20 Iconic German Foods You Have to Try

Post Published October 23, 2023

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20 Iconic German Foods You Have to Try

20 Iconic German Foods You Have to Try - Get Ready For a Delicious Food Adventure

German cuisine offers a mouthwatering blend of hearty comfort foods, elegant pastries, and flavorful regional specialties. From juicy sausages to sweet marzipan confections, the diversity of German foods reflects the country’s long history and varied cultural influences. Whether you’re craving a crisp lager or a hearty potato pancake, eating your way through Germany promises to be an unforgettable culinary adventure.
Those who have explored the depths of German gastronomy know that each bite offers a new discovery. Beyond beer halls and bratwursts, contemporary German chefs are reinterpreting old recipes with modern twists. Michelin-starred restaurants now sit alongside old-world taverns, while international influences add new dimensions to traditional dishes. Don’t be fooled by the predictability of schnitzel and pretzels - German food culture continues to evolve in exciting ways.

To fully immerse yourself, try savoring a slow breakfast of crusty bread, cold cuts, and runny cheese. Or relax into the afternoon with a plate of streuselkuchen and a steamy cup of coffee. At dinner, pair a crisp Riesling with a tender veal chop, finished off with a not-too-sweet slice of Schwarzwälder kirschtorte. In between, snack on currywurst from a street cart or dip your pretzel into heaping piles of smooth obatzda cheese spread.

Those venturing beyond the cities will discover each German region prizes its own specialties, from Pomeranian goose to Franconian carps. Bavaria boasts rich game dishes and sweet cream cheeses while Rhineland wineries produce full-bodied rieslings. By exploring diverse landscapes and microclimates, Germany guarantees gastronomic variety.
To dive deeper into German cuisine, time your visit to coincide with a food festival or farmers market. Weekly markets in every town offer the chance to mingle with locals while sampling seasonal delicacies like white asparagus or sweet strawberries. Year-round, restaurants and bars buzz with Gemütlichkeit, the warmth and coziness that defines German hospitality. From intimate candlelit dinners to lively beer garden parties, every meal becomes an opportunity for good eating, drinking, and companionship.

What else is in this post?

  1. 20 Iconic German Foods You Have to Try - Get Ready For a Delicious Food Adventure
  2. 20 Iconic German Foods You Have to Try - Bratwurst and Pork Dishes Galore
  3. 20 Iconic German Foods You Have to Try - From Sauerkraut to Spätzle: Iconic German Sides
  4. 20 Iconic German Foods You Have to Try - Süßigkeiten: Germany's Famous Sweets
  5. 20 Iconic German Foods You Have to Try - German Bread Varieties You Need to Know
  6. 20 Iconic German Foods You Have to Try - Currywurst: A Classic German Street Food
  7. 20 Iconic German Foods You Have to Try - Experience Coffee Time the German Way

20 Iconic German Foods You Have to Try - Bratwurst and Pork Dishes Galore

When it comes to iconic German foods, bratwurst and pork reign supreme. These meaty specialties encapsulate the heartiness that defines traditional German cuisine. From sizzling grilled sausages to tender roasted pork knuckles, carnivores will feel right at home.

Bratwurst connoisseurs can sample an array of seasoned pork sausages, differentiated by size, texture, and regional flair. The diminutive Nürnberger rostbratwurst hails from Franconia and packs robust flavor into its petite size. Bratwürste from Thuringia tend to be long and thin, seasoned with marjoram. Spicy curried bratwurst satisfies those craving a flavor kick. Regardless of variety, bratwurst begs to be browned on a grill and served in a crusty roll with pungent mustard. Beer gardens and street carts oblige with quick brat fixes, perfect for a satisfying snack on the go.
For sit-down bratwurst indulgence, try the Franconian Wurstkuche restaurant in Nuremberg's Old Town. Dating to the 14th century, Wurstkuche dishes up every imaginable brat alongside sauerkraut, potato salad, and pretzels. In Berlin, Zur Bratpfanne in Kreuzberg puts a vegetarian twist on the theme, with soy and seitan brats that emulate the taste and texture of pork. Here, brats can be ordered inside halved baked potatoes or cradled in flaky pastry.
Beyond brats, the porcine possibilities in Germany are endless. Smoked and cured hams like schwarzwälder schinken and westfälischer schinken grace charcuterie boards. Crispy pork belly, or schweinebauch, provides rich flavor alongside sauerkraut or potatoes. For special occasions, try the roasted knuckle known as schweinshaxe. The boneless haxen typically weighs over a pound and requires advanced ordering, but rewards diners with juicy, crackling-crisp pork heaven.

