German Food (2024)

German traditional food and drink is almost certainly more exciting than most new residents and visitors expect it to be. Whilst there are regional variations in food culture,most German recipes focus heavily on bread, potatoes, and meat, especially pork, as well as plenty of greens such as types of cabbage and kale. Cake, coffee, and beer are all highly popular elements of German cuisine too - which will be good news to most!

This article will walk you through the classics of the German kitchen, famous regional dishes worth a try, and, of course, beer.

Top 10 Traditional German Foods

What should I eat and drink in Germany?

When in Germany, you should really try as many national and regional dishes as you can. Here are thetop ten traditional German foodsthat should be on your bucket list:

1. Brot & Brötchen

Bread, in the form of a loaf (Brot) or a small, usually crusty roll (Brötchen), is an important part of the cuisine, which is eaten all over the country and served with most German dishes.Bread is enjoyed with most meals, especially breakfast and dinner, but also at lunch (usually considered the main meal of the day), which will often be served with rolls on the side.

Germans enjoy a wide variety of bread including grain, Pumpernickel, rye, and white bread. German bread tends to be heavier and heartier than bread from Italy, Spain, or France.

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2. Käsespätzle

A dish from the southwestern regions of Germany,Käsespätzleismade from layering small Spätzle pasta with grated cheese and topping with fried onion. It is usually served with a salad and sometimes with applesauce.

Those moving to Germany from the US or Britain will find that this is the closest they will get to Macaroni Cheese, and will no doubt also find that it has more depth and flavor than their own home dish.

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3. Currywurst

Currywurstis sold from stalls and fast food eateries in many towns and cities, and if you want to know what food the capital city Berlin is famous for, you will quickly discover that it isCurrywurst.

It is not a dish that Germans eat at home, but instead it's something that iseaten 'on-the-go'. Its nutrition is negligible, but this plate ofchopped up sausages, chips and a spicy ketchup sauce is an incredibly popular German food, especially after a few pilsners.

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Currywurst Museum

Did you know there is an interactive Currywurst museum in central Berlin (Berlin-Mitte)? This is a great day out for kids and adults alike and takes a surprisingly in-depth look at the significance of this favorite German snack.

4. Kartoffelpuffer & Bratkartoffeln

AKartoffelpufferis similar to a swiss 'Rosti':a shallow fried pancake made from grated potatoes, egg, and flour. It is sometimes eaten with eggs and bacon for breakfast in Germany, as a side with meat for lunch or dinner, or alone with applesauce.

Bratkartoffeln, on the other hand, are morelike sauté or hashed potatoes, where small chunks or chips of potatoes are parboiled and then fried with onion and sometimes bacon. Again,Bratkartoffelncan be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

5. Rouladen

Rouladenis a German main dish that typically consists ofpickles and bacon wrapped in thin slices of beef, or veal. It is usually served with gravy, dumplings, mashed potatoes, and cabbage.

Rouladenis often enjoyed when families come together to share a meal during a holiday or celebration and does not hail from one specific region. In fact, it is said to have French origins - hence the name.

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6. Schnitzel

ASchnitzelis made bytenderizing a piece of meat(such as chicken, beef, veal, or pork)and then covering it in egg, flour, and breadcrumbs before frying it in oil. Very similar to a French escalope, theSchnitzelactually originated in Austria.

This dish is a good example of thetypical German food served in bars, restaurants, and fast food eateries.Schnitzelplus fries is a very popular and satisfying choice.

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7. Eintopf

AnEintopfis aone-pot stew that may include a wide variety of ingredients. It is a meal-in-one that will typically contain broth, vegetables, potatoes, and meat. Sometimes it may include pulses such as lentils, and it's usually servedmit Brot(with bread).

Enjoyed all over the county,there are vast regional differences in the flavors and ingredients used to make anEintopf. Typically enjoyed at home as a family meal, it is one of the easiest German recipes. Those new to German cooking may well choose this to start with, asit is probably one of the easiest German recipes to make.

