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If you are looking for authentic German food, then the state of Bavaria is like a foodie’s paradise. Sometimes, these are classic German dishes with a local twist and often they are foods that you’ll be hard-pressed to find outside of Bavaria.
While most people think of things like “Schnitzel” or “Pretzels when they think of “famous German foods” (and yes, those are on the list, too!) I’ve compiled some of the most decadent, delicious, and mouth-watering Bavaria dishes that you have to try when traveling in Germany…many which you probably have never heard of.
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Note: Bavaria is a state in Germany with many regions within itself. For example, Franconia, which is in Northern Bavaria, and is where Nuremberg is located. They consider themselves Franconian before Bavarian. Swabia is another cultural region of Bavaria, where locals are “Swabians” before they are “Bavarian.” However, for the sake of this article, we will go off of the geographical map of all of “Bavaria” for amazing foods to eat in Bavaria.
Let’s dig in!
Obatzda Mit Bretz’n
Move over Auntie Ann’s and that strange yellow dipping cheese, there’s a better (soooo much better) pretzel and cheese to be devoured!
Nothing beats a sunny afternoon relaxing at a local Biergarten sipping on a Maß of beer (pronounced like, “Moss.” But once you learn about Obatzda, your Biergarten game is going to level up!!!
This soft cheese dip has a base of camembert but adds in some more soft cheeses, a healthy dosage of paprika, and a pat or so of butter and your taste buds are going to be drooling for more. Rip into your Bavarian pretzel (also called Bretz’n or Bretzel) and slather the creamy, cheesy goodness all over it.
Find It: At just about any Biergarten, often at restaurants as a “Vorspeise” (appetizer) and even at the grocery store.
While most people don’t associate “pasta” with Germany, this ravioli-like dish is German (Swabian) through and through. The pasta is made from an egg noodle dough and then stuffed inside is a mixture of perfectly spiced meat and some spinach. While you can find Malutaschen soup, my personal favorite way to eat it is when it is fried in bacon fat and topped with fried onions. YUUUUM!
Find it: You are most likely to find it more in the Schwabian region of Bavaria (Southwest Bavaria) and in Baden Wurtenburg (the state next to Bavaria), where it originated, but it can be spotted at restaurants throughout Bavaria as well. One of my favorites is at the Augustiner Keller in Munich. You can also pick up a package from just about any grocery store and make it at your homestay as well.
Germany is no stranger to sausages, but Bavaria has a very unique sausage and it comes with quite the list of “rules.” Be sure to follow them so that you don’t stand out as a “foreigner.”
Weisswurst or, white sausage, is one of the most famous Bavarian dishes, and if you haven’t had it for breakfast while in Bavaria, well, then shame on you! Want to live as the locals do? Follow these important “rules” for the perfect Weisswurst Fruhstuck (breakfast):
- While Germans seem to eat just about everything with forks (even french fries!?), Weisswurst is oddly the exception. Instead, after cutting the sausage in half, dip it in Suss senf (Bavarian sweet mustard) and eat it with your hands. (Traditionally, you never eat the skin of a weisswurst. If you are going full-blown classic mode here, you’ll have to “suck” out the meat)
Note: It is “acceptable” today to split the casing off of your wurst with your knife.
- The only approved sides for a Weisswurst is a pretzel and the sweet mustard. No exceptions! 😉
- Don’t even think about eating Weisswurst after the noon hour! Traditionally, weisswurst was always made fresh and needed to be eaten quickly.
- Wash it all down with a Weiss beer (Weizen), or “Wheat beer.” No other style of beer is acceptable with a Weisswurst.
Where To Find It: Many restaurants that serve breakfast will have it and you can always pick some up at the grocery stores.
An absolutely authentic Bavarian cuisine that you are going to find just about anywhere is Schweinebraten, or “pork shoulder.”
This slow roasted, juicy, tender pork is then slathered in a sauce that you will sop up with as many potato dumplings (Knodel) and meat as you can.
Find It: Everywhere!
While I’m going to talk about Schnitzels in general more below, we need to pause for a moment here to talk about one of the best foods I’ve ever eaten in Germany.
And while the name says “REGENSBURGer Schntizle” where it gets tricky is you can still find this style of Schnitzel outside of the town of Regensburg, but it might be called something different (often the town’s name, ie “Rechberger Schnitzle”)
Here’s what it is so you can keep an eye out for the description in case it has a slightly different name.