Schweinshaxen fans flock to historic Schweinsbräu in Berlin, where haxen have been roasted since 1577. The wood-paneled tavern pairs these substantial hunks of pork with potato dumplings and hearty dark beer. In Bavaria, enjoy a classic haxen at Andechser am Dom, steps from Munich's central cathedral. Beyond beer halls, contemporary eateries like maxi in Munich's trendy Glockenbach neighborhood serve schweinshaxen as refined shared plates. Braised in beer and pretzel breadcrumbs, maxi's reinvented haxen highlights innovation in German gastronomy.

20 Iconic German Foods You Have to Try - From Sauerkraut to Spätzle: Iconic German Sides

Beyond the main events of bratwurst, pork chops and schnitzel, German cuisine showcases a pantheon of perfect side dishes. These supporting players soak up savory pan sauces, provide textural contrast and add regional identity to any meal. While foreigners often associate Germany with sauerkraut and potatoes, look deeper to discover spätzle, schnitzel and lesser-known delicacies.

Sauerkraut may seem prosaic, but artisanal varieties boast nuanced flavors beyond the expected puckery tang. Try warming Bavarian sauerkraut with sliced apples, juniper berries and a splash of Riesling for a refined twist. In Berlin, Lakritz credibility transformed sauerkraut into a cult foodstuff with unique flavors like ginger-lemongrass and pomegranate-clove. Their tagline says it all: “Sauerkraut is the new Kimchi.”

Beyond cabbage, be sure to delve into kneaded or sliced potato dumplings, known as kartoffelklöße or kartoffelpuffer. Served sautéed or pan-fried, these potato pancakes make frequent appearances alongside roasted meats. In their classic incarnation, grated potatoes get spiked with onion and bound with egg and flour before sizzling in clarified butter or schmaltz. For a delicious riff, try the Berliner kartoffelpuffer flavored with dill pickle and caraway.
While Americans picture elbow macaroni when they hear the word noodle, Germans revel in an array of thick, toothsome wheat noodles. From schupfnudeln to schätzle, the options satisfy all pasta cravings. But perhaps most iconic are hand-cut spätzle, tiny dumplings that exemplify German comfort food. These little slipper-shaped noodles pair perfectly with cheese, gravy and roasted meats. Traditionally scraped directly into boiling broth or water, spätzle acquisition should be a quest for any visitor. Seek out spätzle prepared the old-fashioned way at festivals or restaurants specializing in heritage cooking, like ANNA Spätzle in Berlin's Neukölln neighborhood. For the nimble fingered, spätzle workshops provide a hands-on cultural experience.

20 Iconic German Foods You Have to Try - Süßigkeiten: Germany's Famous Sweets

While hearty roasts and savory snacks may take top billing in German cuisine, no meal is complete without something sweet. Fortunately, Germany's long baking tradition has spawned endless indulgences, from fruity tarts to rich, creamy cakes. Visitors with a sweet tooth will delight at the country's cafes, confectioners, and irresistible bakery windows.

Germans start the day with a beloved breakfast pastry, the Berliner. These round yeast doughnuts are fried and generously filled with jam, custard, or chocolate. Enjoyed throughout Germany and Austria, Berliners get dolled up for Karneval or Fasching celebrations. Traditional costumes and elaborate icing transform the humble Berliners into festive Carnival treats. For the classic version, line up at Bäckerei Buchwald, a neighborhood bakery that has served Berliners for over a century. Grab one filled with homemade raspberry jam and dusted with powdered sugar.
Later in the day, coffee time calls for Deutschland’s famous layer cakes. First comes the elegant Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte, or Black Forest cake. Layers of chocolate sponge get soaked with kirsch cherry liqueur and dolloped with whipped cream and cherries. Named for Germany's picturesque Black Forest region, this cake has achieved global fame. For a contemporary Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte, try the version from trendy cafe The Barn in Berlin. Their secret? Sour cherry compote and chocolate crumble layers.

