Spaetzle

published Jan 8, 2022
Spaetzle Recipe

These versatile little German dumplings are as cute as a button.

Serves4

Prep15 minutes

Cook35 minutes

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Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman - Food Styling: Maggie Ruggiero

I often talk about my Filipino roots, but I don’t often talk about the other half, which is predominately German and Danish. My love for German food stems from being partially raised by my father. He introduced me to things like kielbasa and sauerkraut. Later on, when I finally became acquainted with spaetzle, I was naturally comforted by the adorable bouncy dumplings. I love them so much I even purchased a spaetzle maker so that I can make perfect dumplings every time.

Spaetzle are small dumplings or noodles made with eggs, flour, and milk. Depending on where you are or how they’re made, they can resemble cute buttons or look more like short, thin noodles. The dish originates from Swabia, a historical region of Southwestern Germany, and dates back to medieval times.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman - Food Styling: Maggie Ruggiero

What Does Spaetzle Mean in German? 

Spaetzle is a Swabian word meaning little sparrow, but the dumplings are known by different names depending on the part of the region you’re in. For example, they’re also called knöpfle, which translates to small buttons. For this recipe, I opted for the buttons version, which are more like dumplings than noodles. If you prefer the latter, slowly add more milk to the batter until it reaches your desired consistency.

How to Make Spaetzle

Start by whisking flour, salt, and nutmeg in a medium bowl and create a well in the center. Pour a mixture of eggs and milk into the well, then slowly incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet until a batter is formed. Cover and let rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil.

After the batter has rested, pour it into the basin of a spaetzle maker and run the basin back and forth over the holes until all the batter has fallen into the boiling water. Once the dumplings float to the top, let them simmer for one minute more. Transfer to a greased baking sheet.

When all the dumplings are cooked and drained, you can eat them as is or sear them in browned butter until the sides are golden-brown. Searing the dumplings gives them a bit of chew that can hold up on their own with herbs and cheese, or any gravy you’d like to serve them with. 

Do I Need a Spaetzle Maker? 

A spaetzle maker makes easy work of this recipe. I recommend an all-metal one, because the heat of the boiling water can melt plastic handles (this happened to me and I had to get a new one!)

With that said, you can also make spaetzle using a colander with large holes. Pour the batter in batches into the colander, then use a flexible plastic bench scraper to move it back and forth over the holes, mimicking a spaetzle maker.

What Should I Serve with Spaetzle?

Spaetzle is typically eaten alongside braised meat and gravy dishes of the Swabian region. You’ll also find these cute dumplings layered with cheese and caramelized onions in a baked casserole called käsespätzle. Another classic way to enjoy spaetzle is to boil the dumplings, sear them in butter, and top with cheese and herbs, which is the preparation that this recipe is based off of. Serve alongside kielbasa and caramelized onions, and you have dinner.

Spaetzle Recipe

These versatile little German dumplings are as cute as a button.

Prep time 15 minutes

Cook time 35 minutes

Serves 4

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups

    all-purpose flour

  • 1 1/4 teaspoons

    kosher salt, plus more for the water

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    freshly grated nutmeg (optional)

  • 3

    large eggs

  • 6 tablespoons

    whole or 2% milk

  • 1

    small bunch fresh parsley leaves or chives

  • Cooking spray

  • 4 tablespoons

    (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, divided (if pan frying)

Instructions

  1. Place 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt, and 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg if desired in a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Create a well in the center at the bottom of the bowl.

  2. Place 3 large eggs and 6 tablespoons whole or 2% milk in a small bowl and whisk until well blended. Pour into the well and stir with a rubber spatula, starting from the inside of the well and working your way out, until there are no more dry streaks and the mixture resembles cake batter. Lightly cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

  3. About 15 minutes before the batter is ready, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Finely chop a small handful of parsley leaves or chives until you have 2 tablespoons. Coat a large rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.

  4. When the batter is ready, place a spaetzle maker or metal colander pan over the boiling water. If using a spaetzle maker, pour the batter into the basin, over the holes. Run the basin back and forth over the holes. If using a colander, pour the batter into it in 2 rounds, using a plastic bench scraper to move the batter back and forth over the holes until all the batter has passed through the colander.

  5. Once the all spaetzle floats to the top, simmer for 1 minute more. Transfer with a fine-mesh strainer, slotted spoon, or spider to the baking sheet. They are now ready to eat, or you can pan-fry them.

  6. To pan fry, heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the unsalted butter and cook until browned and nutty smelling, 4 to 5 minutes. Add half the spaetzle and cook until browned all over, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a serving dish.

  7. Repeat cooking the remaining spaetzle in the remaining 2 tablespoons unsalted butter. Add the second batch to the serving dish, add half the parsley, and toss to combine. Taste and season with kosher salt as needed. Transfer to individual bowls and top with the remaining parsley.