Before meeting my German husband, I was truly clueless about German gastronomy, if you would have asked me 10 years ago… what German cuisine consists off… I would have probably said sauerkraut and sausages. Thanks to my man and his family, I finally got the chance to experience this great cuisine, more precisely the Bavarian cuisine which differs slightly from the rest of the country. Some dishes in the top 10 are hard to find, like the ones hidden on top of a mountain to which you’ll have to walk an hour to get to, others are in every biergarten (Beer gardens), some other hidden in the butcher shops. I’ll guide you through some of my favorite dishes and give a few recommendations on a few scenic spots where you’ll get to enjoy food at the same time as the view. Remember those specialities are mainly in the southern region of Germany, you might have a hard time to find it elsewhere in the country. Although some are more Alps area originated, which means they are easily found also around Austria or Switzerland.
Let’s start with the geography of Bavaria, the biggest federal state of Germany, situated in the South-East, bordered by the beautiful Alps. You’ll find there those “happy cows” I call them, simply because those cows seem so much more alive and happy then the passive ones I’m used to see in the fields elsewhere. I have a theory that: if the cow is happy the milk is better… resulting into the best of cheeses. Talking about cheese… let’s start this top 10 with a cheesy plate!
*I’ll add a few place recommendations in italic after each speciality and where to get them.
*a great local biergarten in Munich, the Aumeister biergarten situated in the northern part of the English Garden, reachable by car and bike.
My Top 10 must try from Bavaria, Germany
(Alpian cheese noodles with fried onions)
Our first stop is this sinfully delicious Käsespätzle, my favorite! It’s kind of an upgraded mac and cheese from the Alps, it’s not solely a Bavarian/Southern speciality but also Austrian and Swiss. Did you know Germany is the biggest productor of cheese in Europe? with over 600 varieties of cheeses, most of them coming from the Southern regions of Germany.
You won’t find this meal in many places, the closer to the mountains to more chances you’ll get to see it in the menu. Often served as a side dish in the beer gardens but also as a main dish. It consists mainly of handmade egg noodles cut from a wooden board originally in small round shapes served with a delicious Alpine cheese sauce, fried onion and chives. A divine dish for any cheese lovers out there. It’s one of the only dish made with regional Alpine cheese I could find. Germans prefer eating cheese with bread which they call Brötzeit (a savory bread snack).
Back to our Käsespätzle… We’ve discovered this nice magical spot lost in the Alps, where we go to every year for Käsespätzle. It’s a quite steep hike to get there and last about 40 minutes. I believe the suffering to get to the calorie bomb dish is well worth it. This magical spot is actually situated at the border of Germany in Austria in a place called Eng Alm. You can get there by car and you’ll get to see a small farmers village at the bottom of the valley and with a little luck the famous “happy cows” coming down from the mountains in the late afternoon. Simply magical for all the senses to go eat up there.
“white” veal sausage
Second spot goes to the famous weisswurst, or white sausage in english. This time this meal you’ll get only in Bavaria before 12 o’clock. It’s a mainly veal sausage with soft spices they serve for breakfast with a weissbier (white beer), brezel (pretzel) and sweet mustard. It’s got this extremely tender meat inside to it nobody can resist, I have a slight idea why the meat is so tasty and tender, but I’ll keep the secret on this one… a hint maybe: white part of the veal… The “real” bavarian method to eat it is with the hands, first you brake the top part of the skin and dip it in the sweet mustard, then you have to bite/suck your way through it. The other version is the one and only one I saw so far, simply break the external skin of the weisswurst with a knife, get rid of the skin and eat it with a fork. Both method are equally delicious.
This sausage is by far a must try in anyone’s lifetime on this planet. It’s delicate, tender like butter and of course delicious! The secret in weisswurst is to buy them freshly done by the Metzgerei (butcher), if you are lucky enough to have a nice German butcher by your place ask them the day before to keep you some for the next morning. If you are visiting Bavaria, then you’ll find it in every restaurant as long as it’s before 12 o’clock, a necessity on your next trip to Bavaria.
*recommendation for Weisswurst is in The Augustiner Keller in Munich or Weisses Bräuhaus downtown Munich, remember… before 12 o’clock.
#3 Obaztda and Brezel
Creamy cheese and pretzel
Oh! another favorite of mine, another cheese one, you’ll find it in every single restaurant, biergarten or Bavarian fridge for that matter. It’s a creamy cheese serve with Brezen (pretzel) for Brotzeit (snack time) often served with fresh onion. The base of the obatzda is mainly camembert cheese, although it doesn’t taste like it at all, but it’s still delicious. It also contains some other soft cheese, paprika, butter, etc. The Munich version contains caraway seeds which give it a welcomed kick in my opinion, but most of the time it comes without. A great snack next to a Maß (a big buck of beer) on a sunny afternoon… or also great to reconfort your sorrow on a cold rainy day.
