A hearty stew of German meatballs with sauerkraut, the perfect recipe for cold autumn and winter days.
This stew with meatballs and sauerkraut is a dish of Saxon origin. What sets it apart from a traditional Romanian recipe is the use of the wine sauerkraut, which is different from the typical Romanian sour cabbage or varza murata.
Romanian sauerkraut is sourer, more robust, has a stronger taste, and comes in rougher pieces. In the beginning, I found German sauerkraut to be too delicate, too soft, tasting of wine, and sweeter than I was expecting it to be.
However, over the years, I've learned to appreciate exactly these qualities, its delicacy, its sweet and sour taste, which makes it perfect not only as a side dish for many meat main courses but also for salads.
I usually buy fresh sauerkraut from at the butcher's, it tastes amazing and 1 kg costs only about 1 Euro. However, canned is good as well. To make this recipe I used 1 large can of Mildessa, which is incredibly overpriced on Amazon.com. (Amazon affiliate link)
You can choose another brand of German sauerkraut. But do choose the German kind, it tastes different than the American/Romanian/Eastern European sorts.
And learn how to cook simple sauerkraut, to serve as a side dish for many meat recipes. And if you have a slow cooker, you should definitely make some Slow Cooker Pork and Sauerkraut.
This stew with meatballs and sauerkraut is actually a German/Romanian cooked by the Transylvanian Saxons who have been living in Romania for centuries.
The first colonists of German origin started arriving in Transylvania about 850 years ago. Many of them were searching for a better life than the one they had in their homeland and were hoping for more freedom and rights in the new territories.
In a relatively short period of time, they grounded a number of communities, which developed into towns over the years, towns that still exist today, for instance, Sibiu - Hermannstadt (my hometown), Sighisoara – Schessburg, Brasov – Kronstadt, Cluj-Napoca – Klausenburg and so on.
How to make sauerkraut meatballs?
- I used mixed ground beef, half pork and half beef.
- Soak the white bread for a couple of minutes in cold water.
- Chop the onions very finely and grate the garlic. Mix both with the ground meat.
- Squeeze the soaked bread and add it to the mixture.
- Add parsley, sweet paprika powder, lightly beaten egg, salt, and pepper. Mix well.
- Wet your hands and make small balls, about the size of a walnut. Set aside.
- Place the sauerkraut in a larger pot. Add tomato paste, bay leaves, and sugar.
- Add enough water to almost cover the kraut. Bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and add the meatballs.
- Cover the pot tightly and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked through, stirring from time to time and taking care not to break them.
- Add a little more water if you feel that too much of it has evaporated. I added about ½ cup more during the cooking time but not all at once. At the end of the cooking time, at least half of the water should have evaporated.
- Add the crème Fraiche/smetana/sour cream. Stir carefully. Adjust the taste with salt and pepper.
How to serve?
The German meatballs and sauerkraut can be served immediately or they can be made in advance and then be reheated. This is the kind of dish that tastes even better when reheated the next day, the rest will allow the flavors to develop even more.
You can serve the stew with white bread (like most Romanian people do) or salt potatoes (like most Saxons do). You can also serve some more crème fraiche, smetana or sour cream on the side.
More hearty stews:
- Chicken Meatballs in Sauce
- Romanian Sausage Stew
- French Beef Stew
- Butternut Squash and Sausage Stew
- Romanian Pea and Chicken Stew
German Meatballs with Sauerkraut
- 1 lb mixed ground meat half pork - half beef, 450 g
- 1 onion
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
- 1 large slice white bread crust removed, about 60 g/ 2.1 oz
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon sweet paprika powder
- ½ – 1 teaspoon fine sea salt to taste
- black pepper
- 1.6 lb fresh sauerkraut or 1 large can sauerkraut 700 g, Note
- 3 bay leaves
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- ¾ cup crème Fraiche/smetana/sour cream 200 g
- fine sea salt and black pepper
- Soak the white bread for a couple of minutes in cold water.
- Mix: Chop the onions very finely and grate the garlic. Mix the ground meat with the chopped onions and the garlic. Squeeze the soaked bread and add it to the mixture. Add the parsley, sweet paprika powder, the lightly beaten egg, salt, and pepper. Mix well.
- Form small meatballs about the size of a walnut, and set them aside.
- Combine: Place the sauerkraut in a larger pot with the tomato paste, bay leaves, and sugar. Add enough water to almost cover the sauerkraut. Bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and add the meatballs.
- Simmer: Cover the pot tightly and simmer everything for about 20 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked through, stirring from time to time and taking care not to break the meatballs. Add a little more water if you feel that too much of it has evaporated. I added about ½ cup more during the cooking time but not all at once. At the end of the cooking time, at least half of the water should have cooked away.
- Add the crème fraiche, smetana, or sour cream. Stir carefully. Adjust the taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately or reheat the stew.
Angie@Angie's Recipes says
Hearty, comforting and very tasty!
Chris Scheuer says
Yummy! I think I might come live at your house. No one in my family likes sauerkraut except me. I quite crazy about it but never had it with meatballs. Sounds delish!
Jess Wright @ The Cookbook Obsession says
My Granddaddy has a fondness for German food. I think I will make this for him <3 Especially this sauerkraut - YUM 🙂
Cheyanne @ No Spoon Necessary says
I love sauerkraut and dumplings, but I've never had them together before like this. Looks AMAZING! Those meat dumplings are totally calling my name! Comfort food heaven! Cheers!
How well I understand you... Sauerkraut is so different in every country, isn't it? I miss so much Polish sauerkraut which is also much stronger and more sour than what I find in Switzerland. The German sauerkraut I buy in the German organic shop (I always bring a dozen jars in our car) is a bit closer to the Polish one (the Swiss one is hardly sour), though still more delicate... maybe in Germany the taste of sauerkraut depends on the region? There is no mention of wine on my German sauerkraut.
This dish looks fantastic and makes me year for well-seasoned cooked sauerkraut meal!
David Arnold says
This sounds a lot like something my grandma used to make and she called it Sarmers( not sure of the spelling)
The word could come from sarmale, which are cabbage rolls filled with ground meat and traditionally made with sauerkraut as well. These meatballs are probably a simpler, quicker version of the rolls.
This looks and sounds very much like a dish my Czechoslovakian stepfather made. I haven’t had it since I was a teenager. If I remember correctly he used American sauerkraut because that’s what was available. I happen to have a jar of sauerkraut in the refrigerator and a pound of ground beef I need to use so I think I’ll make this tomorrow. Thank you for the inspiration!