German Side Dishes: 10 Mouthwatering Complements to Your Main Course

Dive into Germany’s side dish scene and you’re on a yummy food voyage! Imagine the zing of a classic Kartoffelsalat or the crunch of Bratkartoffeln – oh boy, your taste buds are in for a party! These sides don’t just taste amazing; they’re a tour through Germany’s local tastes and food traditions. We’ve cherry-picked the top ones and wanna share our top picks with you. Ready for a flavor adventure? Keep reading to find out why sticking around will spice up your meal game!

Classical German Cuisine

German cuisine is known for its emphasis on potatoes, cabbage, and noodles, reflecting the country’s agricultural heritage. You’ll find that ingredients like bacon, vinegar, and a selection of herbs and spices play a significant role in elevating the taste profiles of these sides. With easy-to-follow recipes available, you can bring the taste of Germany to your kitchen, whether you’re pairing these sides with a meaty schnitzel or enjoying them on their own.

As you venture into the realm of German sides, you’ll appreciate the simplicity and robustness that each dish provides. From the crispy edges of Kartoffelpuffer to the smooth, buttery strands of Spätzle, these staples invite you to indulge in the comfort and joy of Germany’s culinary traditions.

The Essentials of German Side Dishes

A table set with traditional German side dishes: sauerkraut, potato salad, red cabbage, and pretzels

In exploring the staples of German cuisine, you’ll quickly find a hearty collection of side dishes that expertly complement main courses, often featuring robust ingredients like potatoes and cabbage.

Understanding Side Dishes

When you dive into German side dishes, you encounter a rich tapestry woven with various flavors and textures. Potatoes, a versatile and beloved staple, serve as the foundation for many favorites. From the silky Kartoffelpüree (mashed potatoes) to the crispy and savory Bratkartoffeln (fried potatoes), each dish offers a unique way to enjoy this essential vegetable.

Cabbage, another cornerstone of the German kitchen, brings both crunch and zest. Sauerkraut, fermented cabbage, is packed with tangy flavor, while Rotkohl (braised red cabbage) offers a sweeter palate courtesy of the apple it’s typically cooked with.

Here’s a brief overview of some classic German side dishes you might encounter:

DishMain IngredientDescription
Kartoffelsalat (Potato Salad)PotatoCan be made with mayo or a broth, often served warm
SauerkrautCabbageFermented cabbage with a distinctive sour flavor
Semmelknödel (Bread Dumplings)BreadFluffy dumplings made from wheat bread, milk, and egg
RotkohlCabbageSweet and tangy braised red cabbage
SpätzleFlourSoft egg noodles or dumplings common in the south
German Side Dishes: Some Famous Examples

Role in German Cuisine

Your appreciation for German cuisine deepens as you explore how these side dishes function within a meal. They do more than simply accompany; they balance and enhance the flavors of the main dishes. A plate of Schnitzel wouldn’t be the same without the soft, buttery presence of Spätzle or the crisp bite of Bratkartoffeln alongside it.

Vegetables, though sometimes less celebrated, are an integral part of this culinary culture. Whether it’s a fresh Gurkensalat (cucumber salad) providing a refreshing counterpoint or Gebratener Spargel (fried asparagus) with its delicate, nutty notes, the German affinity for complementing textures and tastes is evident in their sides.

As you become more familiar with these traditional side dishes, you’ll start to understand the careful balance and hearty satisfaction of a thoughtfully composed German meal.

Traditional Potato Dishes

A table set with various traditional German potato dishes

In German cuisine, potatoes are more than just a staple; they’re a canvas for a variety of beloved side dishes that are central to the country’s culinary identity.

German Potato Salad Variations

German potato salad, or Kartoffelsalat, differs significantly from its American counterpart. It typically features a warm, vinegar-based dressing instead of mayonnaise, and it’s often flavored with bacon, mustard, and onion. Depending on the region, you might encounter variations like the addition of apples for a subtle sweetness or pickles for an extra tang. Here’s a brief glance at how this dish can vary:

  • Swabian Kartoffelsalat: A simple dressing of vinegar and broth, often seen at gatherings.
  • Bavarian Potato Salad: A richer version that might include ingredients like crisp bacon.

Kartoffelsalat and its Regional Twists

You’ll find that Kartoffelsalat takes on unique characteristics as you traverse through Germany.

