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Sauerbraten with potato dumplings.jpg
Sauerbraten served with Kartoffelklöße (potato dumplings)
Typemeat course
Coursemain course
Place of originGermany
Region or statethroughout Germany and German-speaking regions.
Main ingredientsmeat (usually beef, veal, venison or horse), marinated in wine and/or vinegar, vegetables, and spices.

Sauerbraten (German: "sour roast" from sauer for "sour" or "pickled" and Braten for "roast meat")[1] is a German pot roast that can be prepared with a variety of meats—most often beef, but also from venison, lamb, mutton, pork, and traditionally, horse.[2][3][4] Before cooking, the cut of meat is marinated for several days (recipes vary from three to ten days) in a mixture of vinegar or wine, water, herbs, spices, and seasonings. Since usually tougher cuts of meat (like rump roast, or bottom round of beef) are used for Sauerbraten, the longer marinating of the meat acts to tenderize it, resulting in a finished dish that is tender, soft, and juicy. The ingredients of the marinade vary based on regional styles and traditions throughout Germany.

Sauerbraten is regarded as one of the national dishes of Germany.[5] It is one of the best-known German dishes, and is frequently found on the menus of German-style restaurants outside Germany. Several regional variations on the dish include those from Franconia, Thuringia, Rhineland, Saarland, Silesia, and Swabia.[2] In a few parts of Germany potato pancakes (either Kartoffelpuffer or Reibekuchen) are served with sauerbraten; many German-style restaurants in the US do this.[6]

Sauerbraten is traditionally served with traditional German side dishes, such as Rotkohl (red cabbage), Knödel or Kartoffelklöße (potato dumplings), Spätzle (an egg and flour noodle), and boiled potatoes.[7][8]


Julius Caesar has been assigned a role in the inspiration for sauerbraten as he sent amphoras filled with beef marinated in wine over the Alps to the newly founded Roman colony of Cologne. According to this legend (Julius Caesar was murdered in 44 BC and the Roman city of Cologne was founded in 50 AD), this inspired the residents of Cologne to imitate the Roman import.[9] While quite common, these claims are largely unsubstantiated.

Several sources believe sauerbraten was invented by Charlemagne in the 9th century AD as a means of using leftover roasted meat.[10][11] Saint Albertus Magnus, also known as Saint Albert the Great and Albert of Cologne, is also credited with popularizing the dish in the 13th century.[12][unreliable source?]

Sauerbraten was originally made from horse meat; this is still done by many traditional restaurants, particularly in the Rhineland, but today, sauerbraten is most often made from beef.[3][13]

Regional variations[edit]

Rheinischer Sauerbraten, in which raisins are added to provide a sweet balance to the sourness and acidity of the marinade

There are many regional variants of sauerbraten. Many of the variations are in the ingredients used for the marinade in which the cut of meat is immersed for several days before cooking.

Generally, the marinade's base is either red wine, vinegar or a combination of both. While Germany largely produces white wines such as Riesling and Gewürztraminer, regions of Germany that are closer to France often use red wine as the base for the marinade. Wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar and other varieties can be used as a base. Recipes from eastern regions of Germany closer to Poland and the Czech Republic tend to use vinegar as the base more frequently. In many regions, wine and vinegar are used together.

  • Rheinischer Sauerbraten is prepared in Germany's Rhineland region—along the valley of the Rhine River. Raisins and sometimes sugar beet syrup are added in cooking to provide sweetness to complement the sourness of the marinade.[9]


Selection of the roast[edit]

Sauerbraten can be made with many different kinds of roasting meat. Tougher, less expensive cuts of meat are used—typically a rump roast or bottom round of beef.

Venison or other game are often prepared as sauerbraten as the spices and vinegar take away the gamey taste of the meat.[10]

Marinating the roast[edit]

Sauerbraten marinating

A solid cut from the bottom round[14] or rump is marinated for three or four days,[15] or as many as 10,[16] before cooking.

Red wine vinegar and wine typically form the basis of the marinade, which also includes earthy aromatic spices such as peppercorns, juniper berries, cloves, nutmeg, and bay leaves and less commonly coriander, mustard seed, cinnamon, mace, ginger, and thyme.[3][17][18] The marinade may also include vegetables such as onions, celery, and carrots.[15] The acidic marinade helps tenderize the meat (which is typically a tougher cut) before it cooks. Buttermilk is also used as a marinade in certain regional varieties.[6][19]

It is frequently advised to marinate the meat in an earthenware, glass, plastic, or enamel container rather than one made of bare metal, as the acidic marinade would react with a metal vessel during the extended marinating.

Cooking the roast[edit]

After the meat is removed from the marinade and dried, it is first browned in oil or lard and then braised with the strained marinade in a covered dish in a medium oven or on the stovetop. After simmering for four hours or more, depending on the size of the roast, the marinade will continue to flavor the roast and, as the meat cooks, its juices will also be released resulting in a very tender roast.

