10 Regional Varieties Of German Bratwurst, Explained

Sometimes nothing hits the spot like an expertly grilled bratwurst. Whether you prefer your sausage on the end of free sample toothpicks at the neighborhood Costco or you devour them with spicy mustard on a bun at a favorite dive bar, there's something to be said about the perfect blend of meat and fat used for a German bratwurst. And yet, not all brats are the same. Despite what it might look like when visiting the local supermarket, most regions in Germany have their own unique style of brat.

But what exactly is the difference between a bratwurst? Broken down, "brat" is an Old High German word meaning "without waste," and "wurst" means "sausage." You're going to find plenty of sausages around Germany, and while all bratwursts are sausages, not all sausages are bratwursts. As the name suggests, bratwursts were sausages made using the leftover scraps of an animal.

Basically, pork, beef, or veal meats that might have been left over after the choice selections were removed. Additionally, the meat used inside of bratwurst is roughly ground and pushed into an animal intestine casing. This is where you'll find the main difference, and it is really what separates bratwursts from other wursts. The sausage has a rougher texture and is not smooth like your standard hot dog (or other wurst variants). Most other sausage types are finely ground to give a more consistent mouthfeel. To help highlight the flavors of popular bratwursts, here are several regional varieties of German bratwurst.

Classic bratwurst

The classic German bratwurst has many more differences from other kinds of sausages than just the texture of the meat. Because these are "no waste" sausages, there will likely be a higher level of fat content found in a bratwurst than in other sausages. When trimming away the protein sections of pork and beef, much of the excess fat is taken away. This fat is then used in a number of ways, such as the inclusion of ground beef, and in bratwursts. Additionally, if you're going to get a traditional bratwurst, the sausage is crafted using a natural casing (which means an animal intestine). The casing will have more fat than a manufactured one, which is more common if you're buying a mass-produced bratwurst. So, remember, if you're looking to watch your caloric intake, there's a good chance (although not always), a bratwurst will have more fat than other German sausages found at your local grocery store.

Bratwursts also tend to use a different spice blend than other wursts. If you notice an earth taste not too far removed from oregano, it is because many bratwurst variations take advantage of marjoram. However, as you will discover further into the article, the exact spice blend will generally depend on the location of origin. As is often the case with other foods around the world, different regions of a country will produce varying takes on the meal, based on what is available and easily accessible.

Kulmbacher bratwurst

The Kulmbacher bratwurst was first created in the city of Kulmbach. This is the capital of the Kulmbach district, which is located in Bavaria. The city itself is in central Germany, due east of Frankfurt and about 40 miles from what is now the Czech Republic border. The Kulmbacher bratwurst is generally longer and thinner than bratwursts you're likely familiar with (the bratwurst has a thickness similar to a breakfast sausage link). Additionally, while the majority of brats are made using pork, this variation leans heavily on the inclusion of veal, although a small amount of pork is often included.

The spice profile for a Kulmbacher bratwurst is rather interesting, and it helps separate its flavor from the kind of sausages you likely toss on the grill for the Fourth of July. It takes advantage of salt, as well as white pepper, but then nutmeg gives it an almost holiday seasonal taste to it, and the inclusion of lemon peel brightens the surrounding flavors while also enhancing them.

If you are looking to enjoy your Kulmbacher bratwurst like a local German, you will need to try and hunt down a very unique bread, produced specifically for the wurst. The Kulmbacher anisstollen is a kind of bread roll, which you then slice in half and fill with several links of the Kulmbacher bratwurst.

Würzburger bratwurst

As the name suggests, this is a bratwurst that comes from the city of Würzburg. Würzburg is about as central in Germany as you can get, and it is equidistant between other major German cities of Frankfurt and Nuremberg. Like many other bratwurst-producing cities on this list, Würzburg is located within the Bavarian region of Deutschland. The main difference between this sausage from other German sausages is the meat is combined with local white wine. While France and Italy might be known as the best wine regions in Europe, there are several highly regarded wineries in and around Würzburg.