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8. Sauerbraten

Sauerbratenis aGerman pot roast- it literally translates as 'sour roast'. The sour part refers to the pickling of the meat in a sweet and sour gravy-like sauce, which is then slowly roasted in a dish.

Meats tend to be veal, beef, or pork which is marinated for days or even weeks first. It is found throughout Germany and German-speaking countries.

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9. Brezel

Brezelis the German term for 'pretzel', although you may see them sold under either name. Available at bakeries and on street stalls, aBrezelismade with a long strip of dough which is folded into a knot and then boiled before being baked. This results in a chewy brown crust and a soft fluffy interior.

It is typically thenflavored with salt, seeds, or cheeseand served with a mustard dip. The origin of theBrezelis fiercely contested, but they have long been associated with Christian celebrations, with many viewing the knot shape as a symbol of the holy trinity.

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10. Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte

A delicious cake that you may well know as a Black Forest Gateaux.This layered chocolate sponge includes cherries, jam filling, and cream. As the name suggests, it originates from southwest Germany where the Black Forest is situated.

Eating cake in the afternoon with coffee, an activity known asKaffee und Kuchen, is a major tradition in Germany, especially at the weekends with family.Schwarzwälder Kirschtorteis often enjoyed at this time.

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What do Germans like eating?

Germans enjoy hearty home-cooked meals,especially the national and regional dishes we have looked at. But they are increasingly starting to open up to foreign food, especially in the more cosmopolitan cities. In major cities you will be able to enjoy everything from US, French, Italian, Thai, Chinese, and Indian food.

Notably, thanks to a large Turkish community,Turkish foodis very popular in Germany. Did you know theDöner Kebabwas invented in Berlin?

Typical German beverages

Learn more about the German beverages and the beer culture

Germans enjoy a wide range ofdrinks, which are consumed both at mealtimes and throughout the day. They tend to have a more relaxed but also moderated view of alcohol than many other countries; typically, they do drink plenty, but don't tend to 'binge';drinking beer is very much about enjoying the taste. The legal drinking age is 16 for beer and wine, but 18 for spirits or liquor.

What do they drink in Germany?

By day,Germans drink a lot of coffee(Kaffee), although tea (Tee) is becoming increasingly popular. Black filter coffee is typically enjoyed first thing and throughout the morning. But coffee is also consumed in the afternoon with cake duringKaffee und Kuchen, when it tends to have milk or cream added. At mealtimes,locals drink juices such as apple juice, as well as sparkling water. Juice mixed with carbonated water (Schorle) is a refreshing and popular choice, too.

In Germany,drinking alcohol is common among adults. Beer, schnapps, brandy, and German wines such as Riesling are all enjoyed in bars, restaurants, and at home.

What is the most popular drink in Germany?

The most popular alcoholic drink in Germany isbeer, whilst the most popular non-alcoholic drink iscoffee.

German beer

Beer is a very important aspect of German culture

Germany is the third biggest beer-drinking country in Europeafter the Czech Republic and Austria.The average German consumes around 104 liters of beer per year. In bars, beer is typically served in a choice of300 ml or 500 mltulip glasses or in half-liter or full-litersteins. A stein is a type of tankard made traditionally of ceramic of metal but more commonly today in glass. They are heavy, handled vessels that sometimes feature levered lids, which are said to have originated from the Black Death to protect the beer from flies.

Germany produces a lot of the beer that its residents consume although the country does import some Belgium, French, Austrian, and Czech beers.The nation is thought to be the world's oldest beer-brewing country, with the earliest commercial brewery thought to have been in an 11th-century Benedictine Abbey. This brewery, Weihenstephan, is still operating today.

Originally,beer in Germany was brewed in homes, but as the monks took over the responsibility of making it, they worked hard to improve the process, taste and purity. Essentially, the monks modernized beer production throughout the Middle Ages, and it’s these medieval practices that are still often used today.

