All About Germany’s Omnipresent Currywurst

Currywurst Is Berlin Specialty
••• Adam Berry / Getty Images

Germany’s omnipresent wurst (sausage) surprisingly comes curry-flavored in Berlin. Currywurst is found throughout the country in almost any venue from imbiss stands to biergartens to elevated versions in modern German restaurants. It is estimated that 800 million currywurst are sold every year in Germany.

The dish is composed of a bratwurst that has been lovingly deep-fried, sliced into bite-sized sections and served with a distinctive curry ketchup sauce and a finishing dusting of curry powder.

This wurst is usually paired with fries (pommes) or a roll (brötchen) to sop up the delicious sauce.

History of Currywurst

For such a popular snack, it is surprising that its origins are not crystal clear. The most popular story holds that this unique blend of seasoning comes from a Trümmerfrauen (rubble woman) in 1949 in Berlin. A German housewife named Herta Heuwer was desperate to liven up a meager post-war diet. She concocted a trade of booze for English curry powder and added it to a tomato/ketchup sauce with Worcestershire and paired it with a grilled sausage. Viola! Something familiar took on a whole new flavor and currywurst was born.

The dish was an immediate hit and Frau Heuwer began selling it from a street stand to the many workers putting the city back together. The price? Just 60 pfennig (roughly $0.50). This was an essential element in making it a food of the people. The sausage has even come to symbolize the proletariat.

Today, German politicians jockey for position with photos of themselves at their favorite stand. Watch around election time for photos of your preferred bigwig eating a sausage.

Back in the time of Herta, other vendors were quick to compete but no one ever got her exact recipe. Though Frau Heuwer opened a permanent snack bar on Kantstraße (on the corner of Kaiser-Friedrichs-Straße), it closed in the 1970s and she never told a soul the secret to her sauce - not even her husband.

Birgit Breloh heads the Currywurst Museum and reports that Frau Heuwer "...took [the recipe] with her to her grave when she died in 1999." 

This inability to replicate a specific taste means that every vendor has their own sauce. While you can buy mass-marketed sauces in the store, the taste can be remarkably different at each stand. It is nearly impossible to define the best stands as personal taste varies. Some are more tomato-y, some sweeter and most offer the option of with skin (mit Darm) or without (ohne Darm). While Germans generally shy away from most things spicy, currywurst can deliver tongue-tingling heat.

Currywurst Museum

The dish has its own temple in the Deutsches Currywurst Museum Berlin. Opened on the dish's 60th birthday, the museum is centrally located in Mitte close to Check­point Charlie.

It is dedicated to currywurst's complicated history and many variations of the wurst. The small site includes sausage sofas, iconic songs about the Currywurst, a currywurst map of the city, curry "spice chamber", movie montage of currywurst cameos and an original snack bar on wheels. This museum even made an appearance on our list of weirdest museums in Germany.

Address: Schützenstraße 70 10117 Berlin Germany

Telephone #: 49 30 88718647

Admission (includes a Currywurst tasting): 7-11 euro

Opening Hours: 10 - 18:00