You are coming to visit Alsace and want to discover Alsatian gastronomy? It’s a good idea, especially as there is a lot to try in the region! Here are some ideas of specialties to taste during your stay in Alsace. The list is not exhaustive (far from it!), but I tried to present the main specialties (no, there is not only sauerkraut!)
I am also presenting my favorite adresses, as well as recipes from Alsatian food bloggers (in French). I will complete this article when I discover something new…
The flammekueche – Don’t mistake it for pizza! The dough of the flammekueche is much thiner. It is traditionnaly filled with a mixture of crème fraîche and fromage blanc, bacon strips and onions. Sometimes, you might add some munster, grated cheese, mushrooms… or anything else you might fancy! The real flammekueche is baked in a wood-fired oven. My favorite place to taste it: Binschtub in Strasbourg
Sauerkraut – Yes, it’s a cliché, but it would be a shame to leave Alsace without trying one! The famous sauerkraut is made from fermented cabbage with different pieces of pork meat. You’ll find for example lard, smoked pork neck, shoulder, Strasbourg, Montbéliard or Frankfurter sausages. It comes with potatoes and is traditionally eaten with horseradish or mustard. There is a variant, fish sauerkraut, made from different types of fishes and a white butter sauce. My favorite places to taste it: the Tire-Bouchon or the Winstub Le Pont du Corbeau in Strasbourg.
The baeckeoffe – The baeckeoffe is a dish made from potatoes, vegetables, as well as three different meat (pork, lamb and beef). Everything is cooked together in the oven in a terrine with white wine and herbs during several hours. When it’s well-done and that the potatoes are well soaked with the taste of meat, wine and herbs, it’s absolutely delicious! My favorite places to taste it: Wistub Arnold in Itterswiller, Auberge des Trois Châteaux in Eguisheim or Caveau Saint-Pierre in Colmar.
Braised/grilled ham knuckle – Another classic of Alsatian tables, braised ham knuckle (with different tastes, plain, beer, munster, pinot noir,…). It is usually served with sauerkraut, potatoes or spaetzle. My favorite places to taste it: the Tire-Bouchon or the Vince Stub in Strasbourg.
Foie gras – Many of us don’t know it, but foie gras is not only a specialty from the South-West of France. You’ll also be able to find a lot in Alsace, whether it is from goose or duck. My favorite place to buy it: Schmitt Farm in Bischofsheim.
The cordon bleu (ham and cheese escalope) – You’ll find often cordons-bleu on the menu of Alsatian restaurants. It is an escalope of veal or chicken, filled with ham and cheese and coated with breadcrumbs. Try one with Munster to really have a local experience! My favorite place to taste it: the Tire-Bouchon in Strasbourg.
Munster – Alsatian cheese coming from the Valley of Munster, in the South of Colmar, munster is a soft cheese made from cow’s milk and which has character…. by its smell and taste. You have been warned! 😉
Knepfle – Similar to spaetzle, knepfle are bigger and look a bit more like raviolis. It is quite rare to find them on the menus, but it happens. My favorite place to taste them: Salon de Thé Grand Rue in Strasbourg.
Les bouchées à la Reine (vol-au-vent) – You can eat bouchées à la reine in other places in France, but it is still a classic on Alsatian tables. They are made with a vol-au-vent (puff pastry) filled with sweetbread (or other pieces of veal or chicken), bechamel sauce and mushrooms, accompanied with noodles or spaetzle. My favorite place to taste them: I don’t like this dish, but I have asked someone who recommends the restaurant Le Théâtre in Colmar.
Fleischkiechle – They are meat patties made from pork and beef and pan-fried. My favorite place to taste them: L’Homme Sauvage in Strasbourg.
Fleischnaka – Cousins with fleichkiechle, fleischnacka are “meat snails”. The meat stuffing is rolled into noodle dough and cooked in a broth. My favorite place to taste them: Jadis et Gourmande in Colmar.
Spaetzle – Spaetzle are a type of Alsatian pastas (made from flour, eggs, salt and water). They are thicker than traditional pasta. Spaetzle can be served as a main dish (with cheese, bacon strips or other), but most of the time they are a side dish.