German beer and the purity law

In 1516, a law known as the 'purity law' (Reinheitsgebot) was established. This dictated thatonly three ingredients may go into beer: water, hops and barley. Whenyeastwas discovered, this wasadded as a fourth sanctioned ingredient.

This 500-year-old law is still in practice today, although those producing beer for export are allowed to add some other ingredients.

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Types of German Beer

It is said that youcan drink a different German beer every day for 15 years before you need to have the same one again. But within those thousands of beers are some key, specific varieties of the drink that you should familiarize yourself with.

Pale Lager

Pale lager is themost common beer in Germanyand includes varieties such as export,Helles, and, of course, pilsner beers. Pilsner is characterized by a light body, a hoppy flavor, and a typical ABV of around 4.5-5%.Pilsner accounts for almost two-thirds of all beer enjoyed in Germany. It is commonly served in a tulip glass usually in a choice of 300 or 500 ml - roughly comparable to the UK's half pint or pint measures.

Dark Lager

Dark lagers tend to be bothbitter and sweeter as well as more malty. They also tend to be stronger with ABVs ranging from 5% up to 12%. Types of dark lager includeAltbierandBock.

Wheat Beer

Wheat beers may be labelled as bothWeizenbier,Hefeweizen(both mean ‘wheat beer’) orWeißbier(white beer). It is alight-colored, top-fermenting beer with a higher proportion of wheat to barley. Wheat beer is sold in bottled and decanted into dedicated glasses that can hold around 500 ml of beer but also have space for the large frothy 'head'. Dark (Dunkel) versions are also popular.

Unfiltered Lager

Conditioned in a similar way to English cask ale is German unfiltered lager, known asKellerbier(cellar beer) or the weakerZwickelbier. Naturally cloudy thanks to the retention of the yeast, and either top or bottom fermented, it is much less carbonated than standard lagers and tends to be stronger in taste.

Beer with mixers

For a country with such purist brewing laws,it may come as a surprise that many Germans ask for their beer to be mixed with a soft drink to make it lighter.Radler(lemonade and lager 50/50) resembles a British shandy, and it is sometimes known as aRusswhen the beer is Wheat Beer. The termsDiesel,KrefelderandColabierall refer to beer and cola mixed 50/50.

German Breweries

The biggest selling German breweries are:

  • Oettinger
  • Krombacher
  • Bitburger
  • Radeberger

The big, commercial breweries tend to be located in the north of the country, whilst the smaller, more traditional breweries are found to the south. In total,there are around 1,300 breweries in Germany, together producing 5,000 brands of beer.

Much of the beer made in Germany is exported - in fact,Germany produces a third of the world's beer and boasts 15,000 beer brands. In trendy cities such as Berlin, craft beer is enjoying huge popularity.

German Beer Festivals

Around the time of the harvest (late September, early October),traditional beer festivals take place all over Germany. The most famous of course is the MunichOktoberfestfestival, which attracts over six million visitors each year. More than just a celebration of beer, attendees dress up in traditional Bavarian clothes and enjoy entertainment and a funfair too.

Only beer over 6% which has been brewed in the Munich area can be served. Each year,around seven million liters of beer are enjoyed at this major event. OtherOktoberfests take place inStuttgart,Berlin, and Frankfurt, so wherever you are in Germany, you are never that far from a beer festival.

German bar

When you go to a German bar and simply ask for a ‘beer’, you will most likely be given a regional beer. If you want to try something else, such as a non-local wheat beer, dark beer, or pilsner, then ask specifically for what you want. If you’re living in or visiting a town or city with a particularly famous, acclaimed, or historic brewery, then it’s worth taking a tour, which usually includes some free tasters.

Regional Cuisine and Specialties

What food is Germany famous for?

