Modern-day Germany is an amazing place to visit, with long-held traditions passed down between many generations of family members. Among the most cherished of these traditions are recipes and delicacies. Many of the best German foods today are the same as the best German foods from a hundred years ago. From sizzling sausages to delicate pastries, and from hearty meat dishes to comforting sides, a culinary tour of German is sure to satisfy even the most discerning palate.
One of the best things about international travel is getting to explore new cultures… and new cuisines. The best German foods are more than just tasty treats; they’re snapshots of an entire country’s character and lineage. From the smoky aroma and robust flavor of Bratwurst to the tender, buttery richness of Spätzle, each dish is a delectable reflection of the people making it.
I’ve enjoyed more than a few trips to Germany over the years, exploring fun activities in Hamburg and taking photos in Rothenburg ob der Tauber. I’ve sampled countless dishes in that time and I’ve never been less than fully satisfied. Germany is a country in love with food as much as you and I are. That makes it a paradise for foodies. If you’re planning to vacation there, it’s a good idea to know what you’re hungry for. To help, I’ve assembled a list of 25 of the very best German foods around. Wunderbar!
Pro tip for finding cheap flights to Germany
Thinking about taking a culinary tour of Germany? Before jumping into the best German foods you should try, I want to share a quick tip to save money on airfare.
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A guide to the best German foods: 25 must-try delicacies
You better bring an empty stomach when traveling to Germany. Why? Because there are a lot of sweet snacks and mouth-watering meals to choose from. Here are 25 dishes that get my seal of approval as the best German foods everyone should try.
1. Bratwurst (Grilled Sausage)
One cannot embark on a culinary exploration of Germany without savoring the iconic Bratwurst. German sausagemakers make Bratwurst from finely minced pork, beef, or veal, combined with a blend of spices. The sausages are grilled to perfection, resulting in a tantalizingly crisp exterior and juicy, flavorful center. Cook typically serve Bratwurst with sauerkraut and mustard. It also pairs wonderfully with a freshly baked pretzel and a cold glass of German beer.
2. Schnitzel (Breaded Cutlet)
A favorite among locals and visitors alike, Schnitzel is a mouthwatering dish that features a tender, boneless meat cutlet, typically made from pork or veal. The meat is pounded thin, coated in breadcrumbs, and then fried until golden and crispy. The result is a delightful combination of a crunchy exterior and succulent meat inside. Most Germans serve Schnitzel with a side of lemon wedges, potato salad, and lingonberry sauce, providing a perfect balance of flavors.
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3. Brezeln (Pretzel)
Soft pretzels rank high among the most widely known, most beloved, and all-around best German foods. These twisted, knot-shaped pastries boast a soft and chewy texture, with a slightly crispy crust. Brezeln is traditionally sprinkled with coarse salt, enhancing its distinctive flavor. Most German diners enjoy soft pretzels on their own or served alongside a variety of savory dips and spreads.
Hailing from the coastal regions of Germany, Labskaus is a traditional dish with a unique combination of flavors. The dish consists of corned beef, mashed potatoes, onions, and beetroot, all cooked together to create a hearty and filling meal. Chefs typically serve Labskaus with fried eggs, pickles, and herring on the side, adding a delightful contrast of textures and tastes.
5. German Potato Salad
Kartoffelsalat, or German potato salad, is a classic dish that has been passed down through generations. This tangy and savory salad features boiled potatoes, thinly sliced onions, and a delicious dressing made with vinegar, mustard, and bacon drippings. What results is a refreshing and flavorsome side dish that is often served alongside grilled meats or as part of a buffet spread.
6. Braised Cabbage
Also known as Rotkohl, braised cabbage is a comforting and flavorsome side dish that perfectly complements many other of the best German foods. This dish consists of red cabbage, slow-cooked with apples, onions, vinegar, and spices such as cloves and cinnamon. The result is a sweet and tangy flavor profile, sometimes with a vibrant purple hue. Cooks often serve braised cabbage alongside hearty meat dishes like pork roast or sausages.
7. Kartoffelknödel (Potato Dumplings)
The German potato dumplings known as Kartoffelknödel are a delightful specialty that brings together the comforting flavors of potatoes and bread. Germans make these dumplings by combining grated or mashed potatoes with flour, eggs, and spices, shaping them into balls, and then boiling or steaming them until they are soft and fluffy. Kartoffelknödel are often served as a side dish alongside rich meat dishes or with creamy mushroom sauce.