RegionDistinctive Twist on Kartoffelsalat
NorthMay include mayonnaise and eggs
SouthMore likely to have beef broth and be served warm
EastCan be accompanied with herring or other smoked fishes
WestOften has a sharper vinegar taste and less sweet
German Side Dishes: It depends on the Region where you are

This dish showcases the versatility of potatoes, adapting to the tastes and traditions of each locale.

Bratkartoffeln

German Side Dishes Bratkartoffeln
by Pinterest

When you think of comfort food, Bratkartoffeln should come to mind. In this dish, sliced potatoes are pan-fried to a golden brown, typically with onions and bits of bacon. It’s a hearty side that you can enjoy with anything from schnitzel to fish. Don’t be surprised to find variations that introduce green peppers or a sprinkle of fresh herbs to enhance the flavor profile.

Popular Cabbage-Based Accompaniments

A table set with red cabbage, sauerkraut, and cabbage salad in traditional German pottery

Cabbage has a special place in German cuisine, offering a variety of side dishes that perfectly complement many traditional meals. Whether you prefer the tangy zest of sauerkraut or the sweet and sour balance of braised red cabbage, these sides are sure to add a delightful flavor to your plate.

Sauerkraut

German Side Dishes Sauerkraut
by Pinterest

Sauerkraut is a fermented cabbage dish that’s not only rich in probiotics but also a staple in German cuisine known for its distinctive sour flavor. Typically served with sausages or pork, sauerkraut is both a delicious and healthful addition to any meal.

Popular Pairings:

  • Bratwurst
  • Kassler (smoked pork chops)
  • Leberkäse (meatloaf)

Braised Red Cabbage

Often referred to as Rotkohl or Blaukraut, German red cabbage is a sweet and sour dish that adds a burst of color and flavor. It’s usually cooked with apple slices, vinegar, and spices, which create its unique taste—perfect alongside hearty dishes like beef rouladen or pork roast.

How to Enjoy Braised Red Cabbage:

  • With a juicy pork roast
  • Next to German Rouladen
  • As part of a festive holiday meal

German Coleslaw

Unlike the creamy American version, German coleslaw, or “Krautsalat,” usually features a tangy vinegar-based dressing. Often found accompanying dishes like Schnitzel or Frikadellen, it provides a crisp and refreshing contrast.

Ingredients Typically Found in German Coleslaw:

  • Shredded cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Onions
  • A vinaigrette dressing with vinegar and mustard
DishMain IngredientCommon Pairings
SauerkrautFermented CabbageBratwurst, Kassler
Braised Red CabbageRed CabbageBeef Rouladen, Pork Roast
German ColeslawFresh CabbageSchnitzel, Frikadellen
German Side Dishes: Famous German Coleslaw

These delightful cabbage-based sides are more than just accompaniments; they’re essential elements that capture the essence of German culinary traditions. Whether mingled with spices or pickled to perfection, these dishes are sure to add an authentic German taste to your meal.

Savory Dumplings and Noodles

A table set with steaming dumplings and noodles, surrounded by traditional German side dishes

If you’re eager to dive into the heart of German comfort food, savory dumplings and noodles should be at the top of your list. Let’s explore some classic German side dishes that bring warmth and richness to every meal.

Spaetzle and Variations

German Spaetzle is a traditional noodle-like dumpling with a chewy texture that’s versatile enough to pair with a variety of sauces and meats. Try it with a rich mushroom sauce for the classic Jägerspätzle, or tossed in butter and topped with crispy onions.

Variations of SpaetzleDescription
Classic Buttered SpaetzleSimply sautéed in butter and garnished with herbs.
Cheese Spaetzle (Käsespätzle)Mixed with melted cheese and crispy fried onions.
JägerspätzleSpaetzle served with a hearty mushroom gravy.
German Side Dishes: Some Variations auf Spaetzle

Potato Dumplings

Moving on to Potato Dumplings (Kartoffelklöße), these are the epitome of comfort, often enjoyed with dishes like Sauerbraten or alongside red cabbage. They are smooth, round, and have a subtle flavor that absorbs the sauce or gravy they’re paired with.

Bread Dumplings

Lastly, Bread Dumplings or Semmelknödel offer a unique texture and taste. They’re made from stale bread and can be a server’s best friend in soaking up savory sauces or broths. German bread dumplings are especially popular in Bavaria and make a satisfying addition to any stew or roast.

