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Wondering what to eat in Germany? While German food isn’t as internationally acclaimed as other European cuisines like Italian, I have developed quite a love for it. I’ve now been to Germany at least 10 times and routinely eat myself into a coma.
In this blog, I’m going to tell you about the best German foods from different regions of the country, as well as the most popular desserts and fast foods. Read this guide to the best German drinks to wash it all down with.
Many of these German dishes are meaty and carby with a focus on potato and cheese. If you’re a vegetarian or on a iet, eating in Germany can be a little challenging.
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What to eat in Germany
Now we know the best food in Germany is overflowing with cheese and carbs, let’s waste no time.
Some of these popular German foods are regionally specific, whereas some can be found from Berlin to Bremmen and everywhere in between.
I’ll share a few German food traditions as we go, diving into the history and ingredients of the dishes.
Traditional German food – Northern dishes
Northern German food is traditionally fishy rather than meaty due to its close proximity to the North Sea. With National Fischbrötchen Day dedicated to it, this North German dish is a classic.
Translating simply as ‘fish bread’, fischbrötchen comprises herrings, salad and sauce, sandwiched between a crusty roll. Occasionally, sprat, salmon or mackerel are used instead.
Toppings include dried onions, pickles, horseradish sauce, cocktail sauce and ketchup.
Eat it at Hamburg harbour’s Brücke 10 or any other takeaway stand.
Related read: how to spend a weekend in Hamburg
Another of the best German dishes is currywurst, cut-up sausage slathered in a sauce made from ketchup and spices.
You’ll find it all over the country but I’m listing it as Northern German food because it was invented in Berlin.
It’s credited to Herta Heuwer, a food kiosk owner who obtained ketchup from British soldiers in 1949 and served it with traditional German pork sausage.
To enjoy currywurst, you need to LOVE ketchup; it’s drowning in the stuff. Although it wasn’t the best food in Germany for me, it’s one to try – especially in Berlin. Visit one of the city’s iconic kiosks such as Konnopke’s Imbiss or Curry 36.
Labskaus is one of those typical German dishes you either love or hate at first bite.
It consists of boiled corned beef, onions, potatoes, and beetroot. The base is fried in lard and seasoned with nutmeg and ground coriander. It’s topped with a fried egg, gherkins, beetroot slices and pickled herring.
Labskaus was born as a humble sailor’s dish in the 16th century. It’s thought the name derives from one of the Baltic countries, meaning ‘hot pot’.
Labskaus is easy to find in restaurants serving traditional German food in Bremen, Lubeck or at Hamburg’s famous Reeperbahn Festival. Each city’s recipe varies.
Submitted by Joanna from The World in My Pocket.
Grüne Soße (Green Sauce)
Grüne soße is a popular German sauce made from sour cream and a combination of seven herbs: borage, chervil, garden cress, parsley, salad burnet, sorrel and chives.
It’s traditionally served with boiled eggs and potatoes, though lots of restaurants now serve it with fish, pork schnitzel or frankfurter. The closest comparison is Greek tzatziki, although it has a distinct taste of its own.
The origin of the sauce is debated, thought to have been brought by Italian traders or French immigrants, with the first recipe recorded in 1860.
Most traditional restaurants in Frankfurt serve grüne soße including those lining Romerberg historic market square. These make a great spot for people-watching but tend to be aimed at tourists.
For an authentic version of the sauce accompanied by famous Frankfurt apple wine (similar to still dry cider served in a small, pottery jug), is the historic Gaststätte Dauth-Schneider restaurant known for its lively atmosphere.
Entry submitted by Children of Wanderlust.
Matjesfilet mit Speckstippe
A final fish dish from Northern Germany is matjesfilet mit speckstippe.
It features herring matured in salty water, served with boiled green beans and skinned potatoes, and topped with fried bacon and onions. It’s cooked in parsley and butter which gives it a distinct earthy taste.
Celebrating the local’s love of Northern German dishes, it has its own festival, the Pickled Herring Fest, taking place in May on the North Sea Coast.
Submitted by Lucile from Lucile HR.
Best German food – Southern dishes
Known by different names around Europe, spätzle is a kind of pasta made with fresh egg.
Before the invention of machines, spätzle was made by hand or with a spoon, because of which it looked like little sparrows or ‘spatz’.
Spätzle dates back to the 18th century when the dough (spelt), was commonly consumed without eggs in poor households throughout Baden-Württemberg state in southwest Germany. After eggs were added, it became a distinctive cuisine consumed on select days.
Today, spätzle is made of eggs, dough and salt, topped with cheese, mushrooms or minced pork. It can also be served alongside meat dishes with gravy.
If you’re in Munich, try spätzle at Augustiner Bräustuben, a Bavarian restaurant serving classic German food.