Preparing the gravy[edit]

After the roast is cooked, the marinade is strained and returned to a saucepan where it is thickened (often with crushed gingerbread, lebkuchen, or gingersnaps, flour, sour cream, brown sugar, and/or roux)[3][20] which add body and flavor to the sauce. Before it closed in 1982, Luchow's German restaurant in New York City used crushed gingersnap cookies to season and thicken the gravy of its sauerbraten, one of the favored dishes.[6][21] This style was made popular in the U.S. after the publication of “Luchow's German Cookbook: The Story and the Favorite Dishes of America's Most Famous German Restaurant” by Jan Mitchell in 1952.[15]


Packaged sauerbraten seasonings are available.[22][23] Cooked sauerbraten in marinade is sold in some supermarkets.

While sauerbraten is most traditionally eaten with beer,[24] it pairs well with the following wine varietals: Burgundy,[25] Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Gewürztraminer, Pinot noir, Riesling, and Syrah.[26][unreliable source?]


  1. ^ The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (4th Ed.). (2006)
  2. ^ a b Sheraton 1965, p.147.
  3. ^ a b c d Kummer 2007, p. 553.
  4. ^ Casada 1996, p. 30.
  5. ^ Garrett 1898.
  6. ^ a b c Saekel 2005, F-5.
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-07-07. Retrieved 2010-07-08.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ Barer-Stein 1999, pp. 172–174.
  9. ^ a b Hassani 2004, p.156.
  10. ^ a b Schmidt 2003, p.94.
  11. ^ Herter 1995.
  12. ^ April 2 Today's Events in Food History
  13. ^ Babcock 2002 p.248.
  14. ^ The Culinary Institute of America Publisher 2006, p.178.
  15. ^ a b c Mitchell 1953, p.106.
  16. ^ Sales 1977, p.176.
  17. ^ Sauerbraten Blend of Whole Spices
  18. ^ Wood 1983, p.95.
  19. ^ Richards 1966, p.182.
  20. ^ Youngkrantz 1997, p.105.
  21. ^ O'Neill 1992, p. 181.
  22. ^ Knorr Entree Mixes-Pot Roast (Sauerbraten) Recipe Mix, 2-Ounce Packet (Pack of 12): Grocery & Gourmet Food
  23. ^ Alba Sauerbraten Spices, 0.53-Ounce Packets (Pack of 12): Grocery & Gourmet Food
  24. ^ Jackson 1998, p.53.
  25. ^ Mitchell 1953, p. 107
  26. ^ Sauerbraten Wine Pairing | Food and Wine Pairings | Pair Food and Wine


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  • Barer-Stein, Thelma (1999). You Eat What You Are. A FireFly Book.
  • Casada, Jim & Casada, Ann (1996). The Complete Venison Cookbook: From Field to Table. Krause Publications.
  • Garrett, Theodore Francis (Ed.) (1898). The Encyclopedia of Practical Cookery. L. Upcott Gill, 170, Strand, W.C. London. Vol. III.
  • Hassani, Nadia (2004). Spoonfuls of Germany: Culinary Delights of the German Regions in 170 Recipes. Hippocrene Books.
  • Herter, George Leonard & Herter, Berthe (1995). Bull Cook and Authentic Historical Recipes and Practices (9th ed.). Ecco.
  • Jackson, Michael (1998). Ultimate Beer. DK ADULT.
  • Kummer, Madison (2007). 1,001 Foods to Die For. Andrews McMeel Publishing.
  • Mitchell, Jan (1953). Luchow's German Cookbook: The Story and the Favorite Dishes of America's Most Famous German Restaurant. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc.
  • O'Neill, Molly (1992). New York Cookbook: From Pelham Bay to Park Avenue, Firehouses to Four-Star Restaurants. Workman Publishing Company.
  • Richards, Lenore & Treat, Nola (1966). Quantity Cookery: Menu Planning and Cooking for Large Numbers (4th ed.). Little, Brown, & Co.
  • Saekel, Karola (December 28, 2005). "Sauerbraten recipe surfaces just in time". San Francisco Chronicle, F-5.
  • Sales, Georgia (1977). The Clay Pot Cookbook. Wiley & Sons.
  • Schmidt, Gretchen (2003). German Pride: 101 Reasons to Be Proud You're German. Citadel Press.
  • Sheraton, Mimi (1965). The German Cookbook: A Complete Guide to Mastering Authentic German Cooking. Random House.
  • The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (4th ed.). (2006) Houghton Mifflin Company.
  • The Culinary Institute of America (2011). The Professional Chef (9th ed.). Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons. p. 587. ISBN 978-0-470-42135-2. OCLC 707248142.
  • Wood, Morrison (1983). Through Europe with a Jug of Wine. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, p. 95.
  • Youngkrantz, Gini (1997). Authentic German Home Style Recipes (4th ed.). B. G. Youngkrantz Company.