From Schnitzel to Spätzle: A Taste Tour of Germany’s 20 Must-Try Traditional Dishes
From Schnitzel to Spätzle: A Taste Tour of Germany's 20 Must-Try Traditional Dishes - Bavarian Beer Hall Classics
No trip to Germany is complete without indulging in the hearty, meaty dishes served up at the beer halls and taverns of Bavaria. This southern German state is world-famous for its brewing tradition and beer culture, so it’s only natural that much of the regional cuisine has evolved to perfectly pair with full-bodied lagers and wheat beers. From sausages and schnitzels to pretzels and roasted pork knuckles, Bavarian taverns dish up specialties designed to soak up the booze and stick to your ribs.
One of the stars of Bavarian cooking is the almighty pork knuckle, known as schweinshaxe. These meaty joints are slowly roasted until the skin becomes crispy and the tender, fatty meat falls right off the bone. A gently spiced, malted vinegar known as Bavarian sweet mustard is the preferred condiment for schweinshaxe. Dip the succulent meat in the subtly sweet mustard between swigs of beer for a quintessential Bavarian experience.
No beer hall meal is complete without a platter of sausages, or wurst. Bavarian sausages come in numerous shapes and sizes, from short, squat bratwursts to long, skinny weisswursts. The type of seasoning and preparation varies, but most are made from a mixture of ground pork and veal stuffed into a casing. Sausage platters are meant to be shared family-style, so order an assortment to sample. Perhaps the most famous German sausage is the blutwurst, or blood sausage, which incorporates pigs' blood for a rich, iron-like flavor.
In the mood for pork schnitzel? Look no further than Munich's famous Wiener schnitzel, a pounded, breaded and fried veal cutlet served with a wedge of lemon. Despite the name, Wiener schnitzels actually originated in Austria and were later popularized in Bavaria. These crunchy, golden cutlets pair perfectly with a crisp German pilsner or helles lager. Another schnitzel variety is jägerschnitzel, or “hunter’s schnitzel,” served with a rich mushroom sauce.
What else is in this post?
- From Schnitzel to Spätzle: A Taste Tour of Germany's 20 Must-Try Traditional Dishes - Bavarian Beer Hall Classics
- From Schnitzel to Spätzle: A Taste Tour of Germany's 20 Must-Try Traditional Dishes - The Meaty Flavors of the South
- From Schnitzel to Spätzle: A Taste Tour of Germany's 20 Must-Try Traditional Dishes - From Fish to Flammkuchen: Northern Delight
- From Schnitzel to Spätzle: A Taste Tour of Germany's 20 Must-Try Traditional Dishes - Sausage Specialties Across Germany
- From Schnitzel to Spätzle: A Taste Tour of Germany's 20 Must-Try Traditional Dishes - Bread and Pretzel Pleasures
- From Schnitzel to Spätzle: A Taste Tour of Germany's 20 Must-Try Traditional Dishes - Sweet Treats and Dessert Delights
- From Schnitzel to Spätzle: A Taste Tour of Germany's 20 Must-Try Traditional Dishes - The Powerful Punch of Sauerkraut
- From Schnitzel to Spätzle: A Taste Tour of Germany's 20 Must-Try Traditional Dishes - Quintessential German Comfort Foods
From Schnitzel to Spätzle: A Taste Tour of Germany's 20 Must-Try Traditional Dishes - The Meaty Flavors of the South
Venture to Germany's southernmost state of Bavaria and you'll discover a meat-lover's paradise. From the beer halls of Munich to the cozy taverns tucked away in quaint villages, Bavarian cooking celebrates full-flavored, protein-packed dishes designed to satisfy hearty appetites. Using high-quality ingredients like locally raised pork, veal and beef, Bavarian chefs transform succulent cuts of meat into beloved specialties through slow roasting, pan frying and simmering in rich sauces.