In your culinary travels through German cuisine, these savory dumplings and noodles provide a delicious glimpse into the country’s hearty dining traditions.

Refreshing Salads and Vegetables

A variety of vibrant salads and fresh vegetables are displayed on a table, with German side dishes arranged neatly alongside them

German cuisine offers a delightful variety of refreshing salads and vegetables that are perfect as side dishes or light meals.

German Cucumber Salad

Gurkensalat is a light and crisp side perfect for balancing out heavier, more savory dishes. It’s made with thinly sliced cucumbers and typically dressed with a tangy mixture of vinegar, oil, and fresh dill. For a taste of this classic without cream, you’ll appreciate the clean flavors that can accompany a range of German main dishes.

Potato Pancakes and Apple Sauce

German Side Dishes Potato Pancakes and Apple Sauce
by Pinterest

Bold and rustic, potato pancakes are a hearty German favorite. Crunchy on the outside and tender on the inside, they can be served as a side or appetizer. Pair these Kartoffelpuffer with a dollop of homemade apple sauce for a hint of sweetness, creating a combination that’s hard to resist.

Vegetable SidesDescription
Gurkensalat (Cucumber Salad)Refreshing and tangy with a hint of dill.
Kartoffelpuffer (Potato Pancakes)Golden and crisp, ideal with a side of apple sauce.
Grüne Bohnen (Green Beans)Cooked tender-crisp and often seasoned with savory bacon or toasted almonds.
German Side Dishes: Vegetable Side Dishes

Grüne Bohnen

Grüne Bohnen, or green beans, are a simple yet delicious vegetable side dish. In Germany, they’re often sautéed and mixed with flavorful ingredients like bacon or almonds to create a dish that is both nutritious and satisfying. This vegetable staple showcases the best of German home cooking with its simplicity and wholesome taste.

Hearty Meat Accompaniments

A table set with hearty German side dishes, including sauerkraut, potato salad, and pretzels, alongside a variety of meat accompaniments

When exploring the German culinary landscape, you’ll find that meat dishes play a central role, often accompanied by equally hearty sides. These pairings are not just about adding substance to your plate; they bring a harmonious blend of flavors that are essential to the experience.

Sausage Specialties

German sausages, known locally as Wurst, are a pillar of the country’s cuisine. Bratwurst, a type of sausage made from pork, beef, or veal, is particularly popular and often served with a range of hearty side dishes. A notable mention is Wurstsalat, a sausage salad typically made with thinly sliced sausages mixed with onions, pickles, and a dressing of vinegar and oil, offering a refreshing complement to your wurst.

Sausage TypeCommon Side DishFlavor Profile
BratwurstSauerkrautTangy and Fermented
WurstsalatBreadHearty and Wholesome

Meat and Gravy Pairings

German Side Dishes Schnitzel
by Pinterest

Next, we have the beloved Schnitzel, a breaded and fried cutlet that simply asks for a rich gravy or mushroom sauce alongside. But let’s not forget about Sauerbraten, a pot roast that is usually marinated before cooking, resulting in a tender and flavorful meat accompanied by a variety of gravies, like the one redolent with ginger snaps, making it a taste of authentic Germany on your plate.

When you’re tucking into a hearty plate, a side like Rouladen, rolled meat stuffed with onions, pickles, and bacon, coated in a velvety gravy, could be exactly what you’re craving for that ultimate comfort meal. And for a truly warming dish, Goulash with its rich and hearty stew-like quality is often enjoyed, which pairs wonderfully with a light salad to cut through the richness.

  • Bold Flavors: Expect robust gravies that complement meats like Sauerbraten.
  • Variety: From Schnitzel to Goulash, there’s a hearty partner for every meaty dish.

Breads and Spreads

In any German meal, the hearty breads and versatile spreads play a central role. Your table is not complete without a selection of freshly baked bread and delectable cheese spreads to complement the array of dishes.

Pretzels and Bread Varieties

German cuisine boasts an array of breads, with each region having its own special variety. Pretzels, known for their distinct twisted shape and glossy crust, are an all-time favorite. Whether it’s the traditional soft pretzel sprinkled with coarse salt or a crunchy version, it’s a must-try. Another classic is Bauernbrot, a robust farmer’s bread with a hearty rye flavor and dense texture.

