German-Style Pot Roast {Sauerbraten}

Often marinated for days in vinegar and wine, German-Style Pot Roast is tangy, sweet and full of rich, beef flavor. In this recipe, the marinating process is replaced by the slow cooking process in a crock pot. Whether you call it German Pot Roast, Bavarian pot roast, or Sauerbratan, dinner is done in hours instead of days.

German-Style Pot Roast  {aka Bavarian Pot Roast or Sauerbraten} | That's Some Good Cookin'

I have a hobby. Well, actually, it is more than a hobby; it is an addiction. I LOVE genealogy, aka Family History. I love finding out about my family and their past, where they came from, what their lives were like and what may have brought them to America.

The earliest ancestors I can find came from England to the American colonies in the early 1600’s, on the next ships after the Mayflower, settling in Massachusetts and Connecticut. I have distant aunts and uncles that came over on the Mayflower…can I count that as being a Mayflower descendant? No? Dang it.

I do have a copy of a plat map of Hartford, Connecticut from when it was first settled and I can find family names on the map. THAT’S exciting (to me). Yep, my roots go very deep in American soil.

My roots not only go deep into American and British soil, they also go wildly deep into German soil as well. Many of my ancestors, on both sides of my family, came from Germany. My dad’s German ancestors settled in Canada and Wisconsin. My mom’s German ancestors settled in South Carolina.

I feel really sorry for those poor Germans who came to the low country of South Carolina. They left the beauty of Germany and came into the wild, sweaty, bug biting, steaming hot summers of South Carolina. They traded the Rhineland for the swamp land.

German-Style Pot Roast  {aka Bavarian Pot Roast or Sauerbraten} | That's Some Good Cookin'

In honor of my German heritage, I decided to make something a bit German-ish: a German-Style Pot Roast, aka Bavarian Pot Roast or Saurbraten. When I first encountered a recipe for this style of pot roast, I was skeptical about its authenticity. Was there really such a thing as “Bavarian” pot roast? Or was it a made-up name for a food item, sort of like “Hawaiian Haystacks“?

With a little research and some lucky hits on You Tube, I found that the typical German-style pot roast, sauerbraten, is customarily brined for several days in vinegar, wine and a few common spices. Just like pot roast in America, recipes vary regionally and of course from family to family.

Following my foray into research on German pot roast, I feel relatively comfortable with the recipe I have provided here. I chose not to marinate the meat, but instead slow cooked it in a crock pot. The roast gets tender and the flavors are well infused throughout the meat.

German-Style Pot Roast  {aka Bavarian Pot Roast or Sauerbraten} | That's Some Good Cookin'

Flavor Profile Ingredients

A German pot roast has a sweet and sour combination—lighter on the sweet, heavier on the sour. In keeping with a German flavor profile, I chose to use red wine vinegar. I think that balsamic vinegar would be outrageously good, but it wasn’t quite right for this meal. Sometimes beer is used as the liquid, but wine along with vinegar seemed to be more common.

Apples are also a common ingredient in pot roast in some parts of Germany. Instead of the apples, I decided to go with apple cider, which I saw used in several recipes.

In all of the recipes that I reviewed, and there were many, the typical spices used in this style of pot roast remained constant. Essentially, they are pickling spices—bay leaves, peppercorns, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and allspice. Some recipes called for these spices to be added whole, as in a bouquet garni, while other recipes used the spices ground. The bay leaves were typically used whole.

The most interesting ingredient that I found in quite a few recipes was gingersnap cookies. They are added as a thickening and flavoring agent for the gravy. Sometimes the cookies are placed whole in the liquid and dissolve as the roast cooks. In other recipes the gingersnaps were crushed and added to the gravy to thicken it after the roast had been removed. At the last minute, I opted out on the gingersnaps. Call me a chicken, I don’t care.

