Quick, delicious, and very child friendly - these German meatballs are so versatile and moreish. This dish is known as Frikadelle, Buletten, Fleischpflanzl, or Hackbällchen in Germany. Mmh there are so many ways you can eat these meatballs - and I cannot wait to share my favorite options with you.
- What are frikadellen?
- How to make Frikadellen? (German Meatballs)
- How to make meatballs in an oven
- 4 TIPS for the BEST German meatballs
- What to serve with Frikadellen?
- How to make a frikadellen sandwich (Frikadellen Brötchen)
- Storage Instructions
- More Delicious German Main Courses
- Did you try this recipe?
What are frikadellen?
Frikadellen are traditional pan-fried meatballs made from ground meat (minced meat). This dish varies in name and recipe across Germany. Typically the meatball consists of half pork, half beef mixture. This is combined with fried onions, bread pulp, and egg and flavored with spices such as marjoram , parsley, paprika salt, and black pepper
The German frikadellen are also very similar to the Danish frikadeller recipe (Danish Meatballs).
Sometimes frikadellen are also referred to as "German meat patties" or "German hamburgers", as the larger meatballs are often used for frikadellen sandwiches which are similar to hamburgers.
Today these fried meatballs are gaining popularity all over the world, thanks to the expansion of Lidl and Aldi. They sell their frikadellen ready-made. Lidl and Aldi frikadellen taste delicious and I urge you to try them, but you cannot compare them to homemade meatballs.
Regional Names for German Meatballs
There are about 50 different names for these meatballs in Germany. I have summarised some of the most common ones for you:
- Frikadellen – Rhineland
- Boulette/Buletten – used in the northeast of Germany and is derived from the French word “Boulette” (little ball)
- Klopse (like Königsberger Klopse a Prussian dish of meatballs in sauce) typical of East Germany.
- Fleischpflanzerl - Bavarian meatballs
- Fleischküchle oder Fleischküchla - Baden-Württemberg, Swarbia und Franconia
- Faschierte Laibchen – Austria
Are Frikadellen the original American hamburger patties?
It is unknown whether the hamburger is a German or an American invention. What is clear, is that the original American hamburgers have been influenced by the influx of immigrants from Europe, who would often leave from the port of Hamburg. Not only German immigrants left from there, but also from Denmark and other nationalities. These brought their ground meat recipes to the US and so the Hamburger Steak' became popular.
Where and who first placed the ground beef patty in between two slices of bread and turned it into an American Burger is not known. It might have been German, Dane or American, but everyone agrees Hamburgers are delicious! [source Wikipedia: History of the Hamburger]
How to make Frikadellen? (German Meatballs)
I deliberately chose a very easy frikadellen recipe, as I wanted to make it as accessible as possible. I opted to use dried herbs and spices for the meatballs. I find those dry ingredients help keep the shape of the meatballs. The egg and soaked bread will add softness and structure to the ground meat mixture. If you want to use fresh herbs, make sure that you chop them very finely.
- mixed minced meat – pork and beef (50/50 mix). Alternatively use beef or just use pork mince. Please see below for more about the best meat for meatballs.
- dried/ stale bread roll - this will make the inside nice and soft.
- egg (medium size) - use to bind the ingredients
- Oil, or clarified butter for frying.
- mustard (German mustard is ideal but you can also use dijon mustard )
- ground sweet paprika
- marjoram (if not available use sage )
- parsley (you can use a fresh one, but it has to be chopped very finely)
- Soak the bread roll in some water. Once it is soft, squeeze out the remaining liquid with the help of your hands/spoon and a sieve. This is important, as you do not want the mixture to become too liquid. This will affect the texture of the meatball.
- Peel the onion and slice it very finely. Fry in a frying pan with the oil until the onions start to brown. Remove the onions from the pan and leave to cool.
- Now place the mincemeat/ground meat into a large bowl. Add the bread pulp, onion, egg, mustard , salt, pepper, marjoram , parsley, and sweet paprika to the bowl. Use your hands to thoroughly knead the mixture until well combined. The more you knead, the better the results.
- Form little meatballs with your hands. The size is dependent on your preference. I like to use an ice cream scoop to portion them, as having evenly sized frikadellen, will help them cook evenly. Mine were about 5 cm in diameter and weighed roughly around 50 gr each.
- Add enough oil or clarified butter into a large frying pan to cover the base. Fry the meatballs on medium heat for around 4-5 minutes on each side. Do not turn the meatballs too early, let them fry a little to build up a firmer consistency. Otherwise, they might break apart when turning. Ensure the oil is not too hot, as the outside will crisp to quickly and leave you with a raw inside.
- Place on a paper towel, to soak up the excess fat before serving.
How to make meatballs in an oven
For a healthier option to make frikadellen, or if you are preparing a big batch for a party or German buffet. Preheat the oven to 200°C/ 392°F and place the meatballs on a tray lined with baking parchment. Bake them in the oven for 30-40 minutes depending on size.
4 TIPS for the BEST German meatballs
What to aim for
The consistency and texture of authentic frikadellen are juicy, soft, and firm. Inside the frikadelle should be nice and juicy, and outside crisp and brown.