One of the stars of Bavaria’s meat-centric cuisine is schweinshaxe, a savory hunk of pork knuckle. These juicy joints are gently roasted for hours until the skin becomes crispy and the tender meat effortlessly pulls away from the bone. The lightly crusted, melt-in-your-mouth meat pairs beautifully with a sweet and pungent Bavarian mustard, made from a blend of mustard seeds, vinegar and spices. Dip each moist morsel in the subtly spiced mustard between sips of a hearty Bavarian beer – it’s a match made in southern German heaven.
No beer hall experience is complete without a platter of Bavarian sausages, or wurst. Ranging from short and plump to long and slender, Bavarian sausages showcase a variety of seasonings and preparations, but most contain a mixture of ground pork and veal. Savor an assortment by ordering a wurst tasting plate, featuring choices like nutmeg-flecked weisswurst, garlicky bockwurst and blood sausage simmered with onions. Share the sausages family-style and sample a few varieties to discover your favorite.
Beyond sausage and pork knuckle, beef also makes memorable appearances in Bavarian cooking. Sizzling beef rouladen feature thin slices of meat wrapped around bacon, onions and mustard, then braised in a rich broth. For a unique take on schnitzel, try jägerschnitzel – breaded veal or pork cutlets bathed in an earthy brown mushroom sauce flecked with bacon. And don’t miss out on zwiebelrostbraten, a juicy roast beef topped with crispy fried onions.
From Schnitzel to Spätzle: A Taste Tour of Germany's 20 Must-Try Traditional Dishes - From Fish to Flammkuchen: Northern Delight
Germany's northern states hug the coastlines of the North and Baltic Seas, which means seafood features prominently on many menus. The frigid northern waters yield delicacies like North Sea shrimp, Baltic herring and oily fish like mackerel and salmon. Tucked between the seas and coastal wetlands, farms in northern Germany produce abundant crops like leeks, carrots, cabbage and beets which find their way into beloved dishes. Beyond the ocean bounty, northern German cuisine also reflects cross-cultural influences from neighboring Denmark, Poland and the Netherlands. With this blend of local ingredients and global flavors, northern Germany offers a treasure trove of tastes for travelers to discover.
One specialty showcasing the best of northern Germany's seafood and produce is Labskaus. This hearty sailor's dish contains salted beef or corned beef, boiled potatoes, pickled beets and onions all topped with a fried egg or herring fillet. Originating in the northern ports, Labskaus makes a filling, protein-packed meal. For another seafood dish, look for brathering – fried, marinated herring accompanied by boiled potatoes and lingonberry sauce. The oily herring nicely balances the creamy, tart lingonberries. On the vegetarian side, try kohlrouladen, or cabbage "roulades." Blanched cabbage leaves get wrapped around fillings of ground meat, rice or lentils along with aromatics like onions, parsley and bacon. Slow-cooked until meltingly tender, the cabbage imparts subtle sweetness to contrast the savory fillings.
From Schnitzel to Spätzle: A Taste Tour of Germany's 20 Must-Try Traditional Dishes - Sausage Specialties Across Germany
Germany is a sausage-lovers heaven. Each of the country's regions has perfected its own style of wurst that reflects local tastes, ingredients and cooking methods. As you travel across Germany nibbling your way from one corner to the next, you'll discover the startling diversity found in this ubiquitous German specialty.
In Bavaria, the bacon-wrapped weisswurst reigns supreme. Made from veal, these stubby, pale sausages get their distinctive flavor from parsley, lemon, onions, ginger and cardamom. Weisswurst must be eaten fresh – before noon in fact – as the traditional recipe omits preservatives. The casing is never eaten, only the soft interior. Pair weisswurst with sweet mustard, fresh pretzels and a wheat beer for the ideal Bavarian breakfast. Moving north to the Rhineland, try rindswurst, a regional specialty made of beef or pork encased in a sheep's intestine "rind." Smoked over beechwood, these sausages take on a complex, smoky flavor and firm texture that holds up well in stews like Himmel und Erde.
