Expect Kaiser-sized hunks of meat paired with mountains of sauerkraut and knödel (potato dumplings). There are weisswurst for breakfast and grilled fish for lunch and pretzels any time of the day. Whether you need something to accompany your giant mass of bier or want to literally take a bite out of Bavarian culture, traditional Bavarian food is not to be missed.
Here are 10 must-try German dishes for Oktoberfest (or anytime you are in Munich).
These ghostly white veal/pork sausages prepare your stomach for the liters of strong German beer you are about to ingest.
Weisswurst literally translates to "white sausage" and is called weißwuascht in the Bavarian dialect. It is made from minced veal and pork back bacon, seasoned with parsley, lemon, mace, onions, ginger, and cardamom and appears pale white with brown specks.
Two fat sausages are served in a pot of hot water alongside brezeln (pretzel), senf (mustard) and a weissbier (wheat beer) for traditional Bavarian breakfast known as weißwurstfrühstück. You actually can't get this sausage outside of morning hours as "the sausages should not be allowed to hear the noon chime of the church bells".
There are also rules surrounding how to eat this sausage. It isn't meant to be eaten with fork and knife; you should cut it lengthwise and peel it, or simply suck out the delicious innards (zuzeln) like a local. This is one of the few times Germans won't give you a side eye for eating with your hands.
Where to Eat Weisswurst at Oktoberfest
While you can find the sausage everywhere in Bavaria - especially at Oktoberfest - two of the best places for weisswurst are Bratwurstherzl and Weisses Bräuhaus that have been serving the traditional dish for decades.
Roasted pork knuckle is a quintessential German dish. It is an impressive main dish, towering above the plate with crackling skin. A similar dish is the boiled version originating from the north called Eisbein.
Usually served alongside a potato in some form and a generous portion of sauerkraut, finishing this giant portion of pork is quite an accomplishment in addition to a liter of beer. Get your primitive Bavarian on with a big knife to cut to the bone!
Where to Eat Schweinshaxe at Oktoberfest
This classic is served at most beer tents and stands on the Wiesn, as well as all Munich beer halls. The institution of the Hofbräuhaus is perhaps the best place to consume an entire pork knuckle, either on or off the fairgrounds.
While this is formally served on a plat at a sit-down restaurant, at food stalls it is cut in half and shredded on a tray.
Along with beer and towering plates of pork, brezen (pretzels) are one of the most identifiable features of German cuisine. Called brez'n by the locals, a giant plated version is served in the tents (Riesenbrezen) along with mustard and at biergartens (biergartenbrezen). It might even be split and filled with things like schmalz (fat) or butter. This is one of the few German meals you can grab-and-go.
Where to Eat Brezen at Oktoberfest
You can't walk but a few feet at Oktoberfest without seeing a brezen. But the absolute best place to eat a pretzel is hotly debated by locals.
It is made by grating a ball of dunstmehl (dough) against a specialized wooden chopping board (Spätzlebrett) into boiling, salted water. When finished, the spätzle rise to the surface and can be topped with fried onions or spinach (or minced pork liver (leberspätzle) for the meat-lover). One of the most common versions is käsespätzle where it is mixed with cheese.
Where to Eat Spätzle at Oktoberfest
This is another common dish at any beer hall or beer tent. One place in Munich you are certain to get a good spätzle is Wirtshaus Kurgarten.
The Germans may be known for their pork dishes, but it is hard to ignore the tantalizing rows of roast chicken all over Oktoberfest. Known as halbes hähnchen up north, the southern name of hendl is used at Oktoberfest.
These delectable birds are roasted with butter, parsley, and paprika and are a favorite with nearly 500,000 hendl consumed every festival.
Where to Eat Hendl at Oktoberfest
Sold at every beer tent and stand, it is served in either a quarter, half, or whole portion. Get dirty with your carcass by picking off every melt-in-your-mouth piece.
If all of this sounds a bit heavy, it is. Fischbrötchen is an alternative.
The ideal snack from the many stands on the grounds, these tantalizing sandwiches are filled with seafood. Fish or crab or shrimp are slathered in mayonnaise and onions and tucked into a semme (roll). While the filling is often smoked, it might also be fried.
Where to Eat Fischbrötchen at Oktoberfest
Every stand has a different selection of sandwiches so shop around to find the best bite to forget you are far away from the sea.
Simple steckerlfisch is another seafood mainstay of the fest. This striking dish is fish - usually freshwater bream, trout, or mackerel - that has been marinated, skewered and then grilled to perfection.
Where to Eat Steckerlfisch at Oktoberfest
Each tent offers their own version of this dish with a secret blend of herbs and spices, but the Fischer Vroni beer tent is the king of fish at the Fest.
This tasty spread is a blend of spiced cheese and butter - the definition of delicious.
Composed of a soft cheese, like a Camembert, it also contains a little bit of beer along with the paprika and garlic making it a fitting side for Oktoberfest. Pair it with brezen, pickles, and onions to go full German.
Where to Eat Obatzda at Oktoberfest
While you can't go wrong with beer, butter, and cheese, Hofbräuhaus both on and off the grounds is the perfect place to order obatzda.
This classic German side is usually served next to a hulking side of pork like schweinshaxe or schweinebraten (roast pork butt or shoulder). Knödel are potato or flour dumplings that can be as big as a softball.
Where to Eat Knödel at Oktoberfest
Served throughout Central Europe, this favorite will likely be delivered anywhere you order a pork dish at Oktoberfest.
Ochs am Spieß
Many things are put on a stick and roasted at Oktoberfest. Chicken, fish, and even ox (not to mention the ever-present döner kebab).
Ochs am Spieß translates to "ox on a spit" and has been an Oktoberfest tradition for almost as long as the fest. Often covered in a red wine sauce and served alongside the beloved knödel (or some other version of potatoes), this is a major hunger solver.
Where to Eat Ochs at Oktoberfest
What better advertisement of food to combat the monster beers than a whole roasting ox on a spit. Dwarfing the other slowly rotating foods, the Ochsenbraterei beer tent has a massive ox on a spit display drawing the food-lovers. It is estimated that they go through at least 120 entire oxen over the two weeks of Oktoberfest.