Typical food of Germany

Geographic setting and environment

Germany is located in Western Europe. The country’s topography is varied, including regions of deep forest and high mountains, as well as a wide valley surrounding the Rhine, Germany’s largest river. The highest peak of the mountain, the Zugspitze, is located on the border with Austria. Less than 3 percent of Germans are farmers, and the country must import much of its food. Apples, pears, cherries and peaches, as well as grapes for wine production, are important crops in Germany.

History and food

Food has always been an important part of German culture. Even the well-known German fairy tale, Hansel and Gretel, makes reference to food. Hansel and Gretel, brother and sister, discover a house in the forest made of gingerbread and candy. King Frederick II (King Frederick the Great, 1712-1786) introduced the potato, a staple in the German diet. He gave away seed potatoes and taught people how to grow them. But wars caused food shortages and hardship twice during the 20th century. After the Germans lost World War I (1914-18), food was scarce and soldiers trying to return home were starving. After World War II (1939-1945), the country had even less food available, but this time the nations that had defeated Germany, including the United States, helped feed the Germans and rebuild the country. In 1949, after World War II, Germany was divided into East Germany and West Germany. This division caused the two halves of the country to develop different cooking styles. East Germany, closely associated with its neighbor Russia, adopted a more Russian style of cooking. West Germans continued with traditional German cuisine.

There are also cooking style differences between northern and southern Germany, similar to the cooking styles of the northern and southern United States. In the north, restaurants in Hamburg and Berlin may offer aalsuppe (eel soup) or eintopf (seafood stew). Dry bean soups such as weisse bohnensuppe (white bean soup) are also popular. In the center of the country, menus include breads and cereals made from buckwheat and rye flour. A favorite dish is birnen, bohnen und speck (pears, green beans, and bacon). In the center of the country, a region near the Netherlands known as Westphalia is famous for asparagus, especially white asparagus, and rich, heavy rye bread. Westphalian ham, served with spicy mustard, is popular with Germans all over the world.

Frankfurt, located in the south, is home to a sausage known as Wüstchen. This sausage is similar to the American hot dog, sometimes called a “frankfurter” after the German city. In the south, a dish mysteriously called Himmel und erde (Heaven and Earth) combines potatoes and apples with onions and bacon. The southern region of Bavaria has rugged mountains and the famous Black Forest. Black Forest cherry cake and pancakes, as well as Kirschwasser, a clear cherry brandy, are two contributions from this area. Spätzle (dumplings) are the southern version of northern knödel (potato dumplings). Lebkuchen is a spicy cookie prepared especially during the Christmas season. East and West Germany came together in the early 1990s, but Germans still cook according to their region.

German food

Germans tend to eat heavy, hearty meals that include ample portions of meat and bread. Potatoes are the staple food, and each region has its favorite ways of preparing them. Some Germans eat potatoes with pears, bacon, and beans. Others prepare a special stew called Pichelsteiner, made with three types of meat and potatoes. Germans in the capital of Berlin eat potatoes with bacon and spicy sausages. Sauerbraten is a large roast made of pork, beef, or veal that is popular throughout Germany, and has different flavors depending on the region. In the Rhine River area, it is enjoyed with raisins, but is often cooked with a variety of flavorful spices and vinegar. Fruit (rather than vegetables) is often paired with meat dishes to add a sweet and sour flavor to the meal.

Knödel, or dumplings, accompany many meals, especially in the north. In the south, a diminutive version called spätzle is more common. Knödel can be made with mashed potatoes or bread (or a mixture of both), and is boiled or fried. Germans enjoy bread at every meal, with rye bread, sliced ​​bread and sourdough bread more common than white bread. Soft pretzels can be found just about anywhere. Asparagus served with sauce or in soup is popular in the spring.