*recommendation for Obatzda is pretty good in every beer gardens, especially liked the one in Andechser Bräustüberl (map) the biergarten next to the Andechs monastery.
Small kind of bologna sandwich with sweet mustard
This one is literally called “liver cheese sandwich” although it contains no cheese whatsoever. It’s a “on the go” snack or lunch you eat when you are in a hurry. It contains a warm leberkäse piece which is similar to a bologna sausage. They sell those in pretty much any metzgerei (butcher place) and as a snack in some restaurants. At the butcher place you’ll see a basket of small white breads (semmel) and a warmed glass box where they keep a big piece of this Leberkäse meat which looks like a meaty bread loaf. The butcher will cut a nice thick piece of the tender meat, add it to this small round bread, add some sweet mustard and voila! The butcher usually have a table or two for their Leberkässemmel customers.
A great snack/lunch on the go which is warm, easy and delicious.
*recommendation for Leberkässemmel in every Metzgerei (butcher shops) especially liked the one from the Viktualien Markt in Munich (map) called Freidl.
#5 Wurst and Sauerkraut
Sausages and sauerkraut
No surprise this one is making the list… unavoidable choice if you ever lay foot in Germany. Okay… this one dish is all over Germany, not solely in Bavaria. There are more than 50 varieties of wurst around Germany. In Bavaria are a few special ones like the one you see on the picture on the left is a “spicy” bratwurst although you’ll find in Bamberg. Germans don’t usually eat spicy, but this one sausage is the exception to the rule although… it’s really mildly spiced. In Nuremberg, northern Bavaria, they produce a special type of high quality sausage the size of an index finger called Nürnberger Bratwürste which use only the top quality pieces of pork and some fresh marjoram. It’s a geographically protected wurst since 2003 and only can be produced in the Bavarian town of Nuremberg. By far one of my favorite wurst!
As for side dish, the famous sauerkraut which is well known worldwide is the usual side dish to wurst. In Germany they often use juniper berries to give extra flavour to the famous side dish. The Bavarian like to add to their sauerkraut extra onion, pork fat and grated apple. Check this recipe to know how to cook your sauerkraut like a real bavarian. There is also another type of sauerkraut not as well known but equally delicious, the red sauerkraut. It’ s slightly sweeter and accompany often a pork meal instead of wurst. Another must try!
*recommendation for Wurst is everywhere delicious.
#6 Schnitzel and potato salad
Battered and fried meat piece
Those are well know around Germany also, although it’s coming from Austria. There is a wide variety of Schnitzel, some are made with veal, turkey, chicken, etc. Although in Germany you’ll often find it made with pork. It’s a favorite of kids around Germany, it consist mainly of thinning a piece of meat and battering it and frying it. Nothing too elaborated, although in Munich they have a type of schnitzel they cover in horseradish or/and mustard before battering.
The side dish here is another typical one, there are so many potato dishes in Germany, most of them side dish like the famous Knödel (big potato dumpling), potato salads or schupfnudeln (potato noodles). The typical side dish potato salad consist of a lightly mashed with a kind of vinaigrette and topped with parsley or chives one although there is all kinds of potatoes salads, some containing bacon others fresh cucumbers. At the restaurant you’ll often get a small salad with you main dish, often those salad hide under the lettuce some potato salad, kraut salad or seasoned cucumbers. Always a nice surprise is waiting at the bottom of those salads.
*recommendation for great schnitzel with a fantastic view on the Tegernsee (lake and mountains), about 1h20 hike uphill from the Bahnhof Tegernsee (train station), in Neureuth-Alm (map) or also in Gasthaus & Metzgerei Sebastian Limm (map)close by the Starnberger See, 40 minutes south of Munich.
#7 The Schupfnudeln
Potato dumplings or noodles
This one is a potato noodle or dumpling quite similar to gnocchi. It’s a popular dish throughout south Germany and Austria, changing slightly it’s form from place to place. On the picture up here, you see a version with a seasonal mushroom sauce although most of the time you’ll get it mix up with sauerkraut, some other times with spinach. The base here is the handmade potato dumpling with a tubular form thinner on the extremities. The noodle is first cooked into water and then cooked in the pan to give it this brown crispy finish.
The Schupfnudeln is a great way to try out some of the nice seasonal mushrooms from the land. Talking about mushroom… the end of summer, walking around in the nice tall trees and well shaded immense forest of Bavaria, the mushrooms are happily reaching maturity. A mushroom here and there, you always wonder if there are commestible. Then after walking for hours, you reach a point where all you think about is to get this dish for dinner. A great dish!