8. Bratkartoffeln (Fried Potatoes)
A popular side dish throughout Germany, Bratkartoffeln deftly showcases the versatility of its seemingly humble ingredients. Chefs thinly slice or dice potatoes, then pan-fry them until golden and crispy. Finally, they add onions, bacon, and herbs for extra flavor. Bratkartoffeln makes for a delightful accompaniment to many German dishes, adding a satisfying crunch and a burst of savory goodness.
9. Reibekuchen (Potato Pancake)
A popular German comfort food, Reibekuchen, or potato pancakes, combine grated potatoes, onions, eggs, and flour into a thick batter. Cooks then pan-fry the mixture until golden and crispy, resulting in pancakes with a crispy exterior and a soft, tender center. Reibekuchen are typically served with applesauce or sour cream, making them a delightful option for breakfast, lunch, or as a snack.
10. Bauernbrot (Farmer’s Bread)
Also known as Farmer’s Bread, Bauernbrot is a traditional German bread that is beloved for its hearty texture and robust flavor. Bakers make this dense, crusty loaf from a combination of rye flour, wheat flour, and sometimes whole grains. Bauernbrot pairs perfectly with a wide range of German dishes, from cold cuts and cheeses to hearty stews.
11. Rollmops (Pickled Herring Rolls)
A unique and flavorsome German delicacy, Rollmops consist of pickled herring filets wrapped around a savory filling, such as pickles, onions, or mustard. One of the best German foods for adventurous eaters, rollmops are tangy, briny, and packed with umami flavors. They’re often enjoyed as a popular snack or appetizer, served with a side of fresh bread or alongside other pickled vegetables.
12. Vollkornbrot (Brown Bread)
Like bauernbrot, Vollkornbrot is also known by a much simpler name: Brown Bread. It’s nutritious and wholesome German bread made from whole-grain flour. Packed with nutrients, this dense and fiber-rich bread boasts a distinctive nutty flavor. German diners often enjoy Vollkornbrot as a healthy breakfast option or as a base for open-faced sandwiches, topped with various meats, cheeses, and spreads.
13. Spaghettieis (Ice Cream)
Italian-inspired but German-born, Spaghettieis is a playful dessert that artfully resembles a plate of spaghetti. It is made by extruding vanilla ice cream through a special press, creating thin strands that mimic spaghetti. The “noodles” are then topped with a sweet strawberry sauce, resembling tomato sauce, and sprinkled with white chocolate flakes to imitate grated cheese. Spaghettieis is a whimsical and refreshing treat, one of the best German foods for hot summer days.
14. Stollen (Fruit Cake)
Known as fruit cake around the world, Stollen is a traditional German fruit cake that is synonymous with the holiday season. This rich and indulgent cake is studded with dried fruits, such as raisins, candied orange peel, and almonds, and often flavored with warm spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. Stollen is typically dusted with powdered sugar, giving it a festive appearance. Sliced and enjoyed with a cup of hot tea or mulled wine, Stollen is the perfect treat to celebrate the joyous spirit of the season.
15. Black Forest Gateau
Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte, or Black Forest Gateau, is a decadent German dessert that has gained international fame. This luscious cake consists of layers of rich chocolate cake, cherries, and whipped cream, with a hint of cherry liqueur for added indulgence. Topped with chocolate shavings and cherries, the Black Forest Gateau is a showstopper at any celebration or special occasion.
16. Apfelstrudel (Apple Strudel)
Apple strudel is a beloved German pastry that showcases the timeless combination of tender apples, cinnamon, and flaky pastry. German bakers mix thinly sliced apples with sugar, spices, and sometimes raisins, then encase the whole thing in a delicate layer of buttery, paper-thin pastry. Baked until golden and fragrant, Apfelstrudel is often served warm, dusted with powdered sugar, and accompanied by a dollop of vanilla sauce or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
17. Sauerbraten (Pot Roast)
You can’t find a more classic German than Sauerbraten, also known as German pot roast. Chefs marinate the meat for several days in a mixture of vinegar, water, and spices, which gives it a unique tangy flavor. After it is finished marinating, they then slow-cook the meat until it becomes melt-in-your-mouth tender. Sauerbraten is traditionally served with a rich, savory gravy, accompanied by red cabbage and potato dumplings.
