A recipe from Cologne: Reibekuchen: German potato pancakes
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Reibekuchen: German potato pancakes

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My mother-in-law has lived in this area her whole life. I knew which traditional recipe I wanted to make to go with our Cologne post, and I knew she would be the right person to ask. So this is Miss M’s Oma’s recipe for Reibekuchen: German potato pancakes.

She has been making it for so long, she makes it by feeling. When I asked her for the recipe, she actually went and found me some old recipe books so that I would have the amounts. The first was a book from 1939 about cooking with electricity. The one that I used was new the year she got married: 1968. It’s called “Das neue große Kochbuch” or “The Big New Cookbook”.

"Das elektrische Kochen", a cookbook from 1939, with a slightly more complicated recipe for Reibekuchen

What are Reibekuchen?

Reibekuchen (literally: grated cakes) are German potato pancakes. They are also known as Kartoffelpuffer, Kartoffelpfannkuchen, Kartoffelplätzchen or Reibeplätzchen.

Reibekuchen are a traditional dish served in the Rhineland and other areas of Germany, and they are often sold at fairs and carnivals. I had some just this weekend at the Zöppkesmarkt.

How are Reibekuchen served?

Reibekuchenk are served crispy and golden with apple sauce (normally there are three to a serving).

My mother-in-law grew up eating them with Apfelkraut, a highly concentrated form of apple sauce that is also a traditional food from the Rhineland. She still eats them this way. Her father apparently would eat them on rye bread with the Apfelkraut.

You can also find the German potato pancakes at fairs served with sour cream and smoked salmon.

Sometimes – and this is how I served them tonight – they are served with pork dishes, though crispy Bratkartoffeln (fried potatoes), Spätzle (an eggbased pasta from the south of Germany) or Knödeln (dumplings) are more common.

We had roast pork with Reibekuchen, apple sauce, sautéed snow peas and a creamy sauce with oyster mushrooms and bacon. Miss M, our picky little eater, ate her Reibekuchen and apple sauce, but would not even let me put the rest on her plate.

They are also a great alternative side dish for Christmas or Thanksgiving Dinner.

Reibekuchen, or German potato pancakes served with roast pork, apple sauce, sautéed snow peas and a creamy sauce with oyster mushrooms and bacon.


There are a number of alternative versions of this recipe.

You can substitute the flour for semolina or polenta or another type of flour in the case of allergies.

Some recipes also suggest substituting the grated onion for grated apple. This, of course, makes the potato pancakes sweeter but means you don’t need any apple sauce.

The recipe I found in “Das elektrische Kochen” also suggested boiling about one-third of the potatoes before adding them to the mix. This makes the Reibekuchen slightly “creamier”, but my mother-in-law said not to worry.

Whatever you do, there are two things you need to ensure:

  1. Really squeeze the liquid out of the potatoes. It will be quite brown and you might get more than you expect. If you leave it in, it will make the Reibekuchen soggy.
  2. Use starchy potatoes, the kind that you would use for mashed potatoes, gnocchi or baked potatoes in their jackets. In German, these are called mehligkochend, or, literally, floury potatoes. Russet, Idaho and Yukon gold are all good examples of starchy potatoes.

Are you going to serve your Reibekuchen sweet or savoury?

Reibekuchen, or traditional German pancakes, are an easy-to-make meal or side dish. They are delicious served with apple sauce or Apfelkraut, or as a side dish with roast meat: the perfect recipe for Autumn.

How are you serving your Reibekuchen?

Reibekuchen: German potato pancakes, banner with image of Reibekuchen and apple sauce, as they are traditionally served.
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A traditional recipe from Cologne: Oma's Reibekuchen: German potato pancakes


  • Emily Adams

    Seeing this brought back great memories for me! My parents lived in Germany before I was born and learned some of the recipes like this one – growing up, my Mom would make us potato pancakes and serve with applesauce. It sounds so weird if you’ve never had it, but I love the combination so much!

    • Rachael Matthews

      If we go to a fair or something where they are making some, we have to bring some home for my MIL. It is definitely a little strange, but very delicious!

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