You will love Austrian food if you like hearty, flavoursome, and sweet dishes. Here is a shortlist of my favourite local dishes, including links to Austrian recipes. Food from Austria mixes Central European produce, textures and flavours in a unique way. Most of these influences date back to more than six centuries of Habsburg Empire.
Savoury Austrian food is primarily based on meat, poultry, root vegetables, dairy, and grains. Austrian desserts mostly work their magic using chocolate, soft cheese, yeast, compotes and jams. You can best shop for food from Austria at local supermarkets during your vacation.
Clear Soups With Solid Ingredients
Austrians in general love to enrich clear soups with all sorts of solid ingredients, some of which differ by region. While cut carrots, parsnips, turnips, leeks and celeriac make for a good broth, it is the extras that count: Semolina balls, liver dumplings, bacon dumplings, strips of pancake (see photo), soup pearls, and egg puffs are the most popular add-ons. Other than soup pearls and egg puffs, which are best bought ready made, the other ingredients are quite easy to make and form part of every decent Austrian cook book. You will also find most of them in every decent Austrian restaurant.
While these soups are based on beef broth, the Carinthian Klachelsuppe is made from pork leg and root vegetables. It gets its texture from a little flour whirled into the soup, and its flavour from onion slices, laurel, pepper, juniper berries and cloves.
Fried, Breaded And Boiled Beef, Veal, Pork And Poultry
Our lush pastures, large forests and mild climate have created a nation of beef and poultry eaters, generally speaking. Home grown fishes from our rivers and lakes are rare with Austrian food but do land on our plates every now and then. The closer we live to their habitats, the more regional fish specialities we have.
Learn all about our continuing love of breaded cutlets, how to prepare the best Wiener Schnitzel, and the the most popular varieties.
Does boiled beef sound dull to you? It shouldn’t. The Tafelspitz is one of the tastiest types of savoury Austrian food; and one of the easiest Austrian recipes for meat dishes. The name Tafelspitzrefers to the pointed fine fibred piece of meat from the cow’s back, just where the tail starts. The meat itself is lean, and has just a thin layer of fat on the upper part of the cut. A typical Austrian household or restaurant would serve the Tafelspitz in the broth it is boiled in, together with boiled carrots, leeks and turnips, and perhaps a slice of bone marrow. You would start off with the soup and vegetables. Then, you would have the beef as the main course, together with roast potatoes, cream spinach, horseradish cream and cream with chives. If your cholesterol levels allow, have the bone marrow lightly salted on a piece of toasted dark sourdough bread.
Roast pork (Schweinsbraten) is Eastern Austria’s traditional Sunday lunch. The pork loin comes with a crunchy crust topped with cumin and is served with white sour cabbage (Sauerkraut) and bread dumplings. Schweinsbraten is served with gravy, which can sometimes be thickened with flour.
The same way we coat meat cutlets in flour, eggs and breadcrumbs, we do whole breaded chickens (Backhendl). They are a staple Austrian food in taverns and again the wineries of Eastern Austria. In the past few decades, the Styrians have successfully added a new dish to typical Austrian food: Green leafy salad tossed with Styrian pumpkin seed oil, and topped with stripes of warm breaded chicken, a must!
Paprikahendl is roast chicken with sweet red pepper, and reached Austria from Hungaria via the Eastern Austrian region of Burgenland. We usually have it with German Spätzle pasta and lettuce. Gasthaus Hanno Poeschl, one of the best taverns in the centre of Vienna (Weihburggasse 17), applies a special traditional recipe to its Paprikahendl which is excellent (see also Viennese cuisine eateries).
Savoury And Sweet Balls: Nockerl
Nockerl, with all their irregularities, have been shaping Austrian food. They are based on either flour, semolina/polenta, or soft cheese, and bound with eggs and milk. They are eaten with savoury dishes or as sweet dishes. They are utterly simple, versatile, and inexpensive. While you can easily form them using two spoons, there is a special tool called Nockerlhobel to get them in perfect shape. Here are the three most popular types of Nockerl
When I crave Austrian food at my London home, I usually make semolina balls. They are easy to prepare and are used as a solid ingredient for clear soups.
