Today I’m sharing what to eat in Strasbourg. The unique Franco-German history of the city has given rise to its own unique traditional offerings. You want to be sure to try these tasty dishes and treats when you visit!
Be sure to check out list of restaurants that serve traditional Strasbourg food!
Strasbourg’s blended history
To understand the food from Alsace, you have to understand at least a little bit about the history of the Alsace region. Alsace, and Strasbourg in particular, is located right on the line between northeast France and southwest Germany. That alone would makes a bit of blended culture understandable.
Beyond proximity, this area of has changed hands between the French and Germans repeatedly throughout history. I had to break this down in a list to sort it out myself:
- 1262 – Strasbourg became a free imperial city
- 1681 – Strasbourg became a French city after conquest by armies of Louis XIV.
- 1871 – Strasbourg captured by Germany in the Franco-German War
- 1918 – Strasbourg reverted to France after WWI
- 1940 – Strasbourg captured by Germany during WWII
- 1944 – Strasbourg re-captured again by the French at the end of WWII
SO. Strasbourg, has been greatly influenced by this by this back and forth occupation from 1681 to 1944. Language, food, music, many parts of Strasbourg life are a blend of the French and German.
Often we think of the food in a country in very singular terms. There is French food, Italian food, Chinese food, Mexican food, etc. But of course, that’s not really true, right? In the U.S. what people have on the dinner table in Texas is quite different than what is served in North Dakota. Same for Vermont versus California. The same is true within Italy, and the same is true within France.
One of the things France is famous for, is its food and cuisine. When choosing what to eat in Strasbourg, you will notice that many options seem very German. Looking at the dinner table through the lens of history and geography, this makes complete sense. The recipes that have been handed down from generation to generation to become traditional Strasbourg food pull from both sides of the Rhine river. So here’s your list of delicious offerings to try on your visit to Strasbourg.
What to Eat in Strasbourg: Main Courses
Knack d’Alsace – Strasbourg Sausage
Let’s start off with this Alsatian staple: Sausage. But this particular variety is native to right here in Strasbourg. This sausage dish is called Knack d’Alsace because the “knack” imitates the snapping sound of biting into the sausage. These sausages were probably first created in the 16th century. They are made with a mixture of beef, pork, and spices. If truly traditionally made, they are smoked exclusively over beechwood. The sausages finish to a crisp exterior layer but are delicate and meaty inside.
Knack d’Alsace are often served with sauerkraut, mustard, and also boiled potatoes.
Flàmmeküeche or Tarte Flambée: What to eat in Strasbourg for the pizza-lover
When I was researching what to eat in Strasbourg, this one made me laugh Not for a bad reason, but because the Tarte d’Alsace I had been buying a Trader Joe’s was apparently accurately traditionally Alsatian!
While Flàmmeküeche has been a popular dish in Alsace homes for a long time, it was when pizza restaurants sprung up world-wide in the 1960s that it became a restaurant staple. This Alsatian-style pizza is made with a thin, crisp dough. Authentic versions are topped with crème fraiche, lardons, & onions, though variations abound. The crisp tarte-pizza is achieved by placing it in the middle of oven’s intense head for only a minute or two. Flàmmeküeche can even be topped with sweet treats such as apples and sugar and served as a dessert. When a main dish, it may be served with salad and a beer or wine.
Flàmmeküeche is a favorite in France, and a particular specialty of the Alsace region. The name gives us a good hint that we again have the bakers to thank for this deliciousness. Flàmmeküeche literally means “pie baked in the flames.”
The origin of this Strasbourg Food:
Apparently as bakers were heating their wood-fired ovens, they would place a small bit of bread into the oven and use the speed of cooking to judge the oven’s temperature. One day a particularly hungry and brilliant baker decided to sprinkle on some toppings such as cheese and a pork product of some kind. A convenient and tasty meal was born.
Choucroute d’Alsace: Alsatian Sauerkraut
Choucroute d’Alsace is the Alsatian version of Sauerkraut. Sauerkraut traces all the way back to ancient China (who knew?) and is usually associated with Germany and Poland today. However, it has a has been produce in this area of France since at least the 15th century.
