Traditional German sauerbraten is a tender beef recipe with a sweet and sour gravy made with a fun secret ingredient. Cook it on the stovetop, in your oven, or with my easy slow cooker instructions. This is the perfect prep ahead dish for company.
This traditional German sauerbraten tastes like it came straight from a restaurant kitchen but takes just minutes to prep.
All the work is done days in advance which makes this a perfect choice for entertaining or even Christmas dinner!
Using budget-friendly cuts of beef, it is a great way to save money when you want to serve red meat.
Why This is the Best Recipe
I grew up in a very German area of the midwest. When we moved to the South, I started to miss all the amazing traditional German recipes I remember eating at local restaurants.
This German sauerbraten recipe is the best because:
- Easy Prep Ahead!: It takes just 10 - 15 minutes to prep the dish and you should let the beef marinate in the fridge for at least 48 hours. So all the messy work is done far in advance.
- Hands Off Cooking: You'll have the most savory beef simmering away in just minutes and have plenty of time to work on other side dishes for your meal.
- Flexible Cooking Instructions: Depending on the rest of your menu, you may prefer to cook this on your stove top, in your oven, or in a slow cooker. I give you instructions for all three methods!
- 2-Minute Gravy: The sauerbraten gravy has a surprising ingredient you're going to LOVE.
- Easy to Find Ingredients: All the traditional German flavors with absolutely no hard-to-find unique ingredients. In fact, my recipe uses many things you likely have in your pantry right now.
What Is Sauerbraten?
This traditional German recipe is the perfect way to tenderize an affordable cut of beef for an elegant dinner that works for a regular weeknight meal or even Christmas dinner!
The beef marinates in a homemade sauce made of red wine, red wine vinegar, and classic herbs and vegetables.
The cooking liquids are turned into the easiest gravy ever and give the beef a wonderful sweet and sour flavor.
This easy German recipe requires just a few simple ingredients, many you likely have on hand right now!
- Beef Chuck or Rump Roast: This affordable cut of beef is perfect for entertaining on a budget.
- Red Wine
- Red Wine Vinegar
- Beef Stock or Beef Bouillon
- Minced Garlic
- Dried Thyme
- Dried Rosemary
- Bay Leaves
- Black Peppercorns
- Whole Cloves
- Brown Sugar
- Kosher Salt
- Golden Raisins
Then you'll just need the one secret ingredient that makes this dish really special: crispy ginger thin cookies.
Some sauerbraten recipes call for crushed ginger snaps but I think that ginger thins work much better because the ratio of ginger flavor to flour makes for a better textured gravy.
If you're looking for more traditional American pot roast flavors, you would probably love this delicious Instant Pot pot roast recipe, too.
Prepare the Marinade
NOTE: This should be done 48 Hours minimum before cooking
The first step to making sauerbraten is to prepare the red wine and red wine vinegar marinade at least 48 hours in advance of cooking your meal.
The longer the meat marinates, the more tender and flavorful it will be. Marinate it in the fridge for 48 hours or up to 1 week.
To prepare the marinade:
Add all the marinade ingredients listed in the recipe card below into a large dutch oven.
A few important things to keep in mind:
- Make sure the red wine is something you'd enjoy drinking by the glass. The flavor will concentrate as it cooks.
- Be sure to chop the leek and then rinse it thoroughly before adding it to the pot so you avoid any sand in your dish. If you've never cooked with them before, you can learn how to cut leeks here.
Bring the marinade to a boil over medium-high heat.
Stir it to ensure the sugar dissolves and the seasonings are fully incorporated.
Let the marinade completely cool before adding the beef. You don't want the beef to cook in the warm sauce yet.
Add the Beef
Though I cooked the marinade in a wide dutch oven, I chose to marinate the beef for 5 days in a much closer-fitting pan to help ensure that the liquid covers as much of the surface of the beef as possible.
Place the beef in a pot or pan that is just big enough to leave a little room around the meat.
Pour the completely cooled marinade over the top and use the spoon to spread the chopped veggies over the beef.
Gently lift each end of beef up just a little to make sure the liquid gets underneath as well.
Turn the beef over in the marinade once or twice a day, every day, until you're ready to cook it.
Cook the Sauerbraten
When it is time to cook the sauerbraten, you need to choose your cooking method.
I prefer the oven method but stovetop and slowcooker instructions will work great, too.
Brown the Beef
All three methods start with the same first step:
Scrape all the chopped vegetables from the top of the beef and use a slotted spoon or serving forks to remove the beef from the marinade to a clean plate.
Use paper towels to pat the beef dry on all sides.
In a large dutch oven (if cooking by oven or stove top) or large skillet (if transferring to a slow cooker), heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.
Add the beef and brown it on all sides, about 5 - 6 minutes a side.