~ Take your average pork schnitzel cutlet. But now, instead of using breadcrumbs to coat the whole piece, they take crushed pretzels (how German!) and mix it with a sweet mustard (some also use some horseradish but don’t worry, it’s not spicy). Then they fry it, like a traditional Wiener Schnitzel, to a golden perfection. It doesn’t sound like anything ground shattering. But it is sooo good and a fantastic twist on the classic Schnitzel.
Now, Don’t think twice. Just order this. Immediately!!!
Find It: At the Weissbrauhaus in Regensburg. At various restaurants (you might have to look at the description though to find it if it has a different name)
Literally, “finger noodles” are small, gnocchi like “noodles” (but look more like dumplings) made from a potato and egg mixture.
Elsewhere in Germany, you’ll see them more commonly referred to as “Schupfnudeln” but the end result is the same: a simple base for a delicious German specialty food!
Since the noodle is pretty bland in and of itself, it allows for a variety of ways to prepare and play with the final product.
Some people like it sweet with melted butter and cinnamon and sugar. However, I like to go all in on my German foods and what is more German than sauerkraut!? When they fry up the Nudeln in some bacon fat or butter and then top with sauerkraut and speck (bacon) you’ve got yourself a meal you won’t forget.
Find It: At fests and occasionally at specialty restaurants.
This “steamed bun,” as it is translated in English, is quite simple and basic, but that is what allows it to be so versatile.
In Bavaria, it won’t have a salt crust, like in many other regions. While you may stumble over some savory Damnpfnudeln, you are sure to find the sweet versions in Bavaria. These yeast buns are steamed and then often the bottoms are lightly fried in a bit of butter. Top with a vanilla custard or a fruit marmalade and you’ve got yourself a decadent treat!!!
Find it: At many Christmas markets and occasionally on the dessert (nachspeise) menu at restaurants.
If you are easily intimidated by meat (insert a myriad of puns here), then don’t even consider this testosterone inducing slab of pig.
Schweinhaxen sounds sexier than “pig knuckle” but don’t let the literal translation scare you away. They take this meat and slowly roast it, still with the skin on.
First, you bite into a perfectly crispy, outer crust that is so incredibly flavorful. Combine that with the juicy meat and your mouth isn’t going to know what to do with this knowledge!
If you’re lucky, it’s plated on a sauce that you then dredge your potato dumpling in. You’ll be stuffed for days!
Find it: At just about any fest and most traditional Bavarian restaurants.
Knackersemmel (aka Regensburger Semmel)
Found mostly around Regensburg and surrounding areas, a Knackersemmel is a perfect twist on your classic German sausages! The wurst is grilled and then put into a roll. Doesn’t sound too special right? Well, order it “Mit Alles” (with everything) and you’ll get a squeeze of sweet mustard, a heap of horseradish, a pickle, and in some places, some french fried onions. Now THAT’s what I’m talking about!
I like to loosely compare these to a “Chicago dog” buuuut arguably way better.
Find it: At fests around Regensburg or around the “Oberpfalz” region of Bavaria.
Since Leberkäse is literally translated to “Liver Cheese” many tourists shy away from this odd loaf of meat. But hey, that just means more for me! Oddly enough, it has neither liver NOR cheese in it so there isn’t even much to be afraid of.
It really is best described as more like a loaf of bologna. I know, I know, that doesn’t sound very convincing, either, but just trust me on this! Add a bit of that sweet mustard and maybe even a squirt of mayo and squeeze it between two sides of a roll and you’ve got yourself a delicious sandwich!
(Note: A “Semmel” in Bayerish is”sandwich” pretty much every region of Germany is going to call a sandwich something different)
Find it: At most fast food stands (like in the front of a grocery store, at the train station shops, at gas stations) and packaged at the grocery store.
Speaking of “Semmel” one of my favorite dumplings is the Semmel Knodel (or, “bread dumpling”), found in Bavaria more often than other parts of Germany. Potato dumplings are the other preferred dumpling in Germany, but there is just something about the semmel knoedel that perfectly sops up gravy that makes it so delicious!