Equally beloved is Bienenstich, which translates to "bee sting cake." A sweet yeast bread hides under baked-on custard and crunchy caramelized almonds. Dig into an old-fashioned Bienenstich at one of several Café Buchwald locations in Berlin. Their rendition overflows with vanilla custard that oozes out with every slice, true decadence. For a modern touch, Mike's Bakeshop in Munich adds lemon flavor and decorative honeycomb patterns to their take on Bienenstich.
Beyond bakeries, candy shops and chocolatiers demonstrate Germany's gift for confectionary. Treats like the Magenbrot "stomach bread" cooked wafer and Harzer roller sour milk caramel reveal the whimsical side of German sweets. Marzipan, or almond paste sweets, have been crafted in Germany for centuries and remain a specialty in cities like Lübeck. Browse the marzipan at Carstens, a fifth-generation family-run shop founded in 1835. Sample their intricate marzipan produce, realistic sea creatures, and seasonal shapes for a hands-on edible history lesson. To feel like a local, pick up a bag of gummy bears, known as Gummibärchen. These chewy jelly candies were invented in Germany nearly a century ago and remain a timeless snack.

20 Iconic German Foods You Have to Try - German Bread Varieties You Need to Know

20 Iconic German Foods You Have to Try

Bread plays a central role in German food culture, with over 300 varieties baked fresh daily across the country. Beyond standard loaves, German bakeries tempt with rye breads, seeded brots, and pretzel rolls just waiting to be sliced and slathered with butter. From farmer’s markets to corner shops, the aroma of freshly baked bread permeates German cities and small towns alike. Digging into this carb-lover’s paradise reveals subtly complex flavors and textures perfected over generations.

While sourdough and rye dominate traditional German bread culture, don’t overlook regional specialties. In Berlin, try a Schrippen, the classic white roll sometimes topped with poppy or sesame seeds. Layer cold cuts and cheese between split and toasted Schrippen for a satisfying snack. Brezeln, or soft pretzels, also pair perfectly with beer or coffee in a Berlin cafe. Further south in Bavaria, the traditional farmer’s bread known as Bauernbrot features a dark crusty rye loaf with delicious heft. Pair it with Obatzda, a smooth cheese spread made pungent with paprika.

Beyond the usual yeast-risen wheat and rye doughs, Swabian and Baden influence yields hearty Zwiebelbrot studded with onions. Chewy Schwarzbrots get their dark color from syrup or molasses. In Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein, be on the lookout for hearty Borstenbrot ring breads covered in cracks and crevices. And in Saxony-Anhalt, see if you can try a raw grated potato bread called Kartoffelstuten. This savory specialty stretches wheat flour with starch-rich spuds and requires very high heat to properly bake.
While industrial bakeries serve most everyday needs in Germany, keep an eye out for backerei and bäckereien focused on traditional techniques and heirloom grains. In Berlin, Soluna Brot und Öl Bakery mills its own grains at an old windmill. They bake dark, seeded loaves using slow-fermented sourdoughs without commercial yeast. Alpine Schatzkisten takes visitors on a “journey through bread” at their bakery in scenic Southern Bavaria. Guests experience hands-on workshops baking fresh Laugenbrezeln, Schwarzbrot, and of course pretzel-crusted lye rolls.
On the hunt for the country’s crunchiest rolls? Head to Magdeburg, home of Germany’s Knusperstuten. These crispy flatbreads get their signature texture from being cooked between hot iron plates. Traditionally made during the Advent season for dipping in coffee or hot chocolate, Knusperstuten have achieved year-round fame. Locals frequent Knusperstuten-specialists like Bäckerei Ueltzen or Quedlinburger Grottenkeller. For Knusperstuten decadence, try Grottenkeller’s version sandwiched with whipped cream.

20 Iconic German Foods You Have to Try - Currywurst: A Classic German Street Food

Amid Germany’s refined reputation for sausage mastery, one humble street food has captured the nation's affection. The currywurst may seem lowbrow, but this beloved snack offers a tasty glimpse into Germany's post-war identity.

