German food has evolved through centuries of social and political change with variations from region to region.
The southern regions of Germany, Bavaria and Swabia share numerous dishes. Ingredients and dishes differ by province. There are numerous significant regional dishes that became both national and regional. Many dishes that were once regional, however, have proliferated in different variations across the country in the present day.
With the influx of foreign workers after World War II, many foreign dishes have been adopted into German cuisine - Italian dishes like spaghetti and pizza have become a staple of the German diet. Turkish immigrants also have had a substantial influence on German eating habits; döner kebab is Germany’s favourite fast food, selling twice as much as the major burger chains put together (namely mc Donald’s and burger king, being the only widespread burger chains in Germany). Chinese and Greek foods also are widespread and popular. Indian, Vietnamese, Thai and other Asian cuisines are rapidly gaining in popularity. Most of the more expensive restaurants served mostly French dishes for many decades, but since the 1990s, they have been shifting to a more refined type of German cuisine.
Popular German foods
Germany is known for its beer. Each year, thousands of tourists flock to Oktoberfest in Munich, just to savour the taste of a true German brew. From weissbier to pils, to starkbier to helles and dunkles, Germany certainly offers a rich variety to choose from. And while some may consider a beer filling in itself, the country does offer some very delicious foods, too.
Brez’n - the perfect accompaniment to a mass, meaning 1 litre beer. In English, people know the brez’n as a pretzel, but in no way does the genuine German version compare to the ones they sell on the streets in New York, for example. The real German deal, which originates from the south in Bavaria, is fresh and soft. It is also often sold with butter, which would make it a butterbrez’n. If you can’t get hold of either, which is highly unlikely, Germany boasts the world’s widest range of breads. Whether you like your dough with raisins, walnuts, sunflower seeds, carrot strips or made out of whole wheat, you can find it in Germany.
Wurst - as with bread, there are würste, meaning sausages, of all sorts. While Berlin is notorious for its currywurst, Bavarians eat weisswurst mit süßem senf. The former is pretty self-explanatory; it is a sausage with curry on top. The latter, however, requires a bit more getting used to; weisswurst is a white sausage that you have to peel, and to enhance its taste, people enjoy it with süßem senf, meaning sweet mustard. Another Bavarian treat is the wollwurst, which combines calf and pork. In Thüringen or Nürnberg, in turn, try the rostbratwurst mit sauerkraut, a grilled sausage accompanied by sauerkraut.
Schweinebraten - carnivores will certainly get their share of delights in Germany. While sausages are great to consume at the markets, if you are actually going to sit down at a restaurant, have a go at a schweinebraten. Schwein means pig, and so a schweinebraten is a pork roast. It’s best if you get a nice, large boneless pork shoulder. Usually, it is served with some kind of accompanying sauce and knödel, meaning dumplings.
Brathend’l - moving on to chicken now. A brathend’l is a roasted chicken. Some see it as a unique treat to be consumed on Sundays and festivities, but over time, it has become a standard that is sold at many of the outdoor beer gardens and markets. At Oktoberfest, you can get coupons for a halbes hend’l, meaning half a roasted chicken. It might appear to be a lot at first, but with a mass bier and some brez’n, you’ll have it down in no time.
Steckerlfisch - enough said about meat. With its many lakes and rivers, Germany also has fish options to choose from. Steckerlfisch could technically be considered a type of fast food as they are often grilled outside, at a beer garden or otherwise. But they taste a lot better than your average fish ‘n chips. Up north, in turn, you can try the nordsee krabben, literally meaning north sea crabs. Herring (herring) and rollmops (pickled herring) are also popular.
Eintopf, also known as “pichelsteiner” - Germany can get quite cold in the winter, and soups are popular. The eintopf, however, is more than a soup. Topf literally means “pot,” and this dish involves cooking a mix of meat and vegetables in it. In the olden days, it emerged as a way to combine leftovers and thus there was no one specific recipe; one day, it might carry carrots, another only potatoes. This tradition remains to this day, and because of the easy preparation, the stew is served in homes and restaurants alike.
Käsespätzle - up until this point, vegetarians have probably been despairing. With käsespätzle, however, there is no need to do so. Spätzle are a type of egg noodle, which are frequently topped with käse, meaning cheese. The latter is usually mild, and more often than not, cooks opt to add roasted onions for a little more flavour. In some places, the käsespätzle are served directly with the pan, be careful, it’s hot!
Lebkuchen - though they are sold year-round, lebkuchen are most popular at Christmas time. Originally from Nürnberg, lebkuchen are made of gingerbread dough, and can come coated with chocolate, walnuts, dried fruits, and other treats. The standard are round, but tradition has it that people make entire lebkuchen houses, too. These are then called hexenhäus’l, meaning witch house.
Rote grütze - rote grütze takes advantage of the countless forests of Germany. Specifically, in that it uses the berries that grow in them. The dessert combines anything remotely red (hence the name “rot”); that is, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, cherries etc. Usually, it is served with sahne, meaning cream or vanilleeis, meaning vanilla ice cream.
Schwarzwälder kirschtorte - another treat thanks to the forest. Schwarzwald refers to the black forest, and kirsch means cherry. This calorie bomb combines the antioxidants of cherries with the sweetness of chocolate, all into a multi-layered cake.