Leberkäse (Liver Cheese): The Food of Bavarian Royalty

Leberkäse (Liver Cheese): The Food of Bavarian Royalty

leberkaese liver cheese, German food

“Leberkäse?  What exactly is “liver cheese”(the direct translation)?

I asked looking up from the menu as we settled in for lunch at a hut overlooking the Chiemsee (lake in the German Alps).  My German dining companions struggled to explain.  “Well it’s pork” they all quickly agreed.  “It’s… a mixture of meat.”  “You really just have to try it as it’s difficult to explain,” chimed in someone else.  “It’s a local specialty (Bavarian),” offered someone else.  “It was invented by the cook of a Bavarian duke,” supplied someone else.  Which while all very interesting wasn’t helping me to identify the mystery meat.  “Is it made of liver and cheese?” I asked, my lip curled up.  “NO” came the reply in unison! Later, I  found out that while Bavarian Leberkäse doesn’t contain liver, other varieties from other parts of Germany do contain a small portion of liver.

Despite my curiosity, I wasn’t feeling confident about ordering the mystery meat so  J.P. (my German husband) offered to order it so that I could try a bite.  When it came out, I told my German companions that I thought it resembled SPAM which was met with blank stares.  “You know the meat that comes out of a can that’s really cheap and popular with university students.”  From the scowls on their faces it was clear that my unflattering comparison of Leberkäse to canned meat wasn’t appreciated.

I cautiously tasted a small bite – yep it tasted exactly like warm SPAM. Warning, if you feel the same way, you might want to keep your comments to yourself, or try one of the German dishes that is actually really good, like Käsespätzle. On the other hand, compared to this Bavarian dish, perhaps Leberkäse is not SO bad after all!

It does make one wonder though how despite the abolition of Bavarian royalty in 1918, how Leberkäse has managed to survive 235 years since its founding in 1776!

Laurel Robbins is the founder of Monkeys and Mountains, an adventure travel blog and company that helps people plan their active holidays in a sustainable way. Although Canadian, she lives in Germany. You can find her in the mountains on most weekends.
2015-10-28T14:56:20+00:00

29 Comments

  1. Frau Dietz November 4, 2011 at 10:41 am - Reply

    I sort of quite like Leberkäse: I couldn’t eat a whole slab on my own, it’s so rich, but I don’t think it’s altogether too bad. Although now you’ve likened it to spam…. urrrgh….!!

  2. Laurel November 4, 2011 at 11:27 am - Reply

    @Frau Dietz – I know it’s very popular. Half the people at our table ordered it but it’s definitely “nicht fur mich”. Maybe I would have thought it tasted better if it didn’t look like SPAM, but once I had that image….

  3. Sabrina November 4, 2011 at 2:38 pm - Reply

    Leberkaese! We don’t have it in Cologne where I am from… I totally got turned on to it when I moved close to Stuttgart for my studies though. So freaking good. Especially in a nice, fresh Broetchen. The thought that there could be actual liver in there disgusts me though… I’ve heard it being compared to Spam before and yet I still have not had the courage to try Spam here in the US. Just sounds so bad. And it’s from a can!

  4. inka November 4, 2011 at 2:47 pm - Reply

    Oh, how I love Leberkäse mit Bratkartoffeln. I can vividly imagine the faces of your German companions when you ‘dared’ to compare this ‘sacred’ Bavarian food to SPAM!!! Laurel, Laurel, how could you….

  5. Laurel November 4, 2011 at 2:52 pm - Reply

    @Sabrina – According to Wikipedia most Leberkäse that is not Bavarian Leberkäse may contain up to 4% liver, not a lot, but still. I think SPAM is bad, but if you’re ever homesick you could just fry some up and voila you have the American version of Leberkäse 🙂

    @Inka – Really? I wouldn’t have taken you for a Leberkäse kind of gal. I should probably keep my mouth shut regarding my thoughts on Leberkäse if I ever want to make any Bavarian friends, but I really do think it tastes very similar to fried SPAM.

  6. Zhu November 4, 2011 at 3:47 pm - Reply

    After reading the first paragraph, “spam” was also my first thought! I’ve never tasted it though. I’m not much for mystery meat… I barely eat meat already!

  7. Laurel November 4, 2011 at 4:17 pm - Reply

    @Zhu – Thank you! It’s not just me 🙂

  8. Cathy Sweeney November 4, 2011 at 5:03 pm - Reply

    Always a risk trying a food that is difficult to explain! I don’t think the egg on top would really help it either. But, at least you gave it a try. Sometimes, I stay too much in my comfort zone with food when traveling. I should take more chances!

  9. Laurel November 4, 2011 at 5:15 pm - Reply

    @Cathy – Exactly, that’s usually a bad sign :). I had a very small bite, but that was enough. I stay in my comfort zone a lot when it comes to food as well, but I’m working on it (hence the bite of the Leberkäse)

  10. Tara from TulipFamilyTravels November 4, 2011 at 6:11 pm - Reply

    Wow, that looks … interesting. I love liverwurst, which I imagine would be similar, but liverwurst is softer like a pate, and leberkase looks, well, more like Spam. Key texture difference!