In eastern Germany, sample the garlicky glory of the Thüringer rostbratwurst. Made with marjoram, caraway and white pepper, these impressive 6-8 inch bratwursts get their signature snap from roasting over a wood fire. They're great on a bun with sauerkraut and mustard. If you're in Berlin, look for currywurst – pork sausage doused in ketchup mixed with curry powder and other warm spices like paprika, turmeric and cumin. Originally created to stretch meat rations in postwar Germany, currywurst has become a beloved street food specialty.
The heavy, spiced Landjäger is a snackable dried sausage traditionally carried by hunters and travelers for sustenance. In northern coastal regions, knackwurst brings a maritime twist with its plump shape and addition of fish like herring. And blood sausage varieties like blutwurst and Rotwurst incorporate pork blood, making them especially rich.
Romania's cozy, comforting national cuisine contains traces of Greek, Turkish, Hungarian, Austrian and Slavic influences blended with distinctly Romanian farmhouse flavors.Traditions stretching back centuries shape Romania's plates, resulting in homey specialties designed to nourish body and soul. From mititei grilled to perfection over a crackling fire to ciulama's soothing marriage of meat and cream, Romania's most cherished dishes reward visitors with a true taste of place, history and culture.
In Bucharest, line up with locals to try mititei - minced meat fingers made from a blend of beef, lamb and spices molded around skewers and grilled over charcoal. The smoky, juice-dripping mititei pack huge flavor, usually served with a mound of crispy fries or frigarui bread on the side for soaking up drippings. Similar varieties like mici and cârnați showcase creative shapes and seasonings, but always deliver that craveable charred taste.
Then plunge your spoon into sarmale - the Romanian stuffed cabbage roll. Rice or bulgur fills steamed or pickled cabbage leaves along with pork and lamb. Served sauced or simply dressed in sour cream, sarmale makes a soothing, hearty meal. Discover regional variations like sarmale in grapevine leaves in the southwest or sarma served over polenta in Transylvania.
Speaking of polenta, let's not forget the ultimate Romanian comfort meal - cornmeal mush or mămăligă. Top steaming-hot polenta with crumbled feta, sour cream and roasted meats or mushrooms. Heartier additions like chicken schinita, homemade sausage, bacon, onions and cheese transform humble mămăligă into a feast.
From Schnitzel to Spätzle: A Taste Tour of Germany's 20 Must-Try Traditional Dishes - Bread and Pretzel Pleasures
From crusty loaves to soft pretzels, bread holds a special place at the German table. More than just a base for sausage or cheese, bread embodies heritage, regional identity and the cozy feeling of home. As you explore Germany’s bakeries, bread museums and pretzel peddlers, discover how bread weaves through daily life and connects to centuries of tradition.
In Germany’s southern reaches, the classic Bavarian breze comes soft yet chewy, often coated in rock salt or seeds for extra flavor and crunch. Historical documents trace pretzels in the region back to the Middle Ages when monks folded the bread to resemble arms crossed in prayer. Today, no Oktoberfest celebration feels complete without pretzel in hand or soft pretzel sandwiches oozing with sweet mustard and sliced sausage. Pretzels also accompany leisurely hikes through alpine valleys or strolls along the Romantic Road when hunger strikes. Locals swear by a few bites of pretzel between pints of Helles or Dunkel to cleanse the palate.
Up north, pretzels give way to crusty rolls and hearty seeded loaves ideal for soaking up hearty stews or smearing with butter and jam. In Westphalia, pumpernickel’s deep brown rye defines the region as much as beer and ham. Baked long and slow for up to 24 hours, the dense, dark loaves fills the air with an unmistakable, earthy aroma. The lengthy baking transforms the starches, resulting in an incredibly moist, almost velvety interior perfect for pairing with cured meats, strong cheeses and sharp mustards.
