Eating is about much more than simple nourishment.
Anyone who’s gobbled a smoky, spicy wurst (sausage) straight from a Berlin food stand knows.
It’s about comfort, flavor, traditions and culture.
It’s something that connects us to friends, family or the places we visit.
So if you really want to improve not only your German language skills, but also your understanding of Germany itself, it’s time to sit down with a knife and fork.
This article will introduce you to more than 60 important German food vocabulary words for your shopping, cooking and dining needs. We’ll also give you some study tips to incorporate these words and German food culture as a whole into your life.
Basic German Dishes and Food Culture
Every German likes a hearty, traditional, home-cooked meal. Preferably some Sauerbraten (a type of pot roast), Bratwurst (German sausage) or Käsespätzle (a German noodle dish), but there’s a lot of variety between regions. Typical German food is rather heavy and often includes meat, accompanied by some side dish such as noodles, potatoes or dumplings in all forms.
While German food remains popular, we can also see a trend toward a more international cuisine. One of Germany’s favorite dishes is Spaghetti Bolognese, which is meaty but not very German. If you don’t like meat, don’t worry—you’ll be able to find vegetarian options.
For those who like it sweet, Germany’s cuisine is also filled with delicious cakes and pastries. You can also find an incredible range of chocolates, cookies and candies on the store shelves.
Typically, Germans start their day with a nice breakfast, consisting of a bread roll or a slice of wholegrain bread with ham and cheese, or butter and jam, all washed down with a strong cup of coffee. Some people prefer healthier options such as cereal with fruit.
Lunch is considered the main meal of the day. Dinner is usually a smaller, cold meal including an assortment of deli meats and sausages, cheese, German wholegrain bread and a variety of vegetables.
However, with today’s busy lifestyles many people eat their warm meal in the evening.
Many families keep traditions up by having a fancy, home-cooked German family lunch on weekends.
Tips for Top Chef Status in Your German Kitchen
Get Familiar with German Food Measurements
Before you get out your measuring cups, it’s important to know that Germans use the metric system. Gramm/g (grams), Liter/l (liters) and Kilogramm/kg (kilograms) are the main measurements you need for grocery shopping and cooking in Germany. They also use Celsius/C instead of Fahrenheit.
Don’t worry, you don’t need to buy new scales and measurement tools—you can simply use a conversion chart or an online conversion tool.
Some German recipes also use the U.S. measurements TL/Teelöffel (teaspoon) and EL/Esslöffel (tablespoon).
Be Aware of Grammatical Gender and Plurals
As you probably know, all German nouns come with an article. We’ve got the masculine der, the feminine die, the neutral das and the plural die.
Be aware that some foods, such as das Obst (fruit) der Reis (rice) and die Butter (butter) don’t have a plural word. If you need to use them in plural, you can simply use the singular article plus the singular noun. For some other German words, such as der Zucker (sugar), das Gemüse (vegetables) and der Käse (cheese), the plural form is the same as the singular, but the article changes.
The easiest way to memorize food vocabulary with the correct articles is to label items around your house with the article included. In other words, think of the article as a permanent part of the word itself.
Don’t have the time or patience to draw up all those labels yourself? Just grab some Vocabulary Stickers, which are fun, durable vocabulary labels for household items including food and kitchen words. The best part is they all come color-coded according to the article, which makes them that much more memorable.
And, to get lots of practice with plurals and gender, check out some recipe videos on FluentU, for treats like Chocolate Cream Bars or Pflück-Schnecken (Plucking-Snails), an imaginatively named pastry.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
With interactive captions that give you instant definitions, pronunciations and further usage examples—as well as multimedia flashcards, adaptive quizzes and bilingual video transcripts—you’ll have all the ingredients you need to cook up authentic German learning!
Make Grocery Shopping a Learning Experience
Every trip to a German food market will automatically turn into a great learning experience. Just take your time, read the different labels and try to memorize the names of different items.
Even if you haven’t had the chance to visit Germany yet, you can still turn your grocery shopping into a fun vocabulary game at home. Just write your shopping list in German with the help of your German textbook or dictionary and then try to find the right items at the store.
