Food & Drink

German cuisine varies from region to region, but concentrates on meat (especially sausage) and varieties of sweet dessert and cakes (such as Black Forest gateau Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte) and Stollen (a fruit cake). Germans also are famous for rye bread. Germany also produces a large quantity of beer, and (mostly white) wine, particularly Riesling, but also Müller-Thurgau and other varieties.

Cuisine differs also greatly according to regions and season.

Specialities by Region

Baden

  • Snail soup
  • Bibbeleskäs (cottage cheese).
  • Brägele (sliced potatoes pan-fried in lard).
  • Flädlesuppe (broth with thin strips of German-style pancakes).
  • Knöpfle (noodles, similar to Spätzle, but thicker rather than long).
  • Schupfnudeln (pasta made from potatoes and flour, often served with Sauerkraut).

Bavaria (Bayern)

  • Knödel (dumplings made from potatoes or white bread).
  • Leberkäse (a type of sausage baked in a mould and cut into slices - usually eaten in a bread-roll with mustard).
  • Schweinsbraten (pot-roasted pork).
  • Weißwürste - 'white sausages' (a speciality from Munich (München), traditionally eaten for second breakfast. Always accompanied by sweet mustard, pretzels, and wheat beer).
  • Weizenbier/Weißbier (wheat beer).

Bremen and Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen)

  • Bratwurst (veal sausages - mild flavour, pan fried).
  • Kohl und Pinkel (kale, very slowly cooked, with bits of rather salty sausage; a typical winter dish).

Franconia (Franken)

  • Bratwurst (beef, pork or veal sausages, served fried or grilled with sauerkraut or potato salad and mustard, or simply in a bread roll (Bratwurstsemmel). The best-known sausages are from Nuremberg).
  • Hochzeitssuppe - "wedding soup" (a spicy meat broth with bread dumplings, liver dumplings and finely sliced pancakes).
  • Klöße (large dumplings made from bread dough or mashed potatoes. The best friend of pot-roasted meats or mushroom ragout).
  • Lebkuchen (gingerbread).
  • Schäuferle (pot-roasted pig shoulder with a crunchy crust, seasoned with salt, pepper and caraway. Served in a dark sauce, made from the roast stock, meat broth, dark beer, onions and carrots. Accompanied by dumplings and sauerkraut or red cabbage).

Frankfurt am Main and Hessen

  • Apfelwein (wine made of apples, somewhat comparable to Cider and French Cidre though much stronger and tastier. Served in a special mug (the "Bembel"), drunk with a special glass ("the Gerippte").
  • Frankfurter sausage (a smoked sausage made from pure pork, which is eaten hot and usually accompanied by bread and mustard. Not to be confused with the American hot dog).
  • Green Sauce (made from minced and an abundant amount of seven fresh herbs namely borage, sorrel, cress, chervil, chives, parsley, and burnet. Served with boiled potatoes and hardboiled eggs).
  • Handkäs mit Musik - "hand-cheese with music" (a strong cheese made from curdled milk served in a dressing (the "music") from vegetable oil, vinegar, caraway, salt and pepper and sliced onions. Usually served with rye bread and butter).
  • Sauer Gespritzer (apfelwein mixed with sparkling water. Very refreshing, usually served during summer).

Hamburg

  • Aalsuppe (a sweet and sour soup of meat broth, dried fruits, vegetables, and herbs).
  • Birnen, Bohnen und Speck (literally "pears, beans and bacon", cooked together in a stew).
  • Jükääg (cabbage roll).
  • Labskaus (made from corned beef, herring, mashed potatoes, and beetroot, served with a fried egg and a gherkin).

Palatinate (Pfalz)

  • Gedadschde (pan fried dumplings made of mashed potatoes with flour).
  • Gequellde mit Lewwerworscht (cooked potatoes with liver sausage).
  • Gequellde mit weißem Kees (cooked potatoes with curd cheese).
  • Grumbeersupp un Quetschekuche (potato-soup and plum-cake).
  • Kerscheblotzer (cherry-cake)
  • Verheierde (potatoes and dumplings made of flour).
  • Weck, Worschd un Woi (bread roll, sausage and wine).
  • Zwiwwelkuche un neie Woi (onion-pie with freshly made wine).

Rhineland (Rheinland)

  • Blutwurst (blood sausage).
  • Halve Hahn (literally Half Rooster: a cheese sandwich with onions).
  • Himmel un Ääd (literally Sky and Earth: mashed potatoes with stewed apples and fried blood pudding).
  • Mussels
  • Reibekuchen (potato fritters with black bread, apple syrup, sugar beet syrup or stewed apples).
  • Rheinischer Sauerbraten (large pieces of beef or more traditionally horse meat, marinated in a spicy water-vinegar mixture for a long time before baking).
  • Rice pies, apricot pies and pear pies.