While specialty bakeries handcraft loaves using traditional techniques, bread remains an everyday staple gracing the table at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Break your fast with slices of pumpernickel, rye or multi-grain bread topped with hüttenkäse, a soft cow’s milk cheese, or nutella spread thick. Layer cold cuts, pickles and sweet mustard between bread for a simple sandwich lunch. For dinner, use crusty peasant loaves to soak up hearty pan sauces and gravies. Touching everything from everyday meals to special occasions, bread keeps German food culture grounded in honesty, simplicity andfips.
That connection to history and tradition has not faded over time. In fact, the German government passed a purity law in the 1500s regulating ingredients used in traditional breads. The decree banned undesirable fillers, helping standardize recipes for rye and wheat loaves across regions. The regulations highlighted how integral bread was to German daily life and set the stage for the esteem still granted genuine bakery goods today.
From Schnitzel to Spätzle: A Taste Tour of Germany's 20 Must-Try Traditional Dishes - Sweet Treats and Dessert Delights
Indulge your sweet tooth as you bite into Germany’s creamy cakes, fruity tarts and chocolate confections. While savory dishes like schnitzel and sausage may steal the spotlight, Germany lays claim to a treasure trove of baked delights. Generous cream and fruit fillings sandwiched between tender doughs, jewel-toned jams enrobed in velvety chocolate, feather-light crunchy nut pastries – German desserts dazzle the senses while warming the soul.
As you amble along cobblestoned streets, pop into a konditorei and choose between rows of glistening cakes and tortes. Connoisseurs covet the Black Forest cake, a southwestern German specialty with layers of chocolate sponge cake drenched in kirschwasser and topped with cream, morello cherries and chocolate shavings. Further north, try streuselkuchen, a sweet yeast dough scattered with crunchy streusel crumbs, or opt for fruity rhubarb cake with buttery crumbles. Cheesecake lovers should order a slice of Germany’s beloved käsekuchen to discover how soft quark cheese creates a subtly tangy, light-as-air custard encased in a flaky crust.
Beyond cakes, the Germans adore pastries. Berliners lead the pack – fried yeast dough balls with sweet fruit or cream fillings. Traditionally eaten on New Year’s Eve, their jam-oozing decadence knows no season. For nobility in a nutshell, try elegant crescent moon-shaped croissants stuffed with chocolate orPersipan, a sweet almond filling. In autumn and winter, warm up with just-baked potato pancakes served under roasted apple slices drizzled with cinnamon sugar.
Traveling during Karneval? Keep an eye out for fastnachts, fried sweet buns dusted in powdered sugar. Or grab a bag of magenbrot – literal “stomach bread” – a crispy gingerbread treat. Shelves overflow with seasonal Lebkuchen gingerbread cutouts at Christmas markets, ideal for dunking in warm Glühwein.
Chocoholics, rejoice! Germany lays claim to exquisite chocolate confections from spiced Lebkuchen to melt-away pralines. Packed with nuts, nougat and liqueurs, Bavarian chocolate truffles represent German confectionary at its finest. For a showstopping finale, order the chocolate volcano dessert with warm molten chocolate flowing from a mini souffle. Dig in before the lava hardens to enjoy an unforgettable sugar rush!
From Schnitzel to Spätzle: A Taste Tour of Germany's 20 Must-Try Traditional Dishes - The Powerful Punch of Sauerkraut
Sauerkraut may seem like a humble side dish, but its sharp, tangy crunch carries connections to centuries of German culture and craftsmanship. Beyond its bold flavor, sauerkraut delivers some surprising health benefits that have nourished and sustained Germans for generations.
Traditional recipes for sauerkraut date back over 2,000 years to China, where remains of lacto-fermented cabbage were found in ancient tombs. The tart preserve likely reached Germany through trade routes before the process of lacto-fermentation took hold and transformed cabbage into a beloved staple. Not only did fermenting cabbage extend its shelf life, allowing nourishment throughout harsh winters, but the live active cultures served as an important probiotic.
