One of Germany’s national dishes, this authentic German Sauerbraten is marinated, cooked until tender, and served with a wonderfully rich and flavorful sweet-tangy gravy! Serve it with homemade Rotkohl and potatoes, Knödel or Spätzle and you’re all set for a memorable feast!
Growing up in southern Germany until my mid-20’s, Sauerbraten was a dish I always looked forward to. Both my German mother and my Oma would make it served with Rotkohl, Knödle and potatoes, sometimes Spätzle, and it was a memorable feast every time. It was also a dish we loved to order at restaurants. Wherever we went it was made a little differently, but always delicious.
Sauerbraten recipes vary by region, each adding their own touches. Some regions use just vinegar, some just wine and others use a combination of both, which is the most common. There is always the addition of a sweet ingredient to balance the acidity and sourness of the sauce and some regions do this by adding ginger snap cookies, raisins, sugar, honey or sugar beet syrup (or often a combination of them) to achieve that balance. The addition of ginger snaps also serves to thicken the gravy.
- 2 large yellow onions, chopped
- 2 large carrots, diced
- 1 large leek, chopped, thoroughly washed and drained to remove any dirt
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 large sprigs thyme
- 2 small sprigs rosemary
- 2 bay leaves
- 8 juniper berries, cracked
- 6 whole cloves
- 10 whole black peppercorns, cracked
- 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 1/2 cups red wine
- 1 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 4 pounds beef roast (tougher cuts like bottom round or rump roast are traditional but you can also use chuck roast)
- 4 slices bacon, finely diced (optional) , some variations include but most do not
- 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup raisins
- 3 ounces ginger snap cookies, crumbled
- 1 tablespoon honey
Prepare the Marinade: Place all of the veggies and herbs in a heavy non-reactive stock pot or enameled Dutch oven along with the garlic, juniper berries, whole cloves, bay leaves, salt, sugar and peppercorns. Add the red wine, red wine vinegar and water.
Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the mixture cool down completely.
Marinate the Meat: Nestle the roast in the vegetable marinade and place the lid on the pot.
Let it marinate in the fridge for at least 4 days, preferably 7. (Traditionally, the marinating time is as long as 2 weeks!) Unless the meat is completely submerged under the liquid, turn the roast over once every day.
Remove the roast, pat it dry with paper towels, and strain the liquid from the vegetables. Reserve the liquid and the vegetables.
Cook the Roast: Rinse the pot out and heat a tablespoon or two of oil in it over high heat. Generously brown the roast on all sides. Remove the roast and set aside. If using bacon, cook the bacon until done.
Leave about 2 tablespoons of oil/fat in the pot. Place the strained vegetables in the pot (with the bacon if using) and cook for 5-7 minutes. Stir in the flour, cooking the mixture for a minute or two to eliminate the flour flavor. Add the liquid that you strained from the vegetable marinade, bring it to a boil, stirring constantly to prevent lumps.
Add the raisins, honey and crushed ginger snaps. Return the roast to the pot.
Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for about 2 hours (may need less or longer depending on roast and marinating time) or until the meat is very tender.
(Important Note: The longer you let the roast marinate the faster it will cook because the meat will be more tender from the start. So check on your roast periodically for doneness.)
When the roast is done, remove and transfer it to a plate, tent it to keep warm, and let it rest for 5 minutes before slicing.
Prepare the Gravy: While the roast is resting, strain the gravy and return the gravy to the pot. Taste and more sugar, salt and pepper as desired. If you want your gravy thicker, make a cornstarch slurry to thicken the gravy. (Note: The balance of sour to sweet is a matter of personal taste – adjust the flavor according to your preference. If the flavor is too strong for you, you can dilute it with a little water or broth.)
Spoon the gravy over the sliced Sauerbraten and serve immediately.
Serve with Homemade German Rotkohl and boiled potatoes, Homemade German Spätzle, Semmelknödel or Kartoffelklöße . A few parts of Germany even serve it with Homemade Kartoffelpuffer.