As a travel enthusiast, I know that one of the best parts of any trip is experiencing new cultures through their food. If you’re planning a visit to Austria for the first time, you’re in for a real treat. Austrian cuisine can be repetitive when enjoyed daily, but there are mouthwatering Austrian dishes you will want to experience when visiting my home country.
The Best of Austrian Cuisine
Austria, located at the crossroads of central Europe, was once a much larger empire, a conglomerate of countries. In the past centuries, Austria has been influenced by an array of cultures, which is evident in its variety of dishes. Therefore, Austrian cuisine is a melting pot of flavors and influences.
Schnitzel is the most well-known Austrian dish. Even though Schnitzel is most often associated with Austria, it originated in Italy. Despite this, it has become our national dish, available in every Austrian restaurant. Another popular Austrian dish with foreign origins is Austrian-style Goulash. This hearty stew, made with beef, vegetables, and spices, is actually of Hungarian origin.
On the other hand, some of the most traditional Austrian dishes like Käsespätzle, a type of egg noodle dish with cheese, and Kaiserschmarrn, a shredded pancake served with fruit compote, emerged from rural Austrian food culture or the Emperor’s residence in Vienna.
In this article, we will learn a variety of traditional Austrian dishes you should consider when visiting the country.
1. Vienna’s Finest: The Legendary Wienerschnitzel
Schnitzel is a dish that is enjoyed by people all over the world. There is, for example, a Korean and a Japanese version, but it is perhaps most closely associated with Austria. A schnitzel is made by pounding a thin piece of meat (such as veal, pork, or chicken) until it is tender, breading it, and then frying it to crispy perfection.
There are many Austrian variations of Schnitzel, but the most well-known is Wiener Schnitzel, made with veal. This Austrian dish is traditionally served with sides such as mashed potatoes or Austrian potato salad and lingonberry jam. Upscale restaurants such as Meissl and Schaden in Vienna and Salzburg, for example, fry their Schnitzels in clarified butter and serve not only salad and jam as side dishes but also parsley, capers, egg, and anchovy fillets.
Other variations of Schnitzel include Jägerschnitzel, which is made with pork and served with a mushroom sauce, and Zigeunerschnitzel, which is made with pork and served with a spicy tomato and pepper sauce.
In addition to these traditional variations, there are also many creative and modern takes on Schnitzel. These might include Schnitzel served on a sandwich, Schnitzel topped with cheese and served with fries and Schnitzel in a bread roll. One of the most local-like ways to try a Schnitzel, for example, is to order it at the delicacy counter in the supermarket as a Schnitzelsemmerl.
Please read this article about Austrian Fast Food and the section about Leberkäsesemmel to find out what I mean!
No matter how it is served, Schnitzel is a delicious and versatile Austrian dish that will satisfy any appetite. If you’re visiting Austria, be sure to try this national favorite! If you are visiting Salzburg, look at this list of my favorite Austrian restaurants in Salzburg.
Remember, every Austrian restaurant serves Schnitzel.
2. Knödel: Plump and Delicious Dumplings
To understand Gulasch, we must first understand Knödel, Austria’s most traditional side dish.
Knödel, which we would translate into dumplings, are a popular and versatile dish in Austria and throughout central and eastern Europe. They are made from a mixture of flour, eggs, and milk and can be either sweet or savory, depending on the filling and seasoning used. Knödel can be a side dish, but there are also main courses made of Knödel.
There are many different types of Knödel, and they are often used as a side dish or a topping for soups, roasts, and stews like, you guessed it, Gulasch. The most well-known type of knödel in Austria is probably Semmelknödel, a kind of Knödel made of stale pieces of bread roll, flour, eggs, and milk. Semmel is an Austrian bread roll, and when it’s fresh most often eaten for breakfast.
There are variations like Kartoffelknödel, dumplings made from potatoes and flour, and Marillenknödel, which are dumplings filled with apricot jam and served as a dessert.
Knödel are a comforting and satisfying dish that is sure to delight your taste buds. If you’re visiting Austria and want to experience some of the country’s rich culinary traditions, be sure to give these tasty dumplings a try, mainly because they are anyway often given as a side dish to other traditional Austrian dishes like Gulasch.
3. Gulasch: A Hearty Hungarian-Austrian Stew
Gulasch, also known as Hungarian Goulash, is a hearty and flavorful stew that counts as one of the most popular Austrian Foods. It is made with a combination of beef, vegetables, and spices and is often served with dumplings or bread to soak up the rich, savory broth.
The origins of Gulasch can be traced back to the middle ages when Hungarian herdsmen prepared it to use up tough cuts of meat. It became popular throughout the region and has evolved over the centuries into the dish we know today.
Austria’s gulasch is typically made with beef and vegetables such as onions, peppers, and tomatoes. It is seasoned with a blend of paprika, caraway seeds, and other spices. It is slow-cooked to allow the flavors to develop fully. Every Austrian supermarket sells Gulaschfleich, Gulasch-meat. If you buy Gulasch meat in an Austrian supermarket, that’s tough, inexpensive cuts of meat.
