Austrian Epicurean-  72+ Traditional Austrian Food to Try

Austrian food is steeped in tradition. They take a lot of pride in their cuisine and these delectable dishes are passed down through generations. My mother-in-law cooks typical Austrian fare, so some of my favorite Austrian food comes directly from her kitchen.

Our kitchen table is set for a traditional Austrian New Year with a small LED-lit Christmas tree, candles, pinecones, and little pink marzipan pigs and marzipan mushrooms to bring good luck and fortune for the coming year.
For New Years, you eat Marzipan pigs, mushrooms, and chimney sweeps for good luck and fortune.

Much of Austria’s cuisine was absorbed into their culture during the time of the Austrian Empire in the 1800s.  As the empire expanded, recipes such as Gulasch, Letscho, and Langos came from Hungary, Schnitzel is from Italy,  Palatschinken, similar to a French crepe, and of course the late-night Doner Kebabs are Turkish — all were incorporated into Austrian culture. With new cultures come new culinary influences.

Meat is a commonplace feature in most Austrian meals and menus. But vegans and vegetarians can still rejoice because bigger cities such as Vienna, Salzburg, Linz, and Graz have a number of delicious vegan/vegetarian options to choose from. Smaller villages have less to offer, however the local markets are replete with diverse and beautiful produce.  

Austria is almost entirely self-sufficient when it comes to food.  Regional and seasonal produce are often celebrated and featured in restaurants, cafes, and homes.  Ingredients such as asparagus and radish in the spring.  Summer features berries, cherries, tomatoes, cucumber, aubergine, zucchini, broad beans, and peppers.  Autumn is pumpkin, chanterelles, quince, gooseberries, plums, and walnuts.  Winter gives us chestnuts, beets, watercress, celeriac, pears, and an absurd amount of apples. I am currently in Spain and miss the produce selections that Austria has to offer.

If you are planning a trip to Austria and questioning what to eat and drink, here are some of my favourites. Restaurants, beer gardens, markets, food trucks, gas stations, mountain huts, and farmstands, offer you a broad picture of Austrian cuisine.

An Almhutte in Salzburg, Austria with chalkboards featuring their daily specials and menu with communal tables and benches alongside it.


Main Course

Wiener Schnitzel — The National dish of Austria. Traditionally veal, but commonly offered as Hendl (chicken), Pute (turkey), or Schwein (pork).

Entree:  Austrian food #1:  Wiener schnitzel topped with a slice of lemon from a traditional biergarten served with creamy cucumber salad and potato salad.
#1- Wiener Schnitzel almost synonomous with Austria.

Gulasch — a meat, potato, and vegetable stew with loads of paprika.

Erdapfelgulasch — potato stew cooked with loads of paprika.

Lecso Peppers with tomatoes cooked down and, again, loads of paprika.

Entree:  Austrian food #4:  A bowl of lecso made from colorful peppers of red and yellow in a rich tomato sauce and served with rice.  The bowl is sitting on top of a bright plaid table cloth in the same colors.
Austrian food #4: Lecsco perfect cold or warm and in any season.

Kaiserschmarrn — My omelet attempts often turn into scrambles, so if you’re like me, this is the perfect dish for you.  It is literally a scrambled-up pancake served with powdered sugar and plum jam and this is served as a main dish rather than a dessert. IT IS AWESOME!

Entree:  Austrian food #5:  Traditional plate of Kaiserscharm- a broken up pancake topped with powdered sugar and a side of jam and two forks to share.
Austrian food #5: Kaiserscharm….recipe coming soon.

Hirschragout — For late Autumn season, venison in a rich gravy served with current jam and potatoes

Entree: Austrian food #6:  A plate of hirschragout- venison in a brown gravy with glazed carrots, current marmelade, a large dumpling and potatoes with a tall glass of cold beer next to pair with this hearty dish.
Asutrian food #6: Hirschragout- Autumnal comfort food during hunting season.

Gebratente Ente — Delcious roast duck, often served around the winter holidays. 


Noodles and Dumplings

Knödel — Large dumplings that utilize older Semmel rolls, soaked in warm milk and seasoned with herbs or Speck.  These are steamed.  Can be served on the side or in soup.

Noodles and Dumplings:  Austrian food #8:  A restaurant table with three plates.  One plate has two large steamed dumplings covered in shaved parmesan and arugula and topped with dark green pumpkin seed oil.  The second plate has vinegar based cucumber salad and the third plate has two sausages and a small dish of mustard.
Austrian foods 8, 15, 26, & 42: A typical spread

Kaspressknödel — Dumplings using similar ingredients with Bergkäse or mountain cheese.  They are pressed flat like a crabcake and fried.  Can be eaten in soup or on top of salad.

