What’s the Difference Between Schnitzel and Wiener Schnitzel?

updated Jul 11, 2022
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Credit: Maria Midoes

Wiener schnitzel is the same things as schnitzel, right? Not quite. There’s some confusion surrounding the schnitzel family of foods — which one is made with veal? Which isn’t? It turns out the answer is in the cut of meat used. All meat cutlets prepared this way can be called schnitzel, but only veal can be wiener schnitzel.

What’s the Difference Between Schnitzel and Wiener Schnitzel?

Basically, all schnitzels are breaded and fried thin pieces of meat, but only wiener schnitzel is made with veal.

  • Cooking term: Schnitzel is a cooking term used to describe any meat pounded thin, then breaded and fried.
  • Key ingredient: Schnitzel is made with pork, chicken, beef, or veal. A variation of the word word describes the type of schnitzel you’re eating.
    • Wiener schnitzel is made with veal.
    • Hähnchenschnitzel is made with chicken.
    • Schweineschnitzel is made with pork.
Credit: Maria Midoes

Schnitzel Is a Cooking Method

Pounding a piece of meat into tender submission and then lightly coating that meat in a flour, egg, and breadcrumb mixture and quickly pan-frying the whole thing is called “schnitzel.”

Food historians debate the true origins of the method, but Austrians have claimed it as their own, making the dish something of a national treasure. Schnitzel can be found everywhere from high-end restaurants to street carts and, of course, at home.

Hallmarks of schnitzel include very thin meat and a thin crisp coating.

Schnitzel is most often served with cranberry jam and warm potato salad, but it can also be served simply with a bed of greens and a lemon for squeezing onto the meat just before eating.

Wiener Schnitzel Means Veal

True wiener schnitzel is the only schnitzel made with veal and is protected as such under Austrian law.

Unfortunately, schnitzel and wiener schnitzel are often used interchangeably on menus throughout the rest of the world, so be sure to inquire as to whether the schnitzel in question is made with veal or pork (another popular preparation, and what we use in our recipe).

German schnitzel (or Schweineschnitzel) is traditionally made with pork chops that are also thinly breaded and fried in a tender crisp coating.

Another Infamous Schnitzel

To add to the confusion, there is a chain of hot dog restaurants named “Wienerschnitzel” that was born in Illinois during the 1960s.

While Wienerschnitzel is infamous for chili dogs, burgers, and soft-serve ice cream, there isn’t a single schnitzel to be found on its menu.