The climate of Alsace gives cabbage a long growing season. This makes it a very popular crop, especially in lean times. But there is still the challenge of keeping it from spoiling in the days before refrigeration. The introduction of this method of fermentation means this abundant crop was given a shelf life to feed your family year-round.
Of course variations of traditional dishes always abound. The most traditional Choucroute d’Alsace is made with three types of sausage, including Knack d’Alsace above, and usually pork. The dish is braised in an Alsatian white wine such as Riesling. And other additions usually include potatoes, turnips, juniper berries, onions, cloves, and peppercorns.
Coq au Riesling
If you are looking what to eat in Strasbourg that is authentic to Alsace, and you love Coq au Vin, you must give Coq au Riesling a try. Coq au Riesling is still a chicken stew type of dish, rustic & earthy. But it is lighter and creamier than the more familiar au Vin made with red wine. After all, if a proud Alsatian is marinating their evening meal in a wine – it’s going to be their own gorgeous Riesling, thank you very much.
For this dish, chicken is in a Riesling marinade for at least 12 hours. Then it is braised at a low temperature along with lardons, onion, and cream allowing the meat to absorb all the flavor. It’s often served with mashed potatoes, spaetsle (see below), and/or a some bread for absorbing the delicious sauce.
If you are visiting Strasbourg in cooler months, this will be a wonderful warm up dish to enjoy.
The word spaetzle is believed to derive from the German word “spatz” meaning “little sparrows” and is a something between a dumpling and a noodle. It is made by hand, combining flour, egg, and milk into a loose dough and using a spaetzle board and scraper. The dough pieces are boiled quickly, and then fried in butter. The pieces can take a variety of shapes and combined with many toppings, so you will find rarely find two restaurants with spaetzle that looks the same.
Spaetzle was so beloved that medieval songs and poems talk about it, and there even seem to be medieval paintings showing the use of spaetzle boards.
Baecheoffe: Meat and Vegetable Stew
This hearty stew is a very much what a peasant family in Strasbourg would have had on the table. Baecheoffe is made by marinating mutton, beef, and pork overnight in Alsatian white wine. Then the meat is combined with vegetables such as potatoes, sliced onions, carrots, and leeks with juniper berries, herbs and spices. And here’s the special part: a long rope of dough is used to line the rim of a large the large ceramic casserole dish, and the lid is placed on top of the dough. This seals the top preventing moisture from escaping. The breaking of the bread seal is part of the tradition of the meal.
The literal translation of Baecheoffe is “baker’s oven,” and while there are two different origin stories for this dish, both clearly show where the name came from. I love these stories, so I’m sharing with you:
Origin of Baecheoffe and the Resourcefulness of Over-Committed Moms:
The first version suggests that the popularity of this dish came to be because of the length Lutheran services of the rigorously religious time in Strasbourg’s history. Having such a long church service meant people were HUNGRY afterward, yet cooking a meal took a lot longer before our modern conveniences. The resourceful women of the community came up with this dish which could be slow cooked in the baker’s slowly cooling oven on Sunday during the service. After church, swing by the baker, pick up your dish, and take home a warm meal ready to eat.
The second version of the origin story also attributes the meal to the same resourceful wives and mothers. This time they are trying to get a meal on the table while also spending all of Monday on laundry day which was apparently a community-wide thing.
Same solution. Put the dish together, take to the baker where he pops it in the oven while it is very slowly cooling. Pick up dinner after laundry is done and get dinner on the table.
I mean, honestly, I was home with two very small kids and a husband who worked insane hours at one point in my life. The practicality and real-life solution of this dish speaks to my soul.
Food from Alsace for Snack Time
Rolls like these are actually now carried at a swanky grocery store near my home in the states, and I had no idea they started in Alsace! These are the most recent additions to this list of Alsace foods, being invented in 1973.
Paul Poulaillon came up with the idea to make rolls from pretzel dough. Then the after mixing, cutting, shaping, Poulaillon dunks his rolls in a lye solution of hot water and baking soda. They are finished with an egg wash and salt before baking. This creates a pretzel-like roll with a deep brown crust.
The crust is created through what is called a Maillard reaction where the pH of the alkaline solution is directly related to the degree of browing and…
Honestly, the whole thing sounds a lot like a Chemistry experiment. If you knew me in high school and college where, well, the Chem grades weren’t great and there was more than one trip to the health center… you know I shouldn’t even try here. So let’s just be thankful it all works and tastes so much better than it sounds!
