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17 Traditional German Dishes To Eat

Learn about German cuisine with these favorite foods.

If you love food as much as I do, trying different cuisine is an adventure. One of the countries that offer some tasty dishes you should consider trying is Germany.

Authentic German schnitzel with cabbage salat and sauce on black plate

Although it may not be the first type of food that comes to mind, when experiencing the most popular German foods, you will find many hearty and rich dishes. 

These full-bodied German cuisines gave me a familiar feeling of Sunday afternoon comfort foods at Grandma’s. If you love rich, filling meal options, I highly recommend trying some or all of these famous German food choices. Don’t worry, though. I describe what is in each dish, so you know exactly what you’re trying. 

Popular German Foods

It was challenging to narrow it down since there are so many delicious dishes. But this list provides a comprehensive look at what cuisine Germany has to offer. 


Currywurst

Don’t confuse the Currywurst with a Bratwurst. If you love some spice to your food, this is a perfect choice.

Currywurst is a cured sausage that contains pork, beef, or both in a casing. The sausage is lightly smoked. 

The best part of this food is that it is served in bite-sized pieces with a slathering of spicy curry ketchup and topped with curry powder.

However, some places will offer a homemade tomato paste with curry seasoning and other spices. 

Thankfully, the Currywurst is not too hot for my palate and still provides a hint of spice that gives this dish a unique flavor. 


Apfelkuchen

Apfelkuchen is a dish you have to try if you enjoy sweets, like me. Kuchen is German for cake, so naturally, Apefelkuchen translates to sunken (or fallen) apple cake.

This basic cake recipe includes many of the same ingredients as other cakes but also calls for more significant portions of milk and butter for a richer taste reminiscent of German cuisine.

There are variations to Apfelkuchen that may include yeast for a higher-rising cake, raisins, or currants within the dough. Some Apfelkuchen cakes have a sugar glaze or a streusel-like topping. 

This dish is one of my favorites from Germany, and after you try it, you’ll probably agree. I love serving it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.


Bratwurst

One of the most popular food items coming out of Germany is the Bratwurst.

This sausage-style food typically uses pork, but you can also find variations using veal or beef.

The identifying element for authentic Bratwurst is the animal intestine or animal skin casing to hold the minced meat together. 

This German food is typically fried, roasted, or barbequed. However, it’s versatile enough to eat like a hot dog in a bun or as the main course of a full meal with sauerkraut, sweet and sour cabbage, and authentic German Potato Salad.

I like my Brats on a bun with some good German mustard.


Pumpernickel

Pumpernickel is a type of bread prevalent in many areas of the world, but it originates from Northwestern Germany.

Also known as the peasant’s bread, it was a regular staple for German soldiers in the Thirty Years’ War because of its long shelf life.

Pumpernickel bread has a shelf life of almost two years when packaged correctly. 

This iconic bread is deep brown and contains a sourdough starter and coarsely-ground rye flour. Pumpernickel carries a slightly sour taste because of the sourdough starter but is still savory and a little sweet. 

The rye flour offers a light texture in this dense loaf, making it ideal for pairing with sweet and tangy items, including jams or soft cheeses. Soft cheese and pumpernickel is my favorite combination. 


Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte

Even if you cannot pronounce Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte, you probably already know it – Black Forest Cake.

This iconic German food is one of the most popular German foods worldwide and in my kitchen on special occasions. 

The light, spongey chocolate layer cake with whipped cream topping and tart cherry filling create the perfect combination of sweet and sour.

Like other German dishes, the Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte uses heavy cream for a rich taste you won’t forget. 

This Black Forrest Cake has tart cherries on top for presentation and provides a little extra pop of flavor in your first bite! 


Kartoffelpuffer 

No taste of German cuisine is complete without trying my favorite, Kartoffelpuffer.

These pan-fried potato pancakes are everything you could want in a tasty food item. The outside is golden and crispy from frying, while the inside is fluffy and soft. It’s delicate enough to melt in your mouth. 

Kartoffelpuffers are typical street food in Germany or something you would pair with a draft beer as a snack. Traditional recipes call for egg and minced onion to hold the shredded potato together, while other variations include:

  • Bacon
  • Cheese
  • Applesauce

I’m not picky and enjoy the traditional version as much as I enjoy topping it off with applesauce. 