Käsespätzle — Swiss macaroni and cheese.  Made with butter noodles and Emantel cheese.

Krautfleckerl Kraut is cabbage, Fleckerl is small square pasta.  It’s a super simple dish:  Cabbage, pasta, onion, butter, cumin, salt, and pepper, and really, really delicious.

Noodles and Dumplings:  Austrian food #11:  A small cafe table with a large white charger plate and a black shallow pan with two handles filled with Krautfleckerl and topped with chives and sour cream.  The rest of the table is covered with tea cups and a tea pot.
Austrian food #11 Krautfleckerl. Perfectly cosy and simple.

Soup

Kürbiscremesuppe – deliciously creamy pumpkin soup topped with nutty Kürbiskernöl (dark green, almost black, pumpkin seed oil).

Rindfleisch Suppe — beef cooked in a clear broth with carrots, leeks, onion, and celery.

Spargelsuppe — A cream-based, white asparagus soup with a hint of nutmeg.


Street Food

Wurst — Sausage made of pork or beef.

Currywurst — Sausage made of pork or beef and covered in a sweet curried ketchup.

Kasekrainer- Sausage stuffed with pieces of cheese.  This can get a bit messy and best eaten with a knife and fork.

Pfefferwurst & Chiliwurst — dried sausage coated with either a crushed pepper or chili crust.

Brathendl —  Roast chicken, on certain days they’ll have trucks with nothing but stacked spits of chicken. Do one thing and do it well.   

Steckerlfisch —  A whole fish grilled on a stick.  The fish is usually Forelle, which is trout.  

Street food:  Ausrian food #21: Steckerlfish.   A large piece of white paper with a charred head-on trout fish picked to the bone.
Austrian food #21: Stecklerfisch- always too excited to eat to get a decent picture.

Döner Kebap — Typically lamb, but can be beef or chicken seasoned and cooked on a spit.  Served in a pita or a wrap with onion, tomato, lettuce, yogurt or mayonnaise sauce, and chili sauce if you prefer.

Leberkäse Semmerl —  Pork, beef, and bacon seasoned with garlic, cheese, and chili ground up and baked in a loaf pan.  It’s cut thick, looks a bit like bologna, and served on a crusty white roll (Semmerl). I enjoy mine with spicy mustard.

Langos — More often found in Hungary, but also found in Austria.  It is a deep-fried pancake topped with garlic, sour cream, onions, and/or arugula.

Street food:  Austrian food #24:  A sunny day and standing outisde in a street fare holding up a large round peice of fried langos with both hands to show the size compared to my face.
Austrian food #24 delicous fried langos

Traditional Side Dishes

Sauerkraut — gut-healthy fermented cabbage that can be served or eaten hot or cold.

Traditional side dishes:  Austrian food 26:  Gurkensalat.  A plate with a mason jar sitting on top of it filled with thinkly sliced cucumbers and dressed in a yogurt sauce topped with dark green arugula leaves
Austrian food #26 refreshing cucumber salad

Gurkensalat — thinly sliced cucumber and onions tossed in apple cider vinegar or yogurt marinade seasoned with dill, chives, or parsley.

Kartoffelsalat — Potato salad with plenty of variations and add-ins.  Served both warm or cold.

Petersilienkartoffel boiled and peeled potatoes tossed in melted butter, parsley, and salt. Completely addictive.

Pommes — French fries.


Bread

Bread:  Austrian food #30:  holding a large traditional pretzel covered in white salt over a brown paper bag
Austrian food #30- the saltier, the better

Bretzel —  Ooh I love pretzels.  If the bakery has fresh pretzels, I usually pick up three.  One for my trip home, and two for home – one for my husband and one for me. (And if he’s not home, well they are really only good for that day.)

Laugenstangerl — It’s a pretzel stick!!!!

Käsestangerl — A delicious flaky cheese stick.

Beigerl — Around Easter, it is a round crunchy breadstick covered in salt and split like a wishbone between two people.

Roggenbrot — It feels healthier when the bread is brown over white.

Sauerteigbrot — Sour dough bread.  If you have messed around with sourdough starters during COVID, you may want to do a comparative taste test to some of the local ones in Austria.  Some of their starters are hundreds of years old. 

Semmerl — White crusty styrofoamish bread.  While I honestly really hate this bread, it has its place in Austrian fare.  Sandwiching Leberkäse or turned into Knödel.  Other than that, I don’t find this crumbly bread all that appealing.