As for the cut of beef, there were differing opinions. Frequently a chuck roast was used. Eye of round was another choice I saw periodically. A chuck roast will become “fall apart tender” as it cooks, whereas an eye of round roast will become tender, but can still be sliced…if it doesn’t get too obliterated by the sloooooooow cooking.

print-2German-Style Pot Roast {Sauerbraten}

Prep Time: 10 minutes | Cook Time: 5 hours 15 minutes | Total Time: 5 hours 25 minutes
Serves: 6

Red wine vinegar, apple cider and sweet pickling spices bring robust flavor to beef roast. Slow crock pot cooking achieves rich traditional flavor in a few hours without having to spend days marinating the roast prior to cooking.


  • 4 pound chuck roast or eye of round roast
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, medium dice
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup unsalted beef stock
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 3/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup corn starch


  1. Sprinkle the roast liberally with salt and pepper; rub into roast. Heat a braiser or deep frying pan over medium high heat. Add oil and swirl pan to coat bottom with oil. Brown the roast on both sides. Note: When browning, the roast will naturally release from the bottom of the pan when it has browned enough. If the roast sticks to the pan when attempting to turn it over, then it is not yet ready to be turned.
  2. While the roast is browning, place garlic and onions in bottom of crock pot. Place browned roast on top of onions and garlic. Place bay leaves around roast.
  3. Deglaze braiser or frying pan with 1/2 cup beef stock. Add remaining beef stock, apple cider, red wine vinegar, tomato paste, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and allspice. Stir or whisk until ingredients are well mixed. Pour over roast in crock.
  4. Cover crock pot and cook on high for 4-5 hours, until roast is tender.
  5. Remove roast to platter and set aside. Mix together water and corn starch until smooth. Add just enough slurry to liquid in crock pot to thicken to desired consistency. It may not take all of the cornstarch slurry. Allow to cook in crock on high until of desired consistency.


After being cooked, a beef chuck roast will be fork tender and will break apart in chunky pieces. An eye of round roast, on the other hand, will generally stay more intact and can be sliced.

Recipe by Terri @ that’s some good cookin’.

German-Style Pot Roast {aka Bavarian Pot Roast or Sauerbraten} | That's Some Good Cookin'

After Thoughts

Thinking about beef reminds me of one of my German ancestors, living in South Carolina in the mid to late 1700’s. I found an index of people who helped support the cause of the American Revolution. My fifth great grandfather, John Henry Croft (Johann Heinricht Graff) was recorded as having given “2 beeves” to the army.

When I first read “beeves”, it took me a moment to figure out that the word was in reference to cows—beef. John Henry had given two cows up for slaughter so that the soldiers would have something to eat. That’s a lot of beef. I wonder how it was prepared. 🙂

You may also like:

Slow Cooker Pot Roast
Slow Cooker Pot Roast
French Dip Sandwiches
French Dip Sandwiches
Beef Brisket for Tacos, Enchiladas and Tostadas {Slow Cooker}
Beef Brisket for Tacos, Enchiladas and Tostadas {Slow Cooker}






Other recipes with a bit of history:

Sour Cream Pound Cake
Sour Cream Pound Cake
Macaroni Pie
Macaroni Pie
Linguini Bolognese
Linguini Bolognese



    • says

      Thanks, Patricia! Question: does your husband’s family have a type of pot roast that they do make and credit it as being German? It is interesting to me to learn about foods from other countries. The more I have learned about my own long ago German heritage, the more I have been able to see how much some of the foods that I ate as a child in South Carolina were impacted by early German immigrants. If it wasn’t fried, it was pickled. Lot’s of pickling–pig’s feet, cucumbers, cabbage, other stuff I refuse to mention. 🙂 Anyway, my husband lived in Germany for a few years when he was a child and said that he used to have saurbraten when he lived there. He said that the above recipe tastes like the saurbraten that he remembers. Whew!