Weisse Bohnensuppe (White Bean Soup) 10portions


  • 1 pound dried navy beans
  • 3 quarts (12 cups) of water
  • ½ pound ham, cubed
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 5 celery stalks, chopped (including top leaves)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Rye bread or rolls as a side


  1. Rinse the beans in a strainer and remove any that are discolored or shriveled.
  2. Place the beans in a large pot, cover them with water and let them soak overnight.
  3. Drain the beans in a colander, rinse them and return them to the pot.
  4. Measure 3 quarts of water (12 cups) into the pot.
  5. Heat the water to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer the beans, uncovered, for about 2 hours, until the beans are tender.
  6. Add parsley, onion, garlic, celery and salt. Cook them over low heat for another hour.
  7. Add the chopped ham, and heat for about 10 more minutes. Serve hot, accompanied by rye bread or rolls.

Weisse Bohnensuppe (White Bean Soup)

bratwurst sausages 4-6portions


  • 6 slices of bacon
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 (32-ounce) can sauerkraut, drained and rinsed in a colander
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced
  • 1 cup of water
  • ½ cup white grape or apple juice
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seed
  • 1 pound of sausage
  • 1 large apple, cored and sliced


  1. In a deep skillet, cook the bacon, draining most of the fat, and crumble into pieces.
  2. In the same skillet, fry the onion and garlic in the remaining bacon fat over medium-low heat until tender.
  3. Add sauerkraut, potatoes, water, white grape (or apple) juice, brown sugar, stock, bay leaf, and caraway seeds.
  4. Add enough water to cover the potatoes and bring to a boil.
  5. Add the sausage to the mixture.
  6. Cover and cook over low heat for 20 to 30 minutes.
  7. Add the apple slices and simmer for a further 5 to 10 minutes.

bratwurst sausages

Kartoffelknödeln (potato dumplings) twodozens


  • 8 medium potatoes
  • 3 egg yolks, beaten
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 cup of breadcrumbs
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • Flour


  1. Peel potatoes. Place them in a large pot and fill the pot with enough water to cover them.
  2. Bring the water to a boil, lower the heat and simmer until the potatoes are soft (about 20-30 minutes).
  3. Drain the potatoes well in a colander, place them in a bowl and mash them, using a hand mixer or potato masher.
  4. Add the egg yolks, cornstarch, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper.
  5. Rinse out the pot and fill it with water and heat the water to a boil.
  6. While the water is heating, shape the potato mixture into golf balls.
  7. Roll the meatballs in the flour and immediately drop them into boiling water for 15 to 20 minutes.
  8. Serve with butter and salt.

Kartoffelknödeln (potato dumplings)

Rye bread


  • ¾ cup of water
  • 2¼ teaspoons dry yeast
  • 4½ teaspoons sugar (used in varying amounts)
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • 2 tablespoons of honey
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon of lard
  • 1¼ cups whole rye flour
  • 1¼ cups unbleached flour
  • 1½ teaspoons caraway seed
  • 1 rind of a small orange, finely grated


  1. In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water with 1½ teaspoons sugar.
  2. Add the molasses, honey, butter, salt, caraway seed, orange rind and the rest of the sugar.
  3. Slowly add both types of flour to the mixture and knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes).
  4. Clean the mixing bowl, lightly butter it and return the dough to the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rise for 1-2 hours.
  5. Push a fist dipped in flour into the center of the dough. Turn the dough out onto a floured counter or cutting board and shape into a loaf. Transfer bread to a greased cookie sheet.
  6. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it rise again for 1 hour.
  7. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  8. Bake 30 to 40 minutes.

Rye bread

Spargelgemüse (Fresh Asparagus) 8portions


  • 2 pounds of asparagus
  • ¼ cup of butter
  • 3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 large egg, cooked


  1. Wash the asparagus and remove the tough ends.
  2. Cook asparagus in boiling salted water for 7 to 10 minutes (until tender) and drain.
  3. Melt the butter in a saucepan.
  4. Add cheese to butter and cook until melted and lightly browned.
  5. Serve the asparagus covered with cheese sauce.
  6. Garnish with a sliced ​​hard-boiled egg.