  11. Laurel November 4, 2011 at 6:18 pm - Reply

    @Tara – “Interesting” is a good word. I haven’t tried liverwurst before, so I’m not sure how similar it is to Leberkäse, but I agree texture is key. Good to know I’m not the only one who thinks it looks like Spam.

  12. Linda November 4, 2011 at 6:50 pm - Reply

    LOL! Cholesterol heaven, methinks – not that that would put me off when in need of comfort food. Many years ago when we were in school, my best friend’s sister had a German exchange student to stay, and they served Spam one day at tea time. It was new to him too. My friends’ mom was prattling on about it and how it had been “invented” to eek out meat rations in war time (I have no idea whether that’s correct), and then suddenly blushed violently and stopped mid-track when she realized that the boy was German. This was in the mid 60s, only 20 yrs after WW2, so she was really embarrassed, but they all laughed about her embarrassment too, and she felt that she had done her bit for international relations! Possibly that explains why your German friends have never heard of it?

  13. Sue November 4, 2011 at 7:39 pm - Reply

    See you are an adventurer even in your food!

  14. Annie-FootTracker November 4, 2011 at 8:55 pm - Reply

    That meat does look like spam….a LOT.

    Reading that it is “mixed meat….possibly pork” ringed a red bell in my head (because you never know what kind of meat or parts they mixed in!!) XDDD

    How did it taste?

  15. Laurel November 4, 2011 at 9:35 pm - Reply

    @Linda – Cholesterol would be a good excuse not to eat Leberkäse, even though that doesn’t stop me either from eating things I like :). Love your story, it made me smile and yes that would explain why spam isn’t widely known in Germany 🙂

    @Sue – Well I only had a bite, rather than being brave enough to order it myself, but it’s a step 🙂

    @Annie – Thank you! So glad to know it’s not just me who thinks so. I always worry when nobody can describe what the meat is. It tasted like fried spam, so at least it was consistent with how it looked.

  16. Christy @ Technosyncratic November 5, 2011 at 7:21 pm - Reply

    Mystery meat = the worst kind of meat! I might try a bite of this, but I already have a feeling I wouldn’t like it…. 🙂

  17. jenjenk November 5, 2011 at 10:23 pm - Reply

    AHHAHA!! I’ve never had the chance to try it but it doesn’t look all that great…although I do like me a good taste of Spam Musubi!

  18. Sophie November 5, 2011 at 11:22 pm - Reply

    Leberkäse = spam?! Aiaiai, you’re in trouble now 🙂

  19. Mette Christensen November 6, 2011 at 1:17 pm - Reply

    Thanks for explaining Leberkäse to me. I’ve never had the guts to try it, and I think I’ll still refrain, but now – at least – I know what I’m missing.

  20. Mark Wiens November 6, 2011 at 1:25 pm - Reply

    Wow, as a devout lover of spam, that looks pretty good to me…but I might need some exercise before eating it!

  21. John in France November 7, 2011 at 2:33 am - Reply

    It does also look a bit on the greasey side? But I’m sure you were heading out for a walk around the lake anyway?

  22. Debbie Beardsley November 7, 2011 at 6:20 pm - Reply

    I normally stay away from anything with “leber” in the name! Even though the Bavarian version doesn’t contain any leber I think I’ll stick with my schnitzel and wursts 🙂

  23. Laura November 9, 2011 at 6:22 pm - Reply

    Looks tasty, though I’m not sure if I ever tried leberkäse or was is some other kind of leber?…

  24. John November 15, 2011 at 9:10 pm - Reply

    I guess the source of the meat that is ground/cooked into these bars makes all the difference. If you put all the nasty stuff in there you got cheap crap, if you put good meat in there you have a good meal.

    The same as with mac n cheese and Käse Spätzle. You can take cheap cheese and cheap noodles and you got crap, but take good noodles and good cheese and you got yourself a winner.

  25. chris January 20, 2012 at 11:26 am - Reply

    I just came from eating it, and it definitely looks exactly like spam.. however, it tasted pretty good, though I don’t recall how spam tastes. The texture is exactly how I imagine spam’s is…

  26. LardButty September 27, 2013 at 5:52 pm - Reply

    It’s spam, there’s no denying it! I had exactly the same reaction in Berlin last weekend… This just doesn’t slide out of a can first. I’ll stick with the currywurst… :O)

    • Laurel October 15, 2013 at 6:13 pm - Reply

      @LardButty – Thank you for the support! I’m not a huge currywurst fan, but I’d definitely choose it over Leberkäse.

  27. Joe January 10, 2016 at 5:39 pm - Reply

    Leberkäse is not like Spam in any way. It is closer to mortadella without the huge chunks of fat in it. It is quite tasty.

    • Laurel January 10, 2016 at 6:46 pm - Reply

      @Joe – Good to hear that you enjoy it. To me, it still resembles Spam.

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