18. Maultaschen (German Dumplings)
Similar to Polish pierogi or Italian ravioli, Maultaschen are a specialty from the Swabian region of Germany. GChefs fill these large, pasta-like dumplings with a savory mixture of meat, spinach, onions, and breadcrumbs. Then the chef boil them and served them either with butter or in a hearty broth. Maultaschen are a comforting and satisfying dish that showcases the skill and creativity of German cuisine.
19. Weisswurst (White Sausage)
A traditional Bavarian sausage, foodies worldwide appreciate Weisswurst for its delicate flavor and smooth texture. Made from minced veal and pork back bacon, sausagemakers season the meat with parsley, mace, lemon, and other aromatic spices. Weisswurst is traditionally served with sweet mustard and freshly baked pretzels, making it one of the best German foods for breakfast or a light lunch.
20. Königsberger Klopse (Königsberg Meatballs)
If you think “Königsberger Klopse” is a mouthful to say, wait until you taste them. Germans make these tender meatballs from a combination of ground veal, beef, or pork. Cooks mix the meat with onions, breadcrumbs, eggs, and a medley of herbs and spices. Finally, they poach the meatballs in a flavorful broth and served in a creamy caper sauce. A specialty of the Königsberg region, the meatballs usually accompany buttered boiled potatoes or rice, creating a hearty and satisfying meal that serves as one of the best German foods around.
21. Rouladen (Stuffed Beef Rolls)
This beloved German dish consists of thinly sliced beef rolled up with a filling of bacon, onions, and pickles. The rolls are then braised until tender in a rich, flavorful gravy. Rouladen is typically served with red cabbage and potato dumplings, creating a symphony of flavors and textures that exemplifies the heartiness of German cuisine.
22. Leberkäse (German Meatloaf)
The name “Leberkäse” translates to “liver cheese.” It’s a type of German meatloaf that has gained widespread popularity. Despite its name, it does not actually contain liver or cheese. Germans make Leberkäse from finely ground pork, beef, and bacon, along with spices like marjoram and garlic. It is baked until it forms a golden-brown crust and is typically sliced and served as a sandwich filling or alongside a salad.
23. Kaiserschmarrn (Emperor’s Pancake)
Named for its popularity with Kaiser Franz Joseph I, Kaiserschmarrn is a delightful German dessert that resembles a fluffy shredded pancake. The batter consists of eggs, flour, sugar, and milk, which then cooked in a hot skillet until golden and fluffy. Chefs then tear the pancake into pieces, sprinkle it with powdered sugar, and serve it with fruit compote, such as apple or plum. Kaiserschmarrn is one of the best German foods for breakfast or dessert, capturing the essence of comfort food with a touch of elegance.
24. Spätzle (German Egg Noodles)
Taking the form of soft, egg-based noodles, Spätzle is a staple in German cuisine. Chefs make these irregularly shaped noodles from a simple dough consisting of eggs, flour, and salt. The dough is then dropped into boiling water or pressed through a Spätzle press to create small, irregular shapes. People often eat Spätzle noodles as a side dish, accompanied by savory sauces, gravies, or stews.
25. Schwarzwälder Schinken (Black Forest Ham)
Also known as Black Forest Ham, Schwarzwälder Schinken is a renowned German delicacy and one of the best German foods. This dry-cured, smoked ham is made from the hind leg of specially bred pigs and is seasoned with a blend of herbs and spices. The ham is traditionally air-dried in the Black Forest region, which imparts a distinct smoky flavor. Schwarzwälder Schinken is often sliced thin and enjoyed as part of a charcuterie board or in sandwiches.
Frequently asked questions (FAQ) about the best German foods
Now that you know what the best German foods to try are, all you have to do is get out there and taste ‘em. Before I let you go, I’d like to share a few frequently asked questions (and answers) that I think will help you when setting out to explore the world of German cuisine.
What is the most popular German food?
When it comes to German cuisine, one dish stands out as the undisputed champion: the beloved Bratwurst! These delicious, savory sausages are a quintessential symbol of German culinary tradition. Served in a variety of ways, from sizzling on the grill at lively street markets to nestled in a crusty roll with mustard, Bratwurst embodies the essence of German comfort food. So, grab a plate, savor the juicy flavors, and immerse yourself in the rich culinary heritage of Germany with this iconic and popular dish!
