German food culture is all about big flavors and hearty meals. It’s not always the healthiest but it sure does fill you up. Germans love their bread, potatoes, and pork, particularly sausages. They’re also big fans of sweet foods like chocolate and cake. Go to any German bakery and you’ll discover exactly what German food culture is all about.
The secret to Germany’s incredible cuisine is the influence of other cultures. Sitting at the heart of Europe, Germany has long welcomed immigrants from around the world. The country is now a melting pot of Jews, Turks, and Poles, who all have their own distinctive food styles. When these combine, it creates something more delicious than the sum of its parts.
If you’re looking to try new foods, then this list is for you. Keep reading to discover our nine all-time favorite German foods.
German food isn’t a light and delicate affair. The currywurst is a large, juicy sausage that’s guaranteed to leave you satisfied. This is fast food – the equivalent of a cheeseburger – so it isn’t meant to be healthy. The sausage will be steamed or fried and ready to eat in no time. It’s doused in a kind of spicy ketchup or curry sauce and then cut into bite-sized chunks so you can eat it on the go.
The currywurst was invented in 1949 when food kiosk owner, Herta Heuwer, acquired ketchup and curry powder from British soldiers. She added it to the traditional German sausage to create this incredible treat. It’s still served from food stalls across the German-speaking world along with a healthy portion of french fries.
One of the most quintessentially German foods has to be the schnitzel. Although popular in many countries, the schnitzel is most commonly associated with Germany. Take a piece of meat – it could be pork, beef, chicken, veal, mutton, or turkey – and pound it thin with a meat tenderizer. Cover it in breadcrumbs, fry it up, and there you go – you’ve got yourself a traditional schnitzel.
Literally translating to “little slice”, the schnitzel is a simple but satisfying dish. The Wiener schnitzel is the version from Vienna and was invented at least as early as 1831. It’s thought to have been created in Italy but is now an undisputed part of German food culture.
3) Himmel und Erde
When a meal’s literal translation is “Heaven and Earth”, you know you’re dealing with something special. This is something you may not have encountered before but it’s a common sight in German homes. The dish is comprised of black pudding (a kind of blood sausage originating from British food culture), plenty of mashed potatoes, fried onions, and apples.
Germans have been eating this since the 18th Century. It’s the perfect way to use up old ingredients creating a surprisingly delicious combination of foods. The Himmel (heaven or sky) refers to the apples, which come from above, while the Erde (earth) is a reference to the potatoes, which come from the ground. If you’ve never tried these two ingredients together, then why not give it a go? 80 million Germans can’t be wrong.
Germans love to marinate their dishes and the best example of this is the Sauerbraten. It’s usually made from beef but you could just as easily use pork, venison, or lamb. It’s the method that makes this dish distinctive. Although the origin of this meal is not known, Julius Caesar is thought to have brought beef marinated in wine to Cologne. To this day, a similar dish is enjoyed by Germans across the country but particularly in the south.
Before any cooking occurs, the meat must be marinated for a long time. When we say a long time, we mean it. Traditionally, the marinating would have occurred over two weeks to really let that flavor seep in. In our busy modern world, four to seven days should be plenty. The meat will then be slow-roasted until juicy and tender. Trust us when we say it’s worth the wait.
5) Döner Kebab
The Döner kebab is a well-known Turkish food that has made its way into the heart of German food culture. The meat is stacked on a vertical rotisserie, allowing the outside to continue cooking as slices are shaved off. This means that every slice is the same and you don’t end up with a pink, undercooked center.
This particular cuisine dates back to at least the 17th Century when a horizontal rotisserie was used to continually cook large quantities of meat. These days, it’s a cheap and fast food option for when you need something tasty, quickly. The Döner kebab can now be found around the world but the best ones are still in Germany.
6) Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte
If you can’t get enough of rich, sweet, chocolatey desserts, then you’re probably already familiar with the Black Forest gâteau. In Germany, it has the catchy name of Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte. With chocolate sponge, layers of whipped cream, and a plentiful portion of cherries, this isn’t exactly a light and delicate meal. It’s indulgent but absolutely delicious.
Despite the name, it’s not thought that this cake originated in the Black Forest. However, it’s probable that the cherry liquor contained within originally came from cherries grown in Germany’s Black Forest region. That’s the most likely origin of the cake’s name. Not that anyone really cares when you’ve got something this delicious on your plate in front of you.
The Käsekuchen (you probably know it as cheesecake) is certainly not unique to Germany. Countries like the US and UK all have their own versions of the dish and it’s something that everybody loves a slice of from time to time. However, the German cheesecake is considered the original and most authentic. Everything else is just a spin-off of this classic German dessert.
The German variety is a bit lighter than the American version, making for a less filling post-meal treat. Rather than being filled with cream cheese, the Käsekuchen contains low-fat quark. That makes it the ideal treat if you’re watching your calories. Still, there’s plenty of sugar to make this cake as sweet as you like. The result is light and fluffy but with a strong lemon or vanilla flavor.
The Reibekuchen or potato pancake is a deliciously simple dish that should be served everywhere. While a lot of countries do consume food in this way, it’s the potato-loving Germans who seem to crave it the most. They have many names for it so you might see it written differently on different menus. Our favorite has to be Kartoffelpuffer but Reibekuchen is probably more common.
They’re easy enough to make at home. Simply grate a bunch of potatoes and add them to a bowl of grated onion, flour, eggs, and salt, plus any other seasonings you desire. Form into small, round pancake shapes and fry in some oil until crisp. You really can’t go wrong – they taste incredible every time. The more you practice, the more it’ll become second nature; as easy as frying an egg.
We can’t talk about German food culture without mentioning cheese. The deliciously gooey substance is in so many classic Germanic dishes. Käsespätzle is the ultimate comfort food, particularly popular in Stuttgart. It can be made with caramelized onions but it tastes a lot better when you use a type of pasta, like noodles.
Think of Käsespätzle like the German version of mac ‘n’ cheese. It’s definitely not healthy but it’s the perfect meal to warm you up on a cold winter’s day. When you’re just craving something indulgent, try this dish. You just need to layer your pasta with slices of your chosen cheese and bake it all in the oven. Emmenthal is traditional but do it your way.
What is traditional food in Germany?
The staple of a German diet is pork, potatoes, bread, and cabbage. However, you’ll also find an eclectic mix of Turkish and Polish food, adding plenty of variety.
What is Germany’s most popular food?
If you love meat, then Germany’s most desirable and delicious dish has to be the currywurst. This is what all the tourists want to purchase when they visit any German-speaking country.
What is a traditional breakfast in Germany?
Known as Frühstück, Germans love a big breakfast. It will always include bread with your choice of toppings, whether that’s jam, meat, or cheese. Don’t forget to wash it all down with a big mug of coffee.
What makes the food in Germany unique?
German food is like no other because it draws on so many cultures. Traditional food in Germany can be traced back to Jewish or Eastern European origin, distinguishing it from other Central and Western European cuisines.