What Germans eat in the summer

11 light German foods for the summer

Summer is 'Grill' season

Just like in many other countries, Germans love to barbecue, and anything can go on the grill. Sausages, of course, as well any kind of meat, along with vegetables and Turkish halloumi cheese, are among the most popular options. Many Germans stick to old-fashioned coal barbecues. In cities, grilling in public parks is common.

11 light German foods for the summer

Add a little 'Krautsalat'

The word Kraut became a derogatory term to refer to Germans during the World Wars. Although "Kraut" itself means "herb," it is often used to refer to cabbage too - such as the popular German dish "Sauerkraut," which is finely cut, fermented cabbage, and "Krautsalat," coleslaw. Germans will dress it with vinegar instead of mayonnaise, and some people add apples and onions to the salad.

11 light German foods for the summer

One potato option among many: 'Kartoffelsalat'

If the German word for potato, "Kartoffel," had been simpler, it could've well become the term soldiers used to describe Germans, too. There are probably as many potato salad recipes as families in Germany - and many people will strictly follow their mother's for the rest of their life. Instead of mayonnaise, some traditional recipes combine broth, vinegar and oil for dressing.

11 light German foods for the summer

Another potato dish: 'Pellkartoffel mit Quark'

In the summer heat, no one feels like cooking an elaborate meal. That's why Germans came up with this favorite, based once again on the potato. To save work, "Pellkartoffeln" are potatoes boiled in the skins, removed by each diner before eating. They're served with "Quark" - a creamy dairy product similar to yogurt - that's combined with fresh herbs, salt and pepper. Simple, but addictive.

11 light German foods for the summer

Salads are not just for rabbits: 'Fleischsalat'

Vegetarians, you can close your eyes now: Germans have managed to make meat the main ingredient of a SALAD - though many people use "meat salad" as a spread for bread, to be honest. Lyoner sausage, or baloney, is cut into strips and combined with mayonnaise or sour cream, pickles, onions and other spices. You have to trust your butcher to enjoy this.

11 light German foods for the summer

Another challenge: 'Apfel-Matjes-Salat'

"Matjes" are pickled herrings, and although they're perhaps not to everyone's liking, they're cult along the northern German coast. In this traditional recipe, also called "Matjes nach Hausfrauenart," which means "housewife's style," the pickled fish is combined with diced onions, apples, dill and creamy dairy products. This refreshing summer dish is served with - no surprise - potatoes.

11 light German foods for the summer

Creamy herbs: 'Frankfurter Grüner Sosse'

You might start recognizing a trend: Different German summer specialties involve a sauce that's served with potatoes - and, in this case, eggs. This traditional green sauce from the Frankfurt region celebrates the fresh herbs that are available during the summer. The sauce has its own festival and official season, opening on Maundy Thursday before Easter, called in German "Gründonnerstag."

11 light German foods for the summer

The summer stew: 'Birne, Bohnen und Speck'

Pears, green beans and bacon: The name of this northern German dish is both a basic shopping list for what's needed in the recipe and a culinary poem for the taste buds. These three ingredients are cooked into a comforting stew that's salty and sweet, healthy yet with a nice touch of fat. The pears are of a variety that remains firm when cooked - available from July to September.

11 light German foods for the summer

Competing stars of the summer: 'Beeren'

Some Germans could probably skip the main course and simply stick to dessert all summer, as it is the season of regional fresh berries ("Beeren") and fruit ("Früchte" or "Obst"). Favorites include strawberries ("Erdbeeren"), red currant berries ("Johanisbeeren"), cherries ("Kirschen"), blueberries ("Heidelbeeren") and apricots ("Aprikosen").

11 light German foods for the summer

'Zwetschgen': Not all plums are equal

Another fruit that's typically used in Germany to make amazing cakes is the plum. But not just any kind of plum - one with a strange, untranslatable name: the "Zwetschge." It is similar to the damson plum, but still a distinct variety. This can be confusing for foreigners. Zwetschgen are small and oval, while "Pflaumen" (the general term for plums) are the round ones.

11 light German foods for the summer

The summertime staple: 'Rote Grütze'

If you start craving "rote Grütze," then you've really adopted German food culture. Its literal translation is "red grits," but this classic can best be defined as a thick red berry fruit compote. Summer berries are combined with sugar and cornstarch. The fruit pudding is served with vanilla sauce, cream or ice cream. It's simple, but somehow summer in Germany wouldn't be the same without it.

Germans don't eat sausage, sauerkraut and potatoes all the time. Here are some of the lighter dishes they'll typically prepare during the summer. (You can still expect a few sausages and potatoes, though.)

"Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dine like a pauper" is an old adage in Germany. 