What foods are unique to Germany?
Among the foods that set Germany apart, you’ll discover some delectable delights. Bratwurst, the king of sausages, reigns supreme, offering a range of regional varieties to savor. Don’t miss out on the mouthwatering pretzels, twisted works of art that perfectly balance softness and saltiness. Indulge in the rich and comforting flavors of Sauerkraut, the tangy fermented cabbage that pairs perfectly with sausages and hearty dishes. And of course, no exploration of German cuisine would be complete without sampling the heavenly delights of Black Forest Cake, a decadent chocolate cake layered with cherries and whipped cream.
What are some ways to save money when visiting Germany?
As tantalizing as the best German foods are, international travel is often expensive. Paying too much for a vacation can really put you off your appetite. Luckily, I’ve been around the block enough times that I know how to plan a trip like a pro. Here are some great penny-pinching tips that will help you make the most out of every euro:
- Plan your trip in the shoulder or off-peak seasons. During these times, prices for flights, accommodations, and attractions tend to be lower compared to peak tourist periods.
- Consider staying in budget accommodations such as hostels, guesthouses, or vacation rentals instead of upscale hotels. Booking in advance and comparing prices can help secure affordable options.
- Utilize public transportation like trains, buses, and trams, which are often efficient and cost-effective ways to travel between cities and within urban areas.
- Explore free or low-cost attractions like public parks, gardens, and historical sites. Many museums and cultural institutions offer discounted or even free admission on specific days or times.
- Don’t rely solely on high-end restaurants. Often, you can sample the best German foods for less money at smaller family-owned taverns and street-food stalls.
- Stay hydrated with tap water, which is safe to drink in Germany, instead of purchasing bottled water. Carry a reusable water bottle to refill throughout the day.
- Always check Scott’s Cheap Flights (now called Going) before purchasing airfare. In addition to their FREE email alerts about mistake fares and other airline discounts, Going offers a premium version that comes with extra perks. It costs $49 a year, but you can use my coupon code JON20 to save 20%!
What are the most common ingredients in the best German foods?
German cuisine features a variety of ingredients that contribute to its distinctive flavors and culinary traditions. Some of the most common ingredients used in the best German foods include:
- Meat: Pork is a popular choice and widely used in German cuisine, particularly in dishes like bratwurst, schnitzel, and roast pork. German diners also commonly enjoy beef, poultry, and game meats like venison.
- Potatoes: Potatoes play a fundamental role in German cooking. Chefs use them in a variety of forms, such as boiled, mashed, fried, or roasted. They are an essential component of dishes like kartoffelsalat (potato salad) and kartoffelpuffer (potato pancakes).
- Cabbage: Cabbage is a versatile ingredient, used in several German dishes. Sauerkraut, fermented cabbage, is a staple and often served as a side dish. Red cabbage is another popular variety, often braised with apples and spices.
- Dairy Products: German cuisine commonly uses milk, butter, and cream. Many German people also enjoy cheeses like quark, camembert, and Emmental.
- Mustard: Mustard is a beloved condiment in German cuisine. Cooks often serve it alongside sausages, pretzels, and various meat dishes.
- Spices and Herbs: Commonly used spices include caraway, paprika, nutmeg, and juniper berries. Herbs like parsley, dill, and chives add freshness and flavor to many dishes.
- Apples: Apples are widely grown in Germany, and they are used in both sweet and savory preparations. They mainly feature in desserts like apple strudel, but may also turn up in dishes like sauerkraut and pork stews.
- Beer and Wine: While they aren’t traditional ingredients, German often incorporate beer and wine into German recipes. This adds a depth of flavor to dishes and complements meals.
Are all the best German foods mostly meat-based?
While German cuisine does feature a variety of meat dishes, such as sausages and schnitzel, there are also plenty of vegetarian and vegan options available, including potato dishes, salads, and vegetable-based soups.
Like in many developed countries today, members of Germany’s population show an increased interest in healthy lifestyles and vegan-friendly diets. As a result, most German restaurants offer vegetarian and vegan versions of the best German foods.
Are you interested in sampling some local delicacies while visiting Germany? If so, go online to search for menus of the restaurants in the area you’re visiting. Or, you can simply call them up and ask. It never hurts to check.
Are the best German foods available in gluten-free options?