Find It: You’ll find these on the sides of many meat dishes and sometimes in soups as well. You can always purchase premade bread dumplings at the grocery store
If you couldn’t tell by this list, I am far from a Vegetarian. But, this meatless dish is so fantastically perfect for people who are “meated” out in Germany, are a vegetarian, or if you just want something different to try.
It somehow took me a few years of living in Germany to fully discover this Bavarian dish, but once I did, it is now on the regular rotation! It’s a simple semmel knoedel (see above) drenched in a mushroom cream sauce and topped with fresh mushrooms. If you are REALLY lucky, you’ll get the seasonal Pfifferlinge mushroom (Mid summer through early fall) in your Rhamschwammerl which takes this dish over the top in deliciousness!
Find It: At Bavarian, local restaurants
This Swabian dish is one of my favorites to stumble upon. Quite literally, this “onion cake” is kind of like a very heavily onioned (yeah, that’s not a word) breakfast casserole. To make it, one would use an absolutely absurd amount of onions, mixed with some flour, eggs, maybe a bit of sour cream, some bacon bits, and then pour it on top of an almost biscuity-like crust to bake.
You are most likely to find fresh Zwiebelkuchen in the fall. That’s because it was traditionally made to go alongside the wine harvests when they made the “new wine” each Autumn.
Find It: In the fall, typically at a Backerei, at wine fests, occasionally at Christmas markets
Brats are everywhere in Germany, but in Nuremberg, you’ve got to try a Nürnberger. (If not in Nuremberg, you can still find these throughout Bavaria). These wursts are much smaller than what one often thinks of as a “brat.” Instead, the size and shape resemble more of what Americans consider a breakfast sausage. They are grilled and then eaten on a plate with a side of kraut and sweet mustard or put three to a roll (” Drei im Weggla”) and top with sweet mustard for a great sandwich.
Find It: Everywhere in Nuremberg, at fests throughout Bavaria, grocery stores.
Germany doesn’t really do “sweet” stuff in the way that Americans do, but this “sweet” fried dough is kind of like a much less intense version of a funnel cake. The batter is lightly fried and then often topped with just a sprinkling of powdered sugar. It is the perfect on the go treat! Every once in a while, it might have some filling in the center (creme or marmalade). But here’s where it gets tricky. SOMETIMES (depending on where you are in Bavaria) these might also be called a Krapfen.
Even though a Krapfen (see the next food item) is traditionally more of a doughnut. And to confuse you even more, if you head south to the Alps, you may even be lucky enough to stumble upon the out of this world Zillertal Krapfen, which is actually mouthwatering Alp Kase (cheese) fried in a dough casing (aka nothing like a doughnut but so fantastically delicious). A Zillertal Krapfen (actually originating from Austria but can sometimes be found at the German Almabtriebs) looks kind of like a calzone and you’ll want to order as many as you possibly can because they are sooo good!!!
Find It: At a Backerei (bakery). Find the Zillertal Krapfen in the Alps often at fests
A Krapfen can be found all throughout Germany, but only in Bavaria will it be called a Krapfen (it has other names elsewhere, like the “semmel”). This is as close to an American doughnut as you will probably find in Germany. They are sweet rolls filled with something like marmalade but my personal favorites are the ones with sweet cremes or vanilla puddings!
Remember JFK getting mocked for his “Ich Bin eine Berliner” statement? People laughed because in other parts of Germany, a Krapfen is sometimes called a “Berliner” so he basically said, “I am a doughnut.” (Hey, there are worse things Presidents of the US have said!)
Find It: At a Backerei (bakery)
Apple strudel to Bavaria is like Apple pie to Americans. Classic.
Even though most people will agree that it is from Austria, it’s still often claimed as a Bavarian food, as it is so common here. Germans don’t do a lot of super sweet desserts, but instead, love to play with the natural sweetness of fruits in their treats, and an apple strudel plays perfectly into that idea. The extremely thin dough perfectly balances the flavors of the apples with just enough sugar and cinnamon to taste like a real delight. In other parts of Germany, you might find nuts and raisins as well. It’s common to have a dollop of whipped cream or even ice cream (eis) on the side.
Find it: In local bakeries and on the dessert menu of many restaurants.