Gulasch is a filling and satisfying dish perfect for a cold winter. Gulasch is served as a main course, is sure to warm you from the inside out, and is always served with a side dish. Why is that so? As Gulasch is primarily meat and sauce, it would have little substance otherwise. You can also find Gulasch soup, which is a lighter version, as a starter dish or potato Gulasch to satisfy a vegetarian diet.
If you’re visiting Austria and are in the mood for something hearty and filling, give Gulasch a try. If you have choices of side dishes for your Gulasch, be sure to choose Knödel. Gulasch with Knödel is a delicious and flavorful way to experience the rich culinary traditions of Austria.
4. Tiroler Gröstl: A Savory Austrian Hash
Tiroler Gröstl is a hearty and flavorful dish popular in the Austrian region of Tyrol. It is made with fried potatoes, onions, and bits of cooked meat such as beef or pork.
The origins of Tiroler Gröstl are somewhat disputed. Still, it is believed to have originated in the 19th century as a way to use up leftover roast meat. It was traditionally prepared as a Monday leftover use of the Sunday roast.
Tiroler Gröstl quickly became a popular and satisfying meal and is now a beloved traditional dish not only in Tyrol but also in specific restaurants in other parts of Austria. If you visit Salzburg and would like to try the Austrian Dish of Tiroler Gröstl, you will find it at one of my favorite Austrian restaurants called Andreas Hofer Weinstube. The restaurant focuses on Tyrolean Austrian food and is named after an Austrian revolutionary.
To make Tiroler Gröstl, you’ll need to dice up potatoes and onions. These will form the base of your dish. Next, heat a large pan over medium heat and add oil or butter. Once the pan is hot, add your diced potatoes and onions and fry them until they are crispy and golden brown.
While the potatoes and onions are frying, cook some bits of meat such as beef or pork. You can use leftovers from a roast or pan-fry some sliced meat until it is cooked. Once the meat is cooked, add it to the pan with the potatoes and onions. Finally, season the mixture with a pinch of salt and pepper to taste. The result is a savory, simple, yet filling dish that is perfect for a cold winter day.
5. Tafelspitz: Austria’s Premium Boiled Beef Dish
Tafelspitz is an Austrian dish with boiled beef, vegetables, and broth. It is a savory and satisfying meal that is often served as a main course and is a staple of Austrian cuisine.
The origins of Tafelspitz can be traced back to the 19th century when it was a popular dish among the upper class in Austria. It was typically served at formal dinners and was considered a delicacy. Today, Tafelspitz is enjoyed by people from all walks of life and can be found on the menu of many restaurants in Austria, but due to Vienna’s imperial history, most often in the Austrian capital.
Tafelspitz beef is boiled in a broth with vegetables such as carrots, onions, and leeks. The meat is then sliced and served with beef broth and vegetables, along with various accompaniments such as mustard, horseradish, and creamed spinach.
Tafelspitz is a flavorful and satisfying dish that will delight your taste buds. If you’re visiting Austria and want to experience some of the country’s rich culinary traditions, try this classic dish.
6. Schweinsbraten: Slow-roasted Pork Perfection
Schweinsbraten is a traditional dish that satisfies any meat lover’s cravings. It’s a savory and flavorful meal made with slow-roasted pork seasoned with herbs and spices. It is a tasty meal that is often served as a main course and is a staple of Austrian cuisine.
One of the critical elements of a delicious Schweinsbraten is the seasoning. The pork roast is typically coated with a mixture of herbs and spices such as marjoram, paprika, and caraway seeds, which give it its signature flavor. The roast is then slow-roasted in the oven, allowing the flavors to develop fully and the meat to become tender and juicy.
Schweinsbraten is often served with a variety of side dishes such as dumplings, roasted vegetables, and gravy. It is a hearty and satisfying meal that is perfect for a special occasion or a Sunday dinner with the family.
Although Schweinsbraten is a beloved national dish in Austria, it is actually more popular in the neighboring region of Bavaria. Bavarian cuisine is similar to Austrian cuisine, and Schweinsbraten is a beloved dish in both regions.
If you find yourself in Bavaria and see Schweinsbraten on the menu, you know it’s a safe bet.
In addition to being a popular main course, Schweinsbraten is often used as a filling for sandwiches or as part of a buffet, for example, in beer halls. It is a versatile and flavorful dish that will surely be a hit with anyone who tries it.
7. Kasnockn: Cheesy, Gooey Noodle Goodness
Kasnockn is a traditional Austrian dish made with cheese and pasta. It is a savory and satisfying meal popular in the region of Tyrol and throughout Austria.
Kasnockn is the only Austrian vegetarian dish that can be found in every Austrian restaurant. If a vegetarian asks me about a recommendation for Austrian food and they have yet to try it, I recommend Kasnockn first.