Bratkartoffeln

Once you try Bratkartoffeln, regular fries will pale in comparison. These German fried potatoes make french fries taste bland and have you wanting to head to Oktoberfest for more. 

Bratkartoffeln uses sliced boiled potatoes with bacon, onion, butter, and salt and pepper, combined in a pan to create a delicious German version of pan-fried potatoes. 

This simple recipe doesn’t require complex fixings or elaborate seasonings either. I love this dish so much that we include it with our weekly meal plan at home.

It’s simple to make and doesn’t require much prep time before you can enjoy it. 


Königsberger Meatballs

For an authentic and unique twist on meatballs, don’t skip over the Königsberger Meatballs.

I love the variety on my plate, and these meatballs that use a white sauce provide a terrific alternative to other standard recipes. 

Königsberger Meatballs are boiled rather than fried and use minced pork or veal to combine with onions, anchovies, capers, and sour cream in its rich, delectable white sauce.

The Mediterranean spin on this recipe will make you wonder why you haven’t tried this popular German food before.

I love serving these meatballs with a side of Bratkartoffeln and sauerkraut.


Schweinebraten

Schweinebraten is a German twist on the boneless pork shoulder roast.

This flavorful Sunday meal choice often includes bread or potato dumplings and sauerkraut or red cabbage on the side.

You will savor every bite, especially the mild sauce that drizzles over each slice of roast on your plate. 

The caraway seeds in this dish give it a distinctly unique twist to a standard pork roast. I’m a sucker for any German food item that uses sauce, and this recipe is no exception.

If you want a richer variation, you can add sour cream. I have tried both options and thoroughly enjoy each of them. 


Blutwurst

Although Blutwurst is not for everyone, it’s still one of the most popular German foods around.

This famous blood sausage food choice traditionally incorporates pork with animal blood and fats.

Various seasonings are added for a sharp flavor that you will love or hate depending on your palate. 

I enjoy the richness of Blutwurst and how well it pairs with sauerkraut and potatoes with onions. In my opinion, everyone should try Blutwurst at least once in their lives.

You may be pleasantly surprised at how tasty this German dish is!


Frankfurter Green Sauce

Did I mention I love sauce? The Frankfurter Green Sauce (or Frankfurter Grüne Soße) is one that you serve cold and includes yogurt or sour cream with seven different herbs.

They are: 

  • Borage
  • Burnet
  • Chervil
  • Chives
  • Cress
  • Parsley
  • Sorrel

You will typically find Frankfurter Grüne Soße alongside boiled potatoes or hard-boiled eggs.

However, it’s common to see it with slices of cold roast beef or fish fillets. 

Although some variations of this recipe don’t include all seven herbs, I prefer it when they are all there. I find each one compliments the other and creates the perfect flavor blend for my dish. 


Kartoffelsalat

If you haven’t guessed by now, Germany loves potatoes, as do I! Kartoffelsalat is German potato salad and provides the perfect side dish to any meal.

However, this German version does not include mayonnaise as typical North Americans use. Instead, it combines beef broth, white vinegar, oil, German mustard, sugar, and pepper. 

Some varieties use vegetable or chicken stock, but my favorite recipe is the one that uses traditional beef stock.

To enhance the flavor of homemade Kartoffelsalat, make it early and allow it to sit in the fridge for a day before serving. 


Lebkuchen

Lebkuchen is Germany’s answer to a festive cookie treat and one that I look forward to every year. These German spice cookies are full of flavor.

They’re similar to gingerbread cookies but are soft and chewy rather than crisp and firm.

You can find several varieties of Lebkuchen, from chocolate-dipped to sugar glazed and even ones topped with a candied citrus peel. 

Lebkuchen uses honey, ground nuts, and delectable spices to leave you wanting more than just one. The mystery spices in this tasty treat include: 

  • Allspice 
  • Cinnamon 
  • Cloves 
  • Coriander 
  • Green Cardamom 
  • Ground Ginger
  • Mace
  • Star Anise 

If you want to try making these at home, it’s easy to find a pre-mixed Lebkuchen spice mix so you can eliminate tedious measuring. 


