Slow Cooker Beer Brats Recipe

Of all the ways to cook bratwurst, there really is no better method than using the slow cooker. The handy kitchen appliance handles most of the heavy lifting for you, and it helps ensure that the brats end up juicy and fork-tender. Not only that, but you can also simultaneously cook vegetables like potatoes, onions, and sauerkraut — which is exactly what recipe developer Michelle McGlinn does in her slow cooker beer brats recipe, bringing back a German flair to an otherwise Midwestern-ized dish.

For McGlinn, cooking brats in beer is something of a staple, especially from her time living in the Midwest. "I lived in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where beer brats are practically the regional cuisine," she explains. Unlike the classic Milwaukee finish, which sees the brats through a grilling stint and then tucked snugly into a bun, McGlinn notes that this recipe veers towards a German-style approach, thanks to the potatoes and sauerkraut. "It's very filling, a little sweet, and the brats get very tender," she describes. After 8 hours of low-heat slow cooking, you better believe these brats will be cut-with-a-fork tender and bursting with juiciness. And if you don't believe us, take McGlinn's word for it: "They will definitely be the most flavorful bratwurst you've ever had!" 

Gather the ingredients for these slow cooker beer brats

To make these beer brats, you'll naturally need both beer and brats. The latter need be just plain pork brats, whereas the former should ideally be something German-style, to fit with the German theme of the recipe. "The lager doesn't have to be German, you can use any ale or lager here. You could also try a hefeweizen for something really interesting," McGlinn notes.

Additionally, you'll need some sauerkraut, another ingredient that isn't strictly necessary, but definitely recommended. "If you hate sauerkraut, I highly recommend leaving it out entirely," McGlinn advises, as its "distinct, acidic, almost-sour flavor" will indubitably make itself apparent. "The recipe will be just as good without it," she adds, but if you do like sauerkraut, then you'll definitely want to include it. To round out the recipe, you'll need gold potatoes, a couple of yellow onions, bay leaves, garlic, mustard seed, and caraway seed. 

Sear the brats

These brats won't be grilled after slow cooking, so to give them some color, McGlinn opts to sear them before putting them in the slow cooker. She says that this searing step is "totally optional," though it does help to "add a little bit of flavor from browning the skin and give the final result some color." She further explains, "Brats are otherwise gray when cooked in liquid." 

To spare yourself from digging into ugly gray brats, lightly oil a cast iron skillet and place it over medium-high heat. Add in the brats and sear them until browned on both sides. "I highly recommend searing the brats first so they are golden brown and slightly charred," McGlinn says of the optional step. "You can also use the grill to do this, if that happens to be easier." 

And, in case you're wondering why you aren't grilling the brats after slow cooking, it's because they'll simply be too tender. McGlinn says that they'll be very soft and difficult to handle on a grill after cooking — "That's why it is wise to brown them first!"

Load up the slow cooker

Add the sauerkraut, halved potatoes, and sliced onion into the slow cooker first, followed by the bay leaves, smashed garlic, mustard seed, and caraway seed. Place the seared brats on top, nestling them comfortably into the vegetable layer. Then, pour the German lager over top. "It is fairly important to submerge the brats in the beer, so be sure to fully nestle the brats in there so they cook all the way through and absorb the flavorful liquid," McGlinn advises.

Pop the lid on the slow cooker and let it work its magic. Make sure the slow cooker is on the low setting, then simply leave the brats to cook for 8 hours.

Serve these slow cooker, German-style brats

You'll know that the brats and vegetables are done when they're nice and tender. At that point, pile up the potatoes, onion, and sauerkraut onto a plate, finished off with a juicy brat or two. "You could also serve this with roasted carrots, pureed parsnips, or a side of peas," McGlinn suggests. And, to stay on the German theme: "I also thought this would be delicious with spaetzle!" 

Slow Cooker Beer Brats Recipe
5 from 87 ratings
Transport your taste buds to the Midwest with this beer brats recipe that imbues the meat with the flavors of sauerkraut and German lager in your slow cooker.
Prep Time
Cook Time
brats and onions in pot
Total time: 8 hours, 15 minutes
  • 5 plain pork bratwurst sausages
  • 1 pound sauerkraut
  • 1 pound size B gold potatoes, halved
  • 2 small yellow onions, sliced
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • ½ tablespoon mustard seed
  • ½ tablespoon caraway seeds
  • 1 (12-ounce) German lager
  1. Heat a lightly oiled cast iron skillet over medium heat until hot. Add the bratwurst and sear until browned on each side. Remove from the skillet.
  2. Add the sauerkraut, potatoes, and onions to the slow cooker. Add the bay leaves, garlic, mustard seed, and caraway. Nestle the bratwurst into the sauerkraut, then cover with beer.
  3. Cover and cook for 8 hours on low, until the potatoes are tender and the bratwursts are cooked through.
Calories per Serving 242
Total Fat 8.5 g
Saturated Fat 2.5 g
Trans Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 21.9 mg
Total Carbohydrates 28.6 g
Dietary Fiber 6.4 g
Total Sugars 4.6 g
Sodium 991.7 mg
Protein 9.0 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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