Bavaria, renowned for its stunning landscapes and rich cultural heritage, also boasts a culinary tradition that is as diverse as it is delicious. In this article, we invite you to savour the essence of Bavaria as we unveil ten delectable Bavarian Specialties that showcase the region’s culinary prowess.
If you can experience this incredible cuisine, more precisely the Bavarian one, which differs slightly from the rest of the country, you are privileged. Some dishes in the top 10 were discovered on top of a mountain, others in typical Biergarten, and others hidden in the butcher shops. I’ll guide you through some of my favourite dishes and recommend a few scenic spots where you’ll enjoy food at the same time as the view. Remember, Bavarian Specialties are mainly in the southern region of Germany; you might have difficulty finding them elsewhere. Although some are from the Alps, they are easily found around Austria or Switzerland under different names.
Let’s start with the geography of Bavaria, the largest federal state of Germany, situated in the southeast, 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 than the passive ones I’m used to seeing in the fields elsewhere. I have a theory: if the cow is happy, the milk is better, resulting in the best cheeses. Talking about cheese… let’s start this top 10 with a cheesy plate!
*I’ll add a few place recommendations in italics after each specialty and where to get them.
Alpian Cheese Noodles with Fried Onions
Our first stop is this sinfully delicious Käsespätzle, my favourite! It’s an upgraded mac and cheese from the Alps, not solely a Bavarian/Southern specialty but also Austrian and Swiss. Did you know Germany is the biggest producer of cheese in Europe? With over 600 varieties of cheeses, most of them coming from the Southern regions of Germany.
You will find this meal in many places, closer to the mountains, to more chances you’ll see it on the menu. Often served as a side dish in the beer gardens and as a restaurant’s 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. It’s a divine dish for any cheese lovers, one of the only dishes made with regional Alpine cheese. 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 yearly for Käsespätzle. It’s a steep hike to get there and lasts about 40 minutes. The suffering to get to the calorie bomb dish is well worth it. This magical spot is situated at the border of Germany and Austria in Eng Alm. You can get there by car, and you’ll see a small farmers’ village at the bottom of the valley and, with a bit of luck, the famous “happy cows” coming down from the mountains in the late afternoon. It’s simply magical for all the senses to go eat up there.
*recommendation for great Käsespätzle is in Eng Alm, Austria (map), near the German border and Aujäger (map) Biergarten, about 30 minutes away south of Munich.
White Veal Sausage
The second spot goes to the famous weisswurst, or white sausage in English. This meal you’ll get only in restaurants or butcher places before 12 o’clock this time. It’s a super fresh veal sausage with soft spices they serve for breakfast with a weissbier (white beer), brezel (pretzel) and sweet mustard. Its texture melts on the tongue, incredibly tender and light, which nobody can resist.
The “real” Bavarian method to eat it is with the hands. First, you brake the top part of the skin, peel it 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, break the external skin of the weisswurst with a knife, get rid of the skin and eat it with a fork. Both methods are equally delicious.
This sausage is by far a ‘must-try’! 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 lovely German butcher by your place, ask them the day before to keep you some for the next morning. If you visit Bavaria, 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 Spread and Pretzel
Oh! Another favourite of mine, another cheese one, is in every restaurant, Biergarten or Bavarian fridge. It’s a creamy cheese served 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, 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 litre of beer) on a sunny afternoon! (Here is my Obatzda Recipe and Fresh Bretzel)
*Recommendation for Obatzda is pretty good in every Biergarten, especially liked the one in Andechser Bräustüberl (map), the Biergarten next to the Andechs monastery.
Small Kind of Bologna Sandwich with Mustard
This one is called a “liver cheese sandwich,” although it surprisingly contains no cheese. It’s a mix of corned beef, pork, onion and bacon, perfect for an “on the go” snack or lunch. It’s often in a warm box at the butcher’s place but can be found in the market or bakery cut into thin slices for making sandwiches. They sell those in pretty much any Metzgerei (butcher’s) and as a snack in some restaurants. At the butcher’s place, you’ll see a basket of small white bread (Semmel), and they will ask you if you want your Leberkäse with or without the bread. The butcher will cut a warm thick piece of this tender meat, add it to this small round bread, add some sweet or mild mustard and voila! The butcher usually has 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 shop). I especially liked the one from the Viktualien Markt in Munich (map) called Freidl.