Bavarian foodputs meat at the center of most meals, especially sausages, goose, and pork. Due to the proximity to Austria, this is also where you will find plenty ofSchnitzelon the menu. (The termSchnitzelmeans simply 'cutlet').

InBaden-Wuerttenbergto the west, food has a more refined French influence. This includes dishes such asMaultaschen, apasta dish similar to ravioli with pockets of pasta containing meat, herbs, and spices. Although the dish is made with finesse, the name literally comes from the term ‘meal bags'. The meat was traditionally hidden inside the pockets during lent when people were meant to eat less meat.

Thearea to the norththat sits on the Baltic Sea (Lower Saxony) is whereyou are more likely to enjoy seafood, such as rollmops and herrings.Cake is enjoyed nationally, but regional variations includeSchwarzwälder Kirschtortefrom the Black Forest and the brilliantly named Bee Sting cake (Bienenstich Kuchen) from Andernach, so-called because the cake was made as a celebration after soldiers from Andernach and Linz used bee hives as a form of weaponry!

What is the main food in Germany?

Despite these regional differences, there are some meals such asRouladen,SauerbratenandEinhopfthat are enjoyed all over the country. These are considered to be national dishes.

Of all these regional and national dishes,Germany is most famous forCurrywurst, sausages, pretzels and Black Forest Gateau, but as you can see, there is plenty more to German cuisine than just these.

What is Germany's traditional food for Christmas?

On December 24th and/or 25th,German Christmas food usually involves roast duck, goose, or even wild boar. This is usuallyserved with potato dumplings, red cabbage, and apple and sausage stuffing.

For dessert there is nothing better at Christmas than a famousStollefruit cake orLebkuchenbiscuits.

Meal Structure in Germany

What's a typical German breakfast, lunch and dinner?

Breakfast

Breakfast in Germany is calledFrühstückandalmost always includes a hot drink such as tea or coffee.

Breakfasts in Germany tend to befairly hearty and often start with some bread or rolls which are served with spreads such as butter, jam, and marmalade. Sausage, eggs, cheese, and bacon are common breakfast items too, as are potato pancakes. Cereal, especially muesli, or yogurt and fruit are increasingly popular in Germany, especially with the more health-conscious youth. A glass of orange juice is also common with breakfast.

A second breakfast, known asPausenbrotor aZweites Frühstückis common in Germany, especially at school. This refueling snack often takes the form of a small sandwich or some fruit.

Lunch

Lunch in Germany is calledMittagessenand isusually eaten between 12 pm and 2 pm. Germans traditionally enjoy their main cooked meal for lunch rather than dinner. Lunch is often served after a starter such as potato salad.

Lunches cooked at home may includeEintopf,Rouladen,SchnitzelorSauerbraten. It will usually consist of meat or fish served with potatoes, rice, or German noodles as well as vegetables and sometimes rolls (Brötchen).

Those working in cities, too busy to go to a restaurant or home for lunch, will often want something hot on-the-go for lunch, as opposed to a cold sandwich. One of the reasons dishes likeCurrywurstorSchnitzelplus fries have become so popular is that they are hot and readily available for little money. Despite this rather large lunch and maybe even a two-tier breakfast, a couple of hours after lunch, Germans traditionally sit down for coffee and cake (Kaffee und Kuchen), although this is increasingly becoming a weekend, rather than a daily, tradition.

Dinner

In Germany, the evening meal is calledAbendessenorAbendbrot– the latter is actually more like a supper, and literally translates to ‘evening bread’. Following a hearty lunch,Germans traditionally enjoy a lighter dinner, with breads, hams, sausages, cheeses, and pickles all being very common. In the winter, this may include soup as well. This cold buffet-style meal is usually shared with the family or household and is served early evening around 6 or 7 pm.

However, due to the modern working day and the fact that most Germans, especially in urban areas, no longer come home to eat their lunch, many are starting to have a lighter bread-based lunch, making dinner the cooked meal of the day; this will likely include meat or fish, vegetables, and potatoes. Many adults will enjoy a beer with their evening meal.