What to eat in Strasbourg for a treat
There are many different spellings of this yeasted bundt cake, so if it looks mostly like Kugelhopf or Gugelhopf, you’ve got the right thing! The true, traditional form of this cake is really more like a brioche-style bread with a crisp surface. The cake was made for festive occasions such as weddings.
Today the Kugelhopf is served year round, but most often makes appearances at Christmas. The most traditional way to have the cake is with your holiday breakfast and a cup of café au lait. Because the cake tends to the dry side, it is often served with breakfast or afternoon coffee or tea. When served for dessert, serve with Alsatian Riesling or Gewurtztraminer.
The cake is made with flour, sugar, butter, yeast, and eggs, but then many variations branch out from the basics. Most often the additions include dried fruits, nuts, marzipan, and maybe some rum- or citrus-based syrup. The top is then dusted with powdered sugar.
Bredele or Bredle
There are a number spellings of “bredele” throughout Alsace, so go with phonetics and the familiar appearance and you will be just fine. The word comes from “little bread,” which leads fairly easily to our English word for these traditional Alsatian Christmas cookies: shortbread!
Bredele can be traced back to at least in the 14th century using records of the molds manufactured to use in their baking. The cookies didn’t really take off in popularity until the molds and cookie cutters were more widespread in home kitchens. The details shapes were just too labor intensive for mass producing at home! Once they became easier to bake at home, they were traditionally baked in the Alsace and Moselle regions of France.
The basic bredele is made with butter, sugar, eggs, and flour, families would add their own twist. Some added flavors of orange, cinnamon, almond, honey, even aniseed or some cookies were frosted or decorated in some way. Shapes were and are as creative as imagination. Families would make a number of different variations and pack the Bredele in tins to gift to other families and friends through the holidays.
You want one now, don’t you? Me too.
What to drink in Strasbourg
You may be visiting the Alsace region, but you are still in France. So with all this talk of what to eat in Strasbourg, we have to also touch on what to drink. And the answer will be wine! Rieslings are the wine of the Rhine river area, first mentioned in records as far back as 1435. By the 1850s some Rieslings could demand prices to compete with and exceed those of Bordeaux and Champagne.
Riesling is lighter-bodied, generally dry, crisp, acidic, and aromatic. Often the younger wines are more popular with more apple, grapefruit, pear, peach, blossom, and green grass notes to them. Older Rieslings, which can acquire more of a petrol/gasoline/burnt rubber aroma, are actually of higher quality.
As you’ve already seen here, Riesling is used in a number of traditional Alsatian dishes such as Baecheoffe and Coq au Riesling. It also pairs very well with fish and chicken meals, or with a bit of the wonderful cheese you can find in the region!
Last, but definitely not least on my list, is Vin Chaud. This is a spiced and mulled red wine that starts to show up everywhere as soon as the temperature drops in Strasbourg. Citrus peels and spices like cinnamon, star anise, and clove are added to the wine and it is allowed to steep and integrate the flavors. It is served warm and is very popular in cold weather, especially during the holiday season.
So if you are doing a day trip to Strasbourg for the Christmas market – be sure to give it a try!
Restaurants for Traditional Strasbourg Foods:
Getting around the city and sites is incredibly easy with the Strasbourg Tram. So while you are exploring all the things to do in Strasbourg during your visit stop in for a bite of traditional food from Alsace.
- 3 rue du pheasant, 67000 Strasbourg
- Tues-Sat, 12-1:30pm and 7pm-10pm
- 6, Place du Temple Neuf, 67000 Strasbourg
- Tues-Sat, 11:45am-2:30pm (Lunch only)
- They also have gourmet shops to take some treats home.
- 4 Rue du Vieil-Hôpital, 67000 Strasbourg
- Mon & Thurs: 12-2pm, and 7-9:30pm, Fri 12-2pm & 7-10pm, Sat 12-2:30pm & 7-10pm, Sun 12-2:30pm.
I hope this helps you taste your way around Strasbourg on your visit. If you have any other food or restaurant recommendations, please let me know in the comments below!
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