sauerbraten-spatzle-gravy
By Laura Rice, Epicure & Culture Contributor. Note that this post sharing an authentic German sauerbraten recipe contains affiliate links.

Authentic sauerbraten, Germany’s national dish, is a particularly special meal that truly reminds me of food’s power to comfort. 

Food also has the ability to connect you to your heritage, remember loved ones who are gone, celebrate family traditions, and spend valuable time with people you love — the latter of which is the main ingredient to a happy life, at least in my opinion. 

My mother’s German sauerbraten recipe has allowed me to do all of the above on many occasions, which is why I’m excited to share this magical dish with you right now.

easy sauerbraten recipe

A Strong Family Connection

I recently lost my 82-year old mother, Marje, who was a truly inspirational woman.

When she passed, a hole was left in my heart.

sauerbraten without gingersnaps is how my mom originally made hers
My mom and I in Alaska on Holland America Cruise.

She fought a tough battle with breast cancer and was persistent and optimistic to her end.

Fortunately, she had a wonderful life filled with loving family and friends, fantastic parties, delicious food, and amazing travel adventures.  

My mother even owned her own business in the mid-’60s; a beauty salon. She was elegant and stylish. She was fun!

And she was an excellent cook, as you’ll come to learn soon. 

germany's national dish was only one passion for Marje
My mom knew how to throw a party. Here she is at my parents’ Oktoberfest celebration.

Remembering My Mother & Her Love Of Travel

My mother was a twin and the daughter of German immigrants who settled in Chicago, Illinois, and later the nearby suburbs.  

While growing up, she traveled by boat to spend summers with family back in Deutschland.

After high school graduation in 1955, she traveled across the Atlantic once again by boat to spend the summer visiting family in Germany and touring Europe with her twin sister and their best friend, Joyce. 

friends loved my mom's old world sauerbraten recipe
Marje, Mille and their friend having fun as they cruise from New York to Gibraltar in 1955.

Listening to her share tales from this trip for decades, I often found myself wondering if these travel stories were elaborated on over the years. Could they possibly be true?  

While cleaning her home following her death, I discovered the itinerary, invoice, a photo album, and even a diary from this incredible journey.

I have certainly inherited her wanderlust and her love for fun. Most nights during her trip, getting “shut-eye” meant going to bed at 3am!

I love to travel and have even visited some of the same destinations on my personal and business trips, for instance, Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast.

Enjoying the beaches in Europe-1955
Marje, Millie and their friend, Joyce, enjoying the beaches in Europe during their 1955 tour.

Some of the destinations visited on her epic 10-week trip included:

  • Spain (Gibraltar, Algeciras, Seville, Lisbon, Madrid, Zaragoza, Barcelona)
  • Morocco (Tangier)
  • France (Paris, Nice, Monaco)
  • Italy (Pisa, Rome, Naples, Pompeii, Sorrento, Capri, Naples, Florence, Venice)
  • Austria (Innsbruck, Vienna)
  • Switzerland (Geneva, Zurich)
  • Germany (Garmisch, Stuttgart, Zweibrucken, Worschweiler, Fischbach, Heidelberg, Bodensee, Munchen)
  • and Luxembourg.
wine pairs well with authentic german sauerbraten
Drinking wine in my mom’s German wine glass while reading her 1955 travel diary.

The Power Of Authentic German Sauerbraten

Along with traveling, my mom loved to entertain. I grew up in the midst of poker matches and dinner parties.

Marje’s friends loved her classic German recipes. Sauerbraten and spaetzle was a meal often requested by friends and family.  

If you do it right, the rump roast should marinate for at least a week. That is exactly what my mother did with her recipe for sauerbraten.

In fact, my parents would prepare the marinade and meat on Sunday and we would enjoy it the following Sunday.

The anticipation was torture. Honestly, when people who have never tried it ask me, “What does sauerbraten taste like?” I can only reply, “Like heaven!”

Their recipe was delicious as it was, though during a recent business trip to Germany my colleague shared a tip from his own family’s recipe:

Instead of using flour to thicken the gravy, they use ginger snaps.  

When he took me to a local grocery store for some souvenir shopping I made sure to bring home ginger snaps for my next sauerbraten, in addition to candy and mustard, of course.

Neuschwanstein Castle
Enjoying a quick side-trip to Neuschwanstein Castle during a business trip in Germany

Traveling the globe for business and pleasure, it sometimes feels like the world is becoming more homogeneous. You can find Starbucks and other corporate chains in just about every country.

Luckily, recipes like Marje’s old-fashioned sauerbraten remind us to hold on to the connection we have to our past.

They remind us to not lose sight of the cultures these recipes come from, or how they’ve shaped who we have become. 

Please find the recipe for my family’s traditional sauerbraten below, which has been modified to include the ginger snap cookies. If you prefer sauerbraten without gingersnaps, you can use flour.

Give it a try, and then share your thoughts on this old world sauerbraten recipe in the comments!

Note that this is an easy sauerbraten recipe in the sense that the instructions are simple to follow; however, for the best results, you will want to allow at least five days for the preparation. 

authentic sauerbraten recipe
Sauerbraten served with spaetzle and gravy is a traditional, delicious German meal. Image by Hans Braxmeier from Pixabay.

Marje’s Authentic Sauerbraten Recipe

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 3- to 4-pound beef rump roast
  • 2 large yellow onions, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup red wine vinegar (can substitute with cider vinegar)
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 10 whole black peppercorns, cracked
  • 1 tablespoon sugar or honey
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 10 whole cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 10 ginger snap cookies, crushed

Instructions 

1. Place the onions, carrots, garlic, vinegar, wine, water, salt, peppercorns, sugar, rosemary, thyme, cloves, and bay leaves into a large pot or Dutch oven.

2. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the mixture to cool completely.

3. Add the rump roast to the Dutch oven with the marinade, cover, and refrigerate 5-7 days for the best results. Turn the meat daily.

4. After 7 days, remove the roast from the marinade and pat dry. Reserve the marinade and strain out herbs and vegetables.

5. Heat vegetable oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Brown roast on all sides, approximately 10 minutes per side.

6. Remove the roast, leaving 2-to-3 tablespoons of oil in the pot or Dutch oven. Add the vegetables back in and sprinkle with flour that has been flavored with salt and pepper. Cook over medium-low heat for 1 to 2 minutes.

7. Add the roast back to the pot or Dutch oven.

8. Pour reserved marinade over the roast and simmer at medium-low for 2 to 3 1/2 hours. The longer the roast is marinated, the less cooking time required.

9. Remove roast to platter and slice.

10. Strain solids from the remaining liquid and add ginger snap cookies to the liquid. Simmer for approximately 10 minutes to allow the gravy to thicken.

11. Serve gravy over sliced beef and enjoy.

12. My favorite side dish for this traditional meal is spaetzle. Check out this great spaetzle recipe from Linda at The Wanderlust Kitchen.

recipe for sauerbraten

How do you make old fashioned sauerbraten? Do you have any other traditional German recipes to share?

Further Exploration:

Traditional Germany: What Is Labskaus? [German Culture]

The Chef & The Dish Home Cooking Classes [Culinary Experiences]

Grandma’s German Cookbook [Kitchen Culture]

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6 Comments

  1. Thanks for such a beautifully written history and recipe. I’ll try this and post a response when I do!

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  4. Wonderful blog, thank you for the information.

  5. Darla Jane French

    Where do the cookies fit in at? Did I overlook them in the instructions?

  6. We enjoyed this Sauerbraten for dinner yesterday. It was wonderful!
    Thank you for sharing your recipe and it’s history.

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