Entry submitted by Reshma of The Solo Globetrotter.
Know you know spätzle, there’s just one German word necessary for translating this traditional German dish: kase, which means cheese.
You can probably deduce that käsespätzle is spätzle dish served with a rich cheese sauce. Think of it as glorified mac and cheese topped with crispy onion and bacon.
This traditional Swabian dish is served in Allgäu and Vorarlberg, as well as Switzerland and Liechtenstein.
I tried käsespätzle at a Munich beer festival: the exact level of gluttony I needed after a couple of steins.
Related read: The best things to do in Munich
Schweinshaxe is a roasted ham hock or pork knuckle.
Originally food for peasants, tough meat was drowned in gravy to make it more tender. It’s roasted at a low heat after being marinated for at least a week.
This typical German dish is popular in Bavaria where it’s known as schweinshaxn and served at beer halls with gravy, sauerkraut, kartoffelklöße (doughy potato dumplings) and, of course, a stein of beer.
Sauerbraten is a traditional Bavarian sour roast usually prepared with beef or venison. In the past, it was made from horse meat and even today, you can find this variety in certain restaurants.
It’s believed to have been created to preserve Sunday leftovers. To keep meat fresh, it was marinated for up to 10 days in a mixture of wine, water, herbs and spices. Then, it was made into a roll to create steaks of the same shape when cut.
Sauerbraten is served with potato dumplings (klöße or knödel), potato pancakes (kartoffelpuffer or reibekuchen), boiled potatoes and red cabbage.
Many restaurants in Berlin serve this typical German dish with quality beer. Favourites are Lutter & Wegner and Max und Moritz.
Entry submitted by Mark from Vogatech.
Proving the best food in Germany can be diverse, flammkuchen sounds more Italian than German but actually originated in France.
It’s essentially a thin, rectangular pizza (without tomato) allegedly invented to test out the heat of people’s wood-burning ovens.
Eat it topped with creme fraiche, bacon and onion, washed down with quality German white wine.
Schnitzel is a meaty German dish made from chicken, pork, veal or turkey.
The meat is breaded, deep-fried and served with a squirt of lemon and – in a desperate bid for nutrition – a side of salad.
From upmarket restaurants to kebab vans, you’ll found countless venues serving schnitzel.
Some say this dish is originally Austrian while others argue it’s authentic German food. So far, I’ve only tried it in Vienna so I feel quite the traitor to German cuisine…
Related read: 3 day Vienna itinerary
Although soups are not usually German delicacies, there’s one exception: gulaschsuppe.
This classic German dish is made with potatoes, beef, onion and carrot making it similar to goulash found in Hungary or the Czech Republic (although slightly more watery).
Try gulaschsuppe in Southern Germany’s Bavaria region. When visiting Garmisch-Partenkirchen, you’ll see it on every menu. The number one place to try it is Panorama Lounge on top of Zugspitze mountain. What could be better than traditional food on top of Germany?
Submitted by Darek and Gosia.
Maultaschen is traditional German food that seems to be more popular today than ever.
Swabian dumplings filled with spinach, minced meat or cheese are served (fried and boiled) in a bowl of hot broth or with butter and onions. No side dishes are added to Maultaschen.
This popular German dish has been served for centuries. The first written recipe dates back to 1844 but it’s probably even older.
Maultaschen is thought to have been invented by Cistercian monks from Maulbronn (near Stuttgart) in the 17th century who placed meat instead of spinach in the dumplings during Lent. This explains the nickname ‘hergottsbscheißerle’ which means ‘small God-cheaters’.
Written by Inna Nedostupenko from Executive Thrillseeker.
The top German food for cheese lovers? Obatzda.
Soft, stinky cheeses are mixed with chopped onion and smoked paprika. With an unmistakable orange colour, it’s thick and creamy with a distinctive tang.
Primarily found in Bavaria, obatzda is served in beer gardens and classic restaurants as part of a brotzeit: a snack of bread or pretzels, meat, cheese and vegetables.
If you want to try obatzda, there’s a fantastic Bavarian restaurant in Bayreuth called Oskar – Das Wirtshaus am Markt. Even local Bavarians give it their stamp of approval.
Submitted by Eric from Recipes from Europe.
Bamberger zwiebeln, or Bamberg onion, is a German dish unique to the medieval city of Bamburg in Franconia. Although the city is filled with UNESCO World Heritage Sites, its biggest draw may be the smoked beer and rich culinary scene.
The local heirloom onion is stuffed with ground pork and smoked pork belly mixed with eggs, breadcrumbs and spices. After cooking, the drippings are used to make gravy flavoured with rauchbier, a distinct smoky beer. Finally, it’s served with bacon and mashed potatoes.
