Vegetarian food in Germany? Yes, everywhere you look!

Posted on 20. Jul, 2011 by in Europe, For foodie travelers, Germany

A country famous for its sausages and schnitzels, vegetarian visitors to Germany might worry that they will have to do a bit of hunting to find meat-free munchies. However, once you look past the bratwurst stands and pig roasts, there are actually plenty of vegetarian options, both in traditional cuisine and common international staples the Germans have accepted as their own.

Käsespätzle

While the basic ingredients make this essentially a German form of macaroni and cheese, Spätzle couldn’t taste more different. The southern Bavarian dish is made with egg noodles covered in baked, grated Emmenthal cheese and crispy fried onions.  It is usually vegetarian, but it is always better to ask.

Kasspatzn

German Pretzels

Germans make the best soft pretzels in the world and have found infinite excuses to eat them often. The traditional twisted shape, known as Brezeln or Brez’n for short, is eaten plain, with sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds or with salt, cut open with a half-inch thick layer of butter or cream cheese and chives. The pretzel dough, called ‘Laugen’ is also made into rolls, baguettes, even croissants and come as fully dressed sandwiches with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, cheese, and a special (always delicious) sauce, and are found in most bakeries.

Bakeries

It is customary to eat only one ‘warm’ meal a day in Germany, with the other two main meals made up of bread, cheese and, for meat-eaters, deli slices, and while the Germans look down their nose at American fast food, they are not opposed to the idea of grabbing a quick bite. This is most often done by popping into the bakery. German bakeries can be found on every corner, sometimes there are two, three or four on one street, and considering that Germans do bread and cheese better than anywhere other than France, you can’t go wrong by following the herd into the bakery. Veggie options abound here: Baguettes, rolls, croissants, pizza bread, salads, and let’s not forget about the shocking variety of addictive cakes the Germans have thought up!  If you eat eggs and cheese, you can’t go wrong in a German bakery.

Herrentorte

Rösti

Although similar to what North Americans understand as potato pancakes, röstis are very thick, shredded potato patties found in restaurants and outdoor fests. They are always served with large dollops of apple sauce on top, while not healthy, they are deeeeelish!

German Dumplings

Potato dumplings can be found throughout the country, as can bread dumplings, which are different but equally yummy. The only problem is that while both bread and potato dumplings are vegetarian-friendly, the sauce is often very meaty. If you see dumplings with mushroom sauce on the menu, order it straight away, and wash it down with a half liter of Hefeweizen beer!

Dumpling & mushroom sauce

Hard-boiled eggs in mustard sauce

This might seem like a strange one, but it is definitely meat-free and commonly found in traditional German restaurants. If you are staying with friends, your host will most likely be able to prepare it for you easily. Eier in Senfsoße is a thick, tangy mustard sauce generously poured over four hard boiled egg halves. That’s it. It’s simple and actually pretty good. If you don’t believe us – here’s an easy recipe to try it yourself.

Camembert with cranberry sauce

This breaded cheese dish may have been borrowed from the French, but it is one of our absolute favorite dishes to order in Germany. Basically, an entire 250 gr wheel of Camembert cheese is breaded and baked until the inside is a pool of gooey, cheesy heaven and is served up with a thick cranberry sauce. Perfect for chilly Winter lunches or afternoon snacks.

Baked camembert

Pizza, Pasta

There is no food more German than Italian cuisine! Italian restaurants are as common as the bakeries we mentioned, so you can get pizza and pasta anywhere in Germany the same quality as you’ll find just south of the border. Note: Germans make fabulous Italian-style pizzas, but pizza delivery joints attempt an American-style pizza without all the fun – Not a lot of cheese and even an XL is smaller than a U.S. medium, so make an occasion out of it and go out to a restaurant to eat pizza.

