Austria is a fascinating country with a long, well-known history and architecture representing those periods of its history; ranging from Baroque-era to 20th Century rejection of high ornamentation. Its architecture is very complicated, but the Austrian cuisine is simple.
Austrian food culture is uniform throughout the country but Viennese food is sometimes only made right in the capital city. Food in Vienna, one of Europe’s gourmet capitals of cuisine and wine, is largely representative of Austria’s typical food with its own Vienna food twists. A typical Austrian meal consists of schnitzel, potato goulash, and maybe some kind of wurst.
Food in Austria has influences from various nations around Europe. For instance, coffee in Austria is very rich and smooth. There is no bitterness — similar to that of Turkish coffee tradition.
A staple in food from Austria is its sausages and bratwurst. Both of these descend from its northern neighbor in Germany.
Goulash is popular all over the region in eastern-central Europe and that is because the Hungarians brought it to popularity and passed it on to several other countries to put their own spin on it.
Even the ever-so-popular schnitzel is said to have come from Italy — but don’t try to convince Austrians of that. They will reject the idea quicker than you can blink.
Whether they will admit or not, though, a lot of popular Austrian food has actually come from nearby countries and cultures. However, food from Austria has its own distinct twist on all of these dishes which make them taste like their own.
Below we have broken down some traditional foods of Austria so you can go on a taste-testing tour on your next vacation.
Popular Austrian Dishes
Viennese Schnitzel – Wienerschnitzel
When you ask what is Austria known for, the answer has to be Wienerschnitzel and Mozart. There are a lot of other tidbits about Austria that make its presence felt, but schnitzel and Mozart top the list.
Schnitzel is the most popular Austrian food worldwide. It is one of the most famous Austrian food dishes of all the traditional foods in Austria. Matter of fact, the Wienerschnitzel is the Austrian national food — and for good reason. Stay a night in a local’s home and they are guaranteed to whip you up some schnitzel just so you can have a proper taste.
Though every region has its own take on the famous Wienerschnitzel, it is, for the most part, the same thing: Thinly filled Veal (pounded with a tenderizer) coated with a mixture of whisked egg, flour, and breadcrumbs and then fried and seasoned to your liking.
Where to eat Wienerschnitzel
Vienna is king for Wienerschnitzel. You can find it anywhere in Austria, but no one does it quite like the capital city. Head to the Grand Ferdinand Hotel and dine at Meissl & Schadn for the real Wiener schnitzel. I would highly recommend making reservations as it can get busy.
Address: Schubertring 10-12, 1010 Wien, Austria
Non-Veal Austrian Schnitzel – Wienerschnitzel
While Austrian traditional Wienerschnitzel is made of veal, there are all sorts of varieties not using veal such as pork, turkey, and chicken schnitzel.
Vienna Sausages – Wiener Würstels
Another staple of the Austrian culinary scene is the Viennese sausages. While most of the dishes you will find on this list can be found in Austrian restaurants, you are more likely to find Vienna sausages on the streets at stands called Würstelstands.
The Viennese sausages usually come served with bitter mustard and pair nicely with a cold beer. Some come served in buns or with cheese — there are many varieties and none of them are wrong.
Where to eat Vienna Sausages
Like mentioned, you must take to the streets to find hearty Vienna sausages. You will be able to taste test many different varieties in Würstelstands all over Vienna and the rest of Austria. Head to Cafe Sperl for authentic Vienna sausages.
Address: Gumpendorferstrasse 11 A-1060 Wien
Tafelspitz is another Austrian fixing of boiled veal (or beef) mixed into spiced broth and vegetables. It is generally served with potatoes and sour cream.
Where to eat Tafelspitz
It is said Plachutta — a small local joint in the center of Vienna — is the best place to serve Tafelspitz though it is always massively busy between both tourists and locals alike.
Goulash is a famous dish consisting of meat stew, vegetables, paprika, and various other spices. It is popular in many parts of Europe, originating in Hungary, coming to Austria at the end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Austrian goulash is usually served with a side of bread rolls.
Where to eat Austrian Goulash
It is said a restaurant called Gasthaus Rebhuhn serves the best beef goulash in all of Vienna. Head to Motto Am Fluss for the delicious mushroom goulash.
Address: Franz Josefs Kai 2 A – 1010 Vienna
Austrian Potato Salad — Erdäpfelsalat
In North America, they also do potato salad but it is nothing like the Austrian version. A healthy dish — without the mayonnaise — consisting of white wine vinegar, a dab of mustard, red onions, chives, salt, pepper, and an assortment of other spices.