This authentic German dish takes roots from the Gardener’s District of Bamberg Market. Stroll through the original birthplace of these bulbs, now a trademark of the city.
The best place to sample Bamberger Zwiebeln is Schlenkerla, one of two breweries in Bamberg still using traditional smoked brewing methods. Take a self-guided brewery tour to sample 400 styles of beer.
Submitted by Megs from Packing Up The Pieces.
Although the words ‘onion’ and ‘cake’ are usually not uttered in the same breath, don’t miss this autumnal onion tart from the Black Forest region of Southern Germany.
This deliciously flaky pie dish is packed with steamed onions, cream, sour cream and sometimes ham, bacon, eggs and caraway seeds.
Locals used to prepare this ‘onion cake’ at the beginning of autumn, using onions leftover from the summer harvest.
It’s now synonymous with the wine harvest as it’s paired with signature tipple, federweisser (feather wine). This slightly fizzy, cloudy drink is a ‘young wine’ using a dollop of yeast to create bubbles.
The two are enjoyed together in areas like German hidden gem, the Mosel Valley, where visitors take advantage of the late summer sunshine in September and October at wine festivals within the valley.
Submitted by James from The Travel Scribes.
The only thing better than the word ‘kartoffelpuffer’ is surely the taste of these little potato pancakes, also called reibekuchen.
These potato morsels are made with grated raw potato, eggs and flour, made into patties and fried until crisp. They can be served as a main dish with a few accompaniments, or as a side dish to meat, stew or sausages. They’re delicious dipped in sour cream.
Alternatively, eat them as dessert with fruit jam or apple sauce.
I can vouch for kartoffelpuffer with salmon, sour cream and salad at Hamburg’s Kartofell Keller (a cosy restaurant meaning Potato Cellar)
Popular German food ‘anywhere’
Bratwurst is probably the most famous German dish. You can actually be detained at the airport if you haven’t eaten one during your trip. Joking… But it really wouldn’t be a trip without a bratwurst or five!
These moreish grilled sausages have been served with mustard and bread for centuries. The regions of Thüringen and Franconia both take claim.
The word brat can be traced back to an old German word meaning ‘without waste’. Fittingly, I didn’t waste a morsel!
Bratwust was originally made with all parts of the animal including intestines, especially during winter and times of famine. You can still find them made with intestine today but (luckily!) most places serve them without.
Top places to try bratwurst in Germany include Bratwurstherzl in Munich or – for a Michelin-starred offering – Bratwursthäusle in Nuremberg.
Related read: 30 best things to do in Nuremberg, Germany
German Döner Kebab
Walk down the pedestrian zone of any German city and you’ll notice a handful of shops advertising döner kebabs. This is one of the most famous German foods, introduced by Turkish immigrants.
It consists of rotisserie-cooked mixed halal meat served in a bun with sauces and salad.
Throughout the ’60s and 70s, the West German government invited millions of Turkish workers to support the country’s fast-growing industries. While many returned home, a number stayed put and consequently had an impact on Germany’s cuisine.
So how did this fast food with Turkish origins win the hearts of so many Germans?
For starters, the juiciness of the meat and the availability of both creamy and spicy sauces. But mostly, the döner kebab brought new levels of convenience to Germans’ lives at an affordable price.
For as little as €2 per piece, it’s a fulfilling meal option on the go.
Entry submitted by The Spicy Travel Girl.
The best German food when you want a quick snack? A pretzel, of course!
Pretzels are salted and served with all manner of fillings. This one pictured is oozing obatzda cheese and radish slices.
Most people think Germans invented pretzels but rumour has it they were created by an Italian monk around the year 600. The crossed dough is thought to represent the crossed arms of praying children.
Germany’s addiction to salty, carby pretzels is almost as religious.
The best food in Germany is routinely served with a side of sauerkraut. Although it’s never the main focus of a meal, this authentic German dish packs a punch.
Fermented, finely chopped raw cabbage can last several months when sealed correctly.
My initial reaction to sauerkraut was ‘Is this German kimchi?’
Turns out I wasn’t entirely wrong: its origin can indeed be traced back to Asia. It’s thought the process of fermenting cabbage dates back to the days of building the Great Wall of China.
The Tarters introduced it to Europe where it caught on. It’s little wonder: who wouldn’t love this tangy delicacy hailed as a superfood?
Just like sauerkraut, this is a great side to any German meal.
Kartoffelsalat is German’s pimped-out answer to potato salad, served with ingredients not limited to bacon, mustard, vegetables and beef broth.
While you can find kartoffelsalat all over Germany, it’s different depending where you eat it. In the North, it’s made with mayonnaise and in the South, it’s commonly flavoured with vinegar and bacon.
Literally translating as ‘mushroom pan’, this is one of the more common German dishes, famously found at Christmas markets.