Kurbis Creme Suppe
You’ll only be lucky enough to get to slurp down this hearty pumpkin cream soup if you are there in the fall, as that is really the only time you’ll see this seasonal menu item. This is another one of those recipes that no two places really make it the same, but at the end of the day, they are all fantastically wonderful!
This is also another example of Germans just taking really simple, quality ingredients and making it into something really decadent and delicious.
While originating in Austria, Kaiserscharnn is a popular Bavaria food. Also known as “scrambled pancakes” and is a much loved dessert (but hey, can also be eaten for breakfast or just as a snack or even light meal. Ok, just eat it whenever you want!). They aren’t sweet like an American pancake would be though.
These fluffy “pancakes” are torn into pieces and then lightly fried with delicious butter. A traditional Kaiserscharnn will have been soaked in rum prior to cooking and often have raisins hidden inside. Take your little pieces of deliciousness and dip them into an applesauce or fruit marmalade for a tasty treat!
Find it: At many fests (there’s even the Café Kaiserschmarrn at Oktoberfest), Christmas markets, and occasionally on the dessert menu at restaurants.
Other MUST TRY German Foods
The rest of these famous foods in Germany are easily found in all parts of the country, not just Bavaria. But no “Germany favorite food” list is complete without them! A lot of them are stereotypical, but that doesn’t mean you should be skipping them! They are famous for a reason!
If this isn’t the most typical German food, I don’t know what is! One of my favorite restaurants in a small, Bavarian village actually has a “Schnitzel Tag” (Schnitzel Day) where they literally only serve Schnitzels for the day!!! But, what’s surprising to many Americans is when they bring out the big, huge, menu…yes, of JUST Schnitzels!
Wait, I thought Schnitzel was a breaded, fried pork cutlet.
Well, yes, that is ONE kind of Schnitzel (the delicious “Wiener Schnitzel” which MUST be eaten at least once during your time in Germany) but what about all the other amazing kinds of Schnitzels!?
- Jägerschnitzel: A pork cutlet slathered in a mushroom gravy
- Rahm Schnitzel: A pork cutlet (typically not breaded) covered in a delicious cream sauce
- Cordon Bleu: This is actually a very common German meal, as it is still a breaded and pan-fried chicken cutlet, but stuffed with delicious cheese and ham!
Why haven’t Doners became a thing in the US. Seriously?? If you want to make it big, get a Doner recipe and go sit outside a bar at closing. It is the PERFECT drunk food. Oh, who am I kidding, it is the perfect fast food at any time. I could eat a Doner every single day and still want another Doner tomorrow!
Doners are like a love child between a gyro and a burrito. They are made with the shaved mystery meat from the spick, similar to a gyro. But if you order a Durum Doner (my particular favorite), then they will wrap it in a thin wrap (similar to what a burrito looks like, but often with fresh made dough). Or, you can just get a classic Doner, which is in more of a pita style bread than a flatbread. You then get to pick out your toppings with things like a finger lickin’ good cream sauce, tomatoes, onions, lettuce, and kraut. Ask for it “Mit Scharf” (a little spicy) if that’s your thing.
Sauerbraten (the National dish of Germany)
“Pot roast” doesn’t do this official German national dish justice. This slow roasted meat is “pickled” (marinated) in wine or vinegar and is then cooked to juicy and tender perfection and sliced. Like many other foods Germans eat, it’s then coated in a delicious gravy sauce plated next to a dumpling.
Find it: At just about every German restaurant.
Typical German Breakfast
What do Germans eat for breakfast? To many Americans, it may look actually more like a lunch spread to us, but for breakfast, Germans often have quite the display! A collection of deli-style meats (often salamis, ham, etc) and cheeses (typically ones like gouda or emmental) can be eaten as is, or loaded onto a delicious (and almost always freshly baked) roll or bread.
On the side, you might find some soft boiled eggs, a smattering of today’s fresh from the oven pastries, some jams or marmalades, a few sides of fresh fruits, and of course, a hot cup of coffee (or latte or cappuccino is common).
It’s one of my favorite ways to start a day of sightseeing. I fill up on a hearty breakfast, grab a small mid day snack, and then chow down again for dinner.
This has got to be a Germany favorite food for just about everyone who tries it. Kase means “cheese” and Spaetzle is a German egg noodle. Ok, so cheese and noodles…..soooo like Macaroni and cheese? Uh no.