While outsiders imagine Germans dining on sausage platters with a knife and fork, currywurst is finger food at its finest. The sizzling brat gets chopped into bite-sized chunks, drowned in ketchup, and dusted with curry powder for a quick, satisfying street snack. An estimated 800 million currywurst are consumed annually, with curry powder importation spiking after reunification. From Hamburg to Munich, currywurst stands and trucks are ubiquitous.

This cult status developed from modest beginnings in Berlin. Post-war food shortages led ingenious cook Herta Heuwer to flavor scraped bits of grilled sausage with curry powder procured from British soldiers. Topped with homemade tomato sauce, the zesty creation began selling at Herta’s stand in Charlottenburg in 1949. She secured a Food Industry trade license for “Chillup” sauce in 1959, cementing her pivotal role in currywurst history.

While currywurst variations now dot Germany, Berliners claim Herta’s version as the originator. Connoisseurs still seek out utilitarian Imbiss stands for a truly authentic experience. Opt for a platter doused in that signature sweet-sour “Chillup” sauce flavored with paprika, Worcestershire and curry. Curry 36 in Kreuzberg keeps it classic – just wurst, sauce, fries and paper plate. Or try Konnopke’s Imbiss under the elevated U-Bahn tracks in Prenzlauer Berg. Their 1930s stand even retains classic tilework and signage.
Beyond hole-in-the-wall shops, contemporary eateries have embraced the currywurst with modern flair. Berlin's hip Chipps serves currywurst alongside craft cocktails and Americana rock while Curry at the Wall plates sausage with salad and baked potatoes. Michelin-starred restaurants like Nobelhart & Schmutzig reinvent currywurst using organic meats and housemade ingredients. Their version features a roulade of pork belly and shoulder in a refined spring curry sauce.
For the truly adventurous, currywurst museums like the Deutsches Currywurst Museum in Berlin provide interactive tastings and cooking workshops. Visitors sample creations like green coconut curry sausage and learn about currywurst's evolution into a globalized comfort food. Exhibitions also cover sausage history and the stands that popularized currywurst in the Ruhr region.

20 Iconic German Foods You Have to Try - Experience Coffee Time the German Way

Coffee plays a central role in German culture, with the afternoon Kaffee und Kuchen (coffee and cake) ritual offering an opportunity to slow down and savor something sweet. While the Italian espresso may fuel a morning rush, German coffee time is about relaxing into the day. Savoring a slice of cake or talking with friends without haste epitomizes the German ideal of Gemütlichkeit, or coziness.

This tradition has its origins in the mid-1700s, when the nobility first began inviting guests for afternoon coffee and confections. Later, elegant 19th century Kaffeekränzchen became a social institution for bourgeois ladies to entertain, capped by an elaborate cake. By the early 20th century, grand coffee houses flourished across Germany, opulent spaces to see and be seen.

Today, Kaffee und Kuchen thrives as an everyday custom across Germany. Weekends see families lingering for hours over steaming cappuccinos and towering schichttorten. During the week, colleagues may make time for a shared piece of streuselkuchen or sachertorte. Bakeries fill their windows with cream-laden concoctions while coffee roasters ensure beans suit German taste, emphasized by darker roasts.
The tradition also continues at old-world cafes like Berlin’s Café Einstein, whose search for “Germany’s best cake and coffee” began in 1926. Their outdoor terrace lets today's visitors soak up the ambience as Einstein’s orchestra plays a mix of classical and popular tunes. On the sweet side, Café Buchwald has served cakes and tarts from their corner shop since 1952. Their timelessly cozy interior offers the quintessential experience ofold Berlin.
For those craving tradition with a modern twist, The Barn in Berlin reinvents German classics using regional and organic ingredients. Beyond known favorites, their cake creations range from carrot cake with cream cheese frosting to peanut butter cheesecake with pretzel crust. All get paired with specialty coffee from Berlin-based roaster Five Elephant.
Smaller towns also retain their historic cake and coffee traditions. In Quedlinburg,guests at the Hotel Theophano since 1888 have started with coffee and cake in the timbered café. And Café Hussel in picturesque Monschau communicates Gemütlichkeitthrough its charmingly mismatched china and lace tablecloths.

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