Döner Kebabs

There is no food more German than the Turkish Döner…wait, did we say that already with Italian? Kebabs, shawarma, however you know it, you won’t get one as good anywhere in the world as in Germany (that might even go for Turkey), and the streets are lined with döner shops – generally open late to soak up all that Hefeweizen. While döners generally come spilling over with turkey or lamb meat, the meat-free versions are our absolute favorite food to eat in Germany. You can order any variation of a classic Veggie, which  comes overloaded with red and white cabbage, onion, cucumber, tomato, feta cheese and a creamy garlic sauce in a thick, warm pita bread, or a Durum, which is a wrap stuffed with the same ingredients but also with Falafel or Halloumi. Döner shops are one of the few food places in Germany where the customer is always right, so order one of these gut-busting bundles of flavor with exactly the sauce and toppings you want for under $3.

doener kebap vegetarian

Survival tip – always ask. Germans love to throw in meat, especially speck, just ‘for flavor’, so any one of these dishes could come with meat unexpectedly. Don’t just ask, “Is there meat in this?” or “Is this vegetarian?”.  Be specific – ask if there is speck, beef, ham, bacon, chicken, fish, seafood – whatever makes sense.

Survival Tip 2 – You can eat Peperoni. The German word does not mean small disks of meat usually found on pizza, but rather they go by the Italian definition of semi-spicy green peppers, eaten on baguettes and often as part of garnish.  The word Salami is actually used for meat on pizza.

What are we forgetting? Are there other common German foods out there that are veggie friendly? We’d love to hear your suggestions!

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29 Responses to “Vegetarian food in Germany? Yes, everywhere you look!”

  1. Jeff

    21. Jul, 2011

    Yum!

    Reply to this comment
  2. Don Faust

    21. Jul, 2011

    Yeah – I normally wouldn’t think of vegetarian and Germany in the same sentence.

    The camembert dish sounds great. Most people can’t get this cheese past their nose because it has an ammonia-like smell, but I like stinky cheeses, and it’s very creamy. That could be one reason they give you the raspberry sauce – to lighten it up a bit.

    Ok now, have you tried a Philly pretzel? I’ve tried German pretzels and yes they are good, but I think Philly takes the prize on this. Just sayin’… They aren’t the round twisted shape – they are oblong, and they stack them together while they bake, so you have to pull them apart if you buy more than one.

    Reply to this comment
    • Dani

      22. Jul, 2011

      I was never a fan of mixing cheese with something sweet (I think it’s Norway where they eat marmalade & cheese together on toast?) but then I worked in a Tapas bar where they had these DELICIOUS goats cheese & honey / goats cheese & pear dishes. To die for! Now I love goats cheese & marmalade and also Camembert & cranberry sauce. Wish it was less fattening ;-)

      About that Philly pretzel – we are so going to try that when we’re there next month!! You have to tell us the BEST place for Philly pretzels, or are they equally good in any place?

      Reply to this comment
      • Don Faust

        22. Jul, 2011

        There are a number of places you could go, but I would say go to the Philly Soft Pretzel Factory near Rittenhouse Square for consistency. It’s a nice neighborhood, and Rittenhouse park would be a nice place to sit down. Some purists will say you should get them from a street vendor or some mom and pop place, and I understand that, but if you go to the factory, you can get them hot out of the oven. There is a different pretzel factory near our old Italian Market neighborhood that doesn’t open until midnight and they make their pretzels during the graveyard shift for the next morning deliveries. Each Tuesday night, a number of bicyclists ride from the Art Museum down to this factory – maybe 3 miles one way – and they get piping hot pretzels at midnight. This takes a little more planning, so I thought the first recommendation would be the best.

        Now, you are probably going to really like them or not – it depends on how much you are willing to switch your idea of what a pretzel is – the Philly pretzel is more dense, chewy and a bit doughy, but I like that, where I can tear away at the layers of dough. They also have several dipping sauces, because some people like to eat these for breakfast with cream cheese, etc, but I’m a mustard guy.