The German tradition of "Abendbrot," which literally translates as "evening bread," is a very attractive option during the summer, as no cooking is involved. Instead of a big meal, a typical Abendbrot is made up of a selection of cheeses, cold cuts or sausage, and pickles served with slices of dark bread. Add a beer or an "Apfelschorle" (apple juice mixed with carbonated mineral water) to your meal, and you'll definitely be doing it the German way.

Otherwise, the classic German summer dishes presented in the gallery above are also easy to prepare. Don't be fooled, simplicity can be very addictive. 

If regional and seasonal products are the stars of summer cuisine in Germany, potatoes remain the year-long supporting act. Here's more insight into the Germans' insatiable love affair with potatoes.

If ever it suddenly gets cold and you feel like warming up to a hearty meal, you can also turn to one of these German comfort foods typically prepared during the winter for inspiration.

However, we still hope this summer will stay one where children and adults will all feel like eating ice cream everyday, one of the eight sure signs it's summer in Germany.

For more about German culture, language and lifestyle, visit dw.com/meetthegermans.


10 places Germans like to hang out in the summer

At their small garden plots

Known as a Schrebergarten, many urban-dwellers have a small garden plot outside the city where they can grow vegetables, relax, BBQ and enjoy the greenery. Germany's nearly 1 million garden plots - which began in the early 19th century to feed the poor - are strictly regulated. You may build a small house on your less than 400-square-meter plot but you can't move in and a portion must be planted.

10 places Germans like to hang out in the summer

At the local Italian ice cream parlor

There are well over 5,000 ice cream parlors in Germany and many are family-run by Italian immigrants. During the summer, you often have to wait for a table on the terrace. Besides just scooping popular flavors like vanilla, stracciatella and hazelnut, many parlors offer specialty dishes including "spaghetti ice cream." The sweet stuff is pressed into noodle form and topped with strawberry sauce.

10 places Germans like to hang out in the summer

In the public outdoor pool

There are some 7,000 public swimming pools in Germany and over half of them are so-called "free pools" - Freibäder. No, they're not free of charge; they're dubbed "free" because they located outdoors rather than in a hall (Hallenbad). While indoor pools are open all year, the Freibad is particularly popular during the summer months.

10 places Germans like to hang out in the summer

At the lake

Though it's landlocked on three sides, Germany is home to countless lakes and many of them are suitable for swimming and boating. The Chiemsee lake in Germany's southeastern-most corner has good water quality and stretches of sandy beaches, which makes it particularly popular among summer swimmers and sunbathers. It's also Germany's third-largest lake - so it's never too overcrowded on peak days.

10 places Germans like to hang out in the summer

At a music festival

Summer is the season for music lovers in Germany. There's a festival practically every weekend - from rap to reggae. The photo is from Splash!, the country's largest hip hop festival, which takes place at an outdoor industrial museum. Wacken Open Air, the world's biggest heavy metal festival, and Hurricane, featuring alternative to mainstream sounds, are also highlights.

10 places Germans like to hang out in the summer

Exploring Berlin

Over 12 million people visited Berlin last year, with nearly 40 percent coming from abroad. That means quite a few Germans journey to the capital as well. During the summer months, during school break, it's an opportunity to show young people from less urban regions where the government works - and do some serious shopping, of course. While Berlin winters are harsh, its summers tend to be sunny.

10 places Germans like to hang out in the summer

In the Biergarten

In 1812, Bavaria's King Maximilian I ruled that beer gardens could be set up in Munich for the first time, and the garden near the Augustinerkeller is considered the oldest. But since then, the outdoor pubs have become common all over the country and are a popular summer pastime after work and on weekends. With 8,000 seats, the Hirschgarten Biergarten in Munich (pictured) is the country's largest.

10 places Germans like to hang out in the summer

At the movies

Visits to German cinemas have risen from 127.3 million in 2005 to 139.2 million in 2015 - largely due to new technology like 3D films. On particularly hot days, movie theaters are a needed refuge from the heat, and are a way to kill time on days off. Blockbusters like "The Legend of Tarzan," "Independence Day 2" and "Ghostbusters" have all opened in Germany this summer.

10 places Germans like to hang out in the summer

On their bikes

Germany is strewn with an extensive network of cycling paths that get extra use during the summer. They lead bikers into woods (like the Bavarian Forest), urban jungles (like the cycling "Autobahn" across the Ruhr region), and through agricultural delights, like the Ahr Valley path pictured here. The region is known for its hillside vineyards and red wine.

10 places Germans like to hang out in the summer

On the beach in Germany's '17th state'

The Spanish island of Mallorca is often referred to as Germany's 17th state. Indeed, for millions of German vacationers - who lovingly refer to the sunny, sandy isle as "Malle" - it's practically a second home. For over 30,000 Germans, it is their home. That means visitors are bound to find all the comforts of home - from German-speaking staff to their favorite wurst - without the dreary weather.