When it comes to traditional German food, most people immediately think about sausages, potatoes, and sauerkraut. There is some truth to this. German national cuisine includes lots of meat and potato dishes that reflect its rural origins. Traditional German food is very filling and hearty, and also diverse with many variations across the regions.
Here is a list of 21 traditional foods to eat in Germany.
Sausages and meat dishes
Of course, we have to start with sausages. Meat, especially pork, has always been a big part of German cuisine. And while in recent years the number of vegetarians and vegans in Germany is increasing, there is still a huge demand for traditional German sausages and meat dishes.
Bratwurst means a “fried sausage” and is more like a general term describing the grilled sausage. It comes in different varieties across the country. Depending on the region that you are visiting in Germany, you can try a local specialty Bratwurst. Sausages can be found in restaurants where they will be served with different sides like potatoes and sauerkraut. But it is also a popular street food snack, commonly eaten with a simple bread roll and ketchup or mustard.
Currywurst was invented in Berlin but it became so popular that nowadays you can eat it everywhere in Germany. In fact, it so popular that some places even serve vegetarian currywurst to cater to the growing number of vegetarians. The idea of this dish is very simple: the sausage is cut in slices and covered with ketchup and sprinkled with some curry powder. People usually eat currywurst with french fries or a bread roll as a light snack.
Although the Wiener Schnitzel is considered to be the king of schnitzel, this dish is very popular throughout Germany. Unlike the Wiener Schnitzel that has to be made with veal, German schnitzels are usually made of pork. It is typically served with a piece of lemon, some green salad, and a potato side dish like potato salad or french fries.
4. Wurstsalat (sausage salad)
Germans like their sausages so much that they even made a salad out of it. The main ingredients of this salad are sausage, onions, and vinegar, but it might also include cheese, pickles or some vegetables. This dish is definitely more common in South Germany, so make sure to try it if you visit that region.
5. Döner Kebab
The popularity of the Berlin style Döner Kebab has grown quickly over the years. Nowadays it is one of the most popular street food options in all Germany. It can be served in different ways with vegetables and various sauces. People usually eat Döner Kebab with pita bread. Many places also offer a ‘Döner box’ or ‘Döner plate” and you can choose french fries or salad as a side instead of bread.
Traditional German potato dishes
We can’t talk about German food without mentioning the potato dishes. There are countless ways to serve potatoes as a main or side dish in Germany, but here are my 3 favorites.
German potato salad can be served warm or cold as a side dish to sausage or another meat dish.
Bratkartoffeln – simple German fried potatoes are a popular side for any main dish.
Kartoffelpuffer or Reibekuchen are fried potato pancakes. I noticed that most people in Germany like to eat them with applesauce, but they can also be served as a savory dish with sour cream or sauerkraut. Potato pancakes can be a main meal or a snack depending on how many you eat.
Regional German specialties
The are many popular German dishes that can be found everywhere in the country. However, there are some local specialties that are more common in particular regions.
Spätzle are German egg noodles from Swabia – a region in the south of Germany. They can be served as a side dish to any meat or even as the main dish. The most common way to serve Spätze as the main dish is called ‘Käsespätzle’ – Spätzle with a lot of cheese and fried onions. It is a simple but delicious German vegetarian dish.
Maultaschen is another popular Swabian dish. European Union recognized Maultaschen as a regional specialty which means that the original Maultachen are only produced in Swabia. They look a bit like oversized Italian ravioli. The story says that the monks invented Maultaschen because they were not allowed to eat meat during the fast. That’s why they covered meat in dough “bags” so that God did not see them eating meat. There are numerous ways to prepare Maultaschen. For example, they can be cooked in the soup or cut into pieces and fried with scrambled eggs. And while the filling is traditionally not vegetarian, this dish is so popular, that vegetarian options are also available now.
Schupfnudeln are a specialty in South Germany (you probably noticed by now that I’m a huge fan of South German food). They might remind you of Italien gnocchi. Schupfnudeln are made of flour and egg and sometimes potato. I like to eat Shupfnudeln as a main dish with sauerkraut as a vegetarian option. But often some fried bacon is also added to the dish.
Flammkuchen or Tarte Flambée (as it is called in France) is somewhat similar to pizza. A thin dough is traditionally topped with crème fraîche or fromage blanc, onions, and small bacon pieces. But nowadays you can find all possible creative toppings in restaurants. This dish is common in the Alsace region in France and the neighboring regions in southwestern Germany.
If you happen to be in Germany during Spargel season(mid-April – June 24th), you have to try this white asparagus to understand why Germans are so crazy about it. During Spargel season you will find asparagus dishes in traditional German restaurants. Cooked Spargel is often served with hollandaise sauce and ham. Spargelcremesuppe (asparagus cream soup) is also very popular.
Obatzda is a Bavarian specialty made of cheese and butter. This cheesy spread is often eaten with Bretzel.
Soft German Bretzel is a must-try when visiting the country. You will find them in any bakery, grocery store or supermarket. You can eat them on their own or with butter or some spread like Obatzda. I personally like a simple Butterbretzel (bretzel with butter) as a snack.
Weißwurst is the famous breakfast sausage from Bavaria. It is traditionally served with mustard and bretzel.
Delicious German Sauerkraut is a perfect side dish to sausages and other meat dishes. It can be served warm or cold.
Something for your sweet tooth
This square German chocolate bar is a great souvenir to take back home. It comes in more than 30 varieties. Additionally, some special and limited edition flavors are released from time to time. My favorite one is ‘Gebrannte Mandeln’ (milk chocolate with caramelized almonds) that was available in the last two winter seasons.
20. Black Forest cake
Germans like all sort of cakes and if you visit any German bakery, you will have a hard time choosing which one to try. When in doubt, try the Black Forest cake that has become famous around the world for a reason.
This delicious jam-filled donut-like pastry is definitely not healthy but so yummy. You have to try it at least once.