Maultaschen

German’s answer to Italy’s ravioli is the Maultaschen. But, of course, they put a German spin on the recipe to make it uniquely theirs. 

This pasta dumpling pouch envelopes minced meat, onions, and greens with herbs and spices and is boiled or sauteed to perfection.

It typically comes with broth and is larger than traditional ravioli, providing a hearty and tasty meal option. 

Although many variations of Maultaschen use bacon, veal, or other meats, some areas in Germany prepare a dessert version that uses apples and cinnamon.

What could be better than this meal with both the main course and dessert together in harmony? 


Weißwürste

Another one of the most popular German foods is the Weißwürste. In layman’s terms, it translates to Bavarian White Sausage.

Although the look of a white sausage may not be something you’re familiar with, I assure you, it’s still just as tasty as any other German food. 

Traditional Weißwürste is boiled and served fresh rather than fried, baked, or grilled. The inside combines minced veal, pork, and bacon perfectly with parsley for a flavorful dish.

Although it comes in a standard casing, you don’t consume it as you do with other German sausage food items. 


Stollen

No German Christmas would be complete without having an annual Stollen on the table. Although it resembles a famous fruitcake, Stollen isn’t as dense.

This dish is also lighter, much like bread with candied fruit and nuts rather than cake. It’s flaky, moist, and has a thick powdered sugar coating on top. 

Stollen carries a sweet citrus flavor and comes in several variations, depending on where you find it throughout Germany.

Although some recipes use a higher butter content, almonds, or other nuts, I prefer the traditional Christmas version.

You won’t be disappointed if you incorporate this sweet treat into your annual festivities.


Pretzel

You haven’t experienced pretzels until you try the German pretzel!

Although it’s similar to North American versions, German pretzels will have the baker dip the shaped dough in water, and sometimes sodium hydroxide, before baking. 

The outside is crispy, flaky, and salty, while the inside is soft and chewy.

The knot design is slightly different since the middle section is thicker, and the ends get progressively thinner.

A dusting of salt on a pretzel provides a delicious treat you can enjoy anytime.

One of my favorite snacks is a German pretzel dipped in a beer cheese sauce.


Popular German Foods

  1. Currywurst
  2. Apfelkuchen
  3. Bratwurst
  4. Pumpernickel
  5. Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte
  6. Kartoffelpuffer 
  7. Bratkartoffeln
  8. Königsberger Meatballs
  9. Schweinebraten
  10. Blutwurst
  11. Frankfurter Green Sauce
  12. Kartoffelsalat
  13. Lebkuchen
  14. Maultaschen
  15. Weißwürste
  16. Stollen
  17. Pretzel

Final Thoughts

German cuisine is famous for its sausages, potatoes, and savory flavors. Trying any of these dishes with a draught beer with transport you across the world.

I hope that these 17 most popular German foods give you a small insight into the culture and cuisine of the country. Expanding my meal options to enjoy a variety of worldly foods is always a favorite pastime of mine, and I hope this list entices you to try some new dishes as well. 

Drop a comment below and let me know which German food item is your favorite or if you’ve tried any of these German recipes.

Learn about other cultural cuisines, like traditional Irish dishes or Middle Eastern foods you’ll love!

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4 Comments

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  1. What about Schnitzel, Sauerbraten and potato dumplings? You didn’t mention the Schwarzwaelder Kirschwasser, cherry brandy in the Kirschtorte. It’s essential.

  2. What? No kale mit pinkle (pinklewurst). I made some for my family/friends and they loved it – real peasant dish from Northern Germany. Basically, boiled kale and oatmeal (half regular, half Irish) with white pepper, dash nutmeg, dash sugar, beef broth, bacon grease, onions. Add the pinklewurst for last 20 minutes. When done, open casing and mix into kale. I added a couple of polish/kielbasa until heated. Serve with boiled red potatoes. This will mellow and improve each day you keep in the fridge. I ate the last of it a week later and it was delicious. It can be frozen as well.

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Written by Erin Elizabeth

Erin lives in East Passyunk and enjoys checking out the local restaurants in South Philly and beyond. Her favorite restaurants are those with spicy food and outdoor seating so that she can bring along her dog, Miss Piggy.