Sauerbraten: A Classic German Pot Roast

SauerbratenSauerbraten is “sour roast,” a traditional German recipe made by marinating then braising a big hunk of meat in vinegar and spices. The vinegar isn’t just used for a sour zing; it also tenderizes the meat.

Bottom round is commonly used for sauerbraten, but any less-expensive cut of meat, including wild game like venison, can be tenderized by a soak in vinegar. Sauerbraten takes this to an extreme, soaking the meat for 3 to 5 days. It takes this long for vinegar to tenderize a large roast all the way through and give the meat sauerbraten’s signature vinegary flavor. Be warned: If you marinate a steak that long it’ll turn to mush. For smaller cuts, the meat doesn’t need more than a few hours in a vinegar marinade.

A tablespoon or two of vinegar can also be added to any braising liquid (or soup broth) during the cooking process to make meat extra-tender. Again, sauerbraten takes this to an extreme, using vinegar as the sole braising liquid. Traditionally, sugar or even gingersnap cookies are whisked in at the end, turning the sauerbraten braising liquid into a sweet and sour sauce.

This less-sweet but still tasty version throws in a few dates for sweetness, leaving the option of additional sugar (or some sour cream) up to you.

As tender as it is, this meat holds together in slices, especially after the cooked roast has been refrigerated overnight. Sauerbraten is great the first day but even better as leftovers.

Servings: 6

Time in the Kitchen: 1 hour of hands-on cooking, plus 72 hours to marinate and 3 hours of roasting



  • 4 pounds of boneless beef roast, bottom round or chuck (1.8 kg)
  • 2 cups red wine vinegar (or 1 cup vinegar and 1 cup red wine) (475 ml)
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 carrot sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 thyme sprigs
  • 1 teaspoon whole allspice (5 ml)
  • 1 teaspoon peppercorns (5 ml)
  • 4 cloves
  • 2 tablespoons tallow, lard, butter or coconut oil (15 ml)
  • 6 pitted dates, roughly chopped


Bring 2 cups (475 ml) of water plus the vinegar, onion, carrot, bay leaves, thyme, allspice, peppercorns and cloves to a boil. Let cool. Place the meat in a glass bowl or stainless steel pot (avoid plastic, aluminum and cast iron) and pour the marinade over the meat. Cover the container and refrigerate for at least 72 hours and up to 5 days. The meat won’t be completely submerged, so you’ll need to turn the roast several times while it marinates in the refrigerator.

Step 1

Take the meat out of the marinade and pat it dry. Generously season the roast with salt and pepper.

Strain the marinade and discard the solids. Set the liquid aside.

Heat oven to 325 °F (190 °C).

Heat the lard/butter/coconut oil over medium heat in an ovenproof pot. Brown all sides of the meat. This will take a total of 15 minutes or so.

Step 3

Pour the marinade in the pot, scraping up any browned bits of meat on bottom. Add the dates.

Bring the liquid to a simmer. Cover and put in the oven. Check the roast after 30 minutes. The braising liquid should be at a very gently simmer; if the liquid is bubbling really rapidly, then turn the oven heat down to 300 °F.

Braise the meat for 1 hour more, use tongs and a spatula to turn the roast over, and braise for another 1 1/2 to 2 hours, for a total braising time of around 3 hours. The meat should be very tender.

Remove the meat from the braising liquid.

Skim excess fat off the top of the braising liquid. Pour the liquid into a blender and puree until the dates are smooth. Return what is now the sauerbraten sauce to the pot and simmer on the stove for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, to reduce and thicken the sauce. If you find the sauce to be unpleasantly acidic, a teaspoon or two of sugar can be added. Or, once the sauce is off the heat then stir in a few large spoonfuls of sour cream to give the sauce a smoother, richer flavor and texture.

Slice the meat and spoon the sauce on top.