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German Food (2024)

FAQs

What do Germans say when they eat? ›

Etiquette Rules when Dining Out in Germany

You'll find that most Germans begin the meal with a hearty Guten Appetit! Similar to Bon Appetit, it is an elegant way to phrase "Let's eat!". More informally, especially at lunch, you can expect an exclamation of "Mahlzeit!".

Is it rude to not eat all your food in Germany? ›

Don't take more than you can eat. It's considered impolite to leave food on your plate. If you aren't sure what to do, watch what others are doing.

What is Germany's national dish? ›

Sauerbraten (pronounced [ˈzaʊ̯ɐˌbʁaːtn̩]) is a traditional German roast of heavily marinated meat. It is regarded as a national dish of Germany, and is frequently served in German-style restaurants internationally.

What do Germans say after burping? ›

This is a well known German thing when someone burps 😂 After somebody burps, you say: Schulz! Sometimes, it is accompanied by putting your thumb on your Stirn (forehead). It is especially popular among Jugendliche (teenagers) to do this as a drinking game. If somebody does not say Schulz, gets hit!

What do Germans call food? ›

Essen. "Essen" by itself is the verb "to eat", but "das Essen" - i.e. a noun - means "food". EDIT: Now, if you wanted to get very fancy, you could say Nährstoff, Ernährung, Nahrung, Nahrungsmittel or Lebensmittel.

What is a typical German lunch? ›

The main meal of the day is das Mittagessen, or lunch. The tradition is to have a hot meal during lunch. Sauerbraten, snitzels, Frikadellen (German meatballs), potatoes (such as Kartoffelsalat), green beans, soups, and stews are frequently served for lunch.

Is it rude to chew gum in Germany? ›

Chewing gum while talking to someone is considered rude. Eye contact during the introduction is serious, direct, and should be maintained as long as the person is addressing you. Even in public between strangers, eye contact or out and out staring can be direct and not necessarily smiling.

What is considered rude in Germany? ›

Having a loud conversation, talking loud on the phone, or listening to loud music are considered very impolite as you will disturb other people. German people love to have their privacy. If you see a closed door, it doesn't mean that the person inside does not want you to come in.

Is slurping rude in Germany? ›

That doesn't mean you're not allowed to talk; quite the reverse, you should talk as much as you can to boost your German. But don't open your mouth while eating, and don't make any slurping sounds when eating soup.

What is a German sausage called? ›

Bratwurst (German: [ˈbʁaːtvʊʁst]) is a type of German sausage made from pork or, less commonly, beef or veal.

What is Germany's national animal? ›

The heraldic animal of the Federal Republic of Germany is the eagle. As a symbol of the sun, the life-force and the highest deity, the eagle was already revered in the highly developed civilizations of the Orient and in antiquity by the Greeks and the Germanic tribes.

What time do Germans eat dinner? ›

But in Germany, the traditional dinner time is much earlier: you'll find many German households having their evening meal between 5 and 7 pm.

What do Germans say instead of "bon appetit"? ›

German: Guten appetit

While enjoying a meal with colleagues or friends, it's customary to say Guten appetit! before enjoying your food. A waiter or your friends would take turns saying it. In response, you can say, Danke! or Danke!

What do Germans say at lunch time? ›

Mahlzeit is a German salutation. It is the short form of a more formal salutation, "Gesegnete Mahlzeit" (archaic term, de: Blessed mealtime).

What Germans say as a toast? ›

Easily the most common way of saying cheers in German, prost is an expression that means “to life” or “to health.” (It also rhymes with toast!) Additionally, you can say ain prost, meaning “a toast,” to let everyone know you're in the mood to raise your glass.

What is the German command for eat? ›

essen (to eat): du isst – iss! BUT if there is a vowel change which involves an umlaut, this umlaut is not added to the du form in the imperative.

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