  1. Rie says

    Oh YUMMY!!!! I haven’t made Sauerbraton in years! I tried two different recipes and the family love the more traditional one, the one that required marinating for a few day (along with using a ginger spice cookie) I made them at the time for my other Mom. She is of German heritage. (I don’t like the word “step” for her….she has always been a special person to me all my life, not just when she and my Dad married at the “young” age of 72!!!) Next month, for her 87th Birthday, my husband and I will be taking her to her favorite German restaurant to celebrate. ( We lost Dad almost 10 years ago) She and I usually order the Sauerbraton. If she’s not up to going go, then maybe I’ll make her this one!! Thanks for the lovely memories and thoughts this post gave me…..xoxoxoxox

    • says

      Wow, Rie! You should have been the one writing this post! I found that the different recipes for sauerbraton were so interesting; it was difficult to choose how to make this. I have so many questions for you. For the marinade, what liquids do you use? How long do you marinate your roast? What is the cut of beef? What spices do you use? Do you add the ginger cookies along with the roast from the beginning, do you crush them up and add them at the end to thicken the gravy or do you have a different method? At what temperature do you cook your roast and for how long?

      I think that it is wonderful that you care so much for your other mom. What a blessing for both of you. It’s great that your dad was able to remarry and that he chose someone who already had a good place in your life. Best wishes to your other Mom on her 87th birthday! ~Terri

      • Rie says

        Sorry for the delay in response…It’s been years since I made the sauerbraten. I have a nice cookbook collection…all of Ina Garten’s (“how bad and thhaatt be?'”) and of course Ree Drummond (who doesn’t LOVE her?) and so many others…BUT…..if I was told I could only have one, it would be the Fanny Farmer Cookbook that I bought when I was a young bride in the late 1980’s….the recipe is from there. This book has everything. If I need to include any other copyright info, please let me know…..
        Fanny Farmer, 15th printing, 12/1987….page 161

        4 lb top or bottom round roast (sorry, don’t remember what I used)
        1 cup dry red wine
        1 1/2 teaspoon salt
        10 peppercorns, crushed
        1 onion, sliced
        1 bay leaves
        2 tablespoons pickling spices
        3 tablespoons shortening
        1/2 cup gingersnap cookies crushed fine
        1/2 cup sour cream

        Two days before you pan to use it, put the beef in a deep glass or pottery bowl. In a saucepan, mix the wine, salt, peppercorns, onion slices, bay leaves and picking spices with 2 cups water and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat. When it is cool, pour over the beef. Cover the bowl tightly with foil and refrigerate for a least two days, turning the meat in the marinade twice a day. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt the shortening in a covered roasting pan or casserole. Remove the meat from the marinade, pat it dry with paper towels, and brown it well on all sides in the hot shortening. Drain off the fat, strain the marinade, and pour it over the meat. Cover and cook in the oven of 2-21/2 hours, or until tender. Remove the meat and keep warn on a platter. Put the roasting pan on a burner and add the gingersnap crumbs, stirring until the gravy is smooth and thickened. Stir in the sour cram. letting it get hot but not allowing it to boil, lest it curdle. Slice the meat, pour the gravy into a sauce bowl, and serve with the sauerbraten.

        Hope you enjoy!

        • Rie says

          Crud…….correction……… 2 bay leaves…………..Thank God I don’t Blog for a living…….. teehee

        • says

          Thanks so much for the recipe, Rie. Bless your heart; that was a LOT of typing. (Better than charting, though, right?)

          I am definitely going to have to try the next roast with gingersnap cookies. If Fannie Farmer says it’s the thing to do, then by jingo it HAS to be right! ~Terri

            • Tonya says

              I will be trying both of these recipes! We have an exchange daughter from Germany living with us. Thank you, Ladies!

          • Dwane Thomas says

            When making sauerbraten, I always the used crushed/powdered ginger snaps to thicken the gravy. It’s a nice touch.
            I have lost my recipe for rolladen. If you have one, i would appreciate you sharing it.

            • says

              Hi Dwane. I will definitely be trying the crushed ginger snaps in sauerbraten the next time I make it. I’m sorry, however, but I don’t have a recipe for rolladen. Also, I must confess that I have never eaten it, either. I did an internet search for recipes for it and they seem very similar to each other. It sounds like a really great stick-to-your-ribs kind of dish.

