In North America, buying flour is an easy task. You go to the supermarket, you pick up a bag of all-purpose flour, and you go home. Presto! In Germany, however, it’s more complicated. Type 405 is for pastries, Type 812 for breads, and then there’s Type 550, which is the closest to what we call all-purpose flour in Canada. Oh, and there’s also Type 1150 (rye flours) and Type 1800 (pumpernickel flour), as well as many others. These numbers represent the amount of ash; the higher the ash content, the “more whole grain” the flour is.
In a country seemingly enamoured with its gluten-filled flours, what’s a celiac to do? Have no fear, eating safely in Germany is possibility. During my visits, I was able to find simple meat and vegetable dishes, as well as salads. And while gluten free options aren’t as prevalent in bakeries, shops do carry many products that you can use to cook at home.
Gluten Free Germany: Table of Contents
Gluten Free Restaurant Card in German
What is Safe and Gluten Free in Germany?
Shopping Options, Search Suggestions, and Restaurants for Celiacs in Germany
What is Unsafe for a Celiac in Germany?
Further Reading about Germany
Tailored Gluten-Free Restaurant Card for Germany
For starters, this detailed gluten free restaurant card will help communicate your eating restrictions, and allow you to understand what is safe and unsafe from the menu. The card was created with celiac-specific research, mention of cross contamination, and a double checked translation from locals who speak the language. The food names and dishes within the card are also double checked for accuracy with different regions in Germany.
Note: The card is available for purchase via Gumroad, a trustworthy 3rd party site that uses https, so you know your information is safe. I am not gathering emails or information for anyone who buys the card.
Why is this gluten free card different?
I have used several different translation cards on my travels, and I still got sick. I may be more sensitive than some celiacs, but even a small amount of contaminated oil for frying, or wheat-thickened sauce in the food, is enough to make me ill for days. Let alone the joint pain later that week, and the inflammation.
This card is different because:
- It not uses all of the local food names for what to eat or avoid,
- Makes clear mention of the cross contamination concerns.
- Is researched by celiacs; and
- Translated by a native speaker who is familiar with the disease and local food, then double-checked with a second translator.
An English version of the card – so you know what you’re buying! – is available on the purchase page.
A big thanks for translating skills to Frank, whose wife is a diagnosed celiac, and to Max for his schnitzel photo.
Gluten-Free Dishes and Snacks in Germany
The following dishes are commonly wheat-free in Germany, as confirmed by translators, my travels in Germany, and German readers who are also celiac.
As with any destination, at home or abroad, it’s important to confirm on a case-by-case basis that no flour was used in the sauces, or to thicken.
- Sauerkraut: finely shredded fermented cabbage, often served warm with pork or sausages.
- Gurkensalat: cucumber salad, traditionally dressed with vinegar, sour cream and dill (SO GOOD).
- Kartoffelsalat: Potato salad, usually made with a cream or mayonnaise base in Northern Germany, and a vinegar and broth base in the South. May be served warm or cold, and may include additions such as bacon, pickles, eggs or radish. For mayonnaise dressing, confirm made in house and not with wheat-added store bought mayo.
- Rinderrouladen: Rolled beef with onions and bacon, but check gravy. Recipe traditionally calls for corn starch but as always bouillon cubes or flour may be substituted.
- Tomatensalat: Tomato salad, usually made with freshly chopped herbs, chopped onions, oil, and vinegar.
- Braten mit Rotkohl: Roast with red cabbage – again check gravy.
- Erbsensuppe: split pea soup, traditionally flour-free. Confirm that is the case.
- Fleisch: Meat, specifically meats that are grilled (gegrillt), baked (im Ofen gegart) or roasted (gegrillt/gebraten). Confirm any marinades, avoid breading and gravy.
- Gemüse: Fresh, grilled or roasted vegetables. Ask about marinades, and avoid breading, tempura, or gravy.
- Eisbein: salt-cured, sometimes smoked, pork knuckle. Get it without the sauce/gravy.
