Sauerbraten (German pot roast) (2024)

This authentic German Sauerbraten recipe comes straight from my grandfather’s kitchen ~ you can do this braised chuck roast on the stove, in the oven, in the crock pot, or the Instant Pot for the most comforting meal ever! Perfect for family dinners, Octoberfest celebrations, and holiday gatherings.

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Sauerbraten is a classic German pot roast with fork tender meat in a rich sweet and sour gravy.

Once you’ve tried it I know it will become a part of your recipe repertoire forever, it’s that uniquely delicious. The smell coming out of the kitchen while this cooks is that classic rich meaty aroma we all miss from childhood, it makes you feel safe and cozy…and insanely hungry.

This is inspired by my grandfather’s sauerbraten. He got it from his mother, Alma Schultz, who immigrated from Germany to New Jersey at the end of the 19th century. She brought her treasured recipe for sauerbraten with her and my grandpa reinvented it for us. This recipe is as close to his as I can get, it’s delicious!

Sauerbraten means sour or pickled (sauer) roast meat (braten)

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What makes sauerbraten so different from English pot roast?

Two things make sauerbraten so unique…for one thing the meat is traditionally marinated for up to 3 days before braising. And secondly, the flavors in that marinade, which eventually becomes the gravy, are rich and multilayered. English or American pot roast is typically flavored with onions and carrots in a fairly plain brown gravy. This sauerbraten, on the other hand, contains:

  • red wine
  • vinegar
  • beef stock
  • onions, carrots, leeks
  • garlic
  • fresh thyme and rosemary
  • juniper berries
  • peppercorns
  • whole cloves
  • bay leaves
  • golden raisins
  • gingersnaps (!)
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What cut of meat is best for sauerbraten?

You can make sauerbraten with some of the same types of meat you use for American pot roast, look for a piece about 3-4 pounds:

  • chuck roast ~ this is what I used today. It’s cut from the shoulder of the cow, and is also used to make ground beef. When slow braised it cooks up to fork tender consistency.
  • rump roast ~ cut from the hindquarters of the cow, it’s slightly more tender than chuck.
  • bottom or top round ~ these are cut from the rear legs of the animal, and the top round is more tender.
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What are gingersnaps doing in pot roast??

Crushed gingersnap cookies are traditionally used to thicken the sauerbraten gravy. I was skeptical at first, but it works beautifully! It basically acts like a spiced flour to thicken the gravy. The spices work well with the flavors in the sauerbraten, and the little extra sweetness helps to balance the sour element. Lovely!

Tip: there are many kinds of gingersnaps and while all will work, I very much prefer the classics imported from Sweden: Nyackers are super thin and crisp, with an authentic spicy flavor. You can buy them online, or at stores like Cost Plus/World Market. I always stock up in fall because I use them for crumb crusts in holiday desserts like my Cranberry Gingersnap Pie.

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A 2-3 day marinade is traditional for sauerbraten

The multi-day marinade is traditional for sauerbraten, and the theory is that the longer you leave the meat in the acidic marinade, the more tender it gets. This is the way it’s been done for generations in Germany. It’s not difficult at all, and once you’ve assembled your marinade you can stash it in the fridge and forget it for a few days. I like to marinate it right in my enameled cast iron pot, but you can also use a large heavy duty zip lock bag. Just be sure the meat is fully immersed in the liquid, or plan to turn the meat every day so there’s no spoilage.

But wait…is marinating sauerbraten really necessary?

Studies have indicated that marinating meat is not particularly useful at all, that the flavoring doesn’t really penetrate into the meat, even after a long period of time. And what’s more, acidic marinades can actually work to make meat a little bit…mushy. So feel free to skip the lengthy marinade if that works better for you. You can read more about this here.

Tip: Marinate meat in glass, plastic, stoneware, or enameled cast iron, but avoid a metal pan or container. Metal can react with the marinade and give the food a metallic flavor, yuck.

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Regional variations for sauerbraten

Feel free to experiment, all these variations are authentic!

Venison, lamb, pork, or even turkey can be used instead of beef.

Use Riesling (white) wine instead of red wine, or even a dark German beer.

Use apple cider vinegar instead of red wine vinegar.

I used wine, vinegar, and beef stock as the base for the gravy, but you can use all wine, or even all vinegar plus water.

Other spices that are sometimes used include: mustard seed, coriander, ginger, cinnamon, mace, dill seed, allspice

Sometimes the gravy is thickened with sour cream, heavy cream, or even pumpernickel bread instead of the gingersnaps.

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This pot roast is totally holiday worthy!

While it looks a lot like regular pot roast, I can assure you the flavor is fabulously unique and will provide a delicious and memorable experience for family and friends. Serve the sliced meat on a big platter and pour gravy over it, then serve extra gravy on the side.

