Sauerbraten: The National Dish of Germany

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Sauerbraten is a German pot roast dish which can be prepared using a variety of meats. Mort often the Sauerbraten is made using beef but the other more popular versions include venison, lamb, mutton, pork and in some traditions horse meat as well. The Sauerbraten is also termed as the national dish of Germany and can be found in almost every German menu.

The many regions of Germany have their own variations of Sauerbraten but essentially it remains the same. Popularly: Rotkohl or the red cabbage, Knödel or Kartoffelklöße or potato dumplings, Spätzle which is an egg and flour noodle, and boiled potatoes are served along with the Sauerbraten.

Documents have shown that Julius Caesar was the inspiration behind the Sauerbraten. It was he who sent amphoras filled with beef marinated in wine across the Alps to the new Roman colony of Cologne. Among the claims and beliefs Charlemagne invented the dish sometime around the 9th century AD.

Sauerbraten also can be found in a number of variations across the region. Furthermore, these variations occur mainly in terms of the ingredients used for the marinade which requires the meat to be cut and then immersed in liquids for several days. Generally, either red wine, vinegar or a combination of both is used as the marinades base.


The following is the authentic recipe of Sauerbraten involving all the classical ingredients and preparation methods.

This recipe will require a combined preparation and cooking time of 3 hours and 30 minutes and can easily serve 6 individuals.


For the marinade

  • Dry red wine: 1 cup
  • Red wine vinegar: 1 cup
  • Cold water: 2 cups
  • Onion: 1 medium and thinly sliced
  • Black peppercorns: 1 tablespoons coarsely crushed
  • Juniper berries: 1 tablespoons coarsely crushed
  • Bay leaves: 2
  • Salt: 1 teaspoons
  • Sauerbraten spice: 2 to 3 tablespoons
  • Boneless beef: 4 pounds roasted

For the Roasting/Sauce ingredients

  • Butter: 3 tablespoons
  • Onions: 2 ½ cups diced
  • Carrots: 2 ½ cups diced
  • Celery: 1 ¼ diced
  • Flour: 2 tablespoons
  • Water: ½ cups
  • Gingersnap cookies: ¾ cups crumbled


Firstly you will need a large sized bowl for the margination purpose. In this bowl you will be required to gently add all the ingredients mentioned above in the margination section except the roasted beef. Next, take a large sized sauce pan with a capacity of approximately 2 to 3 quarts and add all the mixture of ingredients in it along with water. Then on high heat let the mixture come to boil. When that happens remove the sauce pan from the heat and allow it to cool down at room temperature.

Now, take a completely separate bowl of large dimensions. Ideally the bowl should be made of glass or ceramic as they are non-reactive, also it should be large enough to facilitate the pouring of marinade. Next, place the beef inside the bowl and pour the marinade into it. Check the level of the marinade; it should reach about half way the length of the beef. In case that does not happen add more of the wine. Then cover the open opening of the bowl tightly enough using a plastic wrap or a foil. With that done, refrigerate it for a period of 2 to 3 days. Also, more importantly remember to turn the beef twice every day. This will allow the marinade to penetrate the meat and enhance its flavouring.

Now, after the required time has elapsed remove the meat from the bowl and pat it dry completely using a regular but clean paper towel. Then you will be required to take the marinade and strain it by using a fine sieve and finally reserving the liquid for later use. As far as the spices and vegetables are concerned, you can discard them.

The next process requires a heavy Dutch oven measuring 5 quarts in volume. Take a large sized baking tray and heat butter till the point the initial bubbling stops. Then you can go on adding the meat and let it cook till the point when all its sides turn brown. Remember to turn it from time to time so that the browning process remains even on all sides. When the appropriate texture and colour is achieved transfer the meat into a platter and let it sit on the side for a while.

Now, for the roasting process you will be required to take the same pan in which you cooked the meat. Add onions, carrots and celery into the sauce pan and let them get cooked on medium heat. The idea is to let the vegetables become soft and attain brown colouring. Then you can go on sprinkling 2 tablespoons worth of flour over them and cook them further while stirring continuously. They should be cooked for 2 to 3 minutes more or till the point when the flour begins to change colour. Next, pour in 2 cups of the remaining marinade into the sauce pan along with ½ cup of water. Then mix them thoroughly and bring it to boil on high heat. With that done, you can place the meat into the saucepan and then cover the top using a lid. You can turn down the heat to low and cook it for 2 more hours or till the point where the meat becomes soft enough to allow perforation with a knife using gentle force. If you don’t want to cook the meat over gas, you can also bake it in the oven at 350 degrees for 2 hours.

When this preparation is complete, you can transfer the roast from the saucepan onto a heated platter and then cover it using a foil so that the content remains warm. Now, take the saucepan and pour the liquid into a large measuring cup. Then you will be required to remove the fat from the surface using the skimming process. Remember that one will need approximately 2 ½ cups of the liquid for the preparation of the sauce. In the case where this liquid seems insufficient, then you can add the reserved marinade from earlier.

Take a separate saucepan and combine the gingersnap crumbs into the liquid and let them get cooked for 10 minutes on medium heat while you must keep on stirring continuously. The idea is to let the cookie crumbs to dissolve completely and to thicken the sauce till the point the desired consistency is reached. You can also add more of the cookie crumbs to the liquid in case the need arises.

Then you can strain the sauce by using a fine sieve and then pressing down by using a wooden spoon. Then you can return this sauce to the pan. You will also have to check and adjust the amount of seasonings in the pan. let them simmer over low heat till it is ready to serve.

While serving, you can slice the roast and then place them on the serving plate. The sauce can be poured in the desired fashion.

Some tips and hints

The Sauerbraten traditionally speaking is served along with dumplings, boiled potatoes, spaetzli and red cabbage. The one problem which most face is the enormous preparation time, that is of 3 days. In any case all of this gets compensated once the savouring delight starts to dissolve in the mouth leading to an explosion of flavours.

If you feel that there is a requir3emetn of gingersnap cookies then do not hesitate and simply add them to the sauce till the desired consistency is reached. The purpose of the gingersnap cookies is simply to thicken the sauce and not add any sorts of flavouring.