In Germany today, sauerkraut enjoys popularity across regions – from Bavaria to Berlin. Locals relish sauerkraut as the perfect accompaniment to hearty roast pork, knockwurst and even currywurst. Thecontrast between the salty cured meat and the bracing tang of the kraut satisfies cravings. Sauerkraut also adds zing to stews, sandwiches and even breakfast plates when topped with a fried egg. Its versatility lands it on relish trays and dinner tables year round.
Beyond taste, science supports sauerkraut’s spot in the German food pyramid. Studies show fermented cabbage facilitates digestion, boosts immunity and scavenges harmful toxins in the body. The lactic acid in sauerkraut promotes the growth of healthy flora in the gut, while isothiocyanates help eliminate detrimental compounds. The combination of fiber, vitamins and probiotics in sauerkraut makes each tangy forkful a dose of nourishment.
Travelers visiting Germany can witness firsthand the tradition and community surrounding sauerkraut at festivals through the season. In the fall, Berlin’s Festival of Lights celebrates with a glowing sauerkraut cone sculpture. Winter sees Bad Münstereifel’s Kraut market, where growers have gathered to peddle cabbage for over 600 years. And summertime welcomes Sauerkraut parties across Bavaria when the first fresh cabbages are harvested.
While mass production has reshaped parts of the process, artisanal kraut makers continue the time-honored fermentation and preservation techniques. They rely on sourcing peak-season cabbage, salting precisely and tamping the kraut just so to expel air bubbles. Then barnboard barrels or antique stoneware crocks slowly work their magic, concentrating flavors through a month or more of controlled, cool fermentation. The result is a complex bouquet and lively, lip-puckering flavor that mass-produced kraut cannot match.
From Schnitzel to Spätzle: A Taste Tour of Germany's 20 Must-Try Traditional Dishes - Quintessential German Comfort Foods
When the cold creeps in and snow start falling in Germany, locals turn to hearty, soul-warming dishes that promise to thaw body and spirit. These rib-sticking recipes conjure up feelings of Gemütlichkeit – that unique German brand of coziness and warmth that defies direct translation. From schnitzel to goulash, Germany's quintessential comfort foods fuse nourishing ingredients with technique, care and a dash of nostalgia.
Of all the staples that fortify, few compare to schweinshaxe – the mighty pork knuckle. When lagers flow freely at Oktoberfest, big hunks of succulent, salt-crusted schweinshaxe perfume the tents. The porky aroma alone elicits cravings, but the eating seals the deal. Imagine the crispiest pork rind giving way to the most luscious, fall-apart tender meat. Cut it away from the bone, season it with flaky salt and dip it into sweet Bavarian mustard for a perfect bite. The meat takes hours of slow roasting to achieve that ultimate texture, so patience and care factor into the comfort as much as flavor. A schweinshaxe feast feeds the soul through community, tradition and pleasure in the deceptively simple.
In the realm of schnitzel, schnitzel Wiener Art reigns supreme for delivering crisp-fried satisfaction. Tender veal cutlets get mercilessly pounded thin before a dip in eggs and breadcrumbs. The cutlets then sizzle in bubbling butter or lard, developing an irresistible crunch enclosing the juicy meat within. One bite crunches and the next turn soft, releasing the flavors of veal, nutty butter and herbs. Keep it classic with a tart lemon wedge, or go decadent with an optional side of buttery Spätzle and a drizzle of nut brown gravy. Crunchy, crisp, creamy, tender - the contrasting textures and flavors scream comfort.
When the weather turns grim and cold, nothing satisfies like a bubbling crock of goulash. Originating in Hungary, goulash went on to become so beloved across Germany that it earned a place among the canon of national dishes. Chuck cubes of beef, onions and paprika into a heavy pot along with broth and seasonings, then leave it to simmer for hours until the meat surrenders to spoon-soft perfection. The velvety sauce mingles with wide egg noodles or Spätzle to coat each soothing bite. Caraway, marjoram and garlic permeate the red wine-hued stew, warming body and spirit with their musky, earthy depth. As goulash simmers on the stove, irresistible aromas fill the kitchen and beyond, beckoning all near to partake of its comforting charms.