German fries or Bratkartoffeln are pan fried potatoes with onions, bacon and fresh herbs garnish. Here is how to make them.
Bratkartoffeln are just like cottage potatoes and are wildly popular throughout Germany for all the right reasons. Similarly to German potato pancakes they are an incredibly delicious appetizer and also double as a side to Schweinshaxe, Schnitzel, Brathendl (roast chicken) and many other main dishes.
The name literally means fried potatoes (from braten=to fry and Kartoffeln=potatoes).
Needless to say the crispy little numbers make an absolutely perfect partner to German beers – for specific style recommendations see below.
Besides potatoes you will need: good quality bacon (thick cut preferred), a small onion (or two shallots), cooking oil, salt & pepper, and fresh herbs.
The choice of potatoes is important – use a waxy variety such as Gold potatoes, Red Bliss or new potatoes for their significantly firmer texture.
The texture is key because typically the potatoes are boiled first and then peeled and pan fried until crispy. The boiling step is more of a parboil needed to precook the potatoes and prevent them from sticking to the pan later on. Starchy potatoes would not undergo this two step cooking process well and fall apart.
TIP: If you choose to skip the boiling step, be sure to cut your potatoes smaller than seen in the pictures (a larger dice would be perfect) and expect to pan fry them longer.
How to Cook Bratkartoffeln
Here is how to organize your work flow for a seamless experience.
Step 1. Wash the whole potatoes (do not peel them) and put them in salted water to boil while you turn your attention to the bacon and onions.
Step 2. Dice or cut the bacon in small strips and thinly slice the onion (#1 above). Cook the bacon until crispy and the fat is rendered (#2). Transfer to a paper towel lined plate to drain. In the bacon fat cook the sliced onions until they just begin to get crispy (#3). Remove them to another plate and save the skillet.
Step 3. While you are pan frying the onions the potatoes should be done boiling. Do not let them overcook and become too soft.
As soon as they are soft enough when pierced with a fork but still somewhat firm remove them from the heat, pour out the hot water and run cold water over them (#4).
Once the potatoes are comfortable to the touch, peel the skins (not mandatory, especially is using red or new potatoes) and cut them in full or semi-circles or any shape they turn out really – this is a rustic looking dish. If you want to – dice them.
Chris and I have had our fair share of Bratkartoffeln during our travels and have enjoyed them cut in all sorts of ways.
Step 4. Proceed to pan fry the cut potatoes, in two batches, with about a tablespoon of cooking oil per batch. Be sure not to overcrowd the skillet so they can get crispy. Once they begin to brown on one side start to turn them over (#2).
TIP: Instead of working in batches I like to save time and use a spillover skillet (#3 above) on an adjacent burner and once all the potatoes are nicely browned I combine them in a single skillet.
Step 5. Finally add the bacon and onions, carefully fold them into the fried potatoes, season with salt and pepper, garnish with fresh herbs and serve!
Suggested Bratkartoffeln and Beer Pairings
The herbal notes and spicy bite of cold, crisp German pilsners are unmatched when it comes to pairing with Bratkartoffeln.
Chris and I often enjoy this dish with Dunkel lager – we prefer the Franconian style for its notable dryness. Other well suited dark styles are Schwarzbier, Altbier and in winter – bocks.
When in season consider Oktoberfest lagers. Both the modern, lighter ones and the more traditional, deeper colored and boozier versions.
A very interesting pairing results with Rauchbier – its intense smokiness is so well received by the potatoes and the smoked bacon bits that even those normally opposed to the style could find the combination delightful.
Authentic German style pan fried potatoes with smoked bacon and onions. For best results parboil the potatoes before frying. Garnish with fresh, finely chopped herbs.
- 2 lbs firm (waxy) potatoes such as Gold, Red Bliss or new potatoes
- 1 small onion (or 2 shallots)
- 6 strips thick cut bacon
- 2 tbsp cooking oil
- salt and pepper to taste, to season potatoes*
- 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh herb (flat leaf parsley, thyme or rosemary)
Clean the potatoes and boil them skins on in salted water until they soften but retain some of their firmness.
While the potatoes are boiling cut the bacon in thin strips (or dice it) and thinly slice the onions. In a skillet over medium heat cook the bacon until crispy. Remove and drain over paper towel. In the rendered fat also over medium heat cook the onions until they begin to get crispy, then remove from the skillet and set aside.
While the bacon & onions are cooking check on the boiling potatoes.** When you can pierce them with a fork but they still have a bit of firmness to them pour out the hot water and run cold water over them.
As soon as the potatoes have cooled off enough to be comfortable to touch peel the skins (optional) and cut them into circles, semi-circles or dice them - your choice.
Pan fry the cut potatoes in two batches in the same skillet where you cooked the bacon and onions. Add a tablespoon of cooking oil per batch.*** Do not overcrowd the skillet so the potatoes can brown nicely. Once crispy on one side, flip them to brown them on the other until you are satisfied.
Add the bacon, onions and your choice of finely chopped fresh herb to the crispy potatoes and mix them together. Season with salt and pepper and serve!
*Paprika is also traditionally used to season Bratkartoffeln so if you like it, include it with the salt and pepper.
**Smaller sized potatoes will soften faster than larger ones so keep an eye on them to make sure you do not overcook them and let them get too soft.
***To speed things up you may want to use a second skillet and pan fry the two batches of potatoes simultaneously.
Craving more German food? Take a look at this comprehensive list of German Appetizers Recipes.