12 essentials for surviving as a vegan in Germany

Germany is a country that generally has an open mind when it comes to veganism - but that doesn't mean there aren't pitfalls you have to look out for. Portuguese food writer Inês David brings you her survival guide.

12 essentials for surviving as a vegan in Germany
Even pizza can be prepared vegan, and delicious. Photo: DPA

1. Always read labels 

Get into the habit of reading labels. All allergenic ingredients are in bold. Since you're in Germany, learn the words for the most common ingredients that are typically not vegan. These are the most common: Milch / Milchpulver (Milk), Fleisch (Meat of any kind), Käse (Cheese), Ei (Eggs) Butter (Butter), Joghurt (Yogurt), Honig (Honey), Molke/ Molkepulver (Whey).

Most of these words seem straight-forward enough. But in the beginning you might have a hard time spotting them. One time I bought a normal toast bread (assuming it was, you know, just bread), and it shocked me to discover there was pork fat in it.

Photo: DPA

2. Don't be shy!

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. It’s true that in big cities like Berlin, Frankfurt and Munich, most people know what a vegetarian diet is. However, there’s still some lack of knowledge. For example, they might not know that vegan also means that you don’t consume honey. So it’s good to double check and explain, if possible, that you consume no animal products at all.

So far I haven't had someone acting rude after being asked for vegan options. They might not always be thrilled either, but if you are nice, people will help you.

3. Apps open up a whole new world

Rely on apps such as FourSquare, Yelp and HappyCow to find restaurant reviews. You’d be surprised with the amount of information available. On HappyCow you can filter results by vegan, vegetarian and veg-friendly. On Foursquare, you can also search for the most important keywords and see if there’s any vegan option available.

I recently discovered a steak place in Berlin that I would never imagine had vegan options. It was actually on Foursquare that I saw a photo of their gigantic vegan menu.

4. Broccoli will be overcooked. Deal with it.

Photo: DPA

Now, there are some remote parts of Germany that might lack any options at all. Expect some over-cooked broccoli, potatoes, and cabbage. Yes, that’s it. However, I can assure you that you’ll find something to eat almost anywhere. One time at my company's off-site I had the most broccoli of my entire life. But hey, at least I was never hungry!

SEE ALSO: The growing German trend for meat-free Christmas markets

5. Get into Middle Eastern food

Enjoy the wonders of Turkish and Arabic cuisine! A few Middle Eastern dishes such as falafel and hummus are typically vegan and delicious. You just have to make sure to ask without sauce, as they're usually yogurt-based. When I first moved here I was obsessed with falafel – I would eat it for dinner practically everyday. No joke!

6. Seek out friendly shops

A few of the big German supermarkets now have entire sections marked vegan. You just have to look for them. Rewe, Kaiser's and DM even sell some products from specialist vegan brands. It’s always good to know that wherever you are in Germany, you have at least a few products available in the supermarket.

7. Farmers are your friends

Go to farmer’s markets. You’ll find them across the whole country. They are one of the best ways to get your hands on fresh and local produce. My favourite in Berlin is at Kollwitzplatz on Saturdays. It runs from 9/10 am until 4 pm and you can buy tofu, which is fresh and made in Berlin.

SEE ALSO: How veganism is taking over the German capital


Photo: DPA

8. You can still eat spicy sausage!

Try vegan currywurst. Some of the standard joints now have the vegetarian version. The taste is the same, and trust me: the secret is in the ketchup and curry.

9. Go deep with research

Look for a list of additives in restaurants. Most restaurants across the country should have it. The list might be necessary if someone has an allergy. I've asked for this list a couple of times, and was surprised to discover some of the dishes had fish sauce, for example.

10. Embrace food festivals

With warmer weather around the corner, there are several food festivals throughout Germany devoted to all plant-based cuisine. Check out the sprawling Vegan Street Day in Stuttgart and Dortmund, Germany's largest vegan street food festivals with over 100 presenters and 100,000 visitors from throughout the country.

READ ALSO: Meat productions drops 'significantly' as Germans spurn the sausage

11. Find a cooking class!

Especially in cities such as Berlin, there are a slew of vegan cooking classes, from specialized workshops on how to make your own “cheese” out of nuts to preparing a Vietnamese vegan dinner. The website Deutschland Ist Vegan lists some cooking events, as well as many recipes you are encouraged to try at home.

12. Keep an open mind

And last but not least, follow these rules: be prepared, plan ahead and be open-minded. Don’t worry about eating stir-fried veggies. I still remember when the cook at one restaurant was kind enough to make me a vegan dish and the result was the best ratatouille of my life!

Inês David is a food writer from Portugal. You can follow her journey through Berlin's vegan scene on Instagram.

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Only in Germany: McDonald’s begins offering ‘Spargel Burger’

Amid Germany's famous 'Asparagus Season', the fast food chain has begun offering an unusual twist on typical ingredients.

Only in Germany: McDonald's begins offering 'Spargel Burger'
A basket of Spargel in Kutzleben, Thuringia marked the start of this year's season on April 14th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Martin Schutt

How do you know that you’re definitely in Germany? One sure fire way: when you check the menu of a McDonald’s in the springtime and see a ‘Spargel Burger’. 

Germans are so enamored by the ‘white gold’ –  special light-coloured asparagus which is much thicker than its North American green counterpart – that it’s now a featured fast food at McDonald’s Germany, and with classic Hollandaise sauce and bacon to boot. 

On Thursday, the popular American fast-food chain restaurant – which counts nearly 1,500 outlets in Germany – published a photo of the “Big Spargel Hollandaise” saying that it would be available at select restaurants. They assured customers: “Yes, it’s really there.”

But its release was met with mixed reactions. “We absolutely have to go to McDonald’s sometime,” wrote one. Yet another called the unconventional creation “perverse.”

Another commenter showed skepticism: “Hollandaise sauce on a burger? Does that even taste good?”

Others weighed in on social media to point out that the product is a sign of Germany’s fascination with the vegetable. 

The burger is the latest to join the asparagus craze, with a phallic-shaped Spargel monument in Torgau, Saxony capturing the public attention – or bewilderment – earlier in the week.

An annual tradition

Every year, Germany typically celebrates ‘Spargelzeit’ (asparagus season) from the middle of April until June 24th, which many dub ‘Spargelsilvester’ (Asparagus-New Year’s Eve). 

READ ALSO: German word of the day: Spargelzeit

The beloved vegetable, harvested heavily around the country, usually has its own special menu devoted to it at restaurants, and is sold in supermarkets – or road-side stands – next to jars of the classic Hollandaise sauce. 

The top states which grow the crop are Lower Saxony, Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia, but Beeliz, Brandenburg is also synonymous with Spargel in Germany. 

In normal years the tiny town hosts a sprawling festival to mark the start of the season, anointing a Spargel king and queen.

READ ALSO: Here’s why Germans go so completely crazy for asparagus