You likely think of beer when it comes to Germany, and for good reason. However, the area in and around Würzburg is unique in that the rolling hillsides running along the Main River make it an excellent location for growing wine. Specifically, the Riesling style of wine. This is the kind of wine used within the Würzburger bratwurst. Because of this, when biting into the sausage, there will be a light, almost aromatically fruity taste within the sausage. Naturally, this means it is going to pair well with the latest local Riesling vintage. So, if you're planning a trip to Germany and want a bit of an escape from beer culture, make sure to stop by Würzburg and give both the brats and the wine a try.


Want a little kick to your sausage without the aid of spicy mustard? Reach for a bierwurst. This is a smoked sausage originally from the Bavarian region of Germany. It uses all kinds of seasoning, including paprika, mustard seeds, and black peppercorns. The meat is cured, smoked, cured again, then blanches, allowing it to have an extended shelf-life.

You might be surprised to discover the bierwurst, which literally translates to beer sausage, has no beer used during the preparation of the brat. Instead, it is called a bierwurst because it is paired with a beer. The spice complexity of the beer allows it to blend nicely with a local beer. There are other "beer-named" sausages in Germany, although, again, many of these do not rely on beer. You will find a bockwurst, which, if you are a German beef fan, you already know of the German-style bock beer. The bockwurst is not considered a brat, nor does it have any beer used in its creation process. In this case, while a bierwurst is paired with beer, a bockwurst is named as it is because bock, in German, translates to desire. So, sadly, you're not getting a beer-infused brat. But don't worry, just head out to your nearest Major League Baseball stadium. You'll probably find one of those there instead.

Nürnberger rostbratwurst

We won't put this sausage on trial, but this brat, which comes from the city of Nuremberg, has been around since the mid-1500s. Nuremberg is another city that, once again, is located in the German state of Bavaria (in case you are wondering, there are 16 federal states making up the German Federal Republic. Bavaria just happens to dominate a good deal of the bratwurst industry).

The Nuremberg rostbratwurst is one of the few German bratwurst styles that has received the European Union's Protected Geographical Indications (PGI) recognition, which means for anything to be called a Nürnberger Rostbratwurst, it needs to be at least partially made in the city of Nurenberg. In other words, there are some major advantages to having a recipe that has been around for hundreds of years. So, if you ever find yourself biting into a Nürnberger rostbratwurst, you can rest assured it hails from Germany. Although, might we suggest, if you really want to enjoy the brat, go directly to the source.

This particular sausage uses ground pork, which is then combined with marjoram and then grilled over beechwood. Whenever you see "roast" included in the name, it means the sausage was cooked directly over a fire.

Coburger bratwurst

This brat hails from the city of Coburg and, you guessed it, this is a city found in the northern portion of Bavaria (specifically, the Franconia area of northern Bavaria). The city itself is located north of Nuremberg.

As for the Coburger bratwurst, it is made using a combination of both beef and pork. There is some basic seasoning of salt, pepper, lemon zest, and even a hint of nutmeg. If you are keeping track, this gives it a similar spice profile as the Kulmbacher bratwurst. However, there are a few differences between the Coburger brat and the Kulmbacher brat variation. While the Kulmbacher brat uses mostly veal, this particular sausage relies on a beef and pork split. Additionally, instead of using an animal casting for the sausages, a Coburger brat skips the animal casing altogether and instead relies on the raw egg to seal it in.

Historically, this is one of the oldest documented bratwursts in Germany, with its creation dating back to at least the late 1400s. If you really want to get specific and grill your Coburger brat the traditional way, you will need to do so over a pinecone fire. Just make sure to keep an eye on the sausage as it cooks. However you decide to cook it, the external egg wash is not as durable as an intestinal casing, which means if you cook it too long, there's a greater chance of the brat splitting and falling apart.

Thüringer rostbratwurst

There is some documentation of this brat dating back to the early 1400s, making it one of the earliest recorded sausages produced in Germany. It was first made in Thuringia, which is a region located in the center of Germany (in the northern portion of Bavaria). Historically speaking, Thuringia is possibly best known as being the location of Martin Luther, the individual who launched the Protestant Reformation, who was ordained here. So, if you're visiting Germany (the kebab capital of the world), and want to munch on sausages while learning about religious history, here you go.

