Enjoy a healthy twist on an authentic German dish with this delicious homemade whole wheat spaetzle. Perfect with vegetables for a vegetarian dish or served alongside bratwurst and sauerkraut for a German style dinner.
After two months of living in the greater Seattle area, I have most definitely confirmed that my spirit city is Seattle. I love living near the ocean and the mountains, not to mention that the temperate weather makes me deliriously happy. I’ll take all the overcast skies if it means no blazing hot summer days or feet of snow piling up in winter.
But if I had a spirit country? That would be Germany. I adore Germany, from Hamburg to Munich to Stuttgart. If it wasn’t so expensive and we had more vacation time, I would have Ryan and I take annual trips there. I spent a semester studying abroad in college there and I hold such fond memories of the scenery, architecture, culture, food, and festivals.
I studied abroad in Reutlingen, a small city in Baden-Wurttemberg (also known as Schwabenland, or Swabia in English). For reference, this is the same region of Germany where wineries abound and the Black Forest looms. I could see the Swabian Albs (a small alps range) from the window of my dorm room. Considering the rest of my undergraduate years were spent in the pancake flat Midwest, this was a geographic paradise to me.
Baden-Wurttemberg is like the PNW of Germany. There’s mountains, waterfalls, beautiful bodies of water, and cool temperatures. You can pull a total Thoreau for a day and just escape into nature, only to be back in time for work or class on Monday. It was also a hop, skip, and a train ride from Switzerland and Lake Constance, so you even avoided that land-locked sensation you can get in some parts of Europe.
Does anyone else hate being land-locked? I’ve always lived near water: Mississippi River, Lake Michigan, and now the Puget Sound and Lake Washington. Even little old Dayton, Ohio had a few major rivers.
Even better than the scenery was the food. The food in Swabia was simply delectable. I probably gained five pounds when I studied abroad because of how amazing the German food was (and, well, I was 21 years old and in Germany for a semester of no academic pressure, so, you know, German beer). German bratwurst ended my attempt at eating a vegetarian, or at least no red meat, diet. I snacked on German pretzels and grainy breads and developed a palate for unpasteurized beer. (Which, by the way, I have found unpasteurized beer sold here in Washington, from Deschutes Brewery. It’s got probiotics in it so I consider it a health food). When Christmas time rolled around (which starts in mid-November, Germans take Christmas very seriously), I warmed my always cold self up with hot mugs of Gluhwein and handfuls of roasted nuts.
And spaetzle? Hands down, one of the best German foods. Spaetzle is a popular Swabian dish that is something between a dumpling and a noodle. Imagine making pasta but cooking gnocchi, if that makes sense. Spaetzle is a fluffy noodle that is boiled. Originally, back before the invention of modern spaetzle makers, cooks would use spoons to roll into long, thin noodles. They thought these noodles resembled sparrows, hence the name (spaetzle is German for “little sparrow”). Whole wheat spaetzle requires just a few staple ingredients and, while it can be time-consuming to make, is well worth the effort. Plus, it easily reheats, so you can make a big batch and enjoy it throughout the week!
Spaetzle is traditionally made with flour, so I put a healthy twist on it and made 100% whole wheat spaetzle. I personally prefer Bob’s Red Mill Whole Wheat Flour, which is never too heavy as to make an overly dense and flat food. After all, you want your spaetzle noodles to be fluffy and light, not dense and sad.
I used a spaetzle maker (Kuchenprofi 18/10 Stainless Steel Spaetzle Plane with Pusher), but you can make spaetzle without a special device. You simply put the batter into a colander and push it through the holes and—ta da—perfectly little spaetzles. Either way, you’re going to get a fantastic arm workout from making this, but, as I said, it’s so worth it once you have a plate of fluffy and pillow-soft little spaetzles to enjoy.
Plus, the arm workout totally means you can enjoy a guilt-free beer with this meal. Or two. If you’re feeling really authentic, try an Oktoberfest, Bitburger (or any Pilsner), or a Kolsch.
Since this whole wheat spaetzle is a vegetarian dish, it lends itself well to a meatless meal. Saute some mushrooms and shallots in butter for a hearty and healthy meal.
Or, if you really want a good German, pair the whole wheat spaetzle with some sauerkraut and bratwurst. Bonus points if you add a grainy mustard!
- 2 cups whole wheat flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg or cinnamon
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2-2/3 cup milk (begin with 1/2 and add as needed)*
- 1-2 teaspoons butter
- 1 teaspoon oregano or parsley (optional)
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour, nutmeg, and salt. Crack the eggs into a smaller bowl, whisk, and then add to the mixer bowl and stir to combine.
- Add in the milk, stir to combine, then use a dough hook to knead for 18-20 minutes, until you have a soft, batter-like dough.
- Bring a large pot of lightly salted water (at least 1 quart) to a boil over the stove. Reduce the a strong simmer.
- Use the spaetzle maker or push the dough through a colander with a wooden spoon to create the noodles and press them into the the water. Cook for 2-3 minutes, or until the noodles rise to the surface of the water. Use a slotted spoon to remove and transfer to a clean colander or bowl. If needed, cook in batches (which is what I usually do).
- Heat the butter in a pan. Add the noodles and lightly cooked for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and serve immediately.
- You can store the noodles in the fridge for three days and easily reheat on the stove.
- *Although I personally used cow's milk and the traditional recipe calls for cow's milk, you can substitute water or non-dairy milk such as almond milk instead.
Questions of the Day:
Have you ever had German food? What was your favorite dish?
Did you study abroad or live in a foreign country?
What’s the weirdest kitchen tool you own? —> Probably my spaetzle maker.