Spargelgemüse (Fresh Asparagus)

Apfelpfannkuchen (Apple Pancakes) 4portions


  • ⅔ cup of flour
  • 2 teaspoons of sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • ½ cup of milk
  • 2 large apples, peeled, cored and cut into thin slices.
  • 1½ sticks of butter (¾ cup)
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • confectioner’s sugar


  1. Combine the flour with 2 teaspoons of sugar and salt and set it aside.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the eggs and milk together.
  3. Gradually add the flour mixture to the eggs and milk, beating until smooth.
  4. Melt ½ stick butter (¼ cup) in a saucepan.
  5. Add apple slices and cook gently until apples soften.
  6. Mix 2 tablespoons of sugar and cinnamon together and gently stir into the apples.
  7. In a 6-inch skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of butter.
  8. Pour the batter so that it is about ¼-inch deep.
  9. Cook until the bubbles at the top of the batter pop and the pancake begins to set.
  10. Put about ¼ of the apples on top of the pancake and cover it with more batter.
  11. Let it set, and then gently turn the pancake over to brown the other side.
  12. Repeat to make 3 more pancakes.
  13. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar and serve.

Apfelpfannkuchen (Apple Pancakes)

Food for religious and festive celebrations

Oktoberfest is the German festival in October. It is celebrated, not in October, but during the last week of September in Munich. In late summer or early fall in the United States, many cities host Oktoberfests to celebrate German culture, especially German beer. At German Oktoberfests, beer is traditionally drunk from a large, decorated stone mug called a Bier Stein (steam beer). Germany has more than 1,200 breweries, producing more than 5,000 different types of beer.

At Christmas, cut-out honey cakes called Lebkuchen are baked in squares, hearts, semicircles, or teddy bear shapes, with icing and decorated with small cutouts of cherubs (angels) and bells. A large cake or five to seven small cakes are tied with a bright ribbon and presented by a young lady to a young man of her choice on Christmas Day. Springerle (biscuits), marzipan sweets and Stollen (a type of coffee cake with dried and candied fruit) are also popular Christmas desserts. To accompany the cookies, Germans drink Glühwein, a type of mulled wine. A favorite drink among teenagers is Apfelschörle, a sparkling fruit juice. A traditional Christmas dinner is roast goose with vegetables and Kartoffelknödeln (potato dumplings).



  • 1 cup of margarine
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup of honey
  • 1 cup of sour milk (add 1 tablespoon of vinegar to 1 cup of milk and let it steep for 10 minutes)
  • 2 tablespoons of vinegar
  • 6 cups of flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoons mace
  • 1 tablespoon of cinnamon


  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Cream margarine and sugar together in a bowl. Add the egg and beat until fluffy.
  3. Add honey, sour milk and vinegar. Add the flour, baking powder, salt and ginger, mace, and cinnamon.
  4. Chill for an hour.
  5. Roll to ¼-inch thickness and cut into shapes, especially hearts.
  6. Bake for 6 minutes.
  7. Decorate with white icing and candies.

Lebkuchen biscuits german gastronomy

Apfelschorle 4portions


  • 4 cups of apple juice
  • 1 bottle of carbonated water (1 liter, 33.8 ounces)


  1. Mix equal parts apple juice and club soda in a tall glass and serve.


Glühwein (non-alcoholic drink) 4-6portions


  • 4 cups of apple juice
  • 2 cups of black tea
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 orange
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 nails


  1. Slowly heat the apple juice and tea in a saucepan.
  2. Squeeze the lemon and orange juice, keeping the peels.
  3. Add the lemon and orange juice, sugar, peel and spices to the saucepan and heat without boiling.
  4. Carefully strain the mixture through a strainer and serve.

Glühwein (non-alcoholic drink)

Mealtime customs

When eating in Germany, it is polite to have both hands on the table at all times, but the elbows must not rest on the table. It is also considered rude to leave food on the plate. Waiters expect a 5 to 10 percent tip. An imbiss is a food stall that may serve hot dogs or other fast foods. Another type of restaurant is the bierhall, which commonly serves bratwursts, accompanied by beer.

