Vegetarian guide to traditional German cuisine

Tell me, is Wurst the first thing that comes to your mind when you think about typical German food? Because this is what I actually think of when I hear about German food. All kinds of meat are a big part of traditional German cuisine. If you love meat, Germany is a culinary paradise. However, vegetarians also should not skip trying local dishes when traveling in Germany. Here are the best traditional German dishes that don’t include meat.

1. Spargel (white asparagus) is probably the most loved vegetable in Germany.  Spargelzeit (white asparagus season) starts in mid-April and ends on the 24 June. During this time the whole country tends to get slightly obsessed with it. There are Spargel festivals, Spargel is sold in all supermarkets and farmers markets, restaurants serve Spargel in different variations and some even dedicate the whole menu to asparagus dishes. The most common way to eat Spargel is with potatoes and Hollandaise sauce. Be sure to give it a try, if you happen to be traveling to Germany during white asparagus season!

White asparagus served with potatoes

2. Potatoes. I know, this might sound not so exciting, but potatoes are a very important part of German cuisine. They can be prepared in many different ways and served as a side dish or main course. Salzkartoffeln are just potatoes boiled in salt water. Pellkartoffeln are prepared without taking the skin off. Bratkartoffeln are fried potato slices and Kartoffelpüree is a German word for mashed potatoes. Then there is also Kartoffelsalat (potato salad)Kartoffelknödel (potato dumplings), and Kartoffelgratin (potato gratin) to name a few.

Kartoffelgratin and Kartoffelsalat

3. Kartoffelpuffer or Reibekuchen. This is another potato dish that requires a special mention. Kartoffelpuffer (potato pancakes) are made from raw grated potatoes mixed with flour, eggs, salt or sugar and optionally onions and then fried in a pan. They can be sweet or savory and served as a side dish or main course with applesauce.


4. Maultaschen. Yes, they are not traditionally vegetarian. Maultaschen are dough “bags” stuffed with a mixture of meat, spinach, and herbs. In fact, according to the legend, the recipe was developed by the monks to eat during the Lent when they were supposed to be fasting. In Maultaschen, meat is hidden under the pasta dough, so this way God cannot see it. Nowadays Maultaschen are so popular that it’s easy to find them with vegetarian filling, for example with spinach or cheese. Given the wide popularity of this dish that is even protected by the Europian Union as a regional specialty, you should definitely try them!

Maultaschen cut into slices

5. Spätzle are kind of soft noodles made from eggs, flour, and salt.  Although they are often used as a side dish with meat, there is also a vegetarian way to eat it. Try Käsespätzle – Spätzle mixed with roasted onions and topped with cheese or Krautspätzle – Spätzle with Sauerkraut.


6. Knoedel or Klöße. I already mentioned potato dumplings (Kartoffelknödel), but there are many other variations of this dish. Some of them contain meat, but the vegetarian ones are, for example, Dampfnudel – sweet or savory steamed rolls that can be served as a main dish or dessert. Germknödel is a yeast dumpling filled with plum jam served with melted butter and topped with a mixture of sugar and poppy seeds. Semmelknödel are bread dumplings made with dried white bread, milk, and eggs.


7. Schupfnudeln are potato noodles, although they can be also made only from flour and egg. Indicator for the name is not ingredients, but a typical “finger shape”. They are often served with Sauerkraut as a main dish.


8. Sauerkraut. If you didn’t answer “Wurst” to my question in the beginning, chances are you thought of Sauerkraut. Famous German pickled cabbage is a great option for vegetarians.  It is not only tasty (in my humble opinion), but also a great source of vitamins and is believed to strengthen your immune system.


Note: even though those dishes are basically vegetarian, they can be served with meat gravy or bacon sometimes, so be sure to ask before ordering. 


Did you try any of these dishes? Did you like them?
Also, tell me if I missed something! I am always looking for new foods to try 🙂

vegetarian german food

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    1. then this article is right for you! You should try all the dishes listed here during your stay in Germany ! 🙂
      I know this post is confusing, because it makes me look vegeterian, which I’m actually not) I’m just not used to eating meat as much as people usually do in Germany. If your host family is not vegetarian, maybe you also noticed how much meat is eaten here everyday, especially pork. I found out recently that the diet I grew up with even has a name – “flexitarian” 😀 I’m not convinced to become vegetarian, but I also believe meat doesn’t have to be eaten EVERY DAY, that’s why I’m so interested in vegetarian food 🙂

      1. My family is flexatarian eating meat only one meal per week. I actually have found in my part of Germany the people don’t eat a lot of meat. Everyone I know seems to only eat it occasionally, if they’re not vegetarians. Maybe it’s more common in NRW?

        1. Interesting, I never thought there might be regional differences in eating habits in Germany. My family in Baden-Württemberg was eating meat 3-4 times per week and in hostel where I work now there is meat almost everyday.

  1. Such a great post! I lived in Munich for a year and I remember when spargel was everywhere in the supermarkets. I actually never tried it because I had no idea how to prepare it myself haha but I’ll definitely go for it next time. You’re right – everyone thinks Germany is all wurst and beer (which isn’t too far from the truth), but there ARE tons of yummy veggie options too (as you’ve pointed out). Käsespätzle is my #1 go-to vegetarian dish. I learned how to make it myself and sometimes cook it for my friends in Canada. They love the stuff. So good!

    1. Thank you for your comment 🙂 I wish I could cook some German food too, but I’m so lazy to learn 😛 definitely try Spargel next time, it’s much easier to prepare than Käsespätzle 😉

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