40+ Festive German Christmas Recipes
Some of the best Christmas traditions, like holiday markets and decorating trees (and not to mention some of the best Christmas cookies around), originated in Germany. And with hearty dishes like pork loin, spaetzle, potato salad, and sausages, German cuisine feels especially appropriate for Christmastime, and desserts from stollen to springerle make perfect holiday treats. We’ve rounded up our best German recipes for Christmastime, from intricate cookies to satisfying sides.
Jewel-like brandy-soaked fruit in an enriched dough–this bread is a joyous celebration of the season.
Bacon-Roasted Potatoes and Shallots
This is a hot riff on the German potato salad my mother used to make. Here, pre-cooking the shallots helps ensure they get deeply browned and jammy in the oven. The bacon fat goes really far here, too, enhancing the molasses-y, malty finish. The technique you're left with is this: Cut up whichever tuber or root vegetable you have, pre-cook garlic/shallot/onion-like thing, toss in liquid fat, high-heat roast, "dress" with something glaze-y late in the process, and finish with fresh herbs.
German Roast Pork & Sauerkraut
Succulent pork gets dressed up with loads of saeurkraut for an authentic German experience.
Herring and Apple Salad
This is a version of heringsalat (herring salad), which is traditionally prepared with herring, apples, and raw onions. You can substitute smoked trout for herring. Serve with a well-chilled lager and Brown Beer Rye Bread. Garnish with dill sprigs.
Spaetzle Baked with Ham and Gruyère
Springerle is a type of German Christmas cookie with an embossed design made by pressing a mold onto rolled dough and allowing the impression to dry before baking. This preserves the detail of the surface pattern. The typical springerle ingredients are eggs, flour, butter and anise seeds.
In this version of these traditional German spice cookies, the edges are slightly crisp and the middles, soft and chewy. They're topped with a confectioners' sugar icing that is thicker than the classic see-through glaze. It's important to freeze the soft batter until very firm, so it can be easily scooped onto the baking sheets.
Poppy-Seed Braid (Mohnzopf)
The dough for this absolutely stunning poppy-seed braid (faux-braid, to be precise, but more on that in a minute) is actually quite unusual, as it’s a mix of yeasted dough and short-crust dough kneaded together. In Germany, it’s called Zwillingsteig (meaning “twin dough”) and was popular in bygone times for cakes made with fresh fruit, but the style has fallen by the wayside in recent decades. It is making a bit of a comeback, though, as all good things do. Zwillingsteig is a richer, moister dough than regular yeasted doughs, and keeps for a little while longer, too.
Here, the dough is rolled out and spread with a creamy, vanilla-scented poppy-seed filling, then rolled up into a big log. For this poppy-seed roll, also known as Mohnzopf, you use a pair of sharp shears to snip the log crosswise at regular intervals. The snipped pieces of the roll are then peeled back, alternating to the left and the right, creating a gorgeous braided loaf that will impress absolutely everyone who sees it.
The poppy-seed bread recipe makes two relatively large loaves, which is great if you’re baking for a larger group or if you have a particularly lovely neighbor you’d like to share one with. Otherwise, you can freeze one of the loaves in a large plastic freezer bag. Defrost by setting the loaf out at room temperature for three to four hours before serving, and then warming it slightly in a 200°F oven. Don’t leave it in the oven for more than few minutes or it will dry out. This works best with an unglazed loaf.
Poppy-Seed Braid (Mohnzopf)
Excerpted from Classic German Baking: The Very Best Recipes for Traditional Favorites, from Pfeffernüsse to Streuselkuchen by Luisa Weiss. Copyright © 2016. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.
Apple-Stuffed Pork Chops
Port, dried fruit, and pistachios embellish the stuffing for these meaty pork chops. Tart Granny Smith apple provides a nice foil for the sweet dried plums and port wine, but you can use your favorite apple or pear in its place.
Glühwein (Mulled Wine)
Colorado's Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro welcomes guests with pretty glass mugs of this steaming wine, garnished with a slice of blood orange when it's in season. Since glühwein (German for "glow wine") is heated and infused with spices, don't bother with your best bottle to make it; just choose a red wine you wouldn't mind drinking.
Chicken Soup with Cabbage and Apple
Chicken Soup with Cabbage and Apple is the definition of hearty in a bowl. Earthy green cabbage mingles with moist shredded chicken, chicken sausage, and broth-soaked potatoes. Tart, crunchy apple slices add a fruity counterpoint to this German-inspired soup.
German-Style Potato Salad
Made with a vinaigrette, green onions, and bacon, German-Style Potato Salad is a super-quick side dish that can be made in 20 minutes.
Individual Apple Strudels
You can make these several hours ahead; tent loosely with foil and leave at room temperature. Put in a 400° oven for a few minutes to warm and crisp just before serving.
This creamy dish is a great option for those nights you feel like doing “something different” with pasta. Smoky sausage deliciously balances tangy mustard and vinegar, while fresh herbs contribute brightness in this decadent spaghetti dinner.
