mushroom sauce, zigeunerschnitzel with bell pepper sauce and rahmschnitzel is served with a creamy sauce.
All go well with fried potatoes and cold lager or a Franconian apple wine.
Spätzle originally come from Baden-Württemberg. Essentially a sort of pasta, the noodles are a simple co