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This authentic German Sauerbraten recipe makes the most tender, juicy roast beef in a wonderful sweet and sour gravy. Marinated for days in red wine, vinegar, and spices, then braised until the meat is succulent and tender, and served with rotkohl and spaetzle, sauerbraten is one of Germany’s national dishes for good reason!
I have long loved German food, German culture, and the German language. It all started in high school in Frau Kolk’s German class when I was a sophmore. I even ended up living in Frankfurt working for a law firm between my first and second years of law school!
The very first meal I ever ate in Germany was not schnitzel or wurst or even one of their famous soft pretzels. It was a plate of sauerbraten with spaetzle and rotkohl. And even though I was jetlagged beyond belief, that memory has stayed with me for over 10 years!
Sauerbraten is one of the national dishes of Germany and this version is as authentic as I can possibly make it. The flavor is absolutely amazing and it tastes just like the sauerbraten I ate in Germany. It’s perfect for celebrating Oktoberfest!
Don’t be daunted by the preparation time! Real, authentic Sauerbraten takes a couple of days to make since it needs to marinate for at least 2-3 days or even longer. But the effort is 100% worth it and the rest of the process isn’t difficult at all. Start it on Thursday or Friday (or a week earlier) and you can serve traditional German sauerbraten for Sunday dinner!
What is Sauerbraten?
Sauerbraten is a traditional German roast recipe that translates to “sour roasted meat.” It’s not the most appealing name, but ask anyone who has ever had sauerbraten and they will tell you how delicious it really is!
Sauerbraten is most often made with beef, although you could also make it with a lamb roast, pork, or even venison. And okay, it is fairly substantiated that sauerbraten used to be made with horse meat and there are still some places where you can get it that way today. We’ll just stick with beef though, okay?
The meat is marinated for anywhere from 2 to 10 days in a mixture of red wine, vinegar, and spices to both tenderize and flavor the meat, since traditionally the cuts of meat used for sauerbraten like rump roast are tougher than other choice cuts of meat.
Sauerbraten recipes can vary from region to region and sometimes call for just wine, sometimes just vinegar, but often it’s a combination of both, which is what I’m using here. One of the most interesting things about sauerbraten is that crushed gingersnaps are used to thicken and flavor the sauce to create the wonderful gravy that is spooned over the sliced meat after it’s done cooking.
How to make sauerbraten
- Make the marinade. Start by chopping carrots, onion, garlic, and leeks and throwing them in a large dutch oven with some fresh rosemary and thyme. Add the bay leaves, juniper berries, cloves, peppercorns, salt, and sugar. Then add red vine, vinegar, and beef broth (and raisins, if using) and stir everything together. Bring it to a boil and cook for 10 minutes, then remove it from the heat and let it cool completely.
- Nestle the meat in the marinade and refrigerate for AT LEAST 48 hours and up to 1 week. Be sure to turn the meat over in the marinade once a day so it absorbs the flavor and tenderizes on all sides if it isn’t submerged in the marinade. Be warned, the meat may look quite unappealing from the color of the marinade, but it will brown up beautifully once it is cooked.
- When ready to cook, remove the meat from the marinade and pat dry with paper towels. Transfer the marinade to a bowl and reserve.
- Heat a little oil in a pan or dutch oven over high heat and sear the meat on all sides, cooking without moving for about 2 minutes per side.
- Return the marinade to the dutch oven with the seared meat, then bring to a boil over high heat. Cover and reduce the heat to a medium-low.
- Simmer for 2 to 2 1/2 hours until the meat is tender. Remove the sauerbraten to a cutting board to rest for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, strain the cooking juices, reserving the liquids and discarding the solids. Return the strained liquid to the dutch oven and sprinkle with crushed gingersnaps, stirring and cooking over medium-low heat for 10 minutes until thickened to a nice gravy.
- Slice the meat and serve with the sauce spooned over the top.
Can I make this sauerbraten recipe in the oven?
Yes! Rather than simmering on the stove, you could stick your dutch oven with the lid on in a 350 degree F oven for 2-3 hours until the roast is done.
Can I make this sauerbraten recipe in the slow cooker?
Absolutely! Just transferred the browned roast and marinade to a slow cooker and cook on LOW for 7-8 hours.
What cut of beef for sauerbraten?
A rump roast, beef eye of round, or bottom round are more traditional cuts of beef for sauerbraten. But you could also use a beef chuck roast or even pork roast, if you prefer. I used a rump roast in these photos.
How long can you marinate sauerbraten?
I recommend anywhere for 2-7 days, but you can even marinate your meat for up to 2 weeks! The wine helps preserve the meat and the longer it marinates, the more tender it will be.
Also, the longer the meat marinates, the less time it will take to cook.
What to serve with sauerbraten
- Homemade egg noodles (not authentic but they would totally go well with sauerbraten)
- German potato pancakes (kartoffelpuffer)
- Knödel (German dumplings)
- Boiled potatoes
- and don’t forget German apple cake for dessert!
Authentic German Sauerbraten Recipe
- 2 large yellow onions chopped
- 2 large carrots chopped
- 1 large leek chopped
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 2 sprigs thyme
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- 2 bay leaves
- 8 juniper berries
- 6 whole cloves
- 10 whole black peppercorns cracked
- 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 Tablespoon sugar
- 2 cups red wine
- 1 1/2 cups red wine vinegar
- 1 cup beef broth
- 1/2 cup golden raisins optional
- 3-4 pounds beef chuck roast or rump roast
- 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
- 10 gingersnap cookies crushed
- In a large dutch oven, combine all of the marinade ingredients and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil for 10 minutes, then cool completely.
- Nestle the meat down into the cooled marinade, then cover and refrigerate for at least 48 hours and up to 2 weeks. Turn the roast each day to make sure all of the meat gets a chance to marinade thoroughly.
- Remove roast from the marinade and pat completely dry using paper towels. DO NOT DISCARD THE MARINADE. Transfer the marinade to a bowl.
- Wipe out the dutch oven and heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in it over high heat. When the oil is hot, sear the roast on all sides until browned (about 2 minutes per side), then return the marinade to the dutch oven with the meat.
- Bring the liquids to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to a simmer.
- Simmer for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, until meat is tender. Alternatively, you can transfer the dutch oven to a 350 degree F oven with the lid on for 2 to 2 1/2 hours until the meat is done, if you prefer.
- Remove meat from the cooking liquids and set it aside on a cutting board to rest for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, strain the marinade, discarding the solids and reserving the liquid. Return the liquid to the dutch oven.
- Add the crushed gingersnap cookies to the reserved liquid. Cook and stir over medium-low heat for 10 minutes until thickened into a nice gravy. Taste and adjust salt and pepper as needed.
- Slice the sauerbraten into thin slices and serve with the hot gravy poured over the top.