It can also be served with meat — usually chicken. It can be served hot or cold, though most like it cold except in the wintertime when the warmed potatoes are perfect for a cold winter night.
Where to eat Erdäpfelsalat
Most full-sized dinner restaurants will offer it as a side dish.
Apple Strudel — Apfelstrudel
Apple strudel, for those that don’t know, is a tasty dessert made of flaky dough, cinnamon jam-like filling, and baked apple chunks. The dessert is popular worldwide but it originated from Austria. It is another one of Austria’s national dishes, actually.
One tasting of apple strudel won’t be enough. You will opt to try it at every cafe you pass during your stay in Austria.
Where to eat Apfelstrudel
You can literally find apple strudel in any cafe in Austria and many other places you wouldn’t expect. Head to Cafe Sperl for one of the best apple strudel’s in Vienna.
Address: Gumpendorferstrasse 11 A-1060 Wien
Kaiserschmarrn is such a simple dessert it will have you asking why you didn’t come up with it yourself. It is simply fried pancakes chopped into bite-sized squares and tossed in with a mix of fruits, nuts, raisins, and a special sugary icing.
The dish can be served for breakfast or dessert, though, most Austrians like it as an after-dinner treat. It was named after the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph I who was very fond of the dessert dish. This was one of my favourite desserts in Austria.
Where to eat Kaiserschmarrn
It is said Landtmann’s Jausen Station serves the best Kaiserchmarrn in a 1950’s-style street cafe.
These are no ordinary bread rolls, however, the simplicity remains. You must try these rolls with chopped toppings. Most Austrians know about these famous bread rolls and definitely everyone in Vienna knows.
Try the popular combinations such as cucumber with egg, young herring with onion, or chicken liver.
Where to eat Bread Rolls
There is no other place that serves these bread rolls like Franciszek Trześniewski. They have locations all over Vienna which have been opened and serving their most popular dish since 1905.
Delicious palatschinken are thin pancakes with sweet or savory fillings, sometimes chopped up and thrown into soups. They’re very similar to French crepes, made simply from flour, milk, eggs, sugar, and salt.
One of the most popular palatschinke fillings in Austria is apricot jam.
Where to eat Palatschinken in Austria
Palatschinken date back to 350 BC to the times of ancient Greeks and Romans, and can be found all throughout Europe today. Therefore, you’ll find them all over Austria, as well as further afield in neighboring countries.
The rich sachertorte is a special kind of cake or torte, which consists of chocolate sponge cake, dark chocolate icing, and apricot jam often served with whipped cream.
The sachertorte has a history as rich as its taste. In 1832, Prince Wenzel von Metternich requested a special dessert for his guests, but the chef was taken ill. The task was left to 16-year-old apprentice, Franz Sacher, who created the sachertorte.
The dessert was a roaring success and Sacher went on to open his own delicatessen and wine shop, then later his son refined the recipe at Hotel Sacher, where it became one of Vienna’s most famous culinary specialties.
Where to Eat Sachertorte in Austria
Considering the story above, there’s no better place to sample this sweet than at the historic Hotel Sacher in Vienna. When visiting Vienna you must visit Café Sacher Wien for the famous sachertorte located in Hotel Sacher Wien.
Address: Philharmoniker Str. 4, 1010 Wien, Austria
Knödel, sometimes stylized as Klöße, are boiled dumplings made with potatoes, bread, or flour – sometimes served as a side dish, sometimes in a soup, or sometimes even as a dessert with a sweet filling.
These types of dumplings can be found all across Central and Eastern Europe, and have spread through immigration to homes as far as Brazil, where German immigrants made them with white rice, wheat flour, and eggs.
Matzah balls also originate from knödel, and the Yiddish word for Matzah balls (kneydl) comes directly from the word knödel.
Where to Eat Knödel in Austria
Again, you’ll likely encounter knödel across the country – look for both sweet and savory versions, and try all kinds of variants.
A hearty favorite for the colder weather, tiroler gröstl is a filling combination of bacon, onion, and potato fried up together and topped with a fried egg. Then, add a sprinkling of caraway seeds, paprika or chili powder, and chopped parsley to season.
Where to Eat Tiroler Gröstl in Austria
A satisfying dish that keeps you going in the mountains (and a great way to use up last night’s leftovers by throwing everything into a pan), tiroler gröstl is most associated with the Alpine slopes of Tirol province.