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37 thoughts on “Sauerbraten: A Classic German Pot Roast”

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  1. Drool, this looks and sounds good. Thanks. Maybe I’ll try this on my next visit to the parents house. We won’t be there long so maybe waiting two days will be enough to marinate the meat? Hope so.

    1. Maybe you can talk your parents into starting the process before you arrive?

      1. That’s what my husband thought. They like to eat from the truck delivery guy so not sure they’d be on board with buying, starting the process…… they are in their mid 80’s so not sure they’d be up for that. Good idea tho. They already think I’m a bit crazy for trying to get them to put butter and coconut oil in their coffee. The Poppa is starting down the Dementia/Alzheimer’s road to which I said – take him off statins and feed that man good old fashioned FAT whilst taking away all the grains. Not an easy sell to people who’ve subscribed to the CW for so long. However, Momma just went off most of her med’s when the doctors said they couldn’t do anything more for her and sign her up for hospice….. that made her get well and brought her appetite back, she’s even walking now and then. Hospice told her that she no longer qualified. She never gave up eating butter so maybe ……. I wish I lived next door and could cook their food for them!!!

        1. A girlfriend and I got mako shark steaks on several occasions. Typically from store cooler to plate in under an hour. Upon hearing of this my parents bought a few, and put them in the freezer for a few weeks. Broil for 10 minutes became bake for almost an hour. Mako rubber ain’t cheap either and most of my parents efforts got binned.

          And this is after explicit description of how to prepare. Marinate in citrus for 30 mins. A few pats butter on top and broil for 5 minutes, flip, more butter, broil until done in about 5 more minutes.

  2. Hmmmm…those are the exact seasonings I use for stroganoff for my not-quite-primal family. I cook it with a little rice. Somehow I never thought of doing this to make it a completely primal dish. Can’t wait :).

  3. Why discard the solids? Are they unappetizing after the marinade? How about including them in a reduction and using an immersion blender to turn them into a gravy? I hate to waste the vegetables, but I can’t compost them once they’ve been soaking with meat.

  4. Juniper berries, not allspice, for purists. The gingersnap gravy is standard in the U. S. due mostly to Luchow’s Restaurant: apparently it was their oft-revealed secret, and not entirely without precedent in Germany (some regional versions used pfefferkuchen that way); I suppose some ginger powder and a very little blackstrap molasses might give something of the flavor.

    1. Neil, I’ve made a lot of sauerbraten in my time. Not saying it CAN’T be done in a crockpot but, bear in mind, the marinating happens in the fridge and the cooking involves braising. The actual cook time is not that long. I recommend against the crockpot in this instance.

    2. I just made one Friday in a crock pot. It was delicious. I had marinaded it five days, used 12 gingersnaps, 10 cloves of garlic, 2 bay leaves, lots of garlic, onions, dry red cheap wine, red wine vinegar, juniper berries, allspice,
      cooked it all day. Shirley

  5. One of the most famous varieties, the Rheinischer Sauerbraten from the Rhineland, is traditionally made with horse meat, and many people still prefer it that way.
    It also uses Lebkuchen, a traditional Christmas treat similar to gingerbread, in the sauce.

    Chris, Germany

  6. This is very close to the recipe I got from my husband’s grandmother, a German immigrant in the 1920’s. She used gingersnaps, too, but I’ve easily substituted some powdered ginger with no problem. She also included a sliced lemon (skin and all) in the brining mixture.

    It’s our family’s traditional New Year’s Day meal with slowly simmered red cabbage on the side. And, yes, I confess I also make a few of Grandma’s potato dumplings as well. I just make sure to do some serious moving beforehand, and then call the dumplings my 20% for the day 🙂

  7. Ironically I just put some pork loin in my slow cooker before I read this, and I added some vinegar! I’m very excited to see how it turns out. I’ll have to try the full on Sauerbraten sometime as well!

  8. This looks like a good solution for some of those tougher cuts of grass-fed beef from my local farmer. Like a Pikes Peak roast?