5 Wurst and Sauerkraut
Sausages and Sauerkraut
It’s no surprise this one is making the list. It’s an unavoidable choice if you ever lay foot in Germany. Okay… this dish is all over Germany, not solely in Bavaria. There are more than 50 varieties of wurst around Germany. A few special ones in Bavaria, like the one you see in the picture on the left, is a “spicy” bratwurst, although you’ll find it in Bamberg. Germans don’t usually eat spicy, but this sausage is the exception.
In Nuremberg, northern Bavaria, they produce a particular type of high-quality sausage the size of an index finger called Nürnberger Bratwürste which uses only the top quality pieces of pork and some fresh marjoram. It’s been a geographically protected wurst since 2003 and can only be produced in the Bavarian town of Nuremberg. By far, it’s one of my favourite wursts!
As for side dishes, the famous sauerkraut, which is well known worldwide, is the usual side dish to wurst. In Germany, they often use juniper berries to give the renowned side dish extra flavour. The Bavarian like to add to their sauerkraut extra onion, pork fat and grated apple. Another type of sauerkraut that is not as well known but equally delicious is the red sauerkraut. It’s slightly sweeter and often accompanies pork meals 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 known 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 favourite of kids around Germany; it consists mainly of thinning a piece of meat, battering it and frying it. Nothing too elaborated, although Munich has a type of schnitzel they cover in horseradish and mustard before battering.
The side dish here is another typical one; there are so many potato dishes in Germany, most of them like the famous Knödel (giant potato dumpling), potato salads or schuphfnudeln (potato noodles). The typical side dish potato salad consists of lightly mashed with a vinaigrette and topped with parsley or chives, although there are all kinds of potato salads, some containing bacon, others fresh cucumbers, etc. At the restaurant, you’ll often get a small salad with your main dish; often, that salad hides under the lettuce, some potato salad, kraut salad or seasoned cucumbers. Always a pleasant surprise is waiting at the bottom of those salads.
*Recommendation for great schnitzel with a fantastic view of the Tegernsee (lake and mountains), about a 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 its form from place to place. In 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, 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 in water and then in the pan to give it this brown crispy finish.
The Schupfnudeln is a great way to try out some lovely seasonal mushrooms from the land. Talking about mushrooms… the end of summer, walking around in the lovely 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 comestible. 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 Bavarian Specialty is sweet, and another originates from the Alpine region of Austria/Germany. It’s a freshly done scrambled pancake lightly caramelized and served with a side of apple purée, cherry, almonds or other fruits. The fruit side depends on the season, but I have seen 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 effort and patience to nail to perfection; it’s probably not a favourite to create for the cooks… It’s not an extremely sweet dessert, just lightly sweet with a cloud of powdered sugar on top. It’s 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 of the Tegernsee (lake and mountains), about a 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 consists of a giant pork knuckle, which is marinated for a few days, then slowly roasted at low temperature. It results in this crispy skin and tender meat and is often served with the famous Knödel, a giant potato dumpling. The first look at this gigantic piece of meat on 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 genuinely gigantic, borderline barbaric since it often comes with a sharp knife stuck into it and a bone the size of my femur, but also genuinely 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 is a giant potato dumpling. Knödel is a Central Europe well-spread dish sometimes made with bread leftovers, pretzels, eggs, spinach, meat, even plums… but the Bavarian style knödel consists of only cooked and raw potatoes. Making it difficult to hold, it’s an art to make it have its shape without eggs or bread. 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. 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 ways to make them, some easier to hold than others. I’ve bought myself three separate books, and I’ve got three different 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.
Returning to the pork knuckle, this is probably one of the most traditional dishes 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.
Traditional Pork Roast
Last but not least is the one I hear the most often missed by expat Germans, the one my ‘almost’ vegetarian husband has to order at least once when we go to Bavaria, the one authentic representative dish of Southern Germany: the famous Schweinebraten. It’s a roasted pork shoulder with the skin found near the neck, often cooked in a dark beer, giving this unctuous brown sauce and a Knödel to soak it all up! Resulting into a super crips skin and ultra-tender meat.
Germany is filled with those little treasures not many know about. Many more Bavarian Specialties could make the list, like the Leberknödelsuppe (liver dumpling soup), White Asparagus Soup or ham and Forelle fish from the Starnberg Lake area, which are highly recommendable. Indeed, it is an excellent region to discover with the tastebuds.