The German Knoedel: Guaranteed to Satisfy Your Hunger

knoedel dumpling spinat

Spinach Knödel

When you’re really hungry, look no further than the Knödel (dumpling in English). This humble food is  highly revered  in Germany and will keep the hunger gremlins away for hours.

The tennis size balls of stale bread or potatoes don’t sound particularly appetizing.

Fortunately the types of Knödel are limited only by your imagination.  There’s the relatively healthy Spinatknödel (spinach dumpling), pictured above. There’s also an apricot filled Knödel. There are seasonal ones made with pumpkins. Then there’s the nasty sounding Leberknödel (liver dumpling). Perhaps the worst sounding of them all, Saures Kalbslüngleknödel (sauer calf-lung dumpling) which is a Bavarian Dish I Will Not Be Trying.

This recipe for Bavarian dumplings is quite good. Being celiac, the only choice for me is to make them at home with gluten-free bread. If you find them in a restaurant or hut, they’ll always contain regular bread.

knoedel dumpling calf sauer lung

Sauer calf-lung knoedel anyone? It’s a Bavarian specialty.

Knödel is served as a side dish, but it also serves as the main course especially when served in alpine huts.  It’s common to be served two tennis ball sized Knödel. This hearty dish is often the choice of many of my German friends when we’re hiking the German Alps. Often they’ll start speculating on the types of Knödel the hut might have, long before we’ve reached the hut. There’s something about simple, yet filling food that Germans love.

Another popular staple in southern Germany is Käsespätzle, which is noodles with cheese. It’s similar to mac and cheese to North Americans, but I prefer the German version.

You can find dumplings all over Germany. While they’re called Knödel in Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg, they’re called Klöße in the northern parts of Germany.  If you’re traveling around Germany, it’s fun to try them in different parts of the country to compare the regional differences.

The Knödel is living proof that sometimes the simplest cuisine is the most satisfying – especially when you’re really hungry!

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.



  1. Andrew March 15, 2012 at 8:28 pm - Reply

    I kind of just like saying it, but not eating them. I remember getting Klotze as smaller dumplings. They taste a little like very firm mashed potatoes in a stew or soup. Not at all my thing, but very German.

  2. Sue March 15, 2012 at 8:44 pm - Reply

    I can see not wanting to try the calf-lung version- they might want to market that in a different way 🙂

  3. Sabrina March 15, 2012 at 9:26 pm - Reply

    I love Knoedel! However, the ones we used to eat at home (close to Cologne) are much less fancy that what they seem to be serving you in the South of Germany. I like the ones best that are made with mashed potato, flour, and egg. Yummy! I was so disappointed once here in the US when I ordered a chicken and dumpling soup and the dumplings were really small and made of flour only. Yikes!

  4. Laurel March 15, 2012 at 10:41 pm - Reply

    @Andrew – It is fun to say “Knoedel”, I think they’re an acquired taste. I thought they were pretty bland the first few times I tried them – much like your description, but I really like the Spinatknoedel, it has more taste.

    @Sue – Totally agreed!

    @Sabrina – Always interesting to hear about the regional differences in Germany and yes the ones in North America really aren’t anything like the ones found in Germany.

  5. eric kam March 15, 2012 at 11:23 pm - Reply

    Knoedel with Sauerbraten we’ve made at home when in the mood. Though i admit we use a pre mix, (no claim to be a German cook here in Detroit)

    And i get it on occasion with schweinhaxe or other bayerische delights when I visit Bavaria. Might have to make my way out to Pfaffenhofen for work soon and visit Frau Urban and get some home cooking.

  6. Italian Notes March 16, 2012 at 8:19 am - Reply

    It looks quite nice though I’d pass on the calf-lung version too.

  7. Laurel March 16, 2012 at 5:20 pm - Reply

    @Eric – I’m impressed, I still haven’t made Knoedel yet, but it’s on my list of things to try next. Homemade Knoedel is the best.

    @Mette – Completely agreed!

  8. marc March 16, 2012 at 9:39 pm - Reply

    …hallo i love your blog….but specially in one thing i think you are wrong. i dont think that the knödel in the sour calf dumpling has any ingredient of meat…i think its a straight dumpling as you will find him with a schweinebraten…i think its only the sauce. at the other side you can only eat lung in whole germany in bavaria…i come from swabia and i have an aunt who is a well recommended butcher and he would not in a hundred years offer a lung to his customers….he said: “it´s only a filter like the one you use in cars” asll the best wishes from stuttgart!!!

    …maybe you will like the following link about the birkenkopf in stuttgart:

    …and my birthplace is only 20 km away from schwäbisch hall…i really liked your impressions…

    allt the best!!!
    Marc from Stuttgart

  9. fotoeins | Henry March 16, 2012 at 11:15 pm - Reply

    Mmmmm, Kuh-nöööödel …

  10. Adam March 16, 2012 at 11:22 pm - Reply

    Yumm! I do love dumplings but don’t think I’ve had any interesting flavored ones…

  11. Zhu March 17, 2012 at 12:07 am - Reply

    It doesn’t look that great but it must be alright! I’ll pass on the weird meat parts version though but wouldn’t mind the spinach ones.

  12. Annie - FootTracker March 17, 2012 at 5:29 am - Reply

    I will pass the meat version too….it reminds of the “mystery” meat we get sometimes in school cafeteria. What is the texture like for the spinach one?

  13. Tiffany @ No Ordinary Homestead March 17, 2012 at 6:27 am - Reply

    Knödel are definitely an acquired taste, but I’m definitely a fan of bread or potato dumplings…and they’re a fun challenge to make since it can be a bit tricky to do from scratch. I guess I’m just always up for a challenge 🙂

  14. Turkey's For Life March 18, 2012 at 8:24 pm - Reply

    Mmmm, love the look of the spinach dumpling. Dumplings are a great winter stodge food – made for comfort. 🙂 I’m with you though; I doubt I’d enjoy a sauer calf lung one and for that reason, probably wouldn’t try one.

  15. Ayngelina March 19, 2012 at 8:03 pm - Reply

    I have never tried it but it looks bizarre enough to give it a shot.

  16. Frau Dietz March 20, 2012 at 4:19 pm - Reply

    Wow, spinach dumplings? They look awesome! Thanks for the tip 😉

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