For some reasons Germany (and increasingly, everywhere) thinks it’s OK to start the Christmas season months in advance. Germany’s sets up over 2,500 Christmas markets each year, and the first of them spring up in mid November. But among the tacky knick-knacks and terrible music, German Christmas markets have some great food – and you might never have heard of quite a few of them. So which are the best?
An absolute classic… potentially THE Weihnachtsmarkt food. Germans fight over what it’s called, but that’s only because they all love it. Reminiscent of a potato rosti, you shred potato and deep fry it, and then cover it with a sauce of your choosing. My pick? Kräuterquark. The texture is key though, the outside needs to be crispy and the inside soft.
Essentially a basic version of bread, Handbrot is a yeast dough roll in which you wrap up some other goodies before baking. The classic is cheese and diced bacon/ham, but these days you see plenty of vegetarian/vegan options. It’s traditional to top it with some quark, but don’t feel obliged to.
You could make the argument that Flammkuchen is pizza by another name. You shouldn’t, but you could. There’s nothing particularly Christmassy about it as far as I can tell, but you can find this dish at just about every Weihnachtsmarkt in the country.
A traditional dish in large parts of the German speaking world, Käsespätzle is Spätzle covered in Käse (literally, these words are Swabian for ‘little sparrow’ and German for cheese). Spätzle is actually an egg based pasta/dumpling/noodle depending on how you shape it. The further into eastern Europe you go, the more likely it is that they will refer to this same concoction by the local word for ‘button’. Cute!
Like Kartoffelpuffer, you will find this one everywhere as well. There are often fun local variants though, so don’t assume you know what you are in for. Look out for a giant pan set over a wood fire.
You’ve definitely seen these. These also have different names depending on where you are from, but my favourite is definitely tornado potato. It’s a potato (I mean, it’s Germany, what else?) cut into a spiral, deep fried and then covered in your choice of seasoning. The cooking process is particularly entertaining to watch.
Originally Hungarian, Germans loved it so much that it’s now a staple of the Weihnachtszeit diet. Pronounced Lang-gosh, it’s a deep fried flat bread that you can top it with anything you like really. Lots of purists go for just sugar, but others go for cheese, cream, bacon, cured meats, onion, you name it, there are no rules. The traditional way is garlic, cheese and ketchup.
They kind of stole this one too. It’s a Finnish style salmon dish, that you cook over an open flame. Served either as large fillets or put into a Lachsbrötchen that North Germany is famous for. No wonder they call them Fischköpfe!
1/2 meter Bratwurst
It’s no secret that Germans love sausage. Berliners are all about their Currywurst and Bavarians won’t shut up about Weißwurst. Luckily Christmas markets don’t discriminate, and you can get lots of different kinds of sausages from all around Germany and the world. My favourite though, is definitely the 1/2 metre Bratwurst. It’s exactly what you think it will be. 1/2 metre of meat, cut in two so it will fit inside a 25cm baguette style bun, covered in all the usual toppings. Yum.
Probably due to it being in-season, Grünkhol (kale) is everywhere you turn at a Christmas market. Usually cooking in a giant pan with a woodfire underneath, kale is a healthy addition to the sugar, fat and meat-heavy Weihnachtsmarkt menu. You usually order it paired with something else like a Wurst or a fillet of Lachs. Don’t skip your greens guys!
It’s generally culturally acceptable to start drinking warm alcoholic beverages as early as noon in Germany, so long as you bought it at a Christmas market. Maybe it’s because there are so many different kinds of drinks you need to try that you have to start so early. Beyond the standard red Glühwein, there are many different kinds of punch (get apple and quince if you can!) and at the historical Christmas markets it is even possible to get warm mead!
Sure, almonds are healthy. But after you’ve covered them in that much cinnamon and sugar, they definitely taste 10x better, but they have also put you on a fast track to a heart attack. Enjoy these addictive bites at your own peril.
Technically you are supposed to share one of these with a very special someone, but it is completely understandable to want the whole thing to yourself. These are apples, on a stick, dipped in melted sugar (and sometimes another kind of topping) and left to cool.
Deep fried sweet doughs of varying sizes and consistencies (some more cakey, some more donutish), don’t miss these classic desserts! Note, they are similar but not the same, and the Quarkbällchen have quark inside. Yes, that is permission for you to try them all!
You don’t even need to speak German to know what this one is. It’s fruit. Dipped in chocolate. Strawberries are the classic ones, but you can get many other varieties.
Churros are not even remotely German, but are somehow a staple at German Christmas markets. These traditional Spanish/Portugese desserts (again, huge fight over the origins, don’t ask) are essentially fried dough, covered in sugar or chocolate or both. Don’t question it, just go with it.
Once again, a little bit of cultural appropriation going on here. German’s will insist on pronouncing it the French way, they then refuse to make crêpes the way the French actually make it. Expect a German crêpe to be about half as sweet as it should be. Any parallel or connotation your brain has just made is your own fault and not ours. Put enough Nutella on it and it doesn’t matter anyway.