These are simple balls based on flour, eggs and milk. Add them to scrambled eggs and toss them with parsley for a simple dish. Best eaten with lettuce.
The soft cheese balls are made from semolina and soft cheese, which gives them a light texture. You eat them with strawberry or plum compote, tossed with breadcrumbs fried in butter, and cinnamon.
They are not only the fluffiest of all Nockerl but a cult dessert from the region of Salzburg. More a soufflé rather than balls, they are made from egg yolk, sugar, loads of whipped egg white and a little flour. We have even created a song and 1990ies TV series out of them! Skilled cooks can prepare them at home. In any case, try the original version in Austria, if you can, as they can turn out in different ways.
Root Vegetables in Austrian Food
Austrian food, much like other Central European cuisine, is unthinkable without root vegetables. Carrots, turnips, parsnips, radish, beet root, celeriac and potatoes are used as side dishes. There is nothing like having your Wiener Schnitzel with Austrian potato salad, still a little warm, with finely chopped onions and flavoured with broth. Beet-root salad with chopped parsley is also popular. Breaded and fried celeriac (see my home production in the photo) also performs perfectly as a stand-alone dish, served with mayonnaise and potatoes. Austria’s officially best chef Heinz Reitbauer has been cultivating his passion for forgotten Austrian vegetables at his Michelin restaurant Steirereck in Vienna, serving beta sweet carrots and gold roots.
Austrian desserts enjoy a reputation that is probably only topped by Mozart. Hardly any page about Austrian food can surpass the Sacher Torte. There are loads of other fantastic cakes served in Austrian patisseries such as Dobostorte, Esterhazytorte, Imperialtorte or Kardinalschnitten. And then there are warm desserts such as sweet poppy seed potato pasta (Mohnnudeln, see photo). The list below focuses on those desserts most popular in traditional Austrian households, in addition to the sweet balls and dumplings which I described above.
Formerly the cake of the poor, Emperor Francis Joseph and his sweet tooth promoted this cake until it became Austria’s number one for afternoon tea, breakfast and dessert. Learn all about Gugelhupf and classic Austrian recipes, which can also be used to bake American Bundt cakes.
If it wasn’t for the Siege of Vienna and Budapest by the Turks, our apple strudel would look different. The Ottomans (Turks) are said to have added the apple strudel to Austrian food. The strudel is made from puff pastry that is used in Turkish baklava but can, however, also be done with yeast dough.
People from my mother’s generation downwards used to make apple strudel from the original strudel dough, skillfully pulling and extending the dough until it was like thin pergament, covering the whole kitchen table, with the thicker edges hanging over the table’s edges, before being cut. Especially if you use ready made puff pastry, the strudel is easy to prepare yourself. It is best eaten when bathing in warm vanilla sauce!
This chocolate cake is not made with flour, but biscuit crumbs, sometimes marzipan, ground almonds, chocolate, and apricot jam. The result is a sweet and creamy dough, It is filled into a long shaped creased cake form which is why it is called ‘Deer Back’ (Rehrücken). My grandmother, who only cooked Austrian food, excelled with this cake for many years. It takes me about an hour to bake and decorate the cake, and that is without adding the extra baton-cut almonds on top, but well worth it.
Kaiserschmarrn is a thick pancake with raisins, torn into giant flakes and topped with plum compote, caster sugar and cinnamon. According to one legend, the Austrian Emperor’s kitchen staff would at times ruin the pancakes for the Emperor, creating an ‘Emperor’s Mess’ (Kaiserschmarrn) and had to eat them themselves. At the annual Film and Food Festival in front of Vienna’s City Hall, Kaiserschmarrn is prepared in a huge pan and sold to the public.
Though similar to the French crêpes, Palatschinken are a typical Austrian food. They are a little softer than crêpes, as they are not made with mineral water. The most popular filling is apricot jam and chocolate. The left overs of Palatschinken usually get sliced up into Fritatten for clear soup.
The Topfenkolatsche, a small square-shaped cheesecake made of danish or puff pastry, is another lovely down-to-earth Austrian sweet dish. The soft cheese filling is made with caster sugar, raisins, egg yolk and corn starch.