Just like with vegan and vegetarian foods, gluten-free options are becoming more widely available in the best German cuisine. It’s relatively easy to adapt most traditional dishes to accommodate gluten-free diets, and gluten-free bread, pasta, and flour alternatives are increasingly accessible.
Once again, it helps to do some research before making reservations at a German restaurant. You can either find menus online or call ahead to check. Most German businesses are happy to accommodate gluten-free diets.
Are there any famous food markets or street food scenes in Germany?
Germany boasts several famous food markets and vibrant street food scenes that attract both locals and tourists. These culinary destinations offer a diverse range of delectable treats and showcase the country’s culinary prowess. Here are four of my own personal recommendations:
- Markthalle Neun (Berlin): Situated in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district, Markthalle Neun is a bustling food market renowned for its eclectic mix of vendors. Here, visitors can sample artisanal bread, local produce, gourmet cheeses, and international street food. The market also hosts special events like Street Food Thursday, where vendors from various cuisines gather to tantalize taste buds.
- Viktualienmarkt (Munich): Located in the heart of Munich, Viktualienmarkt is a historic and vibrant food market. With over 140 stalls, it offers an impressive range of fresh produce, regional specialties, gourmet treats, and traditional Bavarian delights. From sausages and pretzels to local beer and honey, this market captures the essence of Munich’s culinary culture.
- Schranne (Nuremberg): Nestled in the heart of Nuremberg, Schranne is a charming food market that showcases the region’s culinary treasures. Local farmers, bakers, and artisans gather here to offer a tempting array of Nuremberg sausages, gingerbread, fresh produce, and other regional specialties. It’s an ideal place to immerse yourself in the flavors of Franconian cuisine.
- Fish Market (Hamburg): The Fish Market in Hamburg is an iconic destination that draws both locals and visitors. It features a lively atmosphere and an abundance of seafood delights. From freshly caught fish and shellfish to smoked salmon sandwiches and delectable fish soups, this market is a seafood lover’s paradise.
What beverages pair well with the best German foods?
German cuisine pairs exceptionally well with beer, especially traditional German brews like Pilsner, Hefeweizen, or Oktoberfest-style beers. However, wines, both red and white, are also popular choices to complement German dishes.
What is a traditional German meal?
A traditional German meal often features a hearty combination of flavors and ingredients. One classic dish that embodies the essence of German cuisine is Sauerbraten. This mouthwatering pot roast, typically made from beef, is marinated for days in a tangy blend of vinegar, spices, and aromatic vegetables. Served alongside it, you’ll find Knödel (dumplings) or Kartoffeln (potatoes) and a generous helping of Rotkohl (red cabbage).
To complete the gastronomic experience, don’t forget to savor a refreshing sip of locally brewed beer or a glass of Riesling wine. So gather around the table, embrace the warm hospitality, and let the flavors of a traditional German meal transport you to a world of culinary delight!
What’s a typical German breakfast?
In Germany, you’ll often find a spread of fresh bread, an assortment of sliced cheeses and cured meats, such as ham or salami. Pair them with creamy butter, tangy jams, and maybe a dollop of Nutella for a touch of sweetness. Don’t forget the hard-boiled eggs, yogurt, and muesli for a wholesome and satisfying meal. Wash it all down with a cup of aromatic coffee or a steaming pot of tea.
What vegetable is Germany known for?
When it comes to vegetables, Germany has a green champion: cabbage! This cruciferous vegetable takes center stage in German cuisine, most notably in the form of Sauerkraut, the tangy fermented cabbage that adds a zesty kick to sausages and hearty dishes. But the cabbage parade doesn’t stop there. German cuisine also showcases other cabbage varieties like red cabbage, cabbage rolls (Kohlrouladen), and hearty cabbage soups (Kohlsuppe).
How can I try the best German foods without visiting Germany?
German cuisine has gained popularity worldwide. This means it’s relatively easy to find German restaurants in many countries. However, the authenticity and variety of dishes may vary depending on the location. If you’re looking for authenticity, look for eaters that specialize in German food in particular. Also, try to find long-running family-owned businesses whose owners are of German descent.
Another great way to enjoy the best German foods without actually flying to Europe is to attend Oktoberfest. Held in various cities all over the world (including the US), Oktoberfest celebrations emulate traditional German festivals. That means lively music, Bavarian attire, lots of beer, and delicious German cuisine to savor. During Oktoberfest, instead of going to Germany, Germany comes to you!