Ultimate Guide: German Food at the Chicago Christkindlmart

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From the famous pretzels to the comforting hot chocolate, German food at the Chicago Christkindlmart is a true culinary delight.

The Chicago Christkindlmart is an annual event that celebrates German cuisine, holiday traditions, and music. It is one of Chicago’s largest outdoor Christmas festivals and is inspired by the Christkindlmart of Nuremberg, Germany.  

There are lots of shops and restaurants with international flair to explore while enjoying the local charm of the city. Aside from driving to Frankenmuth, Michigan or sampling a great German restaurant in Chicago, German food doesn’t get more authentic than this event.

So, pack up your fam or call your friends! Jump-start your holiday spirit and try these amazing great German dishes!

German Foods to Try at Christkindlmarket

Alpine Cheese

You can smell the cheese from Raclette a mile away! This artisanal cheese is known for its ability to melt like butter. It is scrapped from a hot wheel onto your choice of sandwich. The traditional raclette is on a toasted baguette with spring onions, baby gherkins, and Dijon mustard.  

Other popular sandwiches include the Jambon Cru made with cured ham and the Alpine Brat, which is raclette scraped over bratwurst.

German Potato Pancake

Served with sour cream and apple sauce, the German potatoes are shredded and fried. Onions are commonly used to flavor them while cooking.

german food stand at christkindlmart

German Sausage

The dish almost looks like hashbrowns, except the potato pancakes are held together usually with egg and sometimes flour.

The sausages are typically named after the region of which its known. Most are cooked in water, then grilled. Sausages commonly found are:

  • Nürnberger – Traditional German coarsely ground BBQ pork sausage seasoned with salt, pepper, marjoram, and ginger.
  • Frankfurter – a cured cooked sausage made of beef and/or pork that may be skinless or stuffed in a casing, typically sheep.
  • Weißwürste (or Bavarian Weisswurst) – is a traditional Bavarian sausage made from minced veal and pork back bacon. It is usually flavored with parsley, lemon, mace, onions, ginger, and cardamom.
  • Thüringer – is made with lean cuts of beef and pork, seasoned with old-world spices, and slow smoked for 12 hours over a hickory fire.
  • German Leberkäse – consists of corned beef, pork, and bacon and is made by grinding the ingredients very finely and then baking it as a loaf in a bread pan until it has a crunchy brown crust.
  • Kilometer – is made from pork and spiced with paprika and cayenne pepper for a little heat.
  • Currywurst – A pork/veal sausage sliced in the German tradition topped with a sweet and tangy curry sauce. It is a post-war Berlin invention combining Indian spices and German sausage in one dish. You can also find french fries topped with curry sauce. It’s a great dish for sharing.

Sauerkraut

This food is prepared by pickling cabbage in the brine. This is commonly a side dish paired with German schnitzel or other meats.

Schnitzel

This is a slice of meat made of veal, pork, chicken, mutton, beef, or turkey. It is pounded into a thin strip, breaded, and fried. 

vendor booth with picasso sculpture at daley plaza

Spätzle

This is an egg noodle that is common in the southern part of Germany.

Pickled Herring

Served as a sandwich, the hand-rolled fish is packed in a wine sauce and paired with cured dill pickles and sliced onions.

German Soup

Warm up with a hot bowl of German soup. Nothing says comfort food like a bowl of potato or lentil soup flavored with spices. You might also find solyanka soup. It has Russian origins and is made with a variety of choice ingredients like smoked meats, fresh vegetables, and pickled vegetables. 

pretzel stand at christkindlmart

Pretzels

Pile up the pretzels with flavors that include pizza, grilled cheese, Bavarian (plain with salt), pumpkin, spinach/feta, jalapeno …and you get the gist!

Don’t miss the stuffed gourmet pretzels. You can smell the hints of malt and yeast in the air. I carefully selected a perfectly twisted specimen with a glossy brown exterior that sparkled with coarse salt crystals. Lifting it up, the pretzel feels satisfyingly hefty in my hands but still radiating warmth.

I took a bite, and the crackling outer layer had a delightful crunch, revealing the soft, chewy inside. As I pulled the pretzel away, gooey strings of cheese clung inside with pockets of oozing, rich flavor.

a slice of stollen
Strudel

Strudel

This dessert is a thin pastry baked around the fruit and is likely one of the most famous German pastries. You’ll find a nice assortment of fresh sweet strudels and puffs. Some common fillings are apples, cherries, almonds, and apricot. Strudel has Viennese origins, but it is very popular across the European countries.

As we walked through the bustling wooden cabins of the Christkindlmarket, the sweet smell of warm vanilla and apples caught our attention. Greg, an office colleague, made a beeline to a glass case filled with flaky pastries swirling with fruit filling and dusted in snowy powdered sugar.

He purchased a slice of apple strudel, posed for a photo, and then gave me half. Steam rose invitingly from the strudel as I bit through the crisp outer pastry layers into the spiced apple interior.

There were at least 4 fruit options. How did he know that apples were my favorite dessert fruit? The first bite filled my mouth with buttery sweetness, soft apples, and notes of cinnamon and nutmeg, balanced by lemon zest tartness. Powdered sugar fell on our outer garments, but we paid no mind. We savored the strudel’s soft texture and warmth while enjoying every last crumb.

cheese
Baked Cheese
laberkese
German Leberkäse

Bienenstich

Also called Bee Sting Cake, this traditional German cake is filled with custard and topped with honey-glazed sliced almonds.