        Philly Soft Pretzel Factory
        1532 Sansom St
        Philadelphia, PA 19195

        The park is just up to 18th street.

        Here are a couple of links:
        http://www.yelp.com/biz/philly-soft-pretzel-factory-philadelphia
        http://www.phillysoftpretzelfactory.com

        Reply to this comment
        • Don Faust

          22. Jul, 2011

          Correction: the place I was thinking of was the Sansom Street Soft Pretzel Factory. I was confused because “Philly Soft Pretzel” is ON Sansom. The Sansom Street Soft Pretzel Factory is either only a block away or on the same block at:

          121 S 16th St
          Philadelphia, PA 19102

          I did, however, read the material for the “Philly Soft Pretzel” location – it’s technically a franchise now, but was started 12 yrs ago by a Philly native who used to sell pretzels out of paper bags as a boy. So, they look like the real deal, but their operation may feel more “franchisy”. They do get tons of good reviews on Yelp, so they are doing something right.

          I HAVE been to Sansom Street factory – and they are good. They also make a pretzel wrap dog with American cheese that is pretty good freshly made.

          Reply to this comment
          • Dani

            24. Jul, 2011

            Thanks for the recommendation, Don! We will go there for sure and let you know how we liked Philly pretzels. Now that you’ve mentioned that bicycle ride on Tuesday nights, I wish we were in Philly on a Tuesday! Doesn’t work out with the road trip itinerary though. Rittenhouse Square Park looks good, I looked at a few pictures. We’ll definitely stop there. Thanks again!

            Reply to this comment
  3. Erica

    21. Jul, 2011

    Oh lord that looks amazing. The only thing that I would have issues with is the amount of carbs there are there! I would gain so much weight in between my beer drinking and bread eating!

    Reply to this comment
    • Dani

      22. Jul, 2011

      Erica – yes, that’s exactly what happened…… we definitely gained some weight during our time in Europe! Bread & cheese & beer in Germany (and cake!), pasta & pizza in Italy, oily (but yummy!) tapas in Spain, pastries for breakfast in Portugal… carbs everywhere! How do Europeans stay so thin?? ;-)

      Reply to this comment
  4. Yum, Käsespätzle is fabulous! In fact, any kind of spatzle is great. I’m not vegetarian but everything looked so amazing I may have to try it!

    Reply to this comment
    • jess

      23. Jul, 2011

      That’s the best part – you don’t have to be vegetarian to enjoy the food at all, meat-eaters in Germany eat it all too, although not the kebabs so much. They get those with meat. But the bakery food is always good, the dumplings, oh and really eat the Camembert if you don’t know it (though I think you must, right?)

      Reply to this comment
  5. Lucie

    23. Jul, 2011

    Best Döner Kebab I’ve ever eaten was definitely in Berlin!

    Reply to this comment
    • jess

      23. Jul, 2011

      You are right! Berlin is renowned as the best Döner Kebab spot in Germany! They’re tasty everywhere though :-)

      Reply to this comment
  6. Suzy

    23. Jul, 2011

    While I am not a vegetarian and I do enjoy a good schnitzel in Germany, that Camembert looks delicious! I will keep these options in mind next time in Germany. Sometimes the meals in Germany with meat can be awfully heavy.

    Reply to this comment
    • Dani

      24. Jul, 2011

      The Camembert is definitely one of our favorite dishes. The best thing is that you can buy it in almost every supermarket for only 2 to 3 Euros. It’s true that dishes in Germany are usually very heavy, but there are more and more light meals on most menus.

      Reply to this comment
  7. Shivya

    24. Jul, 2011

    I loved Spatzle in Germany. But my biggest surprise was finding a vegetarian burger at Mc Donalds in Germany! And it was actually delicious :) As a traveling vegetarian, I’ve never expected to find veggie Mac burgers other than in India. The next time I go, I’m going to refer to this list. Thanks for the share!