  • Soft Pretzels
  • Bauernbrot (Farmer’s Bread)
  • Pumpernickel
  • Multi-Grain Bread

Cheese Spreads and Dips

German Side Dishes Obatzda
by Pinterest

German cheese spreads are rich and flavorful, perfect for slathering on a slice of Bauernbrot or a crisp pretzel. These spreads often incorporate sharp cheddar, mustard, and spices to create a savory experience that is both comforting and mouth-watering.

  • Obatzda: This is a Bavarian cheese delicacy, often savored with pretzels.
  • Braided Red Cabbage Cheese Spread: A unique twist adding sweet and tangy flavors to your palate.
  • Various Herbed Cheese Dips: Often made with cream cheese and fresh regional herbs.

Here’s a quick glance at some bread and spread pairings you might enjoy:

BreadSpread
Soft PretzelObatzda
BauernbrotBraided Red Cabbage Cheese Spread
PumpernickelHerbed Cheese Dip
Multi-Grain BreadClassic German Cheese Spread
German Side Dishes: German Bread at its best

Remember to pair your bread with a cheese spread or dip that suits your taste, and enjoy the comforting flavors of Germany in each bite.

Modern Takes on Classic Sides

You’ll find that German cuisine has embraced a delightful fusion of tradition and innovation. Especially when it comes to side dishes, chefs and home cooks are experimenting with beloved classics, infusing them with new flavors and techniques.

Innovative Spätzle Mixes

German Side Dishes Innovative Spätzle Mixes
by Pinterest

German Spätzle, a type of soft egg noodle, has been reimagined in an array of creative ways. Spinach Spätzle brings a vibrant pop of color and a nutritional boost, pairing excellently with cream-based sauces or as a base for heartier dishes. Additionally, experimentation with various flours such as buckwheat or spelt adds a new dimension of texture and taste to this traditional noodle.

Modern Spätzle VariationsDescriptionPairing Suggestions
Spinach SpätzleGreen-tinted noodlesCreamy sauces, mushroom dishes
Whole Grain SpätzleNutty, robust flavorStews, roasted meats
German Side Dishes: Modern Spaetzle Variations

Global Influences

German Side Dishes Schupfnudeln
by Pinterest

The integration of global flavors has led to reinvented German potato noodles, like Schupfnudeln. They’ve been adapted into dishes featuring a blend of herbs, spices, and ingredients like curry or chili, reflecting a more international palate. Simultaneously, sides such as rice and French fries have been incorporated into German menus, often with a unique twist like the addition of truffle oil or esoteric seasonings. Kroketten, once a simple mashed potato ball, now might feature sweet potatoes, beets, or even a fusion of cheeses.

Here’s how the classics are being turned up a notch:

  • German Potato Noodles (Schupfnudeln)
    • Add-ins: Curry powder, fresh herbs
    • Served with: Exotic chutneys, spiced cream sauces
  • Global Side Influences
    • Rice: Truffled rice, saffron-infused rice
    • French Fries: Seasoned with paprika, Parmesan cheese
    • Kroketten: Filled with goat cheese, herbs, even gourmet meats

Our Opinion about German Side Dishes

As you can see, classic German side dishes are very versatile. In addition to the classics that rely on the addition of meat, there are also a variety of alternatives that can be made vegetarian or vegan. These healthy side dishes are what make a German menu so unique. Try it out and mix a great German menu with your local specialties at home. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, we would say.

FAQ about German Side Dishes

What are traditional German side dishes?

Traditional German side dishes include sauerkraut, red cabbage, and potato salad.

What are some popular potato side dishes in Germany?

Popular potato side dishes in Germany include kartoffelsalat (potato salad), bratkartoffeln (pan-fried potatoes), and kartoffelpuffer (potato pancakes).

What are common vegetable side dishes in German cuisine?

Common vegetable side dishes in German cuisine include rotkohl (red cabbage), grüne bohnen (green beans), and gemüsepfanne (mixed vegetable sauté).

Do you miss anything in this article about Traditional German side dishes? Let us know in the comments below.

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Hauke Müller

Hauke was born in Northern Germany and has made it his mission to bring people closer to his homeland with this blog. He is fascinated by the beauty, diversity, good food and tradition in the individual parts of the country and invites you to get to know the best sides of Germany with him. Join him on a journey through wonderful Germany.

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