Recreate the famous Berliner currywurst with our tips for the most suitable types of sausage and an easy to follow recipe for authentic currywurst sauce (curry ketchup).
Currywurst is Germany’s most popular street food. It originated in Berlin as a fast snack (Schnellimbiss) and eventually spread to other cities.
Nearly a billion currywursts are sold annually throughout the country at venues such as Imbissbuden (concession stands), Biergärten and increasingly more often at sit-down restaurants.
In a nutshell the key features of currywurst are:
- thick, finely ground bratwurst
- steamed/boiled, then fried or grilled until the skin is crispy
- sliced in thick, bite-sized pieces
- smothered in curry flavored tomato sauce or ketchup
- dusted with curry powder
- served with mini wood or plastic fork(s) to be eaten on the go
- accompanied by fries or freshly baked Brötchen (bread rolls)
You can always buy curry ketchup – truth be told most Germans do not make theirs from scratch and many contemporary stands also use certain well-known brands.
But if you’d rather try your hand at the real deal sauce – it is easy to whip up a batch.
How to Make Curry Ketchup
You should note that an official recipe for a currywurst sauce does not exist.
Herta Hauer, the resourceful woman credited with the creation of the delicacy in 1949 never shared her original recipe (see Historical background below).
Hundreds of competitors tried to recreate it over the years resulting in hundreds of recipes. Contemporary patrons often favor a specific Imbiss stand because of their particular currywurst sauce variation.
That being said there are several ingredients which are essential to currywurst sauce.
We’ve based this recipe on the one from The German Cookbook by Alfons Schuhbeck and it tastes very close to the currywurst we’ve enjoyed in Germany.
You will need:
- organic ketchup – the quality of your ketchup is very important
- yellow curry powder – mild, some hints of heat are OK
- onion – diced
- garlic – minced
- vegetable oil – to cook the onion until soft
- Worcestershire sauce
- paprika – Hungarian type sweet paprika, not Spanish smoked
- salt – use a coarse salt for best results
- sugar – we recommend dark brown sugar, it adds a deep caramel like flavor
- mustard – use either ground seed or prepared yellow mustard
- vinegar – either white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
Step by Step Process
TIP: Use a deep sauce pan so that you can easily blend the sauce with an immersion blender at the end. Currywurst sauce should have body rather than being thin.
- Start by sauteing diced onion in the vegetable oil over medium heat. Once the onion bits are translucent and soft add minced garlic and yellow curry powder and cook for about a minute.
- Add the organic ketchup, mix well and cook for another couple of minutes, on medium-low.
- After a few minutes add vinegar, Worcestershire, sugar, salt, paprika and mustard. Mix and simmer for awhile longer until the sauce thickens.
- Remove the sauce pan from the heat and blend.
TIP: We recommend that you use a mesh splatter guard as pureed tomatoes/ketchup always bubble up too vigorously.
Curry Ketchup Variations
To tweak the flavors until you find that perfect combination you can use:
- tomato sauce and tomato paste for the base (will require longer simmering to thicken the sauce) instead of ketchup
- honey or white cane sugar (or a combination of both) instead of brown sugar
- a bit of diced apple in addition to the diced onion (cook it down until soft) or applesauce
- OJ instead of vinegar
- spices like cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg (in small quantities) and perhaps some cayenne for heat
As to the exact quantities and proportions – simply experiment to discover a version that best pleases your palate. You can also skip the diced onion and minced garlic and start by warming up ketchup then adding the rest of the ingredients.
What Type of German Sausage to Use?
The original currywurst used a sausage made of pork, bacon and water, piped into pork casings. It was boiled and then deep fried.
Today it is made with various mild-flavored, fine-textured veal, pork or a veal/pork combination sausages, usually pre-cooked. It is either grilled or fried.
To recreate authentic German currywurst in the US we recommend that you do not use the widely available raw, meaty ground pork bratwurst from Wisconsin – this is not the correct type of sausage.
Instead, look for good quality, fine grind German sausage, preferably boiled. Definitely not cured and if smoked – very, very lightly.
The following options are relatively easy to find.
- finely ground, pre-cooked Bavarian bratwurst (like this one we used to make Brats in Beer Sauce) or Weisswurst
- Knockwurst (originally called Knackwurst in Germany) – it has a fine grind, appropriate snappiness and thickness
Or simply go to a butcher or specialty food store with a selection of German sausages and ask for something suitable.
