Learn how to make German spaetzle at home. This homemade spaetzle is a traditional egg-based dumpling browned in butter that you can pair with your favorite German recipe.
Growing up in the very German city of Milwaukee, I enjoyed dining at the local German restaurants all throughout the area.
When we moved to the South, I was disappointed to discover a significant lack of German cuisine!
Feeling a bit homesick, I decided to teach myself to cook a few of my very favorite German dishes.
Buttery German spaetzle was #1 on that list!! Even my husband dreams of the delicious German dumplings browned in butter that are often served alongside wiener schnitzel or classic sauerbraten that we loved eating at our favorite German restaurants.
The good news is, they are SO easy to make at home as long as you follow a few specific tips!
Why This is the Best Recipe
My husband and I consider ourselves German spaetzle connoisseurs. It is by far our favorite German recipe of all time, so we headed into developing this recipe with very high expectations.
This is the best spaetzle recipe because:
- Whole Food Ingredients: The list of things you need to make it is short and sweet.
- Easy to Mix: The dough comes together so fast.
- The Perfect Seasonings: Most spaetzle recipes are missing a key ingredients. Ours is perfect.
- Browned in Butter: If you aren't finishing your spaetzle in a saute pan, you're missing the best part.
- Make-Ahead Friendly: I have the perfect tips for getting the messy work out of the way for an easy family dinner.
You probably have everything you need to make the spaetzle batter in your kitchen right now!
- Salt & Pepper
- Dried Parsley
German Pasta or Dumplings?
My mom couldn't imagine why I wanted to learn how to make spaetzle from scratch when I could just buy them from the store.
The problem?? Our local store doesn't carry them!
The closest thing I've been able to find is an egg-based German noodle in a spaghetti-like shape.
The German spaetzle we love most is closer in shape to a small dumpling. That hearty little chunk tastes so much better than the noodle shape does!
So we set out to make German dumplings instead of noodles because we think they are the absolute best.
Spaetzle Maker Tool
To make a traditional dumpling shape for your spaetzle, you do need one special tool.
I generally avoid buying single-use gadgets for my kitchen.
I experimented with a DIY spaetzle tool and tried to just use the largest holes in my colander. It was a terrible mess and it took me an hour to cook the spaetzle because I had to pinch the dough by hand. Yuck.
I finally gave in and just bought this budget-friendly spaetzle maker tool.
It was worth every single penny.
Making the spaetzle is SO fast and easy with this gizmo. I strongly, strongly encourage you to get one. The set comes with an awesome wired spoon that will make skimming the spaetzle out of the water so fast and easy, too.
How to Make Spaetzle
The first step to making homemade spaetzle is to prepare the spaetzle dough or batter.
Start by adding eggs and milk to a large mixing bowl.
Add ground nutmeg and dried parsley and whisk it all together.
Once the eggs have been whisked into the milk, add the flour and salt and whisk/stir it in until the dough forms.
The dough will be thick but pliable. It is the right consistency when it pulls away from the edges of the bowl as you stir.
If it is too thin, the dumplings won't form properly. You'll need to add a tablespoon of flour at a time until the right consistency is met.
If the dough is too thick, you'll struggle to get it through the spaetzle maker holes. Add just a tablespoon of milk at a time until the right consistency is met.
The egg dumplings are very pale in color. Since we eat with our eyes first, I love to add bright little bits of green right to the spaetzle dough itself.
My preferred seasoning is dried parsley because it doesn't affect the final flavor of the spaetzle.
However, if you want a fun variation, dried thyme or even dried green onion flakes would be a perfect complement to the butter sauce you'll be making at the end.
Those seasonings also pair really well with most German recipes.
Assembly Line Set Up
Cooking the spaetzle is extra easy if you take a moment to set up your assembly line.
Place a large colander over a clean bowl and place it near your stove top.
This is where you'll store the boiled spaetzle while you finish the rest of the batter. They will drain the excess water into the bowl below.
Then, place the spaetzle maker tool over a large pot of water with a hearty pinch of salt in the water. Bring the water to a boil.
Place the wired spoon that came with the spaetzle maker near the pot. You'll use this to strain the cooked dumplings when they're ready.
Lastly, place your batter bowl to the left so you're ready to move spoonfuls of the dough through the assembly line.
My set-up looks like this:
How to Form the Dumplings
When the water is at a vigorous boil, use a large spoon to scoop about ½ cup of the dumpling batter and place it into the square attachment on the spaetzle maker like this:
Then, firmly grip the square and slide it back and forth over the grated holes over the water.
The dumplings will fall into the boiling water below. When you've scraped all the batter into the water, remove the tool and gently stir the spaetzle with the wired spoon.
Let them cook for just 2 minutes or until they float at the top like this:
When the spaetzle is floating, you can skim the top of the boiling water with the wired spoon to drain them and then place them in the colander.
Continue to add the cooked spaetzle to the colander as you finish boiling the rest of the dough.
Give the whole batch a good shake to help all the excess water drain to the bowl below.
Make Ahead Tips
My steps are specific, but truly this recipe is easier than it might look right now. At this point I think I had spent 20 minutes total prepping the dough and boiling the dumplings.
At this point, you could pause and store the boiled spaetzle in an airtight container in the fridge and finish them in the butter sauce just before serving.
The dumplings will hold for several hours in the fridge, possibly up to 24 hours in advance.
The Best Spaetzle Sauce
Now we're ready to finish the spaetzle in a delicious melted butter sauce.
This is my favorite part of this dish!!
Melt the butter in a very large skillet over medium-high heat.
Add the boiled spaetzle to the skillet and saute for 5 - 10 minutes, depending on whether you are working with room temperature or refrigerated spaetzle you made earlier in the day.
Continue to gently stir and cook the dumplings until they start to get a golden brown crispy edge on most pieces.
You don't want them hard and crunchy, just gently toasted and still chewy at the center.
Add a sprinkle of salt and pepper and more dried parsley over the top.
When my husband and I took a road trip through Germany and Switzerland when we were first married, one of the meals that I still remember all these years later was an amazing cheese spaetzle dish I ate in Switzerland.
The plate arrived with a giant portion of buttery spaetzle covered in melted Swiss cheese. It was the most perfect comfort food for a hungry appetite.
To recreate this recipe, simply prepare the spaetzle as mentioned above but add an additional tablespoon of butter to the skillet.
Add ½ onion, finely chopped to the pan and let it cook with the spaetzle. Then, sprinkle the skillet with shredded Swiss cheese and let the cheese melt before serving.
The American pronunciation of this German word sounds like "spat" (rhymes with cat) plus "zl."
Gnocchi is another one of my husband's favorite dumplings. They are Italian and made from potatoes. You'll find that gnocchi, although boiled in water just like spaetzle, have a different size and texture. Spaetzle are made from flour, not potatoes and the egg gives them a much different flavor.