When making Kasnockn, grated cheese is combined with a kind of, often, homecooked pasta and baked in the oven or fried in the pan until the cheese is melted. You’ll end up with a creamy, flavorful dish satisfying your appetite.
Kasnockn is often accompanied by the side dishes such as a salad and topped with roasted vegetables.
Kas is the Austrian dialect of Käse, cheese, and Nockn is the Austrian pasta that is only vaguely related to pasta. Kasnockn are a main course, but Nockn without cheese are often served as a side dish with stews and other main dishes.
Try Kasnockn if you’re in the mood for a comforting and satisfying meal while visiting Austria. It’s a delicious and flavorful way to experience Austrian flavors.
8. Blood Sausage and Sauerkraut: A Match Made in Heaven
Blood sausage with Sauerkraut is one of my favorite dishes, but I’ll admit it’s not for everyone. It’s literally made of blood, after all! But suppose you’re brave enough to try it. In that case, you’ll be rewarded with a savory and flavorful meal that will satisfy your appetite.
To make blood sausage with Sauerkraut, blood sausage, also known as Blutwurst, is sliced and fried until it is crispy on the outside and hot on the inside. It is then served with a side of Sauerkraut, which is finely shredded cabbage that has been fermented with salt and spices.
In Austria and throughout central Europe, blood sausage is a traditional and flavorful food you can occasionally find on restaurant menus. However, most cultures have their own version of blood sausage since, in the past, all animal parts were processed. In Austria, blood sausage is typically made with pork blood, pork fat, and various spices. It is a savory and satisfying addition to any meal.
Sauerkraut, on the other hand, is a tangy and flavorful condiment that is often used as a topping for sausages and other meats. Sauerkraut is made from fermented cabbage. Since fermentation preserves food for winter, fermented foods like Sauerkraut have also been a historical staple in most cultures.
If you’re in the mood for a unique and flavorful meal that will satisfy your appetite, give blood sausage with Sauerkraut a try. It’s a traditional dish beloved in Austria and central Europe by people like me.
9. Kaiserschmarrn: Indulge in the Royal Treat
Kaiserschmarrn is a traditional Austrian dessert but, more often, even a main dish. Kaiserschmarrn is a shredded pancake, sometimes with raisins and usually with powdered sugar on top. It is a simple but sweet and indulgent treat that will satisfy any sweet tooth.
The story of Kaiserschmarrn is known and loved by every Austrian kid, even though the truth behind it is disputed. Kaiserschmarrn became a favorite of the Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Joseph I in the 19th century. Legend has it that the Emperor loved trying new and exciting foods. Kaiserschmarrn, a shredded pancake, was created one day after he asked his royal chef to create a new dessert. A Kaiser is an emperor, but a Schmarrn is an Austrian dialect word that means nonsense. It is easy to imagine Franz Josef’s first reaction to Kaiserschmarrn before he made it one of his favorite dishes.
Kaiserschmarrn quickly became a popular Austrian dessert and is now a beloved national dish in Austria.
To make Kaiserschmarrn, a thick pancake is prepared and then shredded into small pieces. The shredded pancakes are then fried until they are golden and crispy and are served with a generous helping of raisins and topped with powdered sugar.
I recommend Kaiserschmarrn as a main dish if you have enough time to try all the delicious Austrian food while you are here. If you have limited time and must make difficult food choices, you should order Kaiserschmarrn as a dessert.
Kaiserschmarrn is a delicious and indulgent dessert perfect for satisfying a sweet craving. Try this tasty treat if you’re visiting Austria and want to experience some of the country’s rich culinary traditions.
The Best Austrian Desserts
When trying all the delicious main courses, save room for dessert! Austrian cuisine is renowned for delicious pastries and sweets, featuring a variety of cakes, tarts, and cookies found in bakeries, cafes, and restaurants across the country to complement your experience of Austrian food. Desserts are everywhere. From the traditional Apfelstrudel and Sachertorte to the lesser-known Esterházytorte and Linzertorte, there is something to satisfy every sweet tooth in Austria.
For more information on these delicious Austrian desserts, check out our other article on Austrian Desserts.
More Culinary Recommendations for Salzburg
If you are visiting Salzburg when traveling to Austria, Discover the flavors of Salzburg with my top picks for the best Austrian restaurants in Salzburg.
Sip on the finest coffee in Salzburg with my recommendations for the best coffee shops in town. By the way, the best coffee in town is not synonymous with Austrian coffee shops. The charm of Austrian coffee houses lies in their historic atmosphere. For a cup of average coffee and a glimpse of local culture, try these Austrian Coffee Houses.
Indulge in a delicious breakfast in Salzburg with my top picks for the best breakfast spots in town. From traditional Austrian fare to international options, there’s something for everyone.
If you are lucky and visit Salzburg on a Thursday, make sure to explore the freshest local delicacies at Salzburg’s farmers market called the Schranne. From seasonal produce to artisanal cheeses, there’s something for every taste.