Goat Cheese Mousse
Quark is a German fresh cheese that is available in specialty stores. You can also substitute 4 ounces ricotta cheese blended with 1 tablespoon sour cream.
Grilled Beer-cooked Sausages
James Bullard simmers his sausages in beer first, which makes for quick grilling and helps feed guests fast. We love these smeared with coarse-grain mustard on crusty rolls. The onions take on a lot of the ale's flavor, including its slight bitterness. Leave them off your sausage if you're sensitive to bitter flavors.
Bavarian Sauerkraut Bread
This tangy and delicious gluten-free bread would fit well on a German-themed menu.
Dried-Cherry Streusel Kuchen
This lightly spiced coffeecake with a streusel topping may be the most familiar kuchen to Americans.
Spaetzle Baked with Ham and Gruyère
Suzanne Fossett's German grandmother never wrote down the recipe for her favorite spice cookies; it took Suzanne and her mother years to re-create the cookie they remembered.
Rubbed Pork Loin with Apricot Glaze and Sauerkraut
"My mother was part German, and this dish represented her heritage," says David Bonom. The recipe taught him three important lessons: Rubbing spices on meat adds great flavor; fruit and pork are a delicious combination; and cooking the sauerkraut in the pan with the pork offers a flavor contrast. Serve with green beans and a glass of riesling or a bottle of beer.
Potato, Turnip, and Spinach Baeckeoffe
Translated from the Germanic Alsatian dialect, baeckeoffe means "baker's oven," as it was traditionally a dish that was brought to the local baker to cook in his oven. Classic versions are loaded with meat, but our vegetarian riff is equally hearty and rich.
German Potato Pancakes
Wine-braised Seafood Choucroute
Time: About 2 hours. Comforting Alsatian choucroute—a tangle of seasoned sauerkraut, usually served with pork—is mighty hard on wine. But for centuries, Alsatians have been happily pairing choucroute with their own wines: dry Riesling and Gewürztraminer. (For our Western picks, see below.) Serve the choucroute with little red potatoes.
Durlacher Hof Austrian Ricotta Crêpes
Notes: At Durlacher Hof in Whistler, British Columbia, Erika Durlacher makes topfen palatschinken, German for crêpes filled with curd cheese. Serve them with cranberry sauce, a sweetened purée of fresh raspberries, or a poached fruit compote. If making ahead, fill crêpes, cover, and chill up to 1 day, then pour custard over them just before baking.
Roasted Grape and Pear Kuchen
Fruit paired with cake is a magical thing, to say the least. Kuchen, traditional German yeast cake, is typically adorned with a variety of crunchy nuts, tart fruits, and creamy cheeses. A slice of this southern inspired sweet treat will have you reaching for another!
Spicy Cucumber Relish
Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Cabbage
This modern twist on hearty German fare gets a fiber boost from savoy cabbage and a crunchy-tart finish from cranberries and almonds. Be sure to let the pork rest atop the cabbage mixture; the juices infuse it with rich, meaty flavor.
Black Forest Cherry Cake
The original cake has many layers; our streamlined version is easy to assemble and doesn't sacrifice any flavor or presentation panache. The heavy cherry filling may cause the cake to sink slightly in the center once assembled, but it won't detract from the stunning presentation.
Warm Potato-Watercress Salad
Notes: If making salad up to 6 hours ahead, don't mix in the watercress; cover salad and chill. Add the chopped watercress and the leaves just before serving.
Raspberry-Chocolate Chip Kaiserschmarrn
Kaiserschmarrn is an Austrian dessert named for a former emperor who loved shredded pancakes. In this indulgent version, we created the fluffiest pancake you've ever had, cut it into pieces, gave it crispy, buttery edges, and served it with lucious toppings like raspberry and chocolate. It truly is a breakfast fit for royalty. Go ahead and eat in bed; the bite-sized pieces make it less messy than regular pancakes.
Mushroom Stew with Spaetzle
Spaetzle—small German noodles or dumplings—are paired with a thick mushroom gravy.
Austrian Cheese Spread with Pumpkin Seed Oil
Pumpkin seed oil from southern Austria gives this spread its nutty flavor.
The Southern dessert canon is loaded with sweet treats that represent cultural influences that have swept through our region, specifically in Kentucky, Louisiana, and Texas. As a result, we’ve been spoiled by a number of treats including kuchen, a German word meaning “cake.” In her book, Cake: A Slice of History, food historian Alysa Levene explains that German immigrants were fond of social occasions that called for coffee and cake. “The German style of kaffe und kuchen was part of Irma Rombauer’s family heritage and explains the heavy presence of German cakes in The Joy of Cooking,” she writes. While some types of kuchen are more bread-like and made with a yeasted dough, our version has a tender, fluffy crumb and a dimpled top covered with strawberries and almonds.
Brown Beer Rye Bread
Hearty breads like rye and pumpernickel are German culinary standards. This version uses stone-ground rye flour and caraway seeds, a favorite spice in German cooking. Serve with Herring and Apple Salad, or use it to make sandwiches with Pork Loin Braised with Cabbage or Turkey Bratwurst Patties.