Topfenkolatschen are actually used for afternoon tea or as a sweet snack rather than for dessert. Most Austrian bakeries or patisseries sell them. Buy them at Mann, Anker or Ströck bakery chains.
The Carinthian Reindling is a dry yeast cake with raisins, and one of Carinthia’s most popular regional dishes. Its taste is quite close to the Panettone of neighbouring Italy. As the Reindling has a quite neutral flavour, people eat it with ham and grated horse radish, or with jam and butter. The name Reindling is derived from the Austrian word for a flat pot (Reindl).
Austrian food consists of a few regional specialities that are typical or even unique. You can buy most of them at Naschmarkt, and in every well sorted Austrian supermarket or delicatessen shop. A great opportunity to taste authentic Austrian delicatessen is the annual Austrian food fair Genussfestival.
Styrian Pumpkin Seed Oil
Styrian pumpkin seed oil is a richly flavoured green-black coloured oil that is pressed from the soft seeds of the oil pumpkin grown in Styria. It is sold throughout Austria and in some countries abroad (I have spotted it in London, for example). It makes green leafy salads and potato salads taste great. On the more exotic side, I have even had ice cream from pumpkin seed oil in a tavern in the Vienna Woods, strangely delicious! Pumpkin seed oil is also said to help with prostate-related illnesses, arteriosclerosis, and high blood pressure. Some women use it as an anti-ageing product and to prevent dry skin because it is rich in vitamins A, E and in carotenoids.
Styrian Horse Radish
Spicy horse radish is mostly grown in the South Eastern Austrian region of Styria. It is called Radi in Viennese, and is often served thinly grated with pork leg. Why? It helps to digest that irresistibly crunchy but fatty upper crust.
Our long winters taught us a thing or two about preserving fruit and vegetables in rich compotes, jams and sweet/sour pickles. The two most traditional quality brands are Vienna-based jams and pickles manufacturer Staud’s and Tyrol-based compote, jam and sirup maker D’Arbo. When I travel back to Vienna, I often take Staud’s jam from apricots grown in the Danube valley of the Wachau, pickled gherkins and aromatic forest honey with me.
Most And Sturm
Most is a fruit drink similar to the French cider. Pronounced with a closed ‘o’, it refers to pressed grape juice before it ferments to Sturm wine. Pronounced with an open ‘o’, the term refers to the Upper Austrian and Styrian apple and pear ciders, which usually contain four to eight percent of alcohol. The Sturm exclusively refers to the young still fermenting wine (vin moussant in French) of Austria and has about one percent of alcohol. You only get it at local wineries between September and December.
There are a few good cook books about Austrian food. Here are my two favourite English language books:
For most foodies who travel Vienna symbolises the classic Central European kitchen, not least because of the vast multiethnic heritage from our Empire days. Invest in a good book about Viennese cuisine and re-create at home what you had on your plate back in Vienna. I am regularly using my German language cook book Hess: Wiener Küche for semolina dumpling soup and apple strudel. The most delightful English language cook book I have seen is the recently published Tante Hertha’s Viennese Kitchen. A Book of Family Recipes.. My friend Elisabeth and fellow Viennese emigrant in London loves it, not least because of its extensive section on desserts and because of the beautiful imagery and personal context: The book is based on the notes of local baronesse Hertha Freiin von Winkler in the early 20th century.
Plachutta Cookbook: Best Of Viennese Cuisine
Those of you who like Vienna beef and have been to one of the local Plachutta restaurants may want to bag this Plachutta cookbook: Best Of Viennese Cuisine before or after you travel Vienna.
The book includes mouth-watering photos and focuses on classical Viennese cuisine, from roast beef with onions (Zwiebelrostbraten) to our way to preparing potato salad to classical desserts like cream cheese strudel (Milchrahmstrudel).
Preparing Austrian Food: Enamel Cookware Review
You can prepare Austrian Food using almost any cookware. The most traditional way is using enamel cookware. My family has been using it since the time of my great grand parents, possibly longer. My family and I still use Austria’s Riess porcelain enamel cookware. Riess has had a strong comeback on the market with a carefully modernised range. Find out whether you would like to use Riess products with my enamel cookware review.
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