  2. Dalila G. says

    I happen enjoy cooking with my crockpot.
    I really think it’s a great kitchen appliance, it’s so handy-dandy! *^-^*
    Your pictures sure are making me hungry! LOL! WTG Terri!
    This recipe seems easy-peasy for me, crossing my fingers for tasty results.
    Only problem is going to be which cut of meat to use.
    Hubby likes slicing ~ eye of round roast and I like falling apart ~ chuck roast….geez!


    P.S. ~ Taco Soup came out wonderful, hubby and friends really enjoyed it!

    • says

      Hi Dalila. This recipe is definitely easy peasy. We have the same slicing vs falling apart roast issues at my house, too. I had the worse trouble deciding which roast to use for the photos. In the end I decided that I could photograph a slice of meat better than small chunks of meat. 🙂

      I’m so glad that you liked the taco soup. It’s easy with lots of flavor. Have a good days. ~Terri

  3. says

    I am so excited about this German style pot roast. I have never had one… and I may have to dig through the snow to go get a roast now to try it out.

    I love a little sweet and sour tang… so it sounds great.

    PS… I say with distant relatives…. you can say you’re a Mayflower decedent. 🙂

  4. Carol says

    That roast looks heavenly, Terri.

    What? Your ancestors came from my neck of the woods! Have you ever visited New England? You’d love it…..well not now….we’re buried up to our armpits in SNOW with more coming the next 3 days.

    Is it spring yet???

    I can’t wait to try this recipe….I’m sure we’re gonna love it.

    • says

      Thanks, Carol! Yes, I have been to New England. About 7 or 8 years ago my husband and I drove up the coast from Maryland to Maine and stayed in B & Bs. It was supposed to have been a fall foliage tour, but that particular year, New England was having a heat wave and the trees were mostly turning brown instead of their glorious yellows, oranges and reds. On our return trip we drove inland a little ways and came down through New Hampshire and Vermont.

      My only regret is that I didn’t know as much about my ancestors as I do now. As it turns out, I criss-crossed all over the places where they lived. I need to come back for another visit just so that I can personally visit their homesteads and the cemeteries where they are buried.

      Sorry that you are having so much snow. We haven’t had hardly any this “winter”. We’ve barely even had winter, for that matter. It feels really odd; this is the second year in a row that winter has sort of skipped us. On the one hand weather in the 60’s in February is wonderful, but on the other hand, it is negatively affecting our snow pack on which our water supply depends. ~Terri

      • Carol says

        Oh good grief, isn’t that the way? You come to see the foliage and Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate. We usually have beautiful color here in October.

        Well now I do believe you’ll just HAVE to come back up this way now that you know more about your family tree…what fun!

        I’d be happy to send you some of our snow….I wish. We had temps in the high 50s on Christmas day-that just didn’t feel right either but it sure made it nice traveling to NH to see our daughter and family-no worries about icy roads.

        I just read this recipe to Bob and he said “And you’re gonna make that SOON, right?” Yes indeed…it’s on tap for hopefully this week…can’t wait!

  5. annbb says

    My office mate made this over the weekend and I asked her to bring me some as it sounded so different and interesting.
    All I can say is WOW!! HOW DELICIOUS WAS THAT??
    Jane used a piece of chuck and I can’t imagine anything being better
    than that!

    Wonderful, Terri – I’ll certainly be making this in my culinary future.

  6. says

    Hi Teri: I am working on a post for Ancestors in Aprons about Sauerbraten as part of a series I’m doing on the foods German immigrant ancestors brought to America. Sauerbraten is such a good example, since it is a sweet and sour dish, and that is a fundamental of German food. I’ll link to your excellent article.

    • says

      Vera, what a lovely blog you have. Let me know when you publish your post regarding foods of German immigrants; I’d love to read it. German immigrants began settling in South Carolina in 1735. As I look back on foods from my childhood, I cannot help but wonder how much of what I ate was influenced by those early Palantines down through the generations. I jokingly like to say that what wasn’t fried, was pickled. 🙂

      Thank you for the link-back to the Sauerbraten post. It took a while before I felt confident enough to publish the recipe, since I broke with tradition by not marinating the meat for the usual three or more days. However, I feel that the flavor is still true to typical sauerbraten because of the method I chose for cooking it.

