This easy recipe shows you how to make German Hamburger patties. These tasty German meatballs are a popular lunch, dinner, or snack in every German Gasthaus and on the family menu. You'll find them in rolls, with potato salad, french fries, and mashed potatoes, or with a variety of other sides.
They go by different names depending on where you are. In the south, they are known as Fleischküchle or Fleischpflanzerl, while in the north, they are known as Frikadellen or Klopse. Whatever you call them, they are very flavorful and can be eaten both warm and cold.
If you love German meatballs you should try also this recipe for German meatloaf. It has a similar flavor to these German meatballs but can be easily prepared for a large group dinner in no time because each meatball does not need to be shaped individually.
Königsberger Klopse is another German meatball recipe that you might want to try if you love traditional German cuisine. These tasty meatballs in a unique creamy sauce are a culinary piece of German culture and something you should not miss.
German Hamburgers are one of Germany´s most popular snack at the so called “Imbissbuden” which are old school fast food shacks. Every butcher serves them hot in a roll for a quick lunch but it will also be served regularly at German family meals and in German restaurants.
It is unclear who invented the German meatball aka hamburger. But it is known, that the Romans used a similar recipe for their “Lucan Sausages”.
Along with having many different names, the meatball also has many different recipes. While German hamburger used to be made mostly out of leftover meat, today freshly ground meat is the main ingredient.
How are German hamburgers called in German?
German meatballs have many names, that are very different depending on the region. In Bavaria they are called “Fleischpflanzerl”, in Swabia and Franconia it is referred to as “Fleischküchle” or “Fleischküchla”. The people of Berlin call the flat pressed meatball “Bulette”, while other parts of Germany call it “Klops” or “Frikadelle”.
Ingredients & Substitutes
This dish may appear to have a lot of ingredients, but many of them are spices.
And you probably already have the majority of the ingredients on hand.
- ground beef - to make juicy beef patties, I usually use 80/20 ground beef. German hamburger are traditionally made with 50% ground beef and 50% ground pork. You can also choose leaner beef or ground poultry meat, such as turkey or chicken.
- onion - finely chopped onions give these meatballs a wonderful flavor. If you don't like the onion pieces in your meat, you can use onion powder to taste instead.
- white bread - the bread helps to make the German meatballs light and juicy. It is the perfect way to use up a stale roll or a piece of white bread.
- warm water - the stale bread is hydrated in water, but you can use milk instead.
- egg - is an important ingredient to keep the hamburger patties in shape.
- coarse Kosher salt - I prefer coarse Kosher salt, but you can use whatever salt you have on hand.
- black pepper - for this dish, coarse black pepper is my favorite, but use whatever pepper you prefer.
- mustard - yellow mustard is traditionally used, but you could also use a spicy or sweet German mustard if you like to alter the flavor.
- garlic paste - I personally love a hint of garlic and use my convenient homemade garlic paste. But you can use garlic powder or fresh garlic instead. And of course, you can leave it out completely if you don't like it.
- paprika powder - this recipe calls for paprika powder. In Germany you can find both mild and spicy paprika powder. Both work well. Choose what you prefer. I would not recommend smoked paprika as it will alter the taste. But if you love it, just go for it.
- bread crumbs - plain, unseasoned bread crumbs work best for this recipe.
- clarified butter - Clarified butter is my personal favorite for frying the meatballs. Lard or a neutral vegetable oil are also excellent options.
See recipe card for quantities.
Making authentic German meatballs is a straightforward process. It's so simple that even little helpers can join in on the fun and learn how to make this German recipe from scratch.
Break the bread or roll into small pieces, place them into a bowl and cover with warm water.
Finely chop the onion. Add them with the ground meat, bread crumbs, egg, pepper, salt, paprika powder, mustard, and garlic paste to a large mixing bowl.
Squeeze the excess water from the bread and add it to the other ingredients in the bowl. Mix well with your hands until everything is well combined into a smooth texture.
Shape the meat mixture into 8 balls and lightly flatten them. Add more bread crumbs if the dough is too wet to shape the hamburgers.
Heat the clarified butter over medium-high heat in a large non-stick pan.
Fry the patties for 5 to 10 minutes on each side, until golden brown.
Hint: Make sure the German meatballs are fully cooked, but don't overcook them or they will become hard and dry.
Traditionally German hamburger are made with ground beef or mixed ground beef and pork. You can also find variations with veal, fish, game or poultry.
If you prefer a leaner version, try this recipe with ground chicken or turkey. This version of the German meatballs is also delicious. Because ground poultry meat requires more spices to be flavorful, adjust the seasoning as needed.
These kitchen tools are required to make this recipe.
- large bowl to mix the meat
- small bowl to soak the stale rolls
- cutting board and knife to cube the onion
- large pan to fry the hamburger
- two forks or a spatula to turn the meatballs
Leftover German meatballs can be kept in the refrigerator for several days. They also freeze extremely well. I usually double the recipe and freeze half of the fully cooked patties. This is the perfect dinner if you are not in the mood to cook and is a way cheaper and better alternative to fast food.
Skewer tiny German meatballs with a cornichon pickle, a small mozzarella ball or a cherry tomato as finger food. The ideal snack for a game day or an appetizer.
How to Serve
German meatballs are served in a variety of ways. The German meat patties are frequently eaten as fast food in a crispy roll, similar to a hamburger. However, Germans eat meatballs also cold, cut into slices and served on a slice of fresh bread with mustard.
And they would not be called German hamburgers if you could not make an amazing, flavorful burger with them. Served on a crusty roll, like this Kaiser roll, you can enjoy German street food at its best from the comfort of your home.
If you like to include a gravy to this dish, try this traditional German cream sauce, called Rahmsauce.
German Meatballs aka German Hamburger
- 1 ½ pounds ground beef
- ½ medium onion
- 2 slices stale white bread or 1 stale roll
- ½ cup warm water
- 1 egg
- 1 tbsp. coarse Kosher salt
- ½ tsp. coarse black pepper
- 1 tbsp. mustard
- 1 tsp. garlic paste
- 1 tsp. paprika powder
- ¼ cup bread crumbs more if necessary
- 1 tbsp. clarified butter or 1 tbsp. vegetable oil or 1 tbsp. lard
- Break the bread into small pieces, place them into a bowl and cover with warm water.
- Cube the onion finely.
- To large bowl add the ground meat, bread crumbs, the egg, pepper, salt, paprika powder, mustard, garlic paste, and onions.
- Squeeze excess water from the bread and add it to the other ingredients. Discard the water.
- Mix everything until well combined and smooth. Shape the meat mixture into 8 balls and flatten them lightly.
- Heat clarified butter on medium-high heat. Fry the patties for about 5 - 10 minutes per side, until golden brown.