How to Cook the Wursts
If the sausage you procured is not pre-cooked, simmer it in water first.
You can either pan-fry or grill the sausage until the skin gets very crispy on the outside – this is key.
Then cut into chunky slices – about 8 is considered optimal.
TIP: If pan-frying the wurst be sure to use enough oil in order to get crispy skin and either use a splatter screen and/or cut small slits on the surface of the sausages.
When currywurst is served with fries as opposed to Brötchen it is very common for the fries to be accompanied by their own pommes fritte sauce or simply a generous dollop of mayo.
TIP: We like to mix a bit of curry powder with mayonnaise and add a squeeze of lemon juice to brighten it up. It becomes a great dip for the fries.
Where is the Best Currywurst sold?
Of course in Berlin! Even though it has become vastly popular around the entire country, Berliner currywurst remains the gold standard.
Most vendors have their own recipe for curry ketchup which guarantees variations in the overall flavor. Identifying the best currywurst stands is tied to personal taste preferences and virtually impossible, but some have tried to organize top 10 types of lists nevertheless.
If you happen to be visiting Berlin in the near future, here are a few ideas for best places to taste currywurst.
- 1 tbsp vegetbale oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp yellow curry powder + more for dusting
- 1 cup organic ketchup
- 3 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
- 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tsp paprika
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp mustard powder or prepared yellow mustard
- 4 links of (preferably) pre-cooked fine grind German bratwurst such as Weisswurst, Bavarian bratwurst, Bockwurst, Knockwurst
- vegetable oil (optional if pan-frying, as needed)
- In a deep sauce pan heat the vegetable oil over medium heat and saute the diced onion for 4-5 minutes until soft and translucent.
- Lower the heat to medium-low, add the garlic and curry powder, stir and cook for another minute.
- Add the ketchup, stir and cook until it is heated through and gently simmers. Use a splatter guard to minimize mess from the simmering sauce.
- Add the vinegar, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, salt, paprika and mustard. Mix well and cook for a few more minutes until the sauce thickens.
- Remove from heat and use an immersion blender to blend all the ingredients. Alternatively transfer to a blender. The curry ketchup should be quite thick. Keep it warm while you cook the bratwurst.
- If the bratwurst in not pre-cooked first simmer it in water, then grill or pan-fry it.
- If grilling, grill until the skin gets crispy on all sides. If pan-frying heat about 1/4 inch deep of oil in a pan and turn the sausage frequently to make sure it gets crispy on all sides.
- Cut in thick bite-sized pieces and serve smothered with curry ketchup and a dusting of curry powder.
If not using immediately store the curry ketchup refrigerated in an air tight container once it has cooled down. It will save well for about a month.
Serve with fries or freshly baked bread rolls (Brötchen).
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 478Total Fat: 28gSaturated Fat: 12gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 18gCholesterol: 55mgSodium: 2582mgCarbohydrates: 47gFiber: 3gSugar: 37gProtein: 16g
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Currywurst is the creation of a German lady by the name of Herta Heuwer who lived in Berlin. In 1949, in post-war Germany times were hard and few food items were available.
The resourceful house-wife is believed to have engaged in small trade with British soldiers who offered her ketchup, English curry spice and Worcestershire sauce for booze. She added curry to the ketchup along with other spices and concocted the famed currywurst sauce which she served over bratwurst.
The dish became an instant hit and she started selling currywursts to the workers who were rebuilding the city. Soon enough she opened her own food stand selling the dish, located near Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin Mitte and ran it until the 1970s.
The curry ketchup covered sausage became so popular that it soon attracted competitors, who tried to emulate the recipe and ended up creating numerous versions of it. The dish spread across Germany to become a well-loved street food, especially in big cities like Frankfurt and Hamburg.
Frau Heuwer never told anyone what the exact recipe of her curry ketchup was, reportedly not even her husband. She died in 1999. Currywurst remained as a shared culinary heritage of all of Germany.
For a period of time there was even a museum devoted to currywurst in Berlin. The Deutsches Currywurst Museum actually closed down permanently in 2018 but until then attracted about 350,000 thousand visitors annually.