Saarland

  • Dibbelabbes (a potato hash prepared from raw grated potatoes, bacon and leeks, and baked in a Dibbe, or pot).
  • Geheirote (lit. "Married ones": potatoes and dumplings made of flour served with a creamy bacon sauce).
  • Schwenker or Schwenkbraten (pork steaks, marinated in spices and onions and broiled on a grill that hangs on a chain over a wood fire).

Saxony (Sachsen)

  • Eierschecke (a cake consisting of three layers: The bottom one is either a yeast dough (Hefeteig) or one made with baking soda (Rührteig), the middle layer is a cream made of quark, vanilla and some butter, egg, sugar and milk, and the top layer is mainly made from eggs (Eier), which are beaten with butter, sugar and "Vanillepudding"-powder (starchy substance normally used to cook a dessert similar to semolina pudding).
  • Lebkuchen (gingerbread).
  • Leipziger Allerlei (vegetable dish consisting of peas, baby carrots, white asparagus and morels. It may also, but not necessarily, contain broccoli, cauliflower, green beans or corn, even small prawns).
  • Quarkkeulchen (a sweet main dish made from quark, mashed boiled potatoes, a little flour, an egg and some grated lemon peel. The ensuing dough is baked as small, less than palm-sized pancakes and eaten hot with sugar and cinnamon, or with fruit, whipped cream, vanilla ice cream etc).
  • Stollen (a bread-like cake with dried citrus peel, dried fruit, nuts, and spices such as cardamom and cinnamon, usually eaten during the Christmas season as Weihnachtsstollen or Christstollen).

Swabia (Schwaben)

  • Gaisburger Marsch (a stew).
  • Käsespätzle (Spätzle (a kind of noodles) and fried onions gratinated with cheese).
  • Maultaschen (a distant relative of Italian ravioli and Russian pelmeni).
  • Wibele (sweet biscuits).
  • Zwiebelkuchen (onion pie).

Thuringia (Thüringen)

  • Klöße (dumplings made of raw and/or cooked potatoes).
  • Mohnkuchen (poppyseed cake).
  • Mutzbraten (pork, roasted on open birchwood fire, served with sauerkraut).
  • Quarkkuchen (quark cake).
  • Thuringian (Bratwurst, red to grey in colour, stuffed in a natural casing of pig intestine, unlike the white Franconian variety).

Westphalia (Westfalen)

  • Herrencreme (vanilla jelly with cream and rum).
  • Grünkohl und Kohlwurst (curly kale and cabbage sausage).
  • Möpkenbrot (bread, which is made of rye flour, pig-blood, milk, eggs, fat, salt and pepper).
  • Pickert (potato pancake).
  • Reibeplätzchen Reibekuchen (potato pancakes)
  • Rumpsteak (rump steak).
  • Schwarzbrot (literally 'black bread': a hearty bread that turns black when the sugar in the bread goes to caramel).
  • Westfälischer Schinken (smoked ham).

Breakfast

Breakfast (Frühstück) commonly consists of bread, toast, and/or bread rolls (Brötchen, Semmeln, Schrippen, Wecken or Rundstücke) with jam ("Marmelade" or "Konfitüre"), marmalade or honey, eggs, and strong coffee or tea (milk or cocoa for children). Deli meats, such as ham, salted meats and salami, are also commonly eaten on bread in the morning, as are various cheeses. A variety of meat-based spreads such as Leberwurst (literally liver-sausage) can be found during breakfast as well. Muesli (Müsli) and cereals such as cornflakes are also popular.

Lunch and Dinner

Traditionally, the main meal of the day has been lunch (Mittagessen), eaten around noon. Dinner (Abendessen or Abendbrot) was always a smaller meal, often consisting only of a variety of breads and meats, similar to breakfast, or possibly sandwiches. However, in Germany, as in other parts of Europe, dining habits have changed over the last 50 years. Today, many people eat only a small meal in the middle of the working day at work and enjoy a hot dinner in the evening at home with the whole family. Nevertheless, the traditional way is still very common, not only in rural areas.

Bread

Bread is a big part of the German diet, and usually eaten for breakfast and as sandwiches in the evening, not as a side dish for the main meal. The importance of bread (Brot) in German cuisine is also illustrated by words such as Abendbrot (supper, literally Evening Bread) and Brotzeit (snack, literally Bread Time).

Germany has the widest variety of bread available to its residents. About 6,000 types of breads and approximately 1,200 different types of pastry and rolls are produced in about 17,000 bakeries and another 10,000 in-shop bakeries. Bread is served with almost every meal. A German breakfast typically consists of sliced bread or Brötchen (rolls) with either cold cuts, cheese and so on, or jam, honey and other sweet toppings. Supper, traditionally, usually just consists of cold cuts and cheese (Abendbrot), although this tradition is rapidly changing. Bread is not considered a side dish and is considered important for a healthy diet.