    Reply to this comment
    • Dani

      24. Jul, 2011

      That’s true, McDonald’s in Germany do have the veggie burgers again. They had them years ago, but then took them off the menu because they didn’t do very well. Now they’re back on the menu for only 1,19 Euros or so. Burger King also has a veggie burger (well I hope they still do) which is even tastier than the one from McDonald’s. In England BK and McDonald’s also have veggie burgers, BK even several ones – the UK is very veggie-friendly, too.

      Reply to this comment
  8. Faith

    24. Jul, 2011

    Wow! I see other people already said this, but carbs, carbs, carbs! yummy yummy carbs :)

    Reply to this comment
    • Dani

      24. Jul, 2011

      Yummy carbs indeed! It was well worth the calories – but the food we had in Italy was even better… and had even more carbs :D

      Reply to this comment
  9. Juergen

    24. Jul, 2011

    Two seasonal dishes you forgot to mention; both are so delicious that we can’t stop eating them when in Germany:
    From April to May is ASPARAGUS season, and the white asparagus you get in Germany melts in your mouth. It’s usually with new potatoes and a Hollandaise Sauce – the cheapest version in restaurants without any meat. Also good is an asparagus soup.
    Around the same time you get everywhere fresh strawberries, which in Europe are so much more tasty than elsewhere…
    When the asparagus season comes to an end the season for “Pfifferlinge” starts; a special kind of mushrooms (Chanterelles) served in a creamy sauce, often with Spaezle noodles – yummy! With these you have to ask to get them cooked without “Speck” (bacon), as this is the traditional way to prepare them; we never encountered many problems to have them done “vegetarian”.

    Reply to this comment
    • Dani

      24. Jul, 2011

      Juergen – you are totally right about the asparagus, it should have totally been included. Love white asparagus with sauce hollandaise & fresh potatoes!

      Reply to this comment
  10. Mack Reynolds

    28. Jul, 2011

    really enjoyed the post. that mac n cheese with crunchy onion on top looked really good. and so did the big dumpling in mushroom gravy. well, everything looked and sounded good. i’d really like to go to germany to try some of their beer, as well as a bunch of their yummy looking foods.

    Reply to this comment
    • Dani

      31. Jul, 2011

      Thanks Mack! The ‘Mac’n’cheese’ is VERY different from the American version but definitely tasty in its own way. German beer is definitely a good reason to visit the country, especially the Bavarian Hefeweizen beers that come in 1 liter steins and are much stronger than any other beers! Hope you get to visit one day.

      Reply to this comment
  11. Vanades

    26. Oct, 2011

    Some additions I can think off, especially when you’re in the south-west of Germany:

    Zwiebelkuchen aka Onion Cake best combined with new wine. Also usually only served in late summer/early autumn during the wine harvest. Can occasionally come with Speck, but the traditional way is done without.

    Flammkuchen, another autumn-dish. Basically it’s a thin pizza topped with a sour-cream topping, onions and Speck (bacon). Then baked.
    Now many places also serve vegetable versions for example with tomatoes, or with leeks or mushrooms. The sweet version is with apples and cinnamon.

    Bibliskäs – now that’s very traditional and found in the German area of Baden and the Alsace. It’s a kind of quark served with potatoes and fresh onions. People who want meat with that can go for the version where a kind of sausage-salad is served with it.

    In a lot of areas in Germany Rösti are actually knows as Reibekuchen. Additional servings could be herab quark or smoked salmon. Most places usually offer options.

    For those wo like it sweet, might like something like Kaiserschmarrn. It’s pancakes torn into pieces while baking served dusted with powdered sugar and cranberry or apple sauce. It’s morean Austrian sish but can also be found in parts of Germany.

    A lot of restaurants also serve huge salads as a main course with feta cheese and such.

    In winter Feldsalat (field salad) is very often served. Often with tiny bacon pieces and croutons. But if you tell the restaurant to leave the bacon off most will do just that. Some restaurants do the field salat with croutons and walnuts.

