After eating and drinking to bursting, these are my picks for the best German Christmas market food and drinks!
I have to admit something… In the past, I’ve never been a big fan of German food. After all, as a vegetarian, bratwurst and pork knuckle aren’t exactly the most enticing dishes in the world. However, after my recent journey to find the best Christmas Markets in Europe, my feelings towards German food have shifted. Out of the five different countries I visited, Germany ended up having the BEST selection of festive food and drink on offer at their Christmas Markets! I can now admit that this country’s cuisine is a little more than just meat, potatoes and beer. In fact, here are 21 delicious, vegetarian-friendly things that you simply MUST try when visiting Germany’s incredible Christmas Markets!
The Best German Christmas Market Food & Drinks to Try
1. Kartoffelpuffer (potato pancakes)
One of the most popular snacks you’ll find at the Christmas Markets is kartoffelpuffer, which are fried potato pancakes. They basically taste like really crispy hash browns and are just as delicious as they sound. Traditionally, they are served with apple sauce, however you’ll commonly find a range of sweet or savoury condiments to go alongside (I personally enjoyed the sour cream option).
2. Champignons (mushrooms)
Hands down my favourite dish that I consumed at the Christmas Markets were the champignons. Mushrooms are fried up with butter and garlic in massive frying pans and then are typically topped with a delicious creamy garlic sauce. You can smell the fragrant goodness of these are a mile away!
If you want to try Germany’s version of pizza, you’ve got to try flammkuchen. This thin flatbread is topped with various cheeses, meats and/ or vegetables and baked in the oven. The great part is the base is so thin that you can easily eat your way through one of these without getting overly full!
As is the case with most great German foods, schupfnudeln is another dish made of potato. The best way I can describe schupfnudeln is finger-shaped potato gnocchi. Typically, the dish is served with sauerkraut, however last time I was at the Cologne Christmas Markets I found a delicious Mediterranean take on the dish, where the potatoes were topped with sundried tomato, rocket, pine nuts and yoghurt. Speaking of which, both Cologne and nearby city Bonn has some fabulous Christmas markets to explore.
Read next: What to do in Bonn
5. Bratwurst/ Currywurst
If there is one thing that German’s LOVE, it’s their sausages. There are certainly no shortage of them at the Christmas Markets- you can basically find a bratwurst stand everywhere you turn your head (alternatively, just follow your nose). The other sausage-based dish you’ll no doubt see around is currywurst, which is basically sausage sliced up and tossed around in a sweet curry ketchup. To my surprise and delight, I actually managed to find vegetarian bratwurst and currywurst at the main Christmas Markets in Hamburg so I didn’t miss out on trying this typical German delicacy!
6. Dresdner Handbrot
One of my other favourite Christmas Market foods was dresdner handbrot, or stuffed bread. The one I tried encompassed fluffy, doughy bread stuffed with cheese and mushrooms, cooked in the oven, then topped with sour cream and chives and chopped into pieces. The cheese and ham is also a popular variation. Would highly recommend!
Pfaffenglück is another bread-based treat that you may see at some of the markets. However, what makes it unique is that this baked flat bread is mainly made of rye flour and has herbs incorporated in the dough. You can choose from all sorts of toppings to go on the bread and then it is generally doused in sour cream.
A very typically Bavarian dish, käsespätzle is Germany’s answer to mac n cheese. These little noodle dumplings are combined with a rich, cheesy sauce and topped with fried shallots. It isn’t quite as common to find this dish sold at Christmas Markets however any Bavarian beer hall will be sure to serve it up!
9. Schaumkuss (marshmallows)
First, let me preface by saying I am not normally a big marshmallow fan. Schaumkuss, however, won my heart over at first bite. These adorable-looking chocolate-coated marshmallows come in an overwhelming variety of flavours. At first I thought the flavours were just for the coating, but on biting into my caramel-almond schaumkuss I learnt that the flavour is also incorporated into the perfectly light, fluffy marshmallow as well.
10. Gebrannte Mandeln (Roasted Almonds)
There really is absolutely nothing like the sweet, sweet smell of freshly roasted almonds. It is by far one of my favourite smells in the world, making it really difficult to walk past a stall selling gebrannte mandeln and not indulge. This is definitely one of the most popular Christmas Market snacks, so you’ll find people stirring big cauldrons of sugar and nuts everywhere you go.