But we're not here to discuss test questions we all missed back in high school history class. We're here to talk about bratwursts. The Thüringer rostbratwurst is a long, thin sausage, and, as the name suggests, it is roasted over a charcoal fire (which, thankfully, should be far easier to source than pinecones).

The sausage is well known throughout Germany, thanks not only to where it is from but due to its 600-year history. After a few centuries of one food, word tends to get around that maybe visitors should give it a try. Because of its historical connections and the length of time it has been produced, the Thüringer rostbratwurst received the European Union's Protected Geographical Indication (PGI), which means only brats made with a specific spice blend and produced, at least partially, in the city of Thuringia can be called a Thüringer rostbratwurst.

Fränkische bratwurst

This is one of the thicker brats you'll come across. It will have a unique spice taste, thanks to the addition of marjoram into the meat blend. This particular brat is one of the oldest in German, with historical references dating back to the early 1300s when it was created in the Franconian region of Germany. If you've been keeping track, that makes this bratwurst the oldest bratwurst on the list. Is it actually the oldest in Germany? That's nearly impossible to tell, as individuals were making sausages well before recipes were documented. However, in terms of actual, historical records, the Fränkische bratwurst is very much one of the oldest known versions of the brat.

The Franconia region of Germany is broken down into three administrative regions. It can get a little complicated, but the Franconia region is located in the northern portion of the Bavarian state. The administrative region trickles over the state border slightly into Hesse, Thuringia, and Baden-Wüttemberg (like we said, a little confusing). If you were to travel deeper into these neighboring states, you would find various versions of sausages, although due to various reasons, these wursts are not considered bratwursts.

These are long, thicker brats and are especially coarse (more so than your average brat). If you wanted to stay traditional, you would eat it with potato salad (or sauerkraut), but skip the mustard.

Nordhessische bratwurst

This sausage is made using very coarsely ground pork. This way, you'll really feel the texture of the meat with every bite. It also receives more seasoning than the majority of brats, although the exact seasoning profile will vary from city to city. The Nordhessische brat (also known as the Nordhessische Ahle Wurscht), traditionally hails from the northern part of Germany's Hessen state. Nordhessen, or North Hesse, is the upper region of the state of Hesse, which is located to the north of Bavaria. So while most of the brats are located specifically within the state of Bavaria, there are some exceptions, including the Nordhessische bratwurst.

This is a kind of bratwurst that will have some spice variations based on the manufacturer and the city you are in. And, much like the Colonel and his secret blend of herbs and spices, manufacturers do not generally release this information. The bad news means you're going to have to test out every Nordhessische brat in order to find exactly what you're looking for. But, then again, the good news is you now have an excuse to sample every Nordhessische brat to see which one you like the best. After all, it's for science.

Rote wurst

Looking to increase your daily dose of pork? The rote wurst has you covered. First created in the Swabian cultural region of Germany, it is made using both ground pork and ground bacon (the majority of the Swabian cultural region is located in the state of Baden-Württemberg, although a portion of it spills over into Bavaria to the east). Because of the high-fat content within the sausage, in order to prevent bursts of hot oily fat upon biting, the rote wurst has lines cut into the sausage prior to cooking, which helps some of the fat juices freely bubble, instead of building up pressure within the sausage and exploding when you bite down into it.

For this particular sausage, it is important to highlight the Swabian cultural region, because it does differ from the rest of Germany, and in itself plays a role in the culinary variations found here. The region was settled by a series of Germanic tribes collectively known as Alemanni, who even went on to oppose the Roman Empire. If the name Alemanni looks (or sounds) familiar, it is because many foreign languages refer to Germany as a variation of the name Alemanni (in Spanish, Germany is "Alemania," while in Portuguese it is "Alemanha"). There is a rather long, and interesting history (if you're into that sort of thing) regarding the Swabian cultural region of Germany, but just know you can also find some fantastic bratwursts while in the area.