Prepare for your taste buds to shun Kraft from here on out. What is fun about Kasespaetzle is that almost no two restaurants, or even families, will make this the same. While they all use an Emmental (Swiss) style cheese, even this can vary from location to location. Then, they’ll top it all off with crispy or perfectly caramelized onions to round out the piping hot dish.
If you’ve got picky eaters or kids in your group, you’ll want to order them this. Just warn them first that you might try to eat it all from them.
Find It: On just about any German menu, at fests, and Christmas markets.
(Also known as Reibekuchen or Reiberdatschin in Bavaria)
These fried potato pancakes are small little patties of greasy heaven. If you are lucky, they’ll come with a choice of applesauce or a white cream sauce for dipping. I personally always go for the cream sauce (potatoes and applesauce??? Strange.) but some people swear by the applesauce choice.
Find It: As a “Vorspeise” (Appetizer) on many German menus, at fests and some Christmas markets
There are some things that are just so stereotypical German that you can’t ignore, like the German Pretzel. But this is a popular food in Germany for a reason; German pretzels are So.Freaking.Yummy.
Brez’n or Brezen (In Bavaria) is slightly crispy on the outside and perfectly soft, light, and airy on the inside. Get them fresh from the oven and you’ll never want Aunty Anne’s again.
Want to look like a true German? If you are at a fest, order your Pretzle with cheese. NO, not that yellow, nacho “cheese” substance. Get it with about 500 g of Emmental cheese (they’ll have it at the stand) with a bit of salt and pepper (Salz und Pfeffer). Then just rip off pieces of each and devour. Wash down with a big glug of beer or Spetzi.
Where to Find It: You can get pretzels at any bakery, grocery store, gas station, and of course, at fests.
This beloved food found all over Germany is a popular all-around crowd-pleaser. Eat it as a snack, a full meal, after a night of beers….whatever and whenever, you can’t go wrong! While it may look like an unassuming hotdog with ketchup on top, it is actually sooo so much more! They take a bratwurst and then make a ketchup that is simmered with spices such as curry (duh), paprika, cinnamon, and cloves. They then slop on generous ladles worth of the sauce all over the wurst and sprinkle just a tad bit more curry on top. Order a side of Pommes for dipping so that absolutely NO drop of curry sauce goes uneaten!
The thing about currywurst is that it doesn’t taste “Indian” from the curry but also doesn’t just taste like ketchup. Really, you’ll just have to try it to figure out the taste yourself!
Find It: On many menus as a meal, at fests, food stands. You can also buy Curry Ketchup at the store.
Spargel Creme Suppe
Just like the above pumpkin soup, you’ll only find this gem once a year when asparagus is in season- typically around mid to late April.
Don’t worry, you’ll know if it is “Spargel Season” because everywhere will have fresh Spargel on their menus. But this asparagus is slightly different than what you might know- it’s white. Germans literally call it “White Gold” and will eat heaps of it when in season, including the absolutely delicious, yet simple Spargel Creme Suppe.
Find It: On the seasonal and daily menus of local Mom and Pop, local style restaurants
Healthy German Food
So you might be looking at this list of foods to eat in Germany and wondering what that might do to your waistline! That’s a lot of meat and carbs, am I right!?
If you are looking to eat healthy in Germany though, it’s actually quite simple. You can find things like “Fitness” breakfasts at most cafes and hotels where fresh fruit, eggs, muesli (like granola/ oatmeal), yogurts, etc are common.
Fantastically fresh salads are almost always found on restaurant menus as well.
What I especially appreciate about German foods is that they have stricter laws with produce (pesticides) and dairy/meat (less hormones) than in the US and many foods don’t have the same kinds of preservatives, additives, colors, etc. So overall, it’s just a healthier product.
There are plenty of vegetarian dishes as well (Kasespaetzle, Rhamswhwammerl, plenty of soups, potatoes prepared in a variety of ways, pastas, etc) that a Vegetarian can easily find throughout Germany.
Traditional foods in Germany are easy to find, especially in the culturally rich state of Bavaria! If you think that you “don’t like German food” I’m going to bet that you haven’t looked too far beyond the pork and potatoes yet. Bavarian and German food is like having comfort food daily. It’s hearty, fresh, delicious, and best shared with good company!