Champignonpfanne is essentially a vat of fried mushrooms with tasty garlic sauce. You’ll see these being cooked at the markets in giant pans filled with hundreds of mushrooms.
While you can find mushrooms around Germany and the world, there’s nothing quite as satisfying as the experience of indulging in champignonpfanne on a cold night in Berlin surrounded by Christmas lights.
Entry submitted by Bradley of Dream Big, Travel Far.
Best German food – sweet dishes
Thanks to the popularity of Christkindlmarkts (Christmas markets), sweet snacks are a firm favourite. From gingerbread biscuits to apple strudel, here are a few sweet examples of famous German food…
Traditional German biscuits are made with honey and spices, dusted with icing sugar. They taste like gingerbread but with a soft, cakey middle. You can pick these up in shops and markets.
You’ll also find lebkuchen served as heart-shaped cookies iced with cutesy phrases.
However, a German told me I shouldn’t eat these as they’re packed full of preservatives and last for years. Unfortunately, I had already finished it…
This famous Austrian dessert is now eaten all year round in Germany but it’s particularly warming in the winter.
You can eat apfelstrudel (although it may have a different name) in various countries that were part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire including Hungary and the Czech Republic.
Stewed fruit is paired with raisins and aniseed, layered inside rich, buttery pastry and topped with icing sugar.
It’s the perfect unhealthy dessert to follow one of the many (equally unhealthy) savoury German dishes.
Ask any German and bienenstich will pop up as one of the top five German desserts.
Bienenstich or ‘bee sting cake’ is a two-layered cake with vanilla custard and a crunchy, buttery, honey-and-almond topping.
Unlike a lot of other sweet German dishes, it’s light in flavour and texture. Try it with German coffee in the afternoon.
You can find bienenstich in most local bakeries and restaurants as well as weekly markets around Germany. If you’re in Berlin, head to Rogacki for a next-level serving.
Submitted by Deb from The Visa Project.
When in Germany you must try dampfnudel. This popular German dish found in the southern states, as well as the Alsace region of France and parts of Austria, can be eaten sweet or savoury, though the dessert version is more popular in Germany.
Dampfnudeln consists of sweet yeast dough dumplings steamed in milk and butter served with a light vanilla sauce. It’s a light dessert that pairs perfectly with those hearty Bavarian meals.
In Munich, you can find dampfnudel on the menus of world-famous beer halls such as Hofbräuhaus and Augustiner Keller as well as the majority of beer tents at Oktoberfest.
Submitted by Ashley of My Wanderlust Life.
Spaghettieis is a must when visiting an ice cream parlour in Germany. The name translates to spaghetti ice cream but don’t worry – this is not pasta, and it doesn’t taste like it either.
Spaghettieis is vanilla ice cream shaped like spaghetti. Strawberry sauce represents tomato sauce, and instead of parmesan cheese, you’ll get white chocolate shavings on top.
This funny-looking dish was invented in Mannheim and is now popular all over Germany. Parlours now offer many variations and toppings. It begins to stop looking like a traditional plate of spaghetti but who’s complaining? It’s delicious.
Submitted by Daniel and Ilona from Top Travel Sights.
Black forest cake
Black Forest cake is famous around the world. You might have tried it before but have you tried it in the Black Forest region of Germany?
This rich chocolate cake is layered with cherries, cream and, most importantly, cherry liquor. People in the Black Forest region of Southern Germany don’t hold back: cake pieces are sponged in liquor, giving it a sweet yet strong flavour.
Entry submitted by Nisha from Nerdy Footsteps.
Stollen is a famous German dish made from spices, nuts, and dried or candied fruit, coated with icing or sugar.
During the holiday season, it can also be referred to as Christstollen or Weihnachtsstollen. However, its other name, Dresden stollen, gives a hint as to its origins.
The tale goes that the Bishop of Nauruburg held a contest, and the bakers of Dresden responded with a wonderfully decadent bread baked with butter, exquisite sugar, raisins, citrus fruits and the finest grains. The original loaves were gigantic, weighing close to fourteen kilograms.
Today you can find it all over Germany during the holiday season, but of course, Dresden is the place to try it. There are many great cafes but Schlosscafe Emil Reimann is particularly well-renowned.
Entry submitted by Steph from History Fan Girl.
I hope you enjoy these German dishes!
I hope you have a better understanding of what to eat in Germany and enjoy your foodie adventures as much as I did.
Check out my other Germany posts:
- Hamburg food guide
- 2 day Hamburg itinerary
- A complete guide to Munich
- How to spend a day in Wurzburg
- Things to do in Nuremberg
- Nuremberg Castle visitor’s guide
- 25 hidden gems in Berlin
See you next time for more adventures,
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