What to serve with sauerbraten

You don’t have to serve specifically German sides with sauerbraten, it pairs well with all sorts of choices:

  • Potato gratin
  • Green bean casserole
  • Braised red cabbage
  • Buttered rutabagas
  • Cheesy Zucchini Casserole
  • Rainbow Carrots with Browned Butter and Sage
  • Rosemary Roasted Rainbow Potatoes
  • Creamed Brussels Sprouts

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German Sauerbraten (Pot Roast)

This authentic German Sauerbraten recipe comes straight from my grandfather's kitchen ~ You can do this braised chuck roast on the stove or in the oven.

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Prep Time:20 minutes minutes

Cook Time:3 hours hours

marinating:2 days days

Total Time:2 days days 3 hours hours 20 minutes minutes

Servings: 6 servings


  • large roasting or stock pot with lid


Pot roast


  • 1/4 cup finely crushed gingersnaps


  • Put all the marinade ingredients into a large non-reactive pot such as enameled cast iron (make sure it's big enough to hold the marinade and meat.) Bring to a boil, then let cool to room temperature.

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  • Submerge the chuck roast into the marinade, and cover tightly. Refrigerate for up to 3 days. If your meat is not fully covered in liquid, plan to give it a turn every day so it marinates evenly. You can also do this in a very large heavy duty zip lock bag.

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  • Remove the meat from the marinade (it will be beautifully pink from the wine) and pat it dry, removing any stray bits of veggie as well. Remove the marinade to a bowl and wipe out the pot. Lightly coat the bottom of the pot with oil and heat until quite hot but not smoking. Brown the meat on all sides.

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  • Add the marinade back into the pot with the meat and bring to a boil. Scrape up any browned bits from the bottom as you heat. Now you have a choice: either turn the heat down, cover, and let gently simmer on the stove for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, or you can cover and put the pot into a 325F oven for the same amount of time. Note: whichever method you choose, you want the pot to be a gentle simmer, not a rolling boil, so adjust heat accordingly. I check it a few times during cooking to make sure.

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  • When the meat is fork tender, carefully remove it to a cutting board and let rest for 15 minutes before slicing.

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  • Strain the contents of the pot and discard the solids. I like to put the liquid into a large saucepan at this point.

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  • Bring it back to a bubble and sprinkle in the crushed gingersnaps, whisking as you add them, so they don't clump. Simmer until the gravy thickens slightly. Note: if you do get any lumps, just strain the gravy through a mesh sieve before serving.

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  • Slice the meat and serve on a platter topped with gravy. Serve extra gravy on the side.

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How to adjust for the slow cooker:

  • Make the recipe as written above through step 3.
  • In step 4 place the meat and marinade in your crock pot and cook on low for 6-8 hours.
  • Proceed with step 5 in the recipe.

How to adjust for the Instant Pot

  • Make the recipe as written up through step 3.
  • In step 4 place the meat and marinade in your Instant Pot and cook on high pressure for 55 minutes. After the machine beeps let it sit for 10 minutes without doing anything, then release the pressure valve.
  • Proceed with step 5 in the recipe.

Frequently asked questions

Can I leave out the wine?

Yes, just use apple cider with apple cider vinegar. You can also use more beef stock, or even water.

I don’t have gingersnaps, but want that flavor, what can I add?

You might thicken the gravy with a flour and water slurry and then add some dark brown sugar or a little molasses.

Doesn’t the meat spoil when you leave it that long in the marinade?

No, the wine and vinegar in the marinade keep the meat from spoiling.

Do I have to marinate the meat that long?

No, I mention in the post that there is evidence that marinating is not very useful after all, so feel free to marinate for a shorter time, or even skip that step.

I don’t have juniper berries, what can I substitute?

Just leave them out, there are plenty of other flavors in this dish.

The gravy is too sour for me, what can I do?

The gingersnaps help to balance the sour element, so don’t leave them out, and you can add some extra sugar or brown sugar to help as well.

My gravy never got really thick.

Sauerbraten gravy is not meant to be very thick, it should be silky and have some body to it.

My gravy isn’t dark and rich as it is in the pictures.

Depending on your wine and other ingredients your gravy could be a slightly different color. I love to use a few drops of gravy browning like Kitchen Bouquet to darken pale gravies.

NEW FEATURE! Click here to add your own private notes.

Course: Main Course

Cuisine: German

Author: Sue Moran

Keyword: beef, braising, chuck roast, Diner, German, pot roast, Thanksgiving


Serving: 1 serving · Calories: 572 kcal · Carbohydrates: 20 g · Protein: 46 g · Fat: 27 g · Saturated Fat: 12 g · Polyunsaturated Fat: 2 g · Monounsaturated Fat: 14 g · Trans Fat: 2 g · Cholesterol: 156 mg · Sodium: 1310 mg · Potassium: 1125 mg · Fiber: 2 g · Sugar: 9 g · Vitamin A: 3717 IU · Vitamin C: 7 mg · Calcium: 92 mg · Iron: 7 mg

Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy and is an estimate only. This information comes from online calculators. Although The View from Great Island attempts to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.

