The Versatile Knoedel

Southern German town

The dumpling, or knoedel, has long been a staple food in southern Germany. Caspar von Schmid of Schwandorf, an important personage in the court of Munich in the 17th century, wrote that “the people of Bavaria should be spared banishment from the country wherever possible, because then they would be deprived of dumplings.” And Lena Christ, writing during the first decade of the 20th century, fondly remembers the ever-present knoedel of her grandparent’s dinner table: “Even at other times, [Grandfather] was often to be found in the kitchen, helping Grandmother peel turnips or cut up white rolls for our dumplings, which had to be served every day. There were dumplings even on Sundays, although much larger and darker, in the form of liver dumplings–which were not only tasty but cheap–it was brought to the table too, in a large, patterned dish […] We ate meat only on very special occasions. Even on Sundays my grandparents were content with liver dumplings, eaten with the Tauch, a vegetable dish made of root vegetables or kohlrabi. Only Grandfather had a piece of boiled beef fat with his Sunday dinner, and he ate it salted and peppered, with a slice of bread.”

These simple dumplings have earned their reputation as a prudent treat as they are both economical and versatile. Try them with a sweet filling of apricots or plum jam, or serve them with a hearty goulash. The following recipe from the Austrian cookbook Nur Knoedel is for liver dumplings very much like those beloved by Lena Christ (they were also one of Mozart’s favorite dishes!). Serve them in a soup or with a savory sauerkraut.

Leberknoedel (Liver Dumplings)

9 oz. beef liver
3 stale rolls
1/2 pint milk
3.5 oz. butter
1 small onion
1 egg
salt, pepper
marjoram, parsley
3.5 oz. bread crumbs

Pour milk over the rolls and work it in. Chop the onion and sauté it in butter. Mix the rolls, finely chopped liver and spices together. Make into a dough. Form the dumplings and boil them for 15 minutes in salted water. You can also fry them in hot vegetable oil. Best served hot in a beef broth. Liver dumplings can also be served as a main dish with sauerkraut.


Baumgarthuber, Christine. Fermented Foods: The History and Science of a Microbiological Wonder. Reaktion Books, 2021.

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