Dairy

Bergkäse —  Mountain cheese.  A hard cheese made in the Alps with a strong flavor with a hint of nuttiness.  There are many types of Bergkäse, but the best are the ones with a really robust taste.

Dairy:  Austrian food #38.  A small hut with two clear refridgerator doors with shelves of fresh yogurt in glass jars. One fridge is plain yogurt and the second has jam at the bottom of each jar.  In the middle is a small cabinet with a change box on top and to the right, is a stainless steel refridgerated vending machine system for getting fresh milk in glass bottles.
Austrian food #38 refridgerators filled with fresh yogut

Jogurt — Yogurt.  Why have I added it onto the list?  Austria is covered in farmland.  In the past few years we have found more and more farmers in small villages producing their own yogurts, sometimes adding fresh jam, and selling them in refrigerated huts with a small cash box based on the honor system.  When you return the jar you get .50 back. The yogurt is tasty, but I mostly love the trust in the small communities. They sell Wurst, eggs, milk, honey, Schmaltz, even flowers in this way.

Topfen — Quark or pot cheese.  It is a cheese made from sour milk that tastes like a mix between cream cheese and cottage cheese. It’s used as a spread on bread and often whipped up and featured in desserts such as Topfentorte.


Condiments

Senf — Mustard. Sausage and mustard are a great pairing and for as many types of Wurst there are just as many types of Senf. You can often find plenty of local varieties as well.

Kürbiskernöl —  Pumpkin seed oil.  Not meant for cooking, but excellent as a finishing oil for salads, topping soups, or dipping breads.  It has a nutty taste and a rich dark green color.  Beware, it can stain your clothes.

Condiments:  Austrian food #42:   Kurbiskern Ol.  A slice of rye bread topped with scrambled egg, pumpkin seeds, and dark green/ almost black pumpkin oil.
Austrian food #42: rye toast with scrambled egg, pumpkin seeds, and pumpkin oil

Meerrettich —  Freshly grated horseradish. It looks like a nice bowl of shredded parmesan, but this spicy root is often served with wurst and meats.

Schmaltz — Rendered chicken or pork fat, seasoned with everything including apples, herbs, onions…It’s used as spread schmeered across bread.

Dips and Spreads — Hummus, tazaki, onion dip, these are frequently found in markets. With so much delicious breads and fresh veggies why not make them a vessel for more scrumptious snacks.

Honig —  Honey.  Local varietals include Bluemenhonig (flower honey), Baumhonig (tree honey) ranging in color as well.  This is commonly found on the breakfast table with different breads and rolls.


Desserts and Sweets

Apfelstrudel —  An iconic and common dish of Austria.  Pastry dough laid flat, filled with sliced apples and raisins, rolled up and baked and best served with Schlagobers (whipped cream).  We have five apple trees at our home, another five at my in-laws.  And the neighbors, they also have apple trees.  We have more apples than we know what to do with.  This is a great recipe that uses up a lot of apples.

Linzer Torte — A dry shortbread crust, filled with red current or raspberry jam, and topped with nuts.  It is very dry and best paired with coffee or tea.  The original recipe dates back to the 1600s and is named after the city of Linz, where my in-laws live.  Austrians don’t eat it much, but I find it an excellent tea cake.

Sacher Torte — A chocolate cake with an apricot filling.  Like most cakes, the Austrians are proud of this culinary heritage.

Topfentorte — Cheesecake, often topped with some sort of fruit or jam.

Literally all the tortes — I haven’t come across many that I didn’t like.

Lebkuchen — Popular at Christmas time.  These are the heart-shaped cookies with white icing notes on them. They are dense ginger and orange-scented cookies, that I prefer a bit older and softer.

Desserts:  Austrian food #52  Lebkuchen.  A Table covered in off white parchment paper with raw cookie dough cut into hearts, stars, moons, spades, and christmas trees before going into the oven.
#52: Pressing lebkuhchen cookie dough at Christmas

Krapfen —  A sweet yeast doughnut filled with jam and topped with powdered sugar.  Popular during Carnival time (Fasching), but available all year round.

Mohnzelten —  Translated as poppyseed tent.  Think filled doughnut with a sturdier dough. The filling is jam packed with poppyseeds mixed with butter, sugar, and rum.

Vanillekipferl –– Vanilla-flavored crescent-shaped butter cookies.

Cremeschnitte — Custard and Chantilly cream sandwiched between puff pastry.  So tasty.