11. Lebkuchen (Gingerbread)
Possibly one of the most classic Christmas treats of all is of course gingerbread, or lebkuchen as it is known in Germany. If you are a gingerbread fanatic like me, I would highly recommend heading to Nuremberg as this is where some of the best lebkuchen in the whole country is produced. I will never forget the first bite I took into Nuremberg lebkuchen- it absolutely melted in my mouth and sent me into a spice-infused ecstasy.
12. Marones (Chestnuts)
There is nothing that says Christmas like chestnuts roasting by the open fire, so you can imagine my excitement when I visited my first Christmas market where chestnuts really were roasting by the open fire. Chestnuts themselves have a bit of an acquired taste but I personally quite enjoy the neutral taste and soft texture of these little gems.
13. Fruchtspieße (Fruit Skewers) & Paradiesäpfel (Candied apples)
Fruchtspieße and paradiesäpfel really are the eye candy of the German Christmas markets. It’s hard not to admire the beautifully decorated skewers of fruit and candy-coated apples presented at market stalls and it’s even harder not to indulge. You’ll find everything from bananas and strawberries to melon doused in different kinds of chocolate- perhaps a good detoxing snack before facing the next lot of fried potatoes?
Mutzenmandeln is a very typical German fair snack, which basically involves dough triangles being deep-fried and covered in confectioner’s sugar. They are rather reminiscent of mini doughnuts with a little less flavour and density. I wasn’t personally a big fan, but they are quite a fun treat to share if you are into your deep-fried goods.
15. Crepes / Waffles
They may not be typical to Germany, but crepes and waffles are an ever-popular snack that you’ll find sold at most Christmas markets. Most of the time the crepes will have a very expansive range of both sweet and savoury toppings. I personally can’t go past a good banana and Nutella crepe.
It may originally be from Austria, but apelstrudel is still one of Germany’s favourite desserts, and for very good reason. Layers of pastry surround spicy poached apple and sultanas, and this dessert can only made more perfect when accompanied by vanilla icecream or drizzled in custard. Again, it isn’t always sold at the Christmas markets, but you will likely be able to find it at most typical German restaurants.
Schneeballen, or snowballs, are treats that involve dough cut into strips, formed into a ball and fried then covered in toppings. However, be warned- schneeballen may look exciting and delicious, but they taste super flavourless and are very dry in texture. I wouldn’t recommend (unless you curiosity really gets the better of you).
18. Gluhwein (mulled wine)
One cannot visit the German Christmas markets and not indulge in a glass of mulled wine, or as it is known in Germany, Gluhwein. This nectar of the gods is made from heating red wine, sugar and spices and is really the only way to stay warm in the winter chill.
If there is one drink I URGE you to try at the Christmas markets, it’s the eierpunsch. Just imagine a blended, alcoholic apple strudel. I’ll admit, the ingredients sound like a strange combination- after all, the drink is made up of egg yolks, white wine, spices, vanilla, citrus juice, rum and a topping of cream. However, the blend of all these things make for a very unique, rich and delicious drink that you really just have to try to understand. Thank me later.
If you want to try gluhwein on steroids, feuerzangenbowle is for you. Basically, they take regular gluhwein, top it with a sugar cube soaked in rum, and set the sugar on fire. The result? A very alcoholic but delicious version of gluhwein. It’s certainly not for the faint-hearted!
21. Heiße Schokolade (Hot Chocolate)
There is nothing that warms the soul more than a big mug of heavenly hot chocolate, particularly when it’s topped with whipped cream and mini marshmallows. It really does help you forget any limbs that may be experiencing frostbite at the time. If you want your soul to REALLY be warmed, I would recommend spiking your hot chocolate with Baileys or another liquor of your choice.
What are your favorite German Christmas market food and drinks?
For more Christmas travel, read these next:
- 5 Best European Cities to Visit at Christmas
- The Weirdest Christmas Traditions Around the World
- A Guide to Exploring the BEST Christmas Markets in Europe