- Käse: cheese, though watch out for cream cheeses (some thickened with wheat byproducts) and specialities like beer cheese (Bierkäse or Weisslacker), which aren’t safe.
- Milchreis: rice pudding, often topped with cinnamon/sugar or fruit.
- Frucht: fruit.
Shopping Options and Restaurants for Celiacs in Germany
There are quite a few places to buy gluten free ingredients, from local supermarkets to bigger chain stores and organic shops.
- Reformhaus – General word for a health (food) store
- Bioladen/ Biomarkt – Organic Store / Organic (Super)Market
The following supermarkets sell gluten free products. Note that many larger grocery chains in Germany carry gluten-free foods, marked with the words glutenfrei or the German Celiac Society (DZG) logo.
Edeka: The largest supermarket corporation in Germany, with shops ranging from corner markets to massive “hypermarkets.” As is the case with each of the chains listed, the larger and more central the store, the more likely to have a broader gluten free range.
Rewe: A supermarket chain that stocks gluten-free products in their locations around the country.
Spar: A subset chain of Edeka group, sells smaller selection of gluten free products that include rice cakes, corn pastas, and more.
Kaufland: has ranges of gluten-free and organic products
Globus: at least some stores have designated gluten-free sections
DM Drogerie: A drugstore chain that has a dedicated gluten free product section, per reader Marie.
Real: A hypermarket (with food and home appliances and much more) found around the country.
Germany’s Celiac Society’s website has office info and contact information in English here.
When shopping, some translations that may be helpful:
- Kann Spuren von Gluten enthalten: may contain traces of gluten
- Gluten (gluten)
- Weizen / Weizenstärke (wheat / wheat flour)
- Gerste / Gerstenmalz / Gerstenmalzextrakt (barley / barley malt / barley malt extract)
- Roggen (rye)
- Hafer (oat)
- Dinkel (spelt)
- Grünkern (unripe spelt grain)
- Einkorn (einkorn)
- Kamut (kamut)
- Bulgur (bulgur)
- Weizeneiweiß (wheat protein)
- Weizenkleber (wheat “glue”)
- Seitan (seitan)
Suggested Google searches to find gluten free smaller stores in Germany
Reader Frank suggests using the following searches to find tinier organic or gluten free shops in Germany if you are in the rural areas:
Gluten Free Restaurants in Germany
These are confirmed as safe for celiacs, not simply with gluten free dishes.
- Kartoffelhaus– “the potato house” in Freiburg has gluten free, lactose free, and vegan menus, as well as strong emphasis on regionally sourced foods. Although the menu includes a few Asian inspired dishes, there are plenty more traditional dishes to try, including potatoes made all sorts of ways!
- In Munich, Gasthof Obermaier offers a gluten free option for the majority of their menu. An excellent place to try Bavarian specialties in safe way.
- Rudolph’s in Hafencity, Hamburg offers the majority of their pizzas, pastas and Mediterranean dishes in a gluten free version, as well as gluten free beer.
- Jute Bäckerei in Berlin’s Prenzlauer Berg is a gluten free bread lover’s paradise. In addition to the buns and baguettes, they’ve got crispbreads, pastries, and gluten free loaves galore. If you happen to be around Berlin on a Sunday morning, they’ve even got a small breakfast menu.
- Suzette in central Berlin is known for authentic galettes, crepes and ciders from Brittany, France. Sadly the crepes aren’t gluten free, but the 100% buckwheat galette menu is extensive and affordable at 8 euro each.
- Berlin is gaining a reputation as the Europe’s vegan capital, and while that might not necessarily matter to celiacs, it does mean an overall increased awareness of “alternative” diets in the city. Many of Berlin’s vegan restaurants offer gluten free options, while others, like The Bowl, boast completely gluten free kitchens.
- Simela in Berlin offers gluten free and lactose free pizzas in two locations, Koppenplatz and Savignyplatz, as well as by delivery.
The German Celiac Association has a list of restaurants that they have certified as safe for celiacs, available in a free PDF. In addition, see Glutenfrei Berlin’s site for Berlin-specific suggestions.
