The weather is cooler and the nights are longer which means it is time for some serious German comfort food.
One of my all-time favourite recipes is Sauerbraten, a traditional German pot roast that is truly delicious. It’s also a super easy recipe, with the marinating and slow cooking doing most of the work.
What is sauerbraten?
First things first! You might have visited Germany or tried Sauerbraten at the famous Hofbräuhaus restaurants, but what exactly is this recipe all about?
Sauerbraten is made from a large piece of stewing beef, marinaded and softened in a mixture of wine and vinegar.
The marinated meat is slowly braised to create a meltingly tender roast, which is served with plenty of tangy red wine sauce. Yum!
A recipe with history
Sauerbraten is considered one of the national dishes of Germany and it has a long history dating all the way back to Julius Caesar and the Roman times.
The Romans used the vinegar in the marinade to preserve the meat while their armies were marching. This has the happy effect of tenderising tougher cuts as well as adding flavour.
The locals realised what a fantastic idea this was and Sauerbraten has since become an important part of German culture. Win-win!
To make my easy Sauerbraten recipe you’ll need the following main ingredients:
- BEEF ROAST: You can use any decent-sized beef roast for Sauerbraten, though the recipe is best with the cheaper cuts from the shoulder or top of the leg as it has a long cooking time. Top round, rump roast or boneless beef chuck roast are all suitable.
- RED WINE: Red wine in the marinade flavours the beef as well as tenderising and preserving it. If you really can’t have alcohol, use a non-alcoholic wine instead, but check that it isn’t too sweet. Don’t use fancy wine for this recipe, cheap and cheerful will do!
- VINEGAR: This is what makes the sour in Sauerbraten! I like to use red wine vinegar, but apple cider vinegar will work just as well in place of red wine vinegar.
- SPICES: The exact spices vary from region to region, but I like to use mustard seeds, juniper berries, caraway, cloves and allspice as the main flavourings.
- CARROTS, CELERY AND LEEK: This classic trio of ingredients flavours the sauce.
- GINGER COOKIES: The secret ingredient! In Southern Germany where I live, Sauerbraten sauce is often thickened and flavoured with ginger cookies (lebkuchen/honigbrot). Outside of Germany, gingersnap cookies or other spiced cookies like speculaas or Biscoff cookies will work too.
The complete ingredient list and detailed instructions are in the recipe card at the bottom of the page.
How to make Sauerbraten
The most important thing that you will need to make Sauerbraten is time! The meat should be in the marinade for 5 to 7 days for optimum flavour.
Alternative Cooking Methods
- SLOW COOKER: After browning the beat and sautéeing the vegetables, transfer vegetables, meat and sauce to the slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours. You’ll need to thicken the sauce on the stove top.
- STOVETOP: To cook on the stovetop you’ll need to reduce the heat to vey low after adding the beef back into the pan Cover tightly and cook for 2-3 hours, turning once or twice to ensure the beef doesn’t burn on the bottom
What to serve with Sauerbraten?
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Can I make sauerbraten without alcohol?
Yes! I’d recommend using a non-alcoholic wine in place of the normal red wine in this recipe for the best results.
Can I use different meat to make Sauerbraten?
Yes, beef is traditional, but pork shoulder will work as well. In fact, the Romans liked to make it with horse meat!
My sauerbraten looks a little dry, is this correct?
Yes. The long, slow cooking time and marinating breaks down the structure of the meat which can make it look a little dry. Don’t worry! It is still lovely and tender, just be sure to serve it with plenty of sauce.
Real German Sauerbraten
for the roast:
- 1.25 kg beef rump or chuck roast, see notes
for the marinade:
- 500 ml red wine
- 250 ml red wine vinegar
- 3 bay leaves
- 3 shallots, peeled and sliced
- 2 Tbsp mustard seeds
- 1 Tbsp black peppercorns
- 1 Tbsp coriander seeds
- 1 Tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tsp juniper berries
- 1 tsp allspice berries, optional
- 1 tsp caraway seeds
- ½ tsp whole cloves
- 1 tsp sea salt or kosher salt
- ½ head celeriac, celery root, diced
- 2 large carrots, diced
- 1 leek, diced
- 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 250 ml beef broth
- 1 Tbsp tomato paste
- 4 ginger or spice cookies, crushed (ginger snaps, speculaas etc.)
- 1-2 Tbsp cornstarch, optional
- sea salt and black pepper
- MARINADE THE BEEF: Trim the beef of any tough silver skin, then place it in a large container. It needs a lid, so Tupperware or a large dutch oven is ideal. In a large bowl, stir together all marinade ingredients, then pour over the meat. It should be mostly submerged, so top up with a little extra wine if necessary. Place in the bottom of the fridge and marinate for 5-7 days, turning daily.
- PREPARE TO COOK: When you are ready to cook, remove the beef from the marinade and pat it dry with paper towels. Pour the marinade through a sieve and keep it to the side, you’ll need it for the sauce. Heat the oven to 180°C / 350°F / Gas 4.
- BROWN THE BEEF: Heat vegetable oil in a large dutch oven or heavy-based saucepan. Brown meat well on all sides over medium-high heat. Remove from the ban and set aside.
- SAUTÉ VEGETABLES: Add a splash more oil to the pan if necessary, then add the celeriac and carrots. Cook over medium heat for 5-10 minutes until beginning to soften, then add the leek and cook a further 2-3 minutes.
- ADD LIQUID: Pour the beef broth or stock, tomato paste and 250ml (1 cup) of the trained marinade into the pan and use a wooden spoon to scrape up all the browned-on bits on the bottom of the pan.
- COOK BEEF: Remove from the heat and carefully lift the beef into to pan, pouring over any resting juices. Cover and cook in the preheated oven for 2-2.5 hours (see notes on timing).
- MAKE SAUCE: When the beef is tender, carefully remove it from the pan and keep it warm. Strain the cooking liquid into a saucepan, stir through the crushed cookies and simmer until dissolved. If you need to thicken the sauce further, stir the cornstarch into a little cold water to make a slurry and add to the sauce, simmering until thickened. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper or extra sugar if necessary.
- SERVE: Slice the sauerbraten and serve with plenty of sauce, red cabbage and potato dumplings (recipe coming soon!).
- CUT OF MEAT: You can use any decent-sized beef roast for Sauerbraten, though the recipe is best with the cheaper cuts from the shoulder or top of the leg as it has a long cooking time. Top round, rump roast or boneless beef chuck roast are all suitable. In Germany, I often use a ‘burgermeisterstück’ which is particularly delicious.
- COOKING TIME: Depending on the age of the animal, how long the beef has been in the marinade and the pot you are cooking it in, Sauerbraten cooking time can vary. I allow 2-3 hours of cooking time and start testing after 2 hours to see if it is fork tender.
- SAUCE THICKENING: In Southern Germany, it is traditional to thicken sauerbraten sauce with ginger cookies, so much so that we have a special type of cookie which is only used for thickening sauce! Gingersnap cookies or spice biscuits will work and I often thicken the sauce further with a little cornstarch.
As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.