This is one of the weeks I’ve been really looking forward to. I knew food from Austria would include schnitzel and lots of potatoes, and I was excited to see what delicious dishes I would get to make.
Austria is located in the Eastern Alps in Central Europe and was initially settled by Celtic tribes. The country was once part of the Holy Roman Empire, and when it dissolved, Austria established its own powerful empire.
Austria has, throughout history, had close ties to Germany and Hungary. Austrian Nazis took over the government in 1938 while German troops occupied the country. This led to Austria being annexed by Germany, which lasted through World War II. Austria did not regain full independence until 1955, and shortly after, declared its ‘permanent neutrality’.
Today, Austria is a prosperous country with a high GDP per capita and high standards of living.
What Do People Eat in Austria?
Austrian cuisine is influenced by Hungarian, Czech, Polish, Jewish, Italian, Balkan, and French cuisines, making it one of the most multicultural in Europe.
Wiener schnitzel is considered one of Austria’s national dishes, and it is available pretty much everywhere in the country. Many other Austrian main dishes tend to have a heavy focus on meat, and beef, pork, chicken, turkey, and goose are all common. There are many different kinds of Austrian sausages, and bacon is popular too.
The common accompaniments to these dishes often involve potatoes or dumplings, or even dumplings made of potatoes. Dumplings are so popular that there are even sweet versions.
Austrian cuisine also features a lot of cakes and pastries, many of which are quite complicated to make.
It is said that Austria introduced coffee to Europe, after the Turkish army left behind bags of coffee beans when they retreated after the Battle of Vienna. In reality, coffee houses had already appeared in Europe a few years earlier, but coffee did become an important fixture in Austrian life and many variations are available.
What I Made
- Kaisersemmel (Kaiser Rolls)
- Fiakergulasch (Beef Goulash)
- Einspänner (Coffee with Whipped Cream)
- Tiroler Omelet (Bacon and Bratwurst Omelet)
- Faschierte Laibchen (Ground Meat Patties)
- Erdäpfelsalat (Austrian Potato Salad)
- Wiener Schnitzel
- Linzer Augen (Linzer Cookies)
- Sachertorte (Apricot-Filled Chocolate Cake)
- Tiroler Gröstl (Potato and Bacon Hash)
- Kaiserschmarrn (Shredded Pancake)
Scroll down to read about other popular Austrian dishes I didn’t make!
Kaisersemmel (Kaiser Rolls)
Kaisersemmel is the German name of these rolls, commonly known as Kaiser rolls in other countries. They are crusty bread rolls with a kind of spiral pattern on top. This is made with a ‘kaiser stamp’ which cuts the pattern into the top of the roll before baking. Since I didn’t have one, I followed the suggestion given by the recipe I used, from King Arthur Baking, and shaped my rolls into knots. I haven’t done anything like this many times before; I once made a braided challah and I’ve made exactly one attempt at pretzels. But I think they turned out alright! I kept some plain, which is more traditional, and topped some with sesame seeds and some with poppy seeds. These were really good and I used most of them for sandwiches throughout the week (I froze them to keep them fresh).
Fiakergulasch (Beef Goulash)
This is a goulash variation, made mostly with beef, onion and lots of paprika. What makes this Fiakergulasch is what accompanies the dish. It is common to include a wiener sausage, pickle and fried egg. The goulash is usually served over potato dumplings but, according to the recipe I used, it can also be served with bread, and so I used one of my kaiser rolls. I got the recipe from the Austrian travel site so surely it’s pretty authentic! I did not use caraway powder; instead I just used a pinch of the whole seeds (for half the recipe) and I think it turned out fine. Overall, this dish was pretty good.
Einspänner (Coffee with Whipped Cream)
This is essentially just hot coffee topped with whipped cream and (optionally) a dusting of cocoa powder. It’s named after Viennese coachmen and was made so that they could hold their coffee without it spilling everywhere while they were driving the carriage.. The whipped cream is what helped prevent spilling, and it also kept the coffee hot. This would usually be served in a handled glass but I don’t have one, and I also don’t have any regular glasses that I feel comfortable pouring hot coffee into, so I used a regular coffee cup. This tasted pretty good but I expected that.
This is an omelet made with bacon, bratwurst, parsley and tomatoes. I couldn’t find a recipe, but I found a few photos, and determined it’s not necessarily a rolled omelet with filling inside. So I just cooked the bratwurst and bacon, then mixed the eggs with some milk, tomato and parsley and poured that on top. I let it set and then served; I got two servings out of this. I took a photo before plating because I was pretty sure it would fall apart, and it did. But it still tasted really good!
Faschierte Laibchen (Ground Meat Patties)
This is a ground meat patty made of beef and pork. It’s bound with egg and fresh bread crumbs, and flavored with onion, garlic, thyme, marjoram, and fresh parsley. I followed the recipe from Eating Austria which was very easy, and they turned out delicious! The only thing I did differently was omit the flour and soup seasoning called for in the recipe. These are typically served with mashed potato, so that’s what I did.