      Again, let me know when you publish your post. I am looking forward to reading it. ~Terri

  7. C Castaldo says

    Hey there Terri! This recipe is wonderful. We were having a couple of guests over for dinner tonight and very late last night (after reading a letter from our former neighbors in Germany) I decided I wanted to do a German type meal. I found your really great recipe …Oh WOW….it was FANTASTIC!!! Thank you! It wasn’t until after I made this dish, I read you lived in SC at least when you were younger. We live there now. 🙂 Thanks again for a fantastic recipe.

    • says

      I am so very happy that you enjoyed this recipe! I always feel a bit intimidated when I make something that is supposed to be from another country and wonder if I “got it right”. I’ve never been to Germany, except for a number of layovers in the Frankfurt airport, lol.

      Where in South Carolina are you, if you don’t mind me asking? I was born in Columbia, but spent most of my time growing up in the Orangeburg area. I still have relatives in various parts of S.C., but have not been back there in many years. It’s a beautiful state, even in the sweltering summer, haha.

  8. John Adrian says

    Hi Terry,
    I just found your blog and immediately found recipes that touched my cooking soul – Brisket, SlowCooker (Ninja, which combines browning and slow cooking – I love it) and sauerbraten!
    I also read your genealogy comments and we have ‘not-quite’ Mayflower ancestors. Mine left southern England in a two ship flotilla – the Mayflower and the Speedwell (filled with Leiden Separatists from Holland). Unfortunately the smaller Speedwell was neither as it was slow, cantankerous and leaky, so both ships put back into port for repairs. They tried again with the same results, back to port. This time the decision was made to transfer as many people as possible to the Mayflower and it sailed to glory to America.
    So close. My ancestors did not make the transfer and returned to their home in Belgium to maintain their religious freedom; they eventually outfitted another ship and made it to New England several years after the Mayflower.
    I also found a Massachusetts plat map at the wonderful New England Historic Genealogical Society with my ancestors name on a very, very small plot. Much joy.

    • says

      Ha, John, we are probably related! My ancestors settled or inhabited most of the New England states (not states at the time they were settled, though). Isn’t it great to see your ancestor’s name on something as simple as a plat map. It really brings them alive. ~Terri

  9. David says

    1) I use the Fannie Farmer recipe, and I would not DREAM of making it without the ginger snaps. That’s when the magic happens!
    2) I’ve tried different cuts, and without a doubt, top blade roast is the finest cut you can choose for this recipe. Unfortunately it’s a cut that has been discovered and rebranded as “flat iron steak”, “Butler’s steak”, “book steak ” and “oyster blade steak.” These new presentations of an old cut have caused the price to increase. But if you are nice to your butcher, you might get it at the normal chuck price. A whole top blade roast has three parts. The top and bottom of the roast are essentially symmetrical. They are lean but often heavily flecked with marbling. Properly cut, they have almost no fat besides the marbling. Between the two sides runs a heavy layer of connective tissue. This is usually removed to make the somewhat thin steaks, but remember, sauerbraten is a braise, and connective tissue turns to gelatin when slowly cooked in a moist environment. The result is unctuous, deeply flavored, tender beef. Do not remove the tough connective tissue! It’s your braise’s best friend!
    3) I’m not sure the full 2 day marinade is necessary. Put it all in a big plastic zippie in the morning, and it should be ready to put into the oven for supper.
    4) We usually serve this with spatzle and a dish of red cabbage and apples. I make the beef and the spatzle, and my wife makes the cabbage. I can’t recall what all goes in it, but it has red wine vinegar. Sugar too, I think. Maybe it’s just the apples, but I recall it being sweet. Peppery too. I think it has bacon. Maybe I should have looked that up before posting. Oh well. Anyway, we serve it all hot with fresh pumpernickel and good butter. Warms you up on a cold day!

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