Just as the British can’t be without their mince pies, Austrians also have their favourite festive treats. Vienna’s cosy Christmas markets are world-renowned, with atmospheric brightly-lit stalls emitting warming cinnamon scents from steaming mugs of spicy gluhwein and selling daintily decorated biscuits to feast on. To get you in the right mood, we’ve round up the best Austrian festive food to feast on.
A traditional Austrian Christmas dinner doesn’t opt for turkey, but for carp. The fish is fried in butter, and trimmings generally include a variety of vegetables and potatoes. Have yourself a very fishy Christmas! Goose is another popular Christmas main dish in Austria, often accompanied by roasted apples and braised cabbage.
Christmas isn’t Christmas in Austria without copious amounts of steaming glühwein. The traditional recipe is a basic mix of wine, cinnamon and sugar, blended together to make the most festive drink known to man. You’ll find a number of stalls serving this delightful warming beverage at any market in Vienna, and it has been adapted to entice even the most wine-weary, with flavours ranging from orange to vanilla bean. Virgin varieties for the teetotal festive-makers are available, too.
Not uniquely a Christmas recipe, but popular enough around autumn and winter time that it’s worth mentioning. In Austria, it is often served with a generous dollop of fresh cream and a swirl of deep brown pumpkin oil – an Austrian speciality ingredient.
Bread dumplings, or knödel as they are known as by locals, are popular all year round in Austria, but they are a staple accompaniment for any Christmas dinner. They are easy enough to make at home, with a modest ingredients list consisting of potatoes, flour, semolina and a little nutmeg – try this recipe.
Dangle them from your Christmas tree or munch them straight out the packet – biscuits flavoured with seasonal spices, such as clove and cinnamon, or gingerbread, are a must-have treat during the festive period. In Austria, they tend to come daintily decorated and cut into seasonal shapes. A vanilla crescent, or Vanillekipferl as its known to locals, is a classic recipe that you’ll find in Austrian markets and bakeries – a simple biscuit with a warming kick of vanilla essence. Another popular treat you’ll likely come across if visiting Vienna in wintertime is Linzer torte – a delicious jammy treat comprised of a dollop of sweet raspberry preserve sandwiched between two almond biscuits.
Stollen originally hails from Germany (weihnachtsstollen is named after weinachten, German for Christmas), but it is incredibly popular around Christmas time in Austria, too. Fiendishly rich, packed full of fruits and marzipan and laced with a punchy kick of booze, it is Christmas incarnate.
Maroni and bratkartoffel
You know it’s time to awaken the Christmas cheer when maroni stalls start popping up in Vienna. Roasted chestnuts, slightly salted, and served in a paper cone are the perfect winter-warmer. The stalls will usually also serve bratkartoffeln – roasted potato wedges.
Austrian fruit bread
The kletzenbrot, or Austrian fruit bread, is laden with fruit and packed with zesty spices. The festive treat consists of a fruit-only centre with just a paper thing slither of dough covering the moist, squidgy mixture. Fruit commonly used for making Austrian kletzenbrot includes dried pears, figs, dates and raisins.