Top 20 Most Popular Austrian Foods & Desserts
Austria’s diverse and rich cuisine is a result of influences from Central Europe and the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. Traditional Austrian cuisine is dominated by meats, different types of sausages and carb-dense foods like dumplings, pastries and breads.
Numerous, different soup creations are also typical of Austrian cuisine and still reflect the culinary variety that was present during the time of the former Habsburg monarchy.
Different types of traditional Austrian cakes and pastries play a huge part in the Kaffeehauskultur (culture of cafeterias) that was started in the 17th century when the Turks introduced Austrians to coffee, and it is still very popular today.
Austria has many wine growing areas in the Eastern part of the country. The hilliest wine growing area in Styria is nicknamed the „Tuscany of Austria“. Heurigen and Buschenschanken are taverns selling new locally made wines and play an important role in Austrian wine culture and tradition.
Austria also has a strong beer culture, with countless breweries throughout the country, of which many have a longstanding tradition and age-old recipes. Beer is one of Austria’s favorite drinks. The average Austrian consumes more than 100 liters of beer per year.
One thing to know about Austrian food culture is that Austrians love Gemütlichkeit (coziness). When going to a restaurant, they’ll often have a starter dish, main course and dessert. They like to take their time and have long conversations with their peers while enjoying their food and drinks.
These are the 20 most popular Austrian dishes that are definitely a must-try for anyone visiting:
1. Wiener Schnitzel
Wiener Schnitzel, which means „Viennese cutlet“ in German, is thinly pounded veal, dipped in flour, eggs and breadcrumbs, and then deep-fried until golden.
You’ll be able to find Schnitzel on almost every traditional Austrian restaurant’s menu, where they’ll often serve you a Schnitzel almost as big as the entire plate. Nowadays, though, it’ll often be made of either pork or turkey instead of veal.
Many Austrians will insist that Wiener Schnitzel is best served with a wedge of lemon and a few spoonfuls of Erdäpfelsalat (potato salad) on the side.
2. Backhendl (Viennese Fried Chicken)
Backhendl (Viennese fried chicken) goes back to the 18th century, when it was often served to the aristocracy, and it is still a well-known delicacy of Viennese cuisine. Backhendl is traditionally made from a whole chicken that is cut into smaller bone-in pieces. The pieces are then spiced, breaded and fried until crispy golden.
In restaurants, the dish is often served simply with a lemon wedge on the side, and a side dish or salad needs to be ordered separately.
Tafelspitz which literally translates to „top of the table“ is a classic Austrian dish that is best described as boiled veal or beef. It is simmered along with root vegetables and spices in broth, and it is usually served with a horseradish sauce.
It was the Emperor of Austria, Kaiser Franz Joseph I, who made this dish popular more than 100 years ago, as he was a huge fan of it and requested it frequently, as it was one of his favorites.
4. Schweinsbraten (Roasted Pork)
Schweinsbraten (roasted pork) is a pork butt (shoulder) that’s roasted slowly in a rich sauce. It’s juicy with crispy skin and is the perfect comfort food.
Traditionally it’s served on Sundays in Austrian homes or at traditional Austrian restaurants and beer gardens. Schweinsbraten is usually served with Semmelknödel and Sauerkraut.
Semmelknödel are bread dumplings made of wheat bread rolls, milk, eggs, parsley and salt. However, depending on region and tradition, more ingredients might be added, such as onion, bacon or nutmeg.
Semmelknödel are frequently served as a side dish in Austrian cuisine, for example with Schweinsbraten, lentil stews or mushroom dishes (especially Eierschwammerlgulasch).
6. Eierschwammerlgulasch (Chanterelle Stew)
Eierschwammerl is the Austrian-German term for Pfifferling, or chanterelle in English. They are seasonal mushrooms that many people pick themselves in the forest during late summer or fall.
Eierschwammerl are very common in Austrian forests, making this meal a widespread and popular delicacy in all of Austria. Eierschwammerlgulasch is best explained as a thick mushroom stew that is flavored with onions, parsley and smoked paprika and is often served with Semmelknödel.
The Brettljause is a „cold plate“ snack, typically served on a rustic wooden board which is called a „Brettl“ in the Austrian-German dialect.
Brettljause can be enjoyed at any time of day, and is often served at a Buschenschank or Heuriger (tavern where local wine makers serve their new wine) or in Almhütten (mountain huts) in the Alps. Really, there’s nothing better than a traditional hearty Brettljause after a long hike.
Quality definitely is more important than quantity when it comes to a good Brettljause. All ingredients, including the bread, bacon, sausages, various types of cheese and cream cheese, butter, vegetables, pickled cucumbers and horseradish are homemade or locally sourced and arranged in an appetizing way.
The Käsekrainer is a sausage filled with small cubes of cheese, to which the Käsekrainer owes its name. It’s traditionally fried or grilled, which melts the cheese, and the sausage needs to be eaten while still hot.
The Käsekrainer is not entirely an Austrian invention but has been adapted to Austrian taste buds and adopted into Austrian cuisine. It has become a staple at food stalls (Würstelstand) in Austrian cities, where it’s served with mustard, horseradish, a bread roll and sometimes even Sauerkraut.
A Leberkässemmel is a popular snack that is often served in Austrian supermarkets, fast food stalls, and butcher shops. It consists of a Semmel (hard wheat flour bread roll), a slice of hot Leberkäse, and is often seasoned with mustard and/or ketchup.
Leberkäse is made from corned beef, pork and bacon. The ingredients are ground very finely and then baked as a loaf in a bread pan until it gets a crunchy brown crust.