Mozartkugeln — Another iconic treat in Austria.  A truffle-sized chocolate ball filled with marzipan, pistachio, and nougat.  You can find them near the cash register at most grocery stores for a euro and if you head to Salzburg, Mozart’s birthplace, there are many shops dedicated to this little ball of chocolate.


Junk Food

PB Kings-  OMG!!!! These cookies are the equivalent of the Girl Scout Tagalong cookies. Shortbread, peanut butter, and covered in chocolate.

Mannerwafferl and Donauwellen — These are thin wafers filled with chocolate.  Manner wafers are found all over the world, but I prefer the Donauwaves, which are sold at grocery stores and have a higher ratio of chocolate to wafer.

Kelly’s Salz Chips — What impresses me so much about these chips, is the puffed-up bag.  I have never once gotten a bag with crushed potato chips.  Not once!

Haribo Gummy Bears — While technically German, they are also manufactured in Linz, Austria.  The difference between these from Germany and Austria compared to those from the States is that corn syrup and artificial sweeteners are not allowed.

Junk food:  Austrian Food #62 cheese filled peppers.  A display of 12 shallow white boxes each filled with a different type of small pepper filled with cheese and sitting in olive oil.
#62 yummy peppers filled with cheese sold at Naschmarkt in Viena

Cheese-filled sweet peppers or peppadews — I really wasn’t sure which category to put them in.  They are bitesize peppers stuffed with creamy topfen and marinated in oil.  They are sweet.  Since lunch is often the primary meal of the day, platters made with sliced charcuterie, cheese, pickles, and veggies are often snacked on in the evening and these go perfectly with a platter.      


Alcohol

Grüner Veltliner — A crisp citrusy white wine, a decent bottle can be bought for 2-3 euros at the grocery.

Bier — Beer.  When ordering a beer, if the bartender doesn’t understand “ein Bier, bitte” then say, “Gut, Besser, Gösser,” and they’ll know what you want.  

Saurer Radler —  2:1. Two parts beer, one part mineral water with a bit of lemon.  A day of drinking will catch up to me quickly and is not sustainable with alcohol levels of 6-10%. A better choice when you are hiking up the mountain and come to a hut serving food and beer and realize you still must hike down.   

Alchohol:  Austrian Food #65  two large clear glass beer steins filled with a light colored radler sitting on a worn table in the sunshine on top of a mountain with a fence around the almhutte and the yellow trail signs in the background and green grass.
# 65 Refreshing Sauer Radler at an almhutte at Hochleckten

Apfel Most — All those apples have to turn into something. The sour ones get turned into cider.

Glühwein — Mulled red wine, perfect for cold days and getting cozy.

Alochol:  Austrian food #67:  At night at Christmas time, a small wooden bar with a triangle roof and covered in garland and twinkle lights.  Two people stand inside and sell gluhwein to a woman leaning on the counter.
#67 Serving hot Gluhwein on a cold night in Bad Ischl

Schnapps —  An after-dinner drink with a bite. Grain alcohol “seasoned” with fruit or spice and between 60 and 80 proof.  


Non-Alcoholic Beverages

Wiener Schokolade — Rich and scrumptious hot chocolate topped generously with Schlagobers (whipped cream).

Non- Alchoholic beverages- Wiener schokolade.  A marble counter with a silver plater.  A glass of water sitting on a coaster saying Cafe Schwarzenberg, Wien and balancing a spoon on across the top and a mug of hot chocolate with white whipped cream and topped with chocolate flakes a
#69 Wiener Schokolade at the famous coffee house, Cafe Schwarzenberg in Vienna

Wiener Mélange — Similar to a cappuccino with more foaming creamy milk and less coffee.

Herbal teas — When going into an Apotheke you can find an array of these for an array of ailments.  With cold, wet weather, a cup of stinging nettle tea hits the spot.    

Apfelsaft — Apple juice, readily available. Like orange juice in Spain. When trying to come up with what to do with all of our apples, I learned that most villages have a large press and can juice them for you. 


Martha, my mother-in-law, once told me, “When my mother-in-law made salad, she added so much sugar you couldn’t tell if it was lettuce salad or compote.”  While you are eating your way through this list of Austrian , keep in mind, that it’s not the best for your health. Sugar, salt, and fat — the trifecta of addictive and delicious food commonly found in almost all of these dishes. You do your best to balance it out by hiking high mountains and swimming across crystal clear lakes.

3 Responses

    1. Ooh, I’m intrigued. I’m not sure, it will either be in November or in March of 2023. Our house is open to you…in Austria. We plan to be back in South Africa at the end of the year- no plans yet, but also open to you ;).

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