  9. I’m thinking of trying this using apple cider vinegar rather than red wine vinegar.

    1. Don’t. Red wine vinegar is the pro-play here, and I LOVE apple cider vinegar.


    Been meaning to post sauerbraten but the recipes I usually use have some non-primal aspects.

  11. Awesome. This is exactly the type of recipe I love. Cheap(ish), meaty, and protein locked. I’d suggest doing a round on Swiss steak next. It’s oddly similar in style, and quite easy to make. It’s just Tomato based! I might make this this weekend.

  12. So the process sounds like fun and the Sauerbraten looks delicious but do I serve it with? Cabbage dish or ……….?

    1. I usually do an apple braised, sweet/sour red cabbage with mine. I believe that is a fairly traditional side to go with Sauerbraten.

    2. I was lazy so just used purchased noodles. Cook, drain, add a stick of butter, one teaspoon sesame oil, dash of pepper garlic, Serve the warm drained marinade over the noodles.

  13. Similar to Corned Beef, however that is simmered in the slow cooker rather than browned. Served with cauli puree and horseradish mmmmmmm

  14. Just finished cooking it and… well… I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, since it says “sour” right there in the name and all, but the sauce is extremely acidic and sour, even after adding a couple of teaspoons of sugar. The beef is also pretty sour, but I think I might be able to salvage it using some leftover goulash. I’m not sure if I did something wrong or if this is just the taste it should have.

    1. I do not see water listed in the ingredients. Most recipes I’ve looked at call for equal parts water and vinegar. While this published recipe may be what was intended, perhaps your pallet requires diluted vinegar.

      1. Water isn’t listed in the ingredients, but it is listed in the instructions.

    2. It should be a bit tart, but add some brown sugar to the sauce if you wish.

      little brown sugar should fix it up to your taste

  15. If your finished product is not thoroughly enjoyed because of tartness, try:

  16. If your finished product is not thoroughly enjoyed because of excessive tartness,
    * discard the marinade before cooking; it is “spent”
    * add a bit of sweet wine to taste, but don’t compromise the
    necessary acidity
    * a feral (sour ) orange, from my backyard, is sqeezed into the
    marinade prep. The Cubans, Hispanics value their sour
    orange, have for ages
    * don’t forget the ANGOSTURA BITTERS (a splash)
    * be sure to include the gingersnaps; they thicken the sauce
    and mitigate the sourness and help you get accustomed
    to the difference in taste; next time reduce the amount of
    cookie crumbs used.

  17. I made this and it was so good! It was just the right amount of sour paired with the sweeter sauce. I added a few more dates than the recipe called for.

  18. If you place the roast, the marinade and everything else in a disposable plastic bag for a few days, the meat will be soaked on all sides, if you tie the bag and make it practically air tight. . There won’t be any need to turn it over every few hours, When you throw away the onions,cloves, peppercorns etc. you can discard the bag too

  19. After reading what seemed like hundreds of Sauerbraten recipies, I boiled up some red wine and apple cider vinegar, onion slices, pickling spices, some salt and some brown sugar….threw it in a ziplock bag with a 3 lb bottom round, which I am in the middle of marinating….5 days is my goal. I turn and massage regularly, whenever I open the fridge. I hope it turns out okay. I bought some gingersnaps which I will crumble finely in my food processor to make the gravy. I don’t follow directions well, but usually end up with good results. Wish me well!

  20. I make a traditional family recipe Saurbraten, with a few northern changes, and based on a 5 lb. Roast.
    Red wine and wine vinegar are from the Rhine area. Instead, I use 1 C. Malt Vinegar (my own), 1 C. White Vinegar, and 1 C. Nut Brown Ale.
    My Grandmother didn’t use Dates, she used 1 Tbsp of Sugar to give a little sweetness, and added crushed Ginger Snaps to thicken the gravy.
    I’m working on a primal version of the family Ginger Snap recipe, and I’ll let you know when it’s perfected!
    Thank you so much for all of your tireless help!