What is Unsafe for a Celiac in Germany?
- Spätzle: Egg noodles that are made from wheat flour, eggs, water and salt. They’re often incorporated into other dishes.
- Sauerbraten: A pot roast served and cooked with a gravy that is thickened with flour (occasionally with gingersnaps).
- Kartoffelpuffer: Potato pancakes, with flour used to thicken the batter.
- Gemischter Salat: Mixed salad, listed here only because processed meats or cheese may be used in the mixture.
- Frikadellen: Meatballs, usually made with breadcrumbs.
- Schnitzel: Tenderized, flattened meat (kalb, veal /schwein pork), dredged in flour and coated with breadcrumbs before frying. Originally from Austria, this breaded meat dish is popular in Germany also – and definitely off limits for us celiacs! However, do ask if you can get a “Schnitzel natur” or Schnitzel ohne Panade, without flour crust.
- Wurst: This is a general term for sausage. Bread and flour are often used as fillers, so it is important to ask. Popular varieties of wurst include: (1) Currywurst – pork sausage served with curry ketchup or curry sauce; (2) Bratwurst – thicker, grey, mild sausage made of pork, veal, or beef, and (3) Wiener Würstchen (hot dogs – here often made without gluten).
- Döner Kebab: Turkish dish of thinly-sliced meat cooked on a vertical rotisserie stuffed into pita or flatbread and served with a variety of accompaniments. Similar to shawarma or gyros. Depending on gluten sensitivity, may be okay if eaten without the bread. Cross contamination is likely, however.
- Pan-fried fish filets: These are usually dredged in flour before frying. Ask for a grilled version, or a fried version without the flour and in a separate pan.
- Semmelknödel: bread dumplings, definitely off limits!
- Bienenstich: Bee-sting cake. Made with a yeast dough, baked-on almond crust, and a cream or custard filling.
- Gravies such as Sauce, Jus, Soße, Bratensaft: these are generally thickened with wheat flour or roux base.
- Hollandaise sauce: generally thickened with flour.
- Mayonnaise: can contain wheat flour as thickener, especially if bought from the store (vs. made in-house).
- Senf: mustard often contains gluten in Germany, except artisanal versions. Check ingredients.
Further Reading About Germany
Historical and Guide Books
- For a broad guide to Germany, the latest Lonely Planet guidebook is a great place to star. Rick Steves’ Germany guidebook is also updated for 2017.
- The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer. Originally published in 1960, this is an unflinching look at Germany during Hitler’s 6 year quest for world domination, written by an American reporter stationed in Berlin during the lead up to World War Two.
- The German Genius: Europe’s Third Renaissance, the Second Scientific Revolution and the Twentieth Century by Peter Watson. This is an ambitious examination of 250 years worth of German influence on global culture, from Bach to Freud, Einstein to Hitler. Beginning in 1750, Watson crafts a fascinating narrative of how German brilliance dominated Western intellectual life in the realms of art, music, philosophy, science, industry, and ultimately, warfare.
- In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson. A captivating narrative that reads more like a thriller than a nonfiction account.
My Suggestions for Food Books about Germany & Its Food
- The German Cookbook by Mimi Sheraton. One of the German cookbook classics, first published in 1965. Although it uses measurements and temperatures designed for an American audience, the dishes themselves are authentic and traditional.
- The New German Cookbook by Jean Anderson. A history lesson as well as a cookbook!
- Grandma’s German Cookbook by Linn Schmidt and Birgit Hamm. Full of anecdotes, photos, and heirloom recipes by real German grandmas.
- Beyond Bratwurst: A History of Food in Germany by Ursula Heinzelmann. Throughout this chronological history, Heinzelmann weaves in the social, political, industrial, and geographical influences that make German food not one cuisine, but many. She not only answers the question of what Germans eat, but also how and why.
- Culinaria Germany by Christine Metzger and Ruprecht Stempell. Full of lush photographs and in-depth background information, Culinaria Germany travels through each of Germany’s 16 states by region.
Happy and safe eating!