Erdäpfelsalat (Austrian Potato Salad)
I love potato salad, but not so much when it’s drowned in mayonnaise, which is so often the case. Especially when it’s not good mayonnaise. Austrian potato salad is typically made with no mayonnaise at all. Instead, the potatoes are mixed with onions, mustard, and vinegar. It’s common to add some fresh parsley or chives too, and the version I made had a little sugar added. I could probably do without the sugar, but otherwise, this was a really delicious version of potato salad. I used the recipe from Serious Eats.
After my research I feel I must include a disclaimer here: this is not technically a proper wiener schnitzel, because I used pork instead of veal. According to Austrian law, you cannot call it ‘wiener’ schnitzel unless you make it out of veal. But veal is really expensive, and not always easy to get either, hence I used pork.
I didn’t follow a recipe for this, though I did look at a few. I coated the pork in seasoned flour, then beaten egg, then fine breadcrumbs, and shallow fried for a few minutes until done. There is a pork schnitzel recipe on my blog which is really similar, except it uses panko instead of fine breadcrumbs. That makes it really inauthentic but I like how crunchy it gets.
I served this with the Austrian potato salad (and broccoli, which is the vegetable of choice here most of the time since it’s one of the few my husband will eat). This was, of course, delicious, as just about anything breaded and fried is.
Linzer Augen (Linzer Cookies)
I was already familiar with these cookies before this week, though I had never made them. I seem to remember eating something similar as a kid, but it was from a packet. They are basically just sandwich cookies with a hole in the top one to reveal the jam filling. Traditionally, redcurrant jam would be used, but I used strawberry jam because it’s what I had. I used the recipe from King Arthur Baking and I thought my cookies turned out pretty good, even though they were a little wonky. I didn’t have a cookie cutter small enough to cut out the holes, nor do I own piping tips, which is the other suggestion, so I just cut the holes out with a knife.
Sachertorte (Apricot-Filled Chocolate Cake)
This is something I’ve been eying for weeks as it sat on my list of food I wanted to make for Austria. But I wasn’t sure I would be able to make it since I can’t very well make a super rich layered chocolate cake ‘just because’. Luckily, my father-in-law was having a small gathering on the weekend, and so I brought this cake (and the Linzer Augen).
A sachertorte is a rich chocolate cake, filled with apricot jam. I followed the recipe from Food and Wine and while it tasted pretty good, I had a few issues.
I was meant to cut the cake into three layers, but I didn’t think it was tall enough for that. Then after cutting, I realized I kind of could have got a third, but the third layer would just be the dome of the cake. I was also meant to assemble the cake with the top at the bottom, but I don’t think that would have worked unless it was much flatter. And I was not going to cut off the dome, after all the chocolate that went into this cake. I think I could get a flatter cake by cooking at a lower temperature, so that’s something to consider if I make this again. I think it also could have used a couple minutes less in the oven (I baked for 35 minutes, which is the lower end specified in the recipe).
But ultimately, it was a chocolate cake, and it was good. I think the jam helped offset the richness, so although there was a lot of chocolate, it wasn’t overwhelming. If I ever get the opportunity, I would love to try making this again.
Tiroler Gröstl (Potato and Bacon Hash)
This was just bacon, potatoes and onion cooked with some paprika and caraway, topped with a fried egg and some parsley. So simple, but so delicious. I’d never used caraway seeds for anything except rye bread before this week, and I find I really like the flavor they give (but in small amounts; I think they could be really overpowering if you’re not careful).
I used the recipe from the Austrian travel site, but I was loose with my measurements and I aimed for about a quarter of the recipe. I might try some variations in future, since this is often made with leftover meat rather than bacon, and I think that could be delicious too.
Kaiserschmarrn (Shredded Pancake)
This is a large pancake, baked in the oven in a skillet and then cut into pieces before serving. It’s usually topped with powdered sugar and served with a plum compote. I elected to serve it with strawberries instead. The pancake is really light and fluffy because you beat the egg whites separately before folding them into the rest of the mixture. The recipe I used is from Lil Vienna.
I found this to be a little on the dry side, so I added maple syrup after I started eating, which I’m sure isn’t traditional. I did really like this idea though and I’d probably make it again and try to just cook for less time.
Other Popular Austrian Dishes
- Tafelspitz – boiled veal or beef in broth. Common accompaniments include vegetables, horseradish, and minced apples.
- Brettljause – an Austrian charcuterie board, served as an appetizer. It typically includes a variety of cheeses, cold cuts, pickled vegetables, and spreads. Often, a dark bread such as rye or pumpernickel will be served too.
- Topfentascherl – pastry parcels typically filled with a soft, sweet cheese filling. Fruit is often added too.
- Kaspressknödel – dumplings made mostly from bread, onion, egg, and cheese. These are not typical dumplings! They are shaped into patties, kind of like hamburgers, then pan-fried. Usually, they are served in a clear broth.
- Apfelstrudel – a popular Viennese pastry, which you may know as ‘apple strudel’. The pastry itself is very thin, like Greek phyllo pastry, and multiple layers are wrapped around the filling. Although apple is the traditional filling, there are many other kinds of strudels available today.
This was another great week! Food from Austria is delicious. I think my favorite was the tiroler gröstl; although it was really simple, it was just so good. I also particularly enjoyed the sachertorte and the faschierte laibchen.
Next week, I will be cooking food from my last ‘A’ country, Azerbaijan!