Stollen

Often thought to be German bread, this is a traditional German fruitcake that typically has a marzipan center. The choice of spices (eg. cardamon or cinnamon) and fruits used will vary. The top is dusted with sugar.

Snowballs

These are fried dough desserts topped with powdered sugar. You will also find traditional German gingerbread cookies. Stop at the Sweet Castle for more sweet treats from Hermann the German!

gluwein stand at christkindlmart

Gluhwein

Try the original Nürnberger Glühwein (a hot spiced wine) or a selection of imported German beer. It is safe for youth to taste it because the alcohol is boiled off from the wine. However, you must be 21+ to purchase alcoholic beverages on-site.

Belgian Hot Chocolate

This year, I warmed up to another cup of rich, delicious hot chocolate. It is sold in a paper cup. For $5 more I purchased the commemorative Christkindlmart cup! It’s a fun collective item because the design changes every year. I paid an extra dollar for the whipped cream topping.

I was super excited to drink my steaming hot chocolate while circling the plaza! When I lifted the big mug up to my lips, the first sip was so smooth, like velvet, sliding over my tongue. It tasted really chocolaty and sweet. The blob of fluffy whipped cream melted like a cloud on my tongue.

Where is the Chicago Christkindlmart

group smiling
sauerkraut and sausage

There are three locations throughout Chicago and its suburban area. The markets open in November and there are special hours of operation for Thanksgiving eve and Christmas eve. Admissions are free. Christkindlmart is also a great place to find top-quality gifts and celebrate holiday cheer and traditions.

Daley Plaza

Located in the loop, the holiday market in Chicago is a fun and safe outdoor experience for the whole family. The smell of curry fries and roasted nuts fills the air with the sounds of holiday music and the sights of beautiful Christmas decorations.

🛖Nov 17 – Dec 24

📍Daley Plaza, 50 W Washington St, Chicago

Wrigleyville

Located in the famed neighborhood of the Chicago Cubs baseball stadium, this market has many Christmas lights and an ice skating rink. This makes it more special and gives the space a whole different vibe to the outdoor experience while enjoying delicious German grub and aromas.

🛖Nov 17 – Dec 31

📍Gallagher Way, 3635 N Clark St, Chicago

Aurora

This market is located in the suburbs, about 40 minutes drive west of Chicago. You can get some hot cider, cocoa, a cold beer, and some awesome foods and candy. It’s a great way to explore the booths for unique finds.

🛖Nov 17 – Dec 24

📍RiverEdge Park, 360 N. Broadway, Aurora

cup of hot chocolate in the air

FAQ about German Food at the Chicago Christkindlmart

Do you need tickets for the Christkindlmarket in Chicago?

No. It is free.

Which Christmas market is best in Chicago?

There are several types of holiday markets in Chicago, and each has its own ambience ranging from German-themes to vintage-themes and Irish-themes.

What are the dates of Christkindlmarket Chicago?

The dates vary from year to year, but it is generally held from November through December.

Why is German food so bad?

German food doesn’t taste bad, but a diet of too much meat and alcohol is not healthy.

What is the difference between devil food cake and German chocolate cake?

The devil’s food cake has a dark fudge frosting, while German chocolate cake has a pecan-coconut frosting.

What is traditional German food?

The top ten foods are Bratwurst, Schnitzel, Maultaschen, Königsberger Klopse
Falscher Hase, Rinderrouladen, Berliner Eisbein, Labskaus Eintopf, Kartoffelsalat, Sauerbraten, Käsespätzle, Leberkäse, Schwarzwaelder Kirschtorte, and Dresdner Stollen.

Know Before You Go the Chicago Christkindlmarket

man holding strudel

With this holiday season, visitors planning a trip to the popular Chicago Christkindlmarket should stay up to date on any vendor, date, or location changes this year. Be sure to check the official website and social media pages in the weeks leading up to opening day for the most current details.

As in previous years, the authentic German holiday market is set to open the Friday before Thanksgiving and run daily through Christmas Eve in three locations – Daley Plaza, Gallagher Way in Wrigleyville and Aurora.

Here are additional tips and information that may help:

  • Select vendors like Bratwurst House have meat-free brats in Daley Plaza.
  • The commemorative mugs can be purchased alone at almost any booth.
  • There is an ATM station located in the southeast corner of the plaza.
  • Arrive early to beat the crowds and have ample time to explore the market stalls. Or visit during the weekday during business hours.
  • Don’t forget to dress warmly, as Chicago winters can be chilly.
  • Embrace the atmosphere by indulging in traditional German treats like hot Glühwein, gingerbread cookies, and bratwurst.
  • Bring cash because most food vendors do not accept credit cards. You can find ATM machines in the southeast corner of the plaza inside the Christkindlmart.
  • Take your time to browse through the unique handicrafts and Christmas ornaments, perfect for finding special gifts or souvenirs.
  • Engage with the vendors and learn about the stories behind their products.
  • Be sure to catch the live performances, including music and dance, which add to the festive ambiance.
  • Lastly, don’t forget to soak in the magical atmosphere and capture the memories with photographs. There is a nice backdrop in the rear on the northeast side of the plaza.

Final Thoughts on German Food at the Chicago Christkindlmarket

entrance of christkindlmart

Visiting a Christkindlmart in Chicago is an fun experience to enjoy with family or hanging out with friends. It puts you in the festive spirit of the holidays and tells the traditions of Germany.

A visit to the Christkindlmart in Chicago is a delightful way to celebrate the holiday season and create lasting memories with family and friends.


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