Herbs and lemon

Laying the Groundwork – German Food and Cuisine

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The second stop on my Food Trotter Journey has led me to Germany!

To be honest, I don’t know a whole lot about German food other than schnitzels, sausages, sauerkraut, and beer.

Yes, I have my limited Oktoberfest knowledge to thank for this!

I studied at the University of Waterloo which very close to the city of Kitchener in Canada. Kitchener, used to be called Berlin until September 1916 when the residents voted to change its name from Berlin to Kitchener during the First World War to prove loyalty and stem the backlash against a city with deep German roots. What remained though is one of the largest Oktoberfests in the world. I honestly didn’t learn too much about the food in the region, which I do regret. However, in an attempt to revive that, I’ve decided to wander off to Germany as part of my Food Trotter journey!

What I’ve heard is that German food is bland and boring. I find that hard to believe because as humans we spend so much time eating. We’ve definitely found ways to make food interesting no matter where in the world!


Frederick the Great (king of Prussia) had a role in establishing some of Berlin’s traditional foods after he ordered his subjects to eat cucumbers and potatoes in the 18th century because they were cheap and fit the frugal Prussian lifestyle. They remain favorites in Berlin along with rustic and hearty dishes using pork, goose, fish, peas, and beans.

Both world war I and World War II had an impact on German cuisine.

After the World War I, the focus for most families was having enough to eat rather than celebrating their culinary traditions.

Then, after World War II acccording to Nadia Hassani’s book Spoonfuls of Germany, being of German heritage was looked down upon because of its link to the Third Reich. Celebrating German Culinary history was not at the forefront. Rather, Germans embraced culinary traditions from their neighboring countries like France and Italy.

Immigration has played an impact on the culinary diversity of Germany. For example, the fast food version of the doner kabab was invented in Berlin in 1971 by Turkish immigrant workers.

Over the years since the fall of the berlin Wall, there has been a resurgence of reviving German cuisine, with many German chefs being trained in other parts of Europe and then returning home.


Germany is a region that is rich in beef and dairy cattle. This abundance of meat actually caused complexities of storing the meats, so techniques of curing and smoking meats as well as smoking, marinating and salting procedures were developed. That is why there is an emphasis in German cuisine of sausages and preserved foods.

Germany borders nine different countries: Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Switzerland, Austria, the Czech Republic, and Poland. Over time this has led to German cuisine being heavily influenced by their cuisines.

Culinary Culture and Influence

Due to it’s historical and geographic influences, German cuisine is often heavy in meat, bread, potatoes.

Pot roasts and sausages are most popular forms of eating meat.

Cabbage is one of the most heavily used ingredients, making an appearance in sauerkraut – cabbage fermented in brine.

There aren’t usually too many dry spices used in German cooking, but rather sauces are used to cook.

German Cuisine – The Ingredients

So if you wanted to cook German food – what do you really need?

Top 15 Ingredients in German Cuisine:


German cooking is not as heavy on spices, but rather relies on the meat or the main star of the dish shine. null

1 – Mustard

Mustard is a very popular condiment in German cuisine. Although mustard is used in its raw form as seeds or powder, the paste is the most popular form. There are two varieties that are most popular – Düsseldorf (sweet-sour taste) and Bavarian Sweet (a sweet variety). Typically mustard accompanies sausages!

2 – Dill

Dill has a strong grassy taste. It is used in many German dishes – fresh with salads, or as a garnishing when finishing dishes. Dill seeds are used in breads, in stews and in pickles.

3 – Parsley

Parsley adds a clean, bright flavor and it is often paired with steamed or boiled potatoes.

4 – Chives

Chives have a delicate onion flavor, with hints of garlic. It is a relatively mild flavor. In German cooking, chives are often paired with sauerkraut, potatoes or quark (below).

5 – Juniper Berries

Juniper berries are widely used in German cooking, they’re sweet, spicy and bitter. They’re often used with game, marinades, roasts and casseroles.

6 – Caraway Seeds

These seeds look similar to cumin, but their taste is earthy, with a hint of citrus and pepper. It is often used in baking rye or soda breads. In German cuisine, caraway seeds are paired in dishes using potatoes, sausage, apple, and other root vegetables.

7 – Majoram

Majoram is characterized by its tangy, savory, slightly bitter flavor. In German cooking, it is used in making wurst (sausages) and also added to potato dishes.

8 – Anise Seed

Anise seeds often add a licorice flavour to baked goods, and is similar in flavour to fennel. Anise seeds are commonly used in Springerle – a German Christmas cookie.


9 – Meat – Pork, Beef, Game, Fish

German cuisine is heavy in meats of all sorts, especially pork and beef. This goes back to having abundant cattle in the area, that allowed the cuisine to develop with lots of meat-based dishes. Pot roasts and sausages (wurst) are the most popular forms of eating meat.

10 – Cabbage

Cabbage found its way to Germany from Greece and Italy. Many German dishes feature cabbage such as sauerkraut and cabbage rolls. The uses for cabbage in German cooking are as diverse as the cabbages available!

11 – Potatoes

Potato Salad, fried potatoes, potato pancakes, potato dumplings, and boiled potatoes. There are a lot of potato-based recipes in German Cuisine!

12 – Mushrooms

Mushrooms are used quite often in German cooking, and this is where you can see French influences. Mushrooms sauteed in a garlic sauce make an appearance at holiday markets throughout Germany!

13 – Asparagus

Germans celebrate asparagus season, especially the white asparagus variety. When it is in harvest, May/June, it is found to be used in every menu!

14 – Apples

Apples are used in many German desserts like the German Apple cake or fried apple rings!

15 – Quark

Quark is a soft, creamy, unripened cheese, similar to cottage cheese or sour cream. It is used in many dishes, like cheesecake, for different sauces or spreads, often paired with herbs.

Now we’re all ready to cook up some German food!

Next up: Some German foods and maybe a feast?



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    Welcome to Sprinkles and Scribbles! I'm Anum - baker, writer, accountant. Here I share the sweet side of life. Explore all things baking, books and life with me! Read More


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