If you’ve spent any time in Europe during the holiday season, especially in Germany, you’ve probably visited a Christmas market or Weihnachtsmarkt. These fests have beautiful lights and decorations, delicious smells wafting from candy, drink, and food stalls, and an assortment of crafts and local goods to purchase. This year my boyfriend and I have managed to hit three German Christmas markets in five days: Rothenburg’s, Esslingen’s, and Stuttgart’s.
And if you’ve spent any time in Europe at any time of the year, you’ll know their traditional cuisines are heavy on the meat. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, it can be tough to find food in rural areas, traditional restaurants, and fests. Here are four quick tips if you’re looking for plant-based bites in German Christmas Markets:
Look for the words ‘vegan’ or ‘vegetarisch‘
This might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how easy it is to pass by a tasty snack at a food stall without realizing they sell a vegan option. This almost happened to me in Rothenburg when I caught sight of a vegan Bratwurst, or sausage, on a stall’s menu. I ended up buying three small sausages in a roll, which satisfied my craving for warm and filling protein. A couple of years ago at the city of Colmar’s Christmas market in France, I found an amazing vegan chocolate-filled crepe by paying attention to the food labels on signs. So make sure you keep your eyes open and skim through menus as you enjoy your walk through the market.
Potatoes, potatoes, potatoes
Every German Weihnachstmarkt will have fries or ‘Pommes,’ and most markets will also have ‘Wildkartoffeln‘ or roasted potatoes, which I ate at both the Esslingen and Stuttgart markets. And don’t forget to look out for housemade potato chips. You may want to ask what these foods are fried in, but in my experience they’re fried in vegetable or other plant oils. Most Wildkartoffeln come with a garlic or herb cream sauce, so if you’re vegan, make sure to tell the person who is taking your order to leave the dip off of your portion. You can probably find mustard and ketchup on the stall’s counter or in the area. Potatoes may not be the most exciting meal, but they’re a traditional German Christmas Market food and will fill your stomach while you find more options.
Don’t be afraid to ask!
I know Christmas markets can be packed and food stalls bustling with business, but don’t be afraid to ask the vendors questions. Many Germans know English, but there are also language guides such as the Vegan Society’s Vegan Passport downloadable app available in the Windows, Android, or Apple stores. Check out this post by Wendy Werneth on the Nomadic Vegan blog for more options on communicating food preferences in different languages. If I have any doubts about the ingredients in a food, I’ll make sure to ask before I buy. You can also see if the people at the stall can make any substitutions or leave off one or two ingredients. At the Esslingen Mittelaltermarkt (Medieval market) & Weihnachtsmarkt I found a flatbread pizza stand. I discovered they offered a vegan option with soy yogurt, tomatoes, spinach, and pine nuts. What a find!
When all else fails, consider looking at restaurants and food stands outside of the market in the area
Sometimes you aren’t lucky and you can hear your stomach rumbling over the sounds of joyful yelling coming from the ice skating rink and the holiday music blaring from the surrounding speakers. Or maybe you really want a filling meal of vegan protein and vegetables while taking a break from the grease, fat, and carbohydrates of fried potatoes. My advice during these times is to find a veg-friendly restaurant and satisfy your hunger. In Stuttgart, I searched through every row of the Weihnachtsmarkt to find something other than potatoes, but I finally decided to stop by FreshSub, which has a handful of fantastic vegan sandwiches and bowls, to grab a wrap filled with fresh veggies, hummus, and some falafel. It may not be traditional German cuisine or even food from the market itself, but I was much happier walking around with a full stomach!
If you’re in an unfamiliar place, try out the Happy Cow app to find vegetarian, vegan, and veg-friendly restaurants in the area. I personally love this app and use it every time I travel.
After Christmas, Tyler and I will also be hitting Christmas markets in France and Northern Italy, so stay tuned for Instagram photos and updates! Thanks for reading, and share in the comments below where your favorite Christmas markets are.