Leberkäse literally translates to „liver cheese“, and comes in different variations, such as Käseleberkäse (small pieces of cheese are added) or Pikanter Leberkäse (spices are added).
Liptauer is a spicy cheese spread that is often served at Heurigen (wine taverns). It’s made of Topfen (quark), sour cream, onions, capers, and spices like paprika, salt and pepper. Frequently, ingredients vary depending on the place you go.
Liptauer is best enjoyed as a spread on Schwarzbrot (rye bread) but can also be consumed as a dip.
Frittatensuppe is a popular starter in restaurants, but it is also often made at home as a quick, comforting soup. The term „Frittaten“ comes from the Italian word frittata, meaning „fried“.
Frittatensuppe is made with savory crepe-style pancakes, called Palatschinken in Austria. The Palatschinken are sliced into thin strips, served with beef consommé or clear soup, and garnished with chives.
Grießnockerlsuppe consists of semolina dumplings that are served in homemade rich, clear beef stock as a first course. The soup is warming and flavorful which makes it the perfect comfort food.
Since the dough is simply made of semolina, milk, eggs and butter and is not seasoned, Grießnockerl can also be served as dessert. In this case they can be sweetened with cinnamon and sugar and are usually served with some type of warm fruit compote.
Austria’s version of pancakes, Palatschinken, can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. As mentioned above they can be chopped into a soup called Frittatensuppe, but they can also be served with either sweet or savory fillings.
Sweet versions are well-loved desserts and are often filled with some type of jam and sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar. But the most popular version in Austria is definitely the Topfenpalatschinke, which has a sweet quark filling that has been flavored with vanilla sugar and lemon zest.
Austrian cuisine is famous for its various types of dumplings (Knödel). Marillenknödel being a well-loved sweet variant. The dumplings are formed from dough, with a cored apricot placed in the middle. After boiling them in salted water, they are rolled in crisply fried bread crumbs and sugar.
Marillenknödel have become so popular that they can now be found as frozen ready meals in almost every supermarket, where they also offer different variations of dumplings, such as dumplings filled with nougat or with strawberries placed in the middle.
Austrians definitely love their Knödel. Legend says, Ferdinand I of Austria ordered Marillenknödel when apricots were not in season, saying, “I am the Emperor and I want dumplings!”
Marillen is the Austrian term for apricots, while most High-German speakers use the term Aprikosen.
Kaiserschmarrn is served as a light lunch or dessert and is best described as sweet, fluffy, shredded pancakes sprinkled with raisins and powdered sugar. Kaiserschmarrn is served hot with some type of fruit compote, most often it’s either plum compote (called „Zwetschgenröster” in Austrian-German) or apple compote.
The word Kaiserschmarrn can literally be translated as „Emperor’s Mess“ and supposedly got its name from the Austrian emperor Kaiser Franz Joseph I (1848–1916).
Mohnnudeln meaning „poppy seed noodles“ in English, are a specialty in Austrian cuisine and can be eaten as dessert, but traditionally they are served as a main course in Austria. They are thick noodles made of a potato dough that is tossed in melted butter and poppy seeds and sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar.
Just like Marillenknödel, they can be purchased as frozen ready meals at almost every supermarket in Austria.
The oldest known strudel recipe is a handwritten recipe from 1697, but it wasn’t until the 18th century that the strudel finally gained popularity. Since then, Apfelstrudel (apple strudel) has been a nationwide dessert favorite!
Apfelstrudel consists of a long pastry jacket with a filling inside that is made of grated apples (usually a tart and crisp variety), sugar, cinnamon, breadcrumbs and raisins. The dough recipe is very basic, only consisting of flour, oil, water, eggs and salt.
The dough is then kneaded, rested and rolled out on a large kitchen table. It is then stretched carefully to cover the entire table; it should be thin enough that one would be able to read a newspaper through a single layer of dough.
Apfelstrudel is often served with vanilla sauce, vanilla ice cream and/or whipped cream.
Krapfen is a round, sweet yeast dough, fried in oil and typically filled with apricot jam and topped with powdered sugar. However, different fillings are becoming more widespread, with vanilla cream, nougat or eggnog being some of the more popular ones.
Traditionally, Krapfen are only served seasonally between November 11 and Faschingsdienstag (Shrove Tuesday) which is typically in February or early March. During this time period it’s almost impossible to walk into an Austrian’s home and not be offered a Krapfen.
However, in recent years, it’s become more and more common to find them offered all year round at some cafés and stores.
Sachertorte is a dense chocolate cake, consisting of two layers, with a thin apricot jam filling, and coated in dark chocolate icing on the top and around the sides.
It is a soft, super delicious cake and is best enjoyed with unsweetened whipped cream.
The Sachertorte got its name from its inventor, Franz Sacher, who first made this cake in Vienna in 1832 for Prince Metternich. At the time, Franz Sacher was a 16-year-old apprentice and had to jump in and create a novel cake when the pastry chef fell ill. Whether this story is true or not, he definitely came up with a masterpiece of a cake.
The original Sachertorte was supposedly coated in icing made with three different types of dark chocolate. However, the original recipe is still kept a closely guarded secret to this day.
20. Linzer Torte
Linzer Torte is a traditional Austrian pastry, which is named after the Austrian city of Linz. The oldest recipe was discovered in a cookbook that is more than 350 years old. The Linzer Torte is a shortcake filled with redcurrant jam and a lattice-top crust.
The dough is very crumbly, as ground nuts are kneaded into it. It is typically single layered like a pie or tart, unlike most other traditional Austrian cakes.
There’s also a cookie version of the Linzer Torte called „Linzer Augen,“ which is traditionally served with afternoon coffee or tea, especially around Christmas time.