Germany's top ten breads are:

  • Rye-wheat ("Roggenmischbrot")
  • Toast bread ("Toastbrot")
  • Whole-grain ("Vollkornbrot")
  • Wheat-rye ("Weizenmischbrot")
  • White bread ("Weißbrot")
  • Multi-grain ("Mehrkornbrot")
  • Rye ("Roggenbrot")
  • Sunflower seed ("Sonnenblumenkernbrot")
  • Pumpkin seed ("Kürbiskernbrot")
  • Onion bread ("Zwiebelbrot")

Spices and Condiments

Mustard ("Senf") is a very common accompaniment to sausages and is usually very hot. In the southern parts of the country, a sweet variety of mustard is made which is almost exclusively served with Bavarian specialities such as Weißwurst and Leberkäse. Horseradish is also commonly used as a condiment.

Generally, with the exception of mustard for sausages, German dishes are rarely hot and spicy - the most popular herbs are traditionally parsley, thyme, laurel, and chives, the most popular spices are black pepper (used in small amounts), juniper berries and caraway. Cardamom, aniseed, and cinnamon are often used in sweet cakes or beverages associated with Christmas time, and sometimes in the preparation of sausages, but are otherwise rare in German meals. Other herbs and spices like basil, sage, oregano and hot chilli peppers have become more popular in recent times.

Desserts

A wide variety of cakes and tarts are prepared throughout the country, most commonly made with fresh fruit. Apples, plums, strawberries and cherries are used regularly on cakes. Cheesecake is also very popular and almost always made with quark. German doughnuts are usually balls of dough with jam or other fillings inside, and are known as Berliner, Kreppel or Krapfen depending on the region. Pfannkuchen can mean different things in different regions, sometimes the same as the mentioned Berliner, sometimes large, relatively thin pancakes. The latter are served covered with sugar, jam, syrup and so on. In some regions, Pfannkuchen are filled and then wrapped, in others they're cut into small pieces and arranged in a heap.

A popular dessert in northern Germany is "Rote Grütze", red fruit pudding, which is made from black and red currants, raspberries and sometimes strawberries or cherries cooked in juice with cornstarch as a thickener. It is traditionally served with cream, but also common with vanilla sauce, milk or whipped cream. "Rhabarbergrütze" (rhubarb pudding) and "Grüne Grütze" (gooseberry fruit pudding) are variations of the "Rote Grütze".

Ice cream and sorbets are also very popular. Italian-run ice cream parlours were the first large wave of foreign-run eateries in Germany, becoming widespread in the 1920s. A popular ice cream treat is called Spaghetti Eis.

Drinks

Beer

Beer is very common throughout all parts of Germany, with many local and regional breweries producing a wide variety of beers. In most of the country, Pils is predominant today, whereas people in the South (especially in Bavaria) seem to prefer Lager or wheat beer. A number of regions have a special kind of local beer, for example the dark Altbier around the lower Rhine, the Kölsch of the Cologne area, which is light but like Altbier uses a more traditional brewing process than Pils, and the very weak Berliner Weiße, often mixed with fruit syrups, in Berlin. Beer may also be mixed with other beverages; pils or lager and lemonade, known as Alsterwasser or Radler, is a popular example. Krefelder is an Altbier mixed with Cola (the pils+coke equivalent being Colabier), and Russ - a wheat beer mixed with Cola.

Wine

Wine is also popular throughout the country. German wine comes predominantly from the areas along the upper and middle Rhine and its tributaries; the northern half of the country is too cold and flat to grow grape vines. Riesling and Silvaner are among the best-known varieties of white wine, while Spätburgunder and Dornfelder important German red wines. The sweet German wines sold in English speaking countries seem mostly to cater to the foreign market, as they are quite rare in Germany itself.

A more detailed look at German wine may be found in the extensive Wine Resource Centre.

Coffee

Coffee is also very common, not only for breakfast, but also accompanying a piece of cake in the afternoon, usually on Sundays or special occasions and birthdays. It is generally filter coffee, somewhat stronger than usual in the US though weaker than espresso.

Tea

Tea is more common in the Northwest. East Frisians traditionally have their tea with cream and rock candy ("Kluntje").

Other Drinks

  • Apfelschorle, apple juice mixed with sparkling mineral water, is a common beverage.
  • Spezi is a soft drink made with cola and orange-flavoured soft drink such as Fanta.
  • Korn is a German spirit from wheat and malt, that is consumed predominantly in the middle and northern parts of Germany. Obstler on the other hand is distilled from apples and pears ("Obstler"), plums, cherries (Kirschwasser), or mirabelle plums and is preferred in the southern parts. The term Schnaps refers to both kinds of hard liquors.

Germans are unique among their neighbours in preferring strongly carbonated bottled waters ("Sprudel") to non-carbonated ones.