10 tasty German snacks to try
Moving to Germany? Here are 10 mouthwatering snacks to look out for.
No list of German food would be complete without the acclaimed Brezel, or "soft pretzel" in English. When I first moved to Germany, all I wanted was a pretzel and some mustard; I was quickly corrected by my host parents (Gasteltern) and told to try a Butterbrezel, or butter pretzel, instead. At first, I wasn’t super sure I wanted to eat a pretzel stuffed with unsalted butter the way bagels are over-crammed with cream cheese back home. I haven’t looked back since. Now, every time I come back to visit the first thing I eat once I pass through security is a freshly baked and stuffed Butterbrezel. No regrets.
One of the first serendipitous things I discovered when I moved across the pond is that paprika, the sweet, smoky spice ubiquitous in American pantries, is nothing but dried bell pepper. And bell pepper in German? Paprika. Since fried potato makes everything better, Paprika chips are a no-brainer. They’re barbecue-esque; the perfect partnership of the tang of your favorite American BBQ chip and a hint of bell pepper sweetness. I like Paprika chips so much I’ve figured out how to order them to my house in the States when I’m back for school. They’re the perfect snack year-round and travel really well. Definitely try them, they’re awesome.
I happen to be partial to the iconic colorful squares of Ritter Sport because the factory is so close to Stuttgart, but there are tons of varieties and brands available. Schokolade, or chocolate, is a cultural phenomenon in Germany, but if you’re intimidated by the artisanal options, don’t fret. Brands like Milka, the ever popular Kinder, and other candy brands are widely available at supermarkets for very affordable prices. German chocolate is drastically different from the chocolate you can get in the States. The percentage of cacao has to be higher in Germany than in America for a confection to be considered chocolate; European chocolates therefore tend to have a lower sugar content and a higher fat content with the extra cocoa butter and cacao. The flavor and mouthfeel of German chocolate is decadent and more complex than your typical American chocolate candy. There’s a reason that people come from all over the world to sample European chocolate. German chocolate is no exception.
If chocolate isn’t your thing, don’t worry. There’s plenty of cocoa-free dessert for you, too. Friars began making Lebkuchen, or German gingerbread, in Nuremberg in around the 13th century. There is still a large factory in the city that sells it and tons of incredible artisanal bakers that make the spiced cookie with specialty recipes found nowhere else. A huge variety of Lebkuchen is widely available — especially around fests and the holidays. You can get Lebkuchen Herzen (hearts made out of the Lebkuchen and frosted with tons of fun sayings in German) during fests near where they sell things like delicious Gebrannten Mandeln, or roasted almonds, and chocolate-covered fruit; they keep forever and make great house decor.
Kartoffelpuffer (or Reibekuchen, depending on where you are. They’re the same thing)
If Jewish latkes or Irish boxties are what you’re into, German Kartoffelpuffer are right up your alley. Kartoffelpuffer are potato pancakes, usually made with onion and egg, that are fried and served either as a savory side or with apple sauce. In a very similar fashion to both latkes or boxties, Kartoffelpuffer are affordable and accessible. They tend to be the most popular during fests, as they’re easy to eat while walking around with a large beer in hand. Kartoffelpuffer are also super easy to make at home. German grocery stores offer boxed mix to which you just add your own potatoes. If you’d rather make them from scratch, plenty of authentic recipes are available online. Either way, Kartoffelpuffer are a delicious introduction to German culture.
There are a million variations on this dish worldwide, but the Turkish Döner rules the rotisserie here in Germany. There are places on every corner offering this delicious meaty delicacy, all with a couple of different ways to eat it. You can get it classic, in a pita-like bread pocket with or without all of the vegetables and a creamy yogurt-based sauce. You can also get it on a plate with a side of rice and salad, in a Dönerbox atop a bed of Pommes, or French fries, or in a wrap. Döner is incredibly customizable, and each place seasons their meat and toppings slightly differently. It’s the perfect food to dig into after a night out — flavorful, filling and plentiful.
One of the most exciting parts about moving to Germany for me was how close it is to Italy. I love Italian food so much that I once accidently started a small kitchen fire in my dorm trying to make authentic arancini. One of my favorite Italian foods — besides those that happen to be fire hazards — is ravioli. Maultaschen is a culturally-protected Swabian version of the Italian classic, a pasta Taschen, or bag, filled with meat and served classically one of three ways: either in butter with onions, in a broth, or fried in a pan with a scrambled egg. Maultaschen tend to be a bit larger than ravioli, with thicker pasta and a completely different flavour profile. As an Italian food fanatic, I’ll never give up my love affair with la mangiare italiane da mio, but when contemplating German cuisine, Maultaschen is wonderful, too.
One of Germany’s weirdest looking foods, Weißwurst literally translates to white sausage. Weißwurst are staples in Biergartens around Germany but hold a special place in the south as a Bavarian classic. It’s a veal sausage that is often served with a sweet wholegrain mustard and a large soft pretzel. Weißwurst are served in the cooking water to keep the sausages warm and made fresh every morning, as they aren’t smoked or cured in any way. It’s common cultural practice to only eat Weißwurst before noon because before refrigeration the sausages would go bad before the evening on hot summer days. To eat the regional specialty, you’re supposed to peel the skin off of the sausage and enjoy the filling — it’s recommended that you eat Weißwurst with an ice cold Weißbier and good company.
German bakeries are a blessing. They’re plentiful, and nearly all of them have shelves stocked with freshly-made staples like Käsekuchen. Literally translating to cheesecake, Käsekuchen is like cheesecake’s airy German cousin. Instead of the heavy cream cheese that weighs down American-style cheesecake, Käsekuchen is full of Quark. Quark is an unsalted soft cheese that is like a creamier version of Ricotta with a variety of interesting English-to-German translations that don’t quite do it justice. I’ve yet to find it in America, but Germany is full of it — just like Käsekuchen. You can find Käsekuchen covered in strawberries or cherries during the summer months, just like the American-style cheesecakes back home, but texturally the Quark lends the cake a cloud-like bounce. If you like cheesecake, give Käsekuchen a taste. You might not ever go back.
Johannisbeer Streusel Taler
Speaking of German baked goods, I couldn’t make a list of German snacks to try without telling you about my favorite German pastry of all time. Johannisbeer Streusel Taler are flaky red currant pastries with a creamy Quark filling and a streusel topping drizzled in icing. When I first got to Germany, I had no idea what currants were but I quickly fell in love. Johannisbeer Streusel Taler may have helped a little — both tart and sweet, the buttery pastry and luscious filling contrast so well with the little berries that I’m salivating at my desk just thinking about it. If you are a fan of fruit pie, crumble, buckle, or other baked fruit desserts — Johannisbeer Streusel Taler is a pastry for you. It’s certainly the pastry for me.
Hungry for more? Check out our article on German comfort foods here.