1. Use the correct type of meat.
Do not opt for the low-fat version of ground beef, as this will make the frikadellen dry. If you use just pork mince the meatballs will be juicier as it has a higher fat content. For me, beef and pork mince meat mixture is the perfect combination. If you want super juicy frikadellen you can experiment with minced lamb which has an even higher fat content.
2. Bind the meatballs with egg and bread
If you don't have any bread available you can use breadcrumbs instead. However, for the authentic soft inside, I would recommend using a bread roll. It is possible to make meatballs without eggs, should there be food intolerances. I recommend using it for stability.
3. Double-check your seasoning - by frying one meatball first to test.
There is nothing worse than a bland meatball. So just before you form all the meatballs, form one, fry it, and try it if you like it. This way you can always increase the quantities of the seasoning to your taste.
4. Ensure the temperature is not too hot when frying the frikadellen
If you fry the meatballs in oil that is too hot, the outside will be crispy, and the inside raw. Make sure you fry some test meatballs first to get the right temperature.
Sometimes, you follow all the instructions and somehow your frikadellen are just not right. Here are some tips on how to adjust to your taste.
- My meatball mixture is too wet! – Add some breadcrumbs or oats to achieve a drier consistency.
- I want my frikadellen to be firmer – If you prefer a firmer consistency in your meatballs, use more ground beef. Alternatively, you can make the frikadellen without the soaked bread roll.
- I want my meatballs to be fluffier – If your meatball is too firm for your liking, you can add some cream cheese to your mixture or a second soaked bread roll.
What to serve with Frikadellen?
Frikadellen are traditionally served with mashed potatoes. But there are so many options that you can try.
Bread or Potatoes
Sauces for frikadellen
Frikadellen go well with creamy sauces such as Jager Sauce (a mushroom gravy) or Rahmsauce (a creamy brown gravy) It is also popular to enjoy them with tomato sauce, quark dips, curry ketchup or mustard .
For a little more spice I suggest trying the Zigeuner Sauce, (Gypsy Sauce)
How to make a frikadellen sandwich (Frikadellen Brötchen)
A popular way to eat frikadellen is to eat it in a sandwich. They are popular as a quick lunch, you can buy them in bakeries in Germany. For this recipe, you need a crusty roll, a large frikadelle (the size of a burger pattie), some lettuce leaves, some remoulade, and ketchup. Place all the ingredients into the sliced roll. If you like, you can add some radishes and sliced tomatoes. You might know this recipe as "German Hamburger" or "Frikadellen Burger".
If you like the sound of this frikadellen sandwich, then have a look at our German fish sandwich.
The meatballs stay good in the fridge for 2-3 days after frying.
Can you freeze Frikadellen?
You can freeze your cooked meatballs in an airtight container for up to three months. Once defrosted, you can enjoy them cold. If you prefer, warm them up in the microwave, or fry them in a pan.
More Delicious German Main Courses
- German Beer Goulash
- Käsespätzle- German cheese spätzle
- Venison Goulash
- Szegedin Goulash - Goulash with Sauerkraut
- Wiener Schnitzel
- Turkey Schnitzel
- Chanterelle Pasta
Did you try this recipe?
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BEST Frikadellen- German Meatballs
- large bowl for mixing
- frying pan
- 250 g minced /ground pork 0.5 lb - you could replace with beef mince if you like
- 250 g minced / ground beef 0.5 lb
- 1 white, stale, dry crusty roll stale or dry (about 100 g or 3.5 oz) white bread is good or a stale baguette
- 1 egg medium size
- 1 onion around 70 g or 2.4 oz
- 1 tablespoon vegetable or sunflower oil for frying the onions
- 1 teaspoon mustard
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tsp ground sweet paprika
- 1 teaspoon dried majoram if not available use sage
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley can be substituted with fresh parsley
- butter, clarified butter or vegetable oil for frying the meatballs
- Soak the bread roll in water. Once it is soft squeeze out the remaining liquid with the help of your hands/spoon and a sieve. This is important, as you do not want the mixture to become too wet this will affect the texture of the meatball.
- Peel the onion and slice very finely. Fry in a frying pan with the oil until it starts to brown.
- Roll a handful of the mixture to a ball and fry it in the oil to check whether you got the seasoning right.
- Form little meatballs with your hands. The size is dependent on your preference. I like to use an ice cream scoop to portion them, as having evenly sized frikadellen, will help them cook evenly. Mine were about 5 cm in diameter and weighed roughly 50 gr/ 1.7 oz each.
- Add enough oil or clarified butter into a large frying pan to cover the base. Fry the meatballs on medium heat for around 5-7 minutes on each side. Do not turn the meatballs too early, let them fry a little to build up a firmer consistency. Otherwise, they might break apart when turning. Ensure the oil is not too hot, as the outside will crisp to quickly and leave you with a raw inside.
- Place on a paper towel, to soak up the excess fat before serving.
- Can be eaten hot or cold.
To make in the oven
- Preheat the oven to 200°C/ 392°F and place the meatballs on a tray lined with baking parchment. Bake them in the oven for 30-40 minutes depending on size.