*recommendation for Schupfnudeln is Brudermühle hotel in Bamberg (map)
This one is a sweet one and another one originating from the Alpine region of Austria/Germany. It’s a freshly done scrambled pancake lightly caramelized and serve with a side of apple purée, cherry, almonds or other fruits. The fruit side is depending on the season you are in, but so far I, personally, just saw it with apple purée. If you get the chance to order it, they will let you know the dish takes about 20 minutes to make. This dessert is made on order and takes a lot of efforts and patience to nail to perfection, probably not a favorite to make for the cooks… It’s not an extremely sweet dessert, just lightly sweet with a cloud of powder sugar on top. It’s simply irresistible when you get your first warm bite into this messy looking dessert. A beautiful mess that is this Kaiserschmarnn dessert.
*recommendation for great Kaiserschmarnn accompanied with a fantastic view on the Tegernsee (lake and mountains), about 1h20 hike uphill from the Banhoff Tegernsee (train station), in Neureuth-Alm (map)
#9 Schweinshaxe and Knödel
Roasted Pork knuckle and potato dumpling
This meal is in every Bavarian biergarten and consist of a big pork knuckle which is marinated for a few days, then slowly roasted at low temperature. It result into this crispy skin and tender meat and often served with the famous Knödel which are big potato dumpling. The first look at this gigantic piece of meat in your plate might intimidate a few, I know I felt like in an Asterix and Obelix, the first time I saw a Schweinshaxe. It is truly gigantic, borderline barbaric since it often come with a sharp knife stick into it and a bone the size of my femur but also truly delicious, crisp and tender, in other words “a great experience”. So make sure you have an empty stomach before ordering this one.
As a side dish the famous Knödel, a big potato dumpling. Knödel is a Central Europe well spread dish sometimes made with bread leftovers, brezel, eggs, spinach, meat, even plums… but the Bavarian style knödel consist of only cooked and raw potatoes. Making it difficult to hold, it’s an art to make it hold its shape without any eggs or bread in it. Those potato dumplings can be served as a side dish, in a soup or even as a dessert but the main rule here is to have a sauce/gravy to accompany it. A Knödel without a tasty sauce is a sad knödel.
I’ve heard it isn’t easy to nail those bavarian style knödel, you’ll need some practice to reach a perfect Knödel. There are many different styles of Knödeln and many different ways to make them, some easier to hold then others. I’ve bought myself 3 different books and I’ve got 3 differents ways in each of them. From the choice of potato to the perfect amount of starch this simple looking dumpling isn’t as easy as it looks.
Coming back to the pork knuckle, this is probably one of the most traditional dish from Bavaria. So if you fancy a succulent mega piece of tender roasted meat, you’ve got to try Schweinshaxe.
*recommendation for Schweinshaxe in Gasthaus & Metzgerei Sebastian Limm (map)close by the Starnberger See, 40 minutes south of Munich.
Another sweet seasonal dessert, this one is a sheet cake pinched with those Damson plum, a purple variety of plum growing across Europe. This is another Bavarian speciality that my father in law makes to perfection every time we come visit during summer time. It’s the season of those precious purple plums, so this cake is a great way to use them. The usual shape of the cake is always a big rectangle, the size of the oven metal sheet, which you cut into squares for serving. If the plums are still young and a tad sour you can add some extra whipped cream to balance the acidity.
In Europe they have a few different varieties of plums, which I didn’t know before moving over. Damson plum is the common one you’ll see in markets around Germany but there is also a small yellow plum called Mirabelle which taste is beautifully perfumed and used to make a clear liquor or schnaps like they call it in Germany. Nothing to do with the sweet syrup”schnapps” from America. In Bavaria, they make many different types of desserts with their plums like; Zwetschgenbavesen, Zwetschgen Knödel or Rohrnudeln mit Zwetschgen. Let just say they know how to use their plums up in there.
To close up this top 10 specialities of Bavaria post I would simply say, Germany is filled with those little treasures not many know about. Many more dishes could make the list like my husband’s favorites; the Schweinebraten, a pork roast in a beer sauce or his childhood wurstsalat which is a kind of bologna/mayo salad, also other great bavarian dish like the Leberknödelsuppe (liver dumpling soup) and Forelle fish from the Starnberg lake area which are highly recommendable. I believe it can be difficult as a visitor to find all those specialities, because you’ll often need to search for them in hidden beer gardens outside the city, on top of mountains or hidden in a corner of the butcher place which we are not used to. It’s really worth to research for great places to go eat when you visit Bavaria, since the hidden spots are often the best ones. Certainly a great region to discover with the belly.