German Food Guide
German Food Guide
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Das Butterbrot, The German Sandwich

Butterbrot is the German word for a slice of bread smeared with butter. One can think of these as sandwiches. However, in the German cuisine, they are most often served open-faced, with only one slice of bread. Each slice of bread is covered with a good portion of butter.

The Butterbrot sounds very simple, but it is the basis of many morning, in-between, and evening meals. It can be enjoyed just as is, but it is most often topped with additional ingredients, such as wurst, cheese, vegetables, and/or herbs. Sweet toppings, such as jam, fruits, chocolate, or sugar, also works well in making the Butterbrot a sweet treat.
Photo: © Birgit Reitz -

Traditionally, the Butterbrot uses a sourdough bread, known as Graubrot (Grey Bread) made with rye flour. However, any type of bread can be used and it can be either toasted or untoasted. Bread rolls (Brötchen) can also be used, but this would then be considered a sandwich instead of a Butterbrot.

Types of Butterbrot

The simplicity of the Butterbrot is what makes it so popular. It just takes a few minutes and you have a tasty, hearty meal or snack. And given the variety of available toppings, there is an unlimited number of Butterbrot variations. Here we define some of the most common types of Butterbrot, based on common toppings.

Das Wurstbrot
Photo: © Lichtmaler -
The Wurstbrot is a Butterbrot topped with wurst, specifically cold cuts and spreadable varieties. It is the favorite type of Butterbrot in German cuisine. Given Germany's large selection of wurst, the number of varieties of Wurstbrot are also huge. Additional toppings can be added to the Wurstbrot. Common toppings include pickles, onions, tomatoes, salad, and fresh herbs.  Search our Wurst Dictionary for wurst varieties that work well for a Wurstbrot.

Das Käsebrot
Photo: © Christian Jung -
The Käsebrot is a Butterbrot topped with cheese. This can be sliced cheese or spreadable cheese. Additional toppings can be added to the Käsebrot. Common toppings include hard-boiled eggs, tomatoes, pickles, salad, and fresh herbs. Search our Cheese Dictionary for cheese varieties that work well for a Käsebrot.

Das Marmeladenbrot
Photo: © Thomas Francois -
The Marmeladenbrot is a Butterbrot topped with jam. It is most often eaten for breakfast. It is also a favorite of children.

Das Eierbrot
Photo: © Yvonne Bogdanski -
The Eierbrot is a Butterbrot topped with eggs. They can be hard-boiled, scrambled, poached, or fried eggs. Additional toppings can be added to the Eierbrot. Common toppings include cheese, tomatoes and other vegetables, and fresh herbs.

Butterbrot History

The first known evidence of the Butterbrot comes from the year 1339, when it was offered to guests of a fraternity gathering in Bremen. Back then, the Butterbrot was considered a tastier alternative to porridge.

The Butterbrot didn't catch on immediately throughout Germany. In the southern regions of Germany, the locals prefered to top their bread with herbs and spices. They say butter and herbs as two separate options for bread, but did not like the idea of combining the two.

By the 15th century, the Butterbrot was eaten mainly by farmers and the commoners. It was also considered a healthy food for children. In the 17th century, topping the Butterbrot with cheese slices was the "in" thing to do. Likewise, in the 18th century, a sweet Butterbrot, topped with jam, was the popular food, especially in central Germany.

Today in Germany, the Butterbrot is slowly declining in popularity. To try to re-instate its popularity, there is an annual "Day of the German Butterbrot" in Germany. The Butterbrot is still, however, eaten more than fast food. It is also still enjoyed frequently as a lunch or in-between snack at work or school.

Photo: © robynmac -

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