Add the Marinade
Stovetop or Oven: Pour the marinade over the beef in the dutch oven and bring to a bubble.
Slowcooker Instructions: Transfer the beef to the slowcooker pot first, then pour the marinade over the top. Lift each end of the beef to make sure some of the liquid gets underneath, too.
Oven: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the lid on the dutch oven and bake for 2 - 2 ½ hours or until the meat is tender and reads 150°F on a cooking thermometer.
Stovetop: Place the lid on the dutch oven and reduce the heat to low. Simmer the beef for 2 - 2 ½ hours or until the meat is tender and reads 150°F on a cooking thermometer.
Slowcooker: Cover the slowcooker and cook on LOW for 5 - 6 hours or HIGH for 3 - 4 hours.
Prepare the Gravy
If you've never made homemade gravy before, you're in luck.
This is the EASIEST gravy ever!
Transfer the cooked beef to a carving board and loosely tent with aluminum foil to keep warm.
Use a slotted spoon to dish out all the solid vegetables from the liquids in the pan.
Crush the ginger thin cookies and stir them into the cooking liquids along with the brown sugar.
Cook the gravy over low heat for just 5 minutes or until it thickens and the sugar and cookies have dissolved.
Slowcooker: Pour the cooking liquids into a small saucepan to finish the gravy on the stovetop.
This sauerbraten recipe was a HUGE hit with my kids and husband.
We made it for a fun Oktoberfest meal on a lazy weekend day just for fun but it was so delicious and so easy I am considering serving it for Christmas dinner.
I love that all the hard work was done far in advance and how easy it is to make just before serving.
Traditional side dishes for sauerbraten include:
Here are a few recipes from my site that would be perfect to serve with the sauerbraten:
For the Marinade:
- 2 onions chopped
- 2 whole carrots chopped
- 1 leek chopped
- 3 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon dried thyme
- 1 tablespoon dried rosemary
- 2 bay leaves
- 15 whole black peppercorns
- 6 whole cloves
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
- ½ cup golden raisins
- 2 cups red wine
- 1 ½ cups red wine vinegar
- 1 cup beef broth or 1 teaspoon beef bouillon + 1 cup water
For the Beef Roast and Gravy:
- 3 - 4 pounds beef chuck roast or rump roast
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 10 ginger thin cookies crushed
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
Prepare the Marinade:
- Combine all of the marinade ingredients in a large dutch oven and bring them to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir to ensure the sugar dissolves and the seasonings are well incorporated. Cook for 10 minutes and then cool completely before adding the beef.
Marinate the Beef:
- Choose a storage container that is small enough to keep the liquid covering as much of the beef at once as possible. Place the beef in the container and pour the cooled marinade over the top. Use a fork to wiggle the roast so that the liquid seeps underneath the meat in the dish.
- Cover and store in the fridge for at least 48 hours or up to 2 weeks. Turn the beef once or twice a day to make sure all sides marinate well.
Cook the Sauerbraten and Gravy:
- Remove the roast from the marinade to a clean plate and save the marinade, you will use it to cook the beef.
- Pat the beef dry with paper towels. In a large dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.
- Brown the beef on all sides, about 5 - 6 minutes per side.
- Pour the reserved marinade over the beef and bring it to a bubble. Place the lid on the dutch oven and bake for 2 - 2 ½ hours at 350°F. Alternatively, you could reduce the heat to low and keep it simmering on the stovetop. The beef should be tender and read 150° F for medium done.
- Use a slotted spoon or serving forks to transfer the cooked beef to a carving board and cover loosely with aluminum foil while you finish the gravy.
- Use a slotted spoon to remove the solids from the cooking liquids in the dutch oven. Add the crushed ginger thin cookies and brown sugar and whisk them in. Cook for 5 minutes over medium-low heat, whisking to ensure the sugar dissolves. Taste and season with salt and pepper as desired.
- Thinly slice the beef and serve warm with a drizzle of the sweet and sour gravy over the top. It pairs perfectly with mashed potatoes, homemade spaetzle, buttered egg noodles, or potato pancakes.
Slowcooker InstructionsIf you prefer to make it in the slowcooker, follow the recipe up and through the step to brown the beef in the skillet. Transfer the beef to a Crockpot and then pour the marinade over the top. Cook on LOW for 5 - 6 hours or on HIGH for 3 - 4 hours. Transfer the beef to a carving board, skim the solid veggies out of the cooking liquid, and then pour the the liquid into a saucepan to finish the gravy on the stove top OR, set your slowcooker to HIGH heat and simply whisk the crushed ginger cookies and brown sugar into the crockpot. Cook for 5 - 10 minutes or until the sugar has dissolved and the gravy has thickened.
Save This Recipe to Your Recipe Box
Find this delicious recipe next time you visit by saving it to your very own recipe box on my site. All your favorites stored in one easy place!