Breakfast, or früstück, consists of rolls with jam, cheese, eggs, and meat. Coffee or tea can also be served. Zweites früstück (literally second breakfast) is a mid-morning snack eaten at work or school. Students can have belegtes brot (literally covered bread), a small meat or cheese sandwich, and a piece of fruit. Germans eat their big meal of the day, mittagessen, around noon or later, sometimes lasting two hours. The meal almost always begins with a suppe (soup), and several more dishes follow (see sample menu). In the afternoon, kaffee (snack with coffee), which consists of pastries and cakes, is often served. Abendbrot (dinner, literally “night bread”) is a lighter meal than lunch, which usually offers an open sandwich of bread with cold cuts and cheese, eaten with a knife and fork, and perhaps some coleslaw or fruit. Pretzels and candies can be enjoyed, especially by children, at any time of the day.

soft pretzels 12pretzels


  • 1 packet of active dry yeast
  • 1½ cup hot water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 spoon of sugar
  • 4 cups of flour (approximately)
  • Shortening to grease the bowl and cookie sheet
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Coarse salt


  1. Dissolve sugar, salt and yeast in hot water.
  2. Let stand 3 to 4 minutes.
  3. Add 3 cups of flour.
  4. Add the last cup of flour, little by little, until a stiff dough forms.
  5. Sprinkle the flour on a cutting board or countertop and remove the dough from the bowl.
  6. With clean hands, knead the dough (fold it over, press down, turn).
  7. Repeat this process for about 7 or 8 minutes. Clean the mixing bowl and coat the inside lightly with oil.
  8. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place for 1-2 hours.
  9. During this time the dough will expand, or “rise” to about twice its size.
  10. Grease two cookie sheets and remove plastic wrap from bowl.
  11. Coat your fist with flour, and then punch down into the center of the dough.
  12. Return the dough to the floured counter and cut or break it into about 12 equal pieces.
  13. Roll each piece into a long rope (about 12 to 16 inches long).
  14. Twist the strings into pretzel shapes and place them on a greased cookie sheet.
  15. Using a clean pastry brush, brush each pretzel with beaten egg, then sprinkle with coarse salt.
  16. Cover the cookie sheets loosely with plastic wrap and let the pretzels rise again for an hour.
  17. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  18. Bake pretzels 10 to 15 minutes (until light brown).
  19. Serve immediately with hot mustard.

soft pretzels

red cabbage salad 8portions


  • 1 small head of red cabbage
  • 1 tablespoon of salt
  • 2 small onions, chopped
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and cut into matchstick-size slices
  • 3 tablespoons of vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • 3 tablespoons of salad oil


  1. Remove the tough outer leaves from the head of the red cabbage.
  2. Quarter the cabbage and slice off the hard core.
  3. Grate or cut the cabbage into large pieces.
  4. Put the shredded cabbage in a large bowl, sprinkle with salt and add the chopped onions and sliced ​​apples. Gently mix to combine.
  5. In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, sugar, and salad oil.
  6. Pour in cabbage mixture, toss and serve.

red cabbage salad

Mittagessen menu sample

  • Fleischbrühe (clear soup)
  • Rollmops (rolled herring fillets)
  • Königsberger klopse (meatballs in cream sauce)
  • Sauerkraut
  • Armer ritter (German French toast, literally “poor gentleman”)
  • cheese and crackers
  • plate of cookies with coffee

Politics, economics and nutrition

Many Germans have begun to modify their eating habits to reduce their calorie and cholesterol intake. Since the unification of East and West Germany in the 1990s, the government has faced the challenge of bringing living conditions in the former East Germany up to the standards of the former West Germany. The improvement of housing, schools and public services will continue after 2001. Despite unequal living conditions, Germans in all parts of the country are well fed. In fact, most German children have enough to eat.

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