The bibeleskäse – This very simple dish is made from fromage blanc and cream, served with garlic, shallots, and chives. The latter are put on the side, so that everyone can season their bibeleskaese as they wish. It comes with potatoes (in their jackets or fried), but also with a piece of munster or a slice of ham. My favorite place to taste it: Winstub Brenner in Colmar.
Bretzel – Symbol of Alsace, bretzel is a sort of brioche poached in baking soda and sprinkled with big pieces of salt.
Zander filet on a sauerkraut bed – Zander is a freshwater fish that can be found in Alsace. It is traditionally served on a bed of sauerkraut and sometimes with a riesling sauce for example.
Fried carps – Specialty from Sundgau (in the South of Alsace), the carp steaks are covered by semolina, fried and served… with fries!
The repas marcaire – The repas marcaire is a specialty that you can find in the farmhouse inns of the Vosges. Be careful, it’s quite heavy! It is made up of a pie from the valley as a starter (pork meat pie), of a roïgabrageldi (strips of potatoes, onions and buter, cooked slowly in a cast-iron cookware), served with smoked pig meat (neck or shoulder for example) and finally of a dessert, traditionally Siesskass (fromage frais of the day with sugar and kirsch) or homemade pie. If you don’t wish to try the whole meal, you’ll regularly find pies served as starters in Alsatian restaurants.
The Kougelhopf – I already see the connoisseurs jumping off their seats, as the kougelhopf can also be savory. This is true and it’s actually really good as an aperitif! In that case, it is filled with bacon strips and nuts. However, it’s easier to find sweet kougelhopfs. It is a type of brioche that can be eaten plain or with jam, for breakfast or as a snack. Be careful, if it’s too dry, it means it’s not a good kougelhopf! I have tried dozens of them to finally conclude that it’s unfortunately easier to find bad ones rather than good ones: you’ll have to know the right addresses! 😉 My favorite places to try it: here is a list of the best kougelhops in Colmar. In Strasbourg, I haven’t tried them all yet, but the one from Christian’s was delicious.
Fromage blanc tart – A great classic: you cannot leave Alsace without trying one out! It is very different from American cheesecake: it is lighter and fluffier, even though it is not really light in terms of calories! My favorite place to try it: the tearoom Grand Rue in Strasbourg
The torche aux marrons– Also called Mont-blanc or vermicelli in other regions, the “torche aux marrons” is made from chestnut cream, whipped cream and meringue. It’s a great classic of Alsatian gastronomy! My favorite place to taste it: Wistub Brenner in Colmar, Winstub du Chambard in Kaysersberg, Pâtisserie Gilg in Colmar, Ribeauvillé and Munster
Iced meringue – It is a meringue served with ice-cream scoops (flavors vary) and Chantilly cream. There might be fruits with it. My favorite place to taste it: La Vince’Stub in Strasbourg.
Rhubarb meringue pie – During rhubarb season, Alsatian tables are taken over by rhubarb meringue pie. You’ll have to admit that the sweetness of the meringue and the rhubarb tartness go very well together! My favorite places to try it: Salon de thé Grand Rue in Strasbourg and Jadis et Gourmande in Colmar.
Gingerbread – Gingerbread is a very big tradition in Alsace. You can find gingerbread in different shapes, crunchy and soft ones. My favorite place to taste it: Mireille Oster in Strasbourg or Lips gingerbread in Gertwiller (that you can find in all Alsace).
The Streusel – A brioche covered with a layer of cinnamon-flavored crumble.
Mannele – It is a brioche in the shape of a little guy, made in Alsace for Saint Nicholas Day (6 December)
Christmas Bredele – Bredele are small biscuits baked during Advent. It would be hard to tell you their taste as there are so many different ones! My favorite place to taste them: Maison alsacienne de Biscuiterie.
Easter Lammele – The lammele is a sort of genoise made in Alsace for Easter, in a lamb-shaped mold. My favorite place to taste it: at home!
It is obviously difficult to talk about Alsatian specialties without talking about Alsace wines! Alsace wines are made from seven different grape varieties: Sylvaner, Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Muscat, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Noir. The latter one is the only red wine and the others are all white wines. I will let you have a look at this page of the website on the Alsace Wine Route for more details about each of these wines.
We won’t forget either the Crémant d’Alsace, a sparkling wine replacing Champagne in many occasions!
Alsace has about 40 breweries and micro-breweries. It would be a shame to forget beers in a section about Alsatian specialties!