Leberkäse (Liver Cheese): The Food of Bavarian Royalty

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

leberkaese liver cheese, German food

 

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. That didn’t really answer my question about what Leberkäse really is though.

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.

So What Does It Taste Like 

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 are 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!

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36 thoughts on “Leberkäse (Liver Cheese): The Food of Bavarian Royalty”

  1. 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….!!

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  2. @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….

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  3. 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!

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  4. 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….

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  5. @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.

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  6. 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!

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  7. 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!

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  8. @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)

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  9. 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!

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  10. @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.

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  11. 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?

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  12. 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?

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  13. @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.

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  14. 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…. 🙂

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  15. 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.

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  16. 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…

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  17. 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)

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      • Its no mystery. Its made with lean ground beef. ground pork. either ground pork belly or bacon. grated onion. salt, peper and marjoram. the name is a misnomer. the word comes not from leber but from laib meaning loaf and kase referring to its dense consistency. like cheese. while similer to spam it is made with choice cuts. far from mystery meat.

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  18. I’m from New Zealand originally but spent 10 years in Austria, from my early teens into my twenties. If there is one thing I miss, when it comes to food that is, it would have to be käseleberkäse…yes, cheese livercheese, served hot in a fresh semmel (Kaiser roll). I think if you want a really hearty, filling snack you can’t do much better.

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  19. i just had Pferdeleberkäse sent to me from my mum, i love it. its is a Viennese speciality and we have specialty butchers to only do horse meat. my english husband loves it and it has a much better taste than the usual pork version. i know that the consistency might resemble spam as the only thing to explain leberkäse but the difference is that spam and all its additives are smushed into a tin and then cooked while leberkäse is not made with processed meat 🙂 cant wait to take my husband

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  20. This article is pure blasphemy. I believe there is a law on the books in Oberbayern that let’s you stone anyone that utters such heresies in pubic!

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  21. Hello,
    just randomly found your blog and
    I’m glad you tried Leberkäse!
    I’m actually from Northrine-Westphalia, but I love it, as do many of my peers.
    Still, comparing it to SPAM (to be fair, I never tried it, but it still looks.. Somewhat off-putting, it’s canned meat after all) is really the most unfortunate comparison to be made, please take no offence.
    But, as I said, I’m really glad you tried it!
    I’ve got a few question though, what’s so bad about liver?
    Do you have Leberkäse in Canada (maybe, if you know it, in the US)? And what about liversausage?
    Anyways, interesting read!
    Greetings

    Reply

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