Pro tip: being able to talk about quantities comes in handy during grocery shopping or when ordering food at a restaurant. When asking for a quantity “of” something, Germans simply skip the “of.” For example:
ein Stück Kuchen – a slice of cake
drei Kilogramm Äpfel – three kilograms of apples
100 Gramm Schinken – 100 grams of ham
eine Scheibe Käse – one slice of cheese
zwei Säcke Kartoffeln – two bags of potatoes
ein bisschen Zucker – a bit of sugar
ein Glas Wasser – a glass of water
Cook German Recipes
What would you like to cook today? Some hearty meat dish or maybe some sweet German dessert?
German recipes are a great way to test your vocabulary knowledge. If you don’t feel confident about it yet, don’t worry, you can still use your dictionary.
The website Essen & Trinken (Eat & Drink) provides you with a great variety of easy recipes, for every taste.
62 Useful German Food Vocabulary Words for Hungry Language Learners
Typisch Deutsche Lebensmittel (Typical German Foods)
A small selection of foods that you’ll eat a lot when in Germany:
Das Schwarzbrot/die Schwarzbrote
German bread, typically of dark brown color and made with wholemeal rye flour. You’ll find a huge selection of Schwarzbrot in German bakeries and grocery stores.
Die Brezel/die Brezeln
A type of baked bread product made from dough shaped into a twisted knot.
Der Leberkäse (no plural)
Also called Fleischkäse, this is a German meatloaf and common snack food in the south of Germany.
Der Quark (no plural)
Quark is a type of fresh dairy product, somewhat similar to soft fresh cheese. It can be used for everything from cake recipes to dips and low fat spreads.
Das Sauerkraut (no plural)
Sauerkraut is cabbage that has been fermented by various lactic acid bacteria. In Germany it’s a very common side dish.
Die Bratwurst/die Bratwürste
A German sausage usually made from pork and often served with Sauerkraut.
Die Weißwurst/die Weißwürste
A traditional white sausage from Bavaria, made from minced veal and pork back bacon.
Der Süße Senf (no plural)
Sweet mustard that comes from the south of Germany and is very common with sausages.
Essen Beschreiben (Describing Food)
Grundnahrungsmittel (Basic Foods)
|das Brot||die Brote||bread|
|die Nudel||die Nudeln||noodles|
|der Zucker||die Zucker||sugar|
|der Honig||die Honige||honey|
|die Marmelade||die Marmeladen||jam|
|das Öl||die Öle||oil|
|der Essig||die Essige||vinegar|
|das Salz||die Salze||salt|
|der Pfeffer||die Pfeffer||pepper|
Obst und Gemüse (Fruits and Vegetables)
|der Apfel||die Äpfel||apple|
|die Banane||die Bananen||banana|
|die Orange||die Orangen||orange|
|die Zitrone||die Zitronen||lemons|
|die Erdbeere||die Erdbeeren||strawberry|
|die Himbeere||die Himbeeren||raspberry|
|die Brombeere||die Brombeeren||blackberry|
|die Kartoffel||die Kartoffeln||potato|
|die Karotte||die Karotten||carrot|
|die Zwiebel||die Zwiebeln||onion|
|die Erbse||die Erbsen||pea|
|die Bohne||die Bohnen||bean|
|die Tomate||die Tomaten||tomato|
|die Gurke||die Gurken||cucumber|
|der grüne Salat||die grünen Salate||lettuce|
|der Spinat||die Spinate||spinach|
|der Kohl||die Kohle||cabbage|
Tierprodukte (Animal Products)
|die Milch||die Milche||milk (hardly ever used in plural)|
|das Ei||die Eier||egg|
|der Käse||die Käse||cheese|
|der Schinken||die Schinken||ham|
|die Wurst||die Würste||sausage|
|die Schokolade||die Schokladen||chocolate|
|das Bonbon||die Bonbons||candy|
|die Eiscreme||die Eiscremes||ice cream|
|der Keks||die Kekse||cookie|
|der Kuchen||die Kuchen||cake|
Feeling hungry yet? I bet you do.
So, let’s prepare some German food then!