Oktoberfest is approaching, and it doesn’t matter whether you’re headed to Munich or staying here in the States; you can partake in the fun by hosting your own Oktoberfest celebration at home. Let’s talk about what Oktoberfest is and how to plan an epic get-together that becomes an annual event.
What Is Oktoberfest?
Oktoberfest is an annual festival that originated in Munich, Bavaria, Germany. It began in 1810 as a celebration of the royal marriage of Kronprinz Ludwig and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen in Munich. Because the festival was such a great success, the townspeople decided to hold the party again the following year, eventually becoming the annual event we know today as Oktoberfest.
There are staple foods you must have at any Oktoberfest party. Some of our favorite recipes are below, but depending on how many people you may have over, you can add other traditional German dishes and make it a true culinary experience.
Sausages (Würstl) with Sauerkraut (from Taste of Home)
- 6 medium red potatoes, cubed
- 2 Tbsp canola oil
- 1 small onion, halved and sliced
- 1 pound smoked sausage, cut into ¼-inch pieces
- 1 package (16 oz) sauerkraut, rinsed and well drained
- ¼ tsp pepper
- In a large skillet, sauté the potatoes in oil until lightly browned, 5-6 minutes.
- Stir in onion; sauté until tender, 3-4 minutes.
- Add sausage, sauerkraut, and pepper. Cook, uncovered, over medium heat until heated through, 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
German-Style Pretzels with Spicy Mustard Dip (from King Arthur Baking Company)
For the Dough:
- 5 cups + 2 Tbsp King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour
- 1½ cups less ½ Tbsp water
- 2 tsp salt
- 1¼ teaspoons instant yeast
- 2 Tbsp butter, soft
- ¼ tsp diastatic malt powder (optional)
For the Water Bath:
- 6 cups water
- 2 Tbsp baking soda
For the Topping (optional):
- Coarse sea salt, kosher salt, or pretzel salt
- To make the dough, combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl. Mix and knead to make a supple, elastic dough. If you use a stand mixer, mix on low for 3 minutes to incorporate the ingredients, then on medium for 5 minutes or until the dough looks fairly well developed.
- Cover bowl with plastic wrap and allow it to rise for 45 minutes.
- Uncover the bowl and, using a bowl scraper or spatula, run down the inside far wall of the bowl. Bring the dough up from the bottom of the bowl and fold it over on top of itself. Turn the bowl 90° and repeat; repeat twice more (for a total of four times), turning the bowl 90° each time. This process, which helps develop the dough, is called a fold. Re-cover the bowl and let the dough rise for another 45 minutes.
- Gently deflate the dough and divide it into 10 pieces. Shape each piece into a rough log, cover, and let rest for about 20 minutes; this rest will make the pretzels easier to shape.
- To shape the pretzels, working with one piece of dough at a time, roll into an 18- to 22-inch-long rope.
- Twist each rope into a pretzel. Place shaped pretzels on lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheets.
- Cover pretzels with lightly greased plastic wrap. If your kitchen is particularly warm, place the pans in the refrigerator immediately. Otherwise, let the pretzels rest and rise for about 30 minutes before refrigerating. It will take about 60 minutes for the pretzels to chill thoroughly.
- While the pretzels are chilling, preheat your oven to 450° F. Prepare the water bath by bringing the water and baking soda to a boil in a wide pot.
- To boil the pretzels, put 3-4 pretzels at a time into the boiling water and cook for 1 minute without turning over. Transfer boiled pretzels back to their baking sheets. Using a sharp knife, slash each pretzel horizontally across its base.
- Sprinkle the pretzels with coarse sea salt, kosher salt, or pretzel salt, if desired.
- Bake 14-16 minutes or until the pretzels are well-browned. Remove them from the oven and cool on a rack.
German Potato Pancakes – Kartoffelpuffer (from The Daring Gourmet)
- 2½ pounds starchy potatoes, peeled and very finely grated
- 1 small yellow onion, very finely grated
- 2 large eggs
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp sea salt
- Neutral-tasting oil for frying
- Thoroughly wring out the liquid in the grated potatoes by placing them in a colander and squeezing them with your hands or in a clean dish towel and wringing.
- Place drained grated potatoes in a medium-sized bowl with the grated onion, eggs, flour, and salt. Use your hands to work it into a tacky mixture. Add a little more flour if needed. Do not let the mixture sit long before using it.
- Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Place 1/3-1/2 cup of the mixture in the hot pan and flatten into pancakes with the back of a spoon. Fry on both sides 3-5 minutes until the pancakes are golden. Place them briefly on paper towels.
- Serve immediately while hot with applesauce, fruit compote, or powdered sugar. For a savory version, serve with herbed yogurt, quark, crème fraîche, or meat and gravy.
Schnitzel (from The Daring Gourmet)
- 4 boneless pork steaks or chops
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- ½ cup all-purpose flour combined with 1 tsp salt
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- ¾ cup plain breadcrumbs
- Oil for frying (use a neutral-tasting oil with a high smoke point)
- Pound the pork chops between two sheets of plastic wrap until 1/4 inch thick. Lightly season both sides with salt and pepper.
- Place the flour mixture, egg, and breadcrumbs in 3 separate shallow bowls. Dip the chops in the flour, egg, and breadcrumbs, coating both sides and all edges at each stage. Be careful not to press the breadcrumbs into the meat. Gently shake off the excess crumbs. Don’t let the schnitzel sit in the coating.
- Heat cooking oil to 330° F, then fry 2-3 minutes on both sides until a deep golden brown. Transfer briefly to a plate lined with paper towels.
- Serve immediately with slices of fresh lemon and parsley sprigs or your choice of sauce.
Other Oktoberfest Must-Haves
Aside from food, here are a few Oktoberfest party essentials.
It isn’t Oktoberfest without good beer – but it’s not just any beer. As the host, it is a must to get märzen and festbier: Märzen is made with Munich and caramel malts, which give them a reddish color, a malty flavor, and a slightly sweet taste. Festbier is a strong golden German lager.
To make your party more engaging, include good music. If you want to be traditional, play a mix of polka and folk bands performing in their respective genres. Polka originated in Central Europe in the 1800s and is still prevalent in German culture today. You can create a traditional atmosphere by hiring a live band.
Have you ever hosted your own Oktoberfest celebration? Share your tips with us in the comments below!