    Reply to this comment
    • Dani

      26. Oct, 2011

      Thanks for adding all these great things to our list and for making us hungry ;-) I am not a big fan of Zwiebelkuchen but Flammkuchen – YES!! And you are right, there are a ton of vegetarian Flammkuchen nowadays, and they are delicious! I have never had sweet Flammkuchen, have to make sure to try that next time we’re in Germany. Quark with potatoes and fresh onions is also yummy – simple but good. And having traveled to so many parts of the world, I have to say Germans just know how to make a good salad. Now I want to go to Germany and eat some delicious German food… ;-)

      Reply to this comment
  12. Jason

    23. Sep, 2012

    Yes all over but some Places are quite limited in terms of choice, maybe only 1 or 2 dishes from a huge selection of that quite limited unholy quintet of fleshes :)

    I would say be careful with street foods and Japanese. They serve Raman with pork stock by standard. Its immediately noticeable as it’s swimming in grease and the taste is, well, you notice it straight away.

    Kebabs are ubiquitous here, Rather like Indian Food in the UK (I LOVE a good curry) so yes I agree, a falafel komplett is a great and easy solution.

    Anything exotic like gourmet raw food restaurants are not here.

    Generally there’s a more conservative diet. Reibekuchen are not the same as Rösti. Food quality is better in Swizerland certainly in terms of organic (bio), Anyway I didn’t like them. Oh gosh: they were Street Food! Arrrrrgh!!

    Veganism like pretty much any Westernised country would be tough for eating out but do-able.

    National dish is Wurst pretty much, so yes there’s still some Way to go reverting back to the natural diet of our more spiritual ancestors of Ancestors of Greece and India.

    Advanced spiritual concepts like Peter Gabriel’s Solisbury Hill revelations would probably we thought of here as just quaint.

    On the whole it’s a great Place to visit. The food is pretty good.

    Reply to this comment
  13. JG

    09. Apr, 2013

    Thank you for all your interesting comments. I do just have to say that maybe the asparagus IS sweet and tasty and individual items may be OK BUT what vegetarians (like everyone else) want is a MEAL. One of these posts also touched on an important thing that something may not have meat in it but it may still not be vegetarian. It may have been cooked with meat stock, may have been cooked on a griddle with meat products or even had utensils that had been used in meat dishes transferred to the “vegetarian” meals. All of these render the meal NON-vegetarian. This is a problem in the UK but am sure in a country that is predominantly meat-eating as German is it is highly likely due, mainly to ignorance. I am sure in the cities there are plenty of proper veggie restaurants but in the countryside and mountains where I am planning to visit I suspect true veggie dishes will be harder to find ?

    Reply to this comment
    • Jess

      11. Apr, 2013

      Hi John, thanks for your comment. While we definitely understand and sympathize with finding purely vegetarian food, part of travel is picking your battles. For example, neither of us will eat a sandwich that once had ham on top of the cheese which was then subsequently pulled off in the kitchen after complaining and then brought back with a smile and see, now it’s vegetarian. Also, we definitely do not like to eat food cooked on a barbecue with meat. Germany is a meat country, sure, but if you ask them to cook your food separately, they might be able to. If not, you have to either cook for yourself or order meals that wouldn’t have been cooked on the same grill – like salads. Also, many more traditional dishes use boiled potatoes, so no meat contact there, and there are plenty of vegetarian dishes, like senfsoße mit ei, which is mustard sauce poured over boiled potatoes and boiled eggs. It’s actually really good and hearty, too!

      Reply to this comment
  14. Joseph

    23. May, 2013

    Pizza really isn’t Italian though as is often claimed, and Germans have their own very unique take on pizza, which also is not often mentioned.

    I am a convert to German food and I was blown away by how much better it is than it’s reputation. German food is amazing!

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