Did You Make This?We love seeing what you’ve made! Tag us on social media at @theviewfromgreatisland for a chance to be featured.

Sauerbraten (German pot roast) (17)
Sauerbraten (German pot roast) (2024)


What cut of beef is sauerbraten made from? ›

Sauerbraten is a German roast of marinated meat, traditionally beef. Since it's generally made with tougher cuts (usually the rump roast), the meat is marinated for days at a time. The roast is sliced and served with a gravy. In some recipes, the gravy is made with gingersnaps.

Should pot roast be turned at least 3 or 4 times during cooking? ›

Place into the oven and cook for 2 to 3 hours, or until fork tender. Turn the meat at least 3 or 4 times during cooking to ensure any exposed meat is being cooked in the liquid.

How many pounds of pot roast per person? ›

If beef roast is the main dish, the general rule of thumb is to get at least a half-pound of beef for every person (8 ounces). If there's a possibility of additional unexpected guests or if you'd like leftovers, you can round up and buy about 3/4 pound per person (12 ounces) or even a pound per person (16 ounces).

Does pot roast get more tender the longer it cooks in the oven? ›

Yes, pot roast absolutely becomes more tender the longer it cooks. Roasts are generally made from tougher cuts of meat, such as chuck or brisket, which contain a lot of collagen, connective tissue, and fat. These tougher tissues require a long cooking time to break down and for the collagen to converts into gelatin.

Why is my sauerbraten tough? ›

If it has turned out a little too tough (possibly the temperature was too high or it cooked too long), slice the meat perpendicular to its natural separations. It won't look as pretty on the plate, but will immensely help the tenderness.

What is the most tender roast beef cut? ›

The Chateaubriand beef tenderloin roast is considered to be the most tender cut of beef for a roast. This cut of beef comes from the loin area of the cow, which is right below the backbone, behind the rib section and in front of the sirloin section.

Is 4 hours long enough for pot roast? ›

Place in the oven for 3 to 4 hours or slow cooker for 8 hours or until meat falls apart.

Should a pot roast be covered in liquid? ›

Some recipes call for liquid, some do not. It mainly comes down to the type of meat you use. Cuts like chuck roast will release more fat and moisture than leaner cuts, so they don't need any water. In addition, the slow cooker itself creates some moisture, which helps keep the meat juicy.

Why is my roast still tough after 8 hours? ›

There are several reasons why this could have happened even after so much cooking. First, your choice of a rump roast could be a factor since cuts from the hind quarter are very muscular and, since muscles are the most resistant to breaking, this cut is quite stubborn when it comes to becoming tender.

What is the best meat for pot roast? ›

The best meat for pot roast is a beef cut with abundant connective tissue, like chuck roast, beef brisket or bottom round roast. This connective tissue called collagen is what makes pot roast melt-in-your-mouth tender.

Is 350 too high for pot roast? ›

You'll notice our chart selects low to moderate heat, in the range of 325 or 350 degrees, for larger roasts and higher heat, above 400 degrees, for smaller, tender roasts to produce the best results.

When should I add potatoes to my pot roast? ›

Place the roast on top of the onions and season with the salt and pepper. Add 1/4 cup of the broth or water and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer on low for 2 hours. Add the potatoes, carrots, and quartered onions and cover and slowly simmer for 1 hour longer.

What not to do to pot roast? ›

5 Mistakes to Avoid When Cooking Pot Roast
  1. Using the wrong roast.
  2. Not browning the roast.
  3. Deglazing with just broth.
  4. Cooking the vegetables too long.
  5. Not thickening the gravy.
Mar 29, 2017

Do potatoes go on top or bottom of roast? ›

directions. Put potatoes, carrots and onion on bottom of crockpot. Place the roast on top, fat side up. Pour in water or beef broth.

Which is better rump or round roast? ›

Fat is a key part of a meat's flavor and tenderness; the more, the better. So, while both these cuts are classified as extra lean, the rump's relatively higher fat levels make for a slightly better-tasting cut.

What cut is traditional roast beef? ›

The most popular cuts for a roast are:

Rump Roast. Topside. Whole Sirloin or Striploin. Bolar Blade Roast.

What is rump roast vs chuck roast? ›

Rump roast, not to confuse with bottom round, comes from the hindquarters. Chuck roast comes from a cow's shoulder portion. The hindquarters and shoulder area are both well-used parts of the cow, so these two cuts of meat are naturally pretty tough. Most people agree that roasted rump is the more tender of the two.

What steak is cut from chuck roast? ›

The beef chuck cut comes from the animal's upper shoulder and lower neck. Steaks and roasts come from this area. Because the shape of the shoulder bone looks like a seven, chuck steaks are known as 7-bone steaks.


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