To really get your energy up during ski season, order a plate of tiroler gröstl and a plate of kaiserschmarren (chopped pancakes) to share.
Käsespätzle translates directly as “spätzle with cheese” and can be found in Germany, Austria, Lichtenstein, and Switzerland. If you’re still scratching your head at spätzle (which unhelpfully translates as “little sparrows”), then imagine small, button-like egg noodles or pasta.
The spätzle and grated cheese are alternately layered and topped with fried onions, then popped in the oven to allow the cheese to melt. Once cooked, the dish is served with green salad, potato salad, and/or apple sauce.
Where to Eat Käsespätzle in Austria
Head to the far western state of Vorarlberg to get your käsespätzle fix.
Spargel is the German word for asparagus, particularly white asparagus which appears seasonally every spring (also known as spargelzeit – asparagus time). The knobbly white stalks are used in soups, salads, as well as in a unique main dish with a white sauce.
The tender, white asparagus is sweeter than its green counterpart, and the fact it’s only available between mid-April to mid-June means that it is something precious to be savored, heralding the start of the warm weather.
Where to Eat Spargel in Austria
For spargel, it’s not so much “where” as “when.” During spargelzeit, restaurants often theme their entire menus using white asparagus.
Popular dishes include spargelrisotto, asparagus cordon bleu (wrapped in cheese and ham, breaded, and fried like schnitzel), asparagus cream soup, and asparagus with hollandaise sauce and parsley-potatoes.
Buchteln (or wuchteln) are sweet rolls made using yeast dough, filled with jam, curd, or ground poppy seeds, then baked in a large pan, where they stick together. Topped with powdered sugar, vanilla sauce, to simply eaten plain – they’re a tasty, sweet treat.
Fluffy and airy, you can pull apart some buchteln for dessert, but you may also see them served as a main course as well (in Austria, it’s common to eat sweet dishes as a main course).
Where to eat Buchteln in Austria
The roots of buchteln are in Bohemia, which is now in the Czech Republic, but you’ll be able to grab a buchtel in most of Austria, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Hungary too. In Germany, Serbia, Croatia, and Poland, you’ll also find similar variants.
Brettljause is a feast for all the senses – a substantial cold platter or “farmer’s plate” of Austrian favorites, including ham, cheese, pickles and onions, veggies, spreads, meats, bread, eggs, and more. Like charcuterie, but make it extra.
The meal takes its name from the wooden board it’s served upon – the brettl – and is designed to be shared with family and friends. It’s cold, so you can pick, share, and chat over a few beers while enjoying your brettljause.
Where to Eat Brettljause in Austria
Head to a local heurigen and order a brettljause before hiking up to the mountains. Once you’ve found a scenic spot, open up your hamper and enjoy a truly Austrian Alpine picnic.
You may have heard of a little Austrian musician named Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Understandably, Austria is quite proud of him and so he’s celebrated not only through his enduring classical compositions but also in the form of chocolate.
The House Mirabell, an Austrian candy manufacturer, created the Salzburger Mozarttaler medallion, complete with Mozart’s likeness, to celebrate Austrian culture and history. He goes great with coffee.
Where to eat Salzburger Mozarttaler in Austria
Salzburger Mozarttaler can be picked up in a store, but where better to bite into Mozart’s face than in his hometown, Salzberg, or the city where he composed his greatest symphonies, concertos, and operas – Vienna.
Viennese coffee isn’t just a beverage, it’s an intuition of Austrian culture and boasts UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage status. In fact, UNESCO described a Viennese coffee house as a place, “where time and space are consumed, but only the coffee is found on the bill.”
The drink itself is a strong, black coffee, served in a tall glass and topped with whipped cream. It’s served with powder sugar (optional) and a glass of water.
Where to drink Viennese Coffee in Austria
Notable coffee houses in Vienna include Aida (head for the branch near Stephansplatz), Café Central, Café Landtmann, Café Sacher (of the Hotel Sacher), and many more besides. For a cute little coffee shop head to Cafemima.
Traditional Austrian Foods Conclusion
As you can see, Austrian food is very similar and shares influences from a variety of cuisines around Europe. Vienna is very clearly the capital of cuisine within Austria which is where most tourists head to for a good taste of the country.
Now you have an idea of the popular food in Austria and where to get it. If you find a dish that you think we’ve missed, please feel free to call it to our attention!
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