Foods that are hard to find in Germany

Kellogg's ToppasI’m inviting readers (Americans especially) to help me compile a list. It’s a list that grows shorter by the year, but is still fairly lengthy: Foods that are hard to find in Germany.

It really wasn’t that long ago that an American living in Germany had difficulty finding familiar food items such as peanut butter. Today it’s easy to find peanut butter in German grocery stores and supermarkets. (But the selection is still much more limited than in a US grocery store!) Today you can even find Mexican food in a German supermarket (although it is often a bit too Germanized for Norte Americanos). Sometimes food products are available in Germany, but are difficult to find. On the other side of the coin, Americans who used to bring jars of Nutella home from Germany can now find it on the shelves of most grocery stores in the US.

Smart American expats learn to adapt and get to like German/European fare, but every once in a while we yearn for something that is difficult or impossible to find in Germany. I spent almost a year living in Berlin and never found a box of Cheerios – and believe me, I searched! Now some of the items that Americans miss aren’t exactly health foods, but that doesn’t keep you from missing them. I quickly came up with these: Cheerios, A&W Root Beer, 7up, Canada Dry, Doritos (and other types of chips), macaroni and cheese, Quaker Instant Grits/Oatmeal, and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (Hershey). Then I hit a wall. Can you help?

A while back Ruth wrote about German grocery store culture. Last week Jessica wrote about her struggle to find baking powder in Switzerland. (I think Switzerland presents some challenges not found in Germany.) She also mentioned the differences in flour and the problems that can create for home baking. Since I don’t bake, that wasn’t something I was really aware of. So Ruth and Jessica inspired me to make a food list. And that’s why I’m now asking for your help.

Here’s another list that I started, but had difficulty finishing. It’s sort of a sub-list of the first one: Foods (and drinks) you really should NOT miss in Germany. My list begins with American Budweiser beer. Next comes American bread (with the possible exception of hamburger buns) and then US hot dogs (“franks”). I know there are more items we can add to this list.

Sometimes Americans can’t find things in Germany because (1) it has a different name in German and/or (2) it’s only found in Asian or Turkish markets in Germany. The Vietnamese grocer within a block of my Berlin apartment always had cilantro – as long as you knew it’s called Koriander in German (and also “coriander” in English). Sometimes the only thing you need in order to find a food item is a good English-German dictionary or Google.

This same hole-in-the-wall Berlin grocery store (open until 10:00 p.m.!) also carried a variety of Kellogg’s cereal that I now miss in the US! It was grape-filled bite-sized shredded wheat (Toppas Traube, see photo), but not sugar-coated! That last part is important! We Americans put too much sugar on everything, including breakfast cereal. (No wonder everyone’s diabetic!) I can’t find fruit-filled shredded wheat in the States without the sugar-coating. All US “Mini-Wheats” varieties seem to have the word “frosted” in front of them. Am I missing something? Do I need an Aldi? (Not found in my part of the US; I didn’t even know Aldi had stores in the US until I went to Germany!) See kelloggs.de for more.

Other than muesli, the breakfast cereal selection in Germany is very limited. Kellogg’s Corn Flakes are everywhere – plus a few other Kellogg’s varieties (All-Bran, Chocos, Rice Krispies, Special K). But try to find anything from General Mills (Cheerios, for instance). Even the fairly large supermarkets in Berlin have a cereal selection that most Americans find pitifully small. According to the German Wikipedia, General Mills sells brands such as Häagen-Dazs, Old El Paso (carried by Rewe), Knack & Back (whatever that is) and Betty Crocker in Germany. Why no Cheerios? (Side Note: The Cheerios cereal found in the UK is made by Nestlé [a Swiss company] and has a different recipe than the US Cheerios! The nestle.de site for Germany does not list Cheerios.)

Another good example of knowing “the tricks of the trade” has to do with orange juice. The typical bottled drink known as Orangensaft – that Germans seem to think is actually orange juice – is anything but! In this case, all you have to know is the phrase “direkt gepresst” and where to look. I could hardly contain my joy when I discovered that German supermarkets hide the real (“direkt gepresst”) orange juice in its own glass-doored refrigerator, along with the real grapefruit juice. (Occasionally the real stuff is also found in an open refrigerated shelf.)

Do you know a similar “trick of the trade” that you’re willing to share? You can include it in your addition to our list. List 1: Foods and drinks that are hard to find in Germany (and how to find them, if possible). List 2: Foods and drinks you really should NOT miss in Germany. I hope to hear from you in our comments!

Find out what German-Way writer Sarah misses in her list of foods.

One source of UK and US products in Germany: importladen.de

7 thoughts on “Foods that are hard to find in Germany

  1. When I was living in Germany, there were a couple of items that I missed. One was trying to find vanilla extract. All I found in the supermarkets were vanilla aroma which isn’t quite the same. I also couldn’t find brown sugar (light and/or dark and soft textured). I do bake a lot, and those were the 2 items I couldn’t find in Germany. A couple of other items were cheddar cheese, corn tortillas and canned pumpkin. From time to time…Lidl will have different theme weeks in their advertisement (Werbung), and one can find cheddar cheese and corn tortillas in the Mexican theme week. I couldn’t find canned pumpkin to make a pumpkin pie, but I did used “jarred pumpkin.” I’m sorry to say that jarred pumpkin is not the same as canned pumpkin in terms of taste and texture.

    I noticed that you couldn’t find Quaker Instant Oat Meal. Is this the Oatmeal that cooks in 1 minute? I did find Haferflocken “Zart” and in my opinion it was the same as the 1 minute version.

  2. I craved for peanut butter for months since I moved to Germany. Then I found it at Edeka. Since I was penny pinching at that time, I decided against buying it. A wonderful thing happened! Later, my whole perspective hunting for American comfort food went dead stop! Believe me I was obssessed. My expat friend living in London emphasized ever so strongly that I should let go. Well, I did stop hunting for stuff like a mad woman, but now I make do with making easy homemade meals mom used to make or I make and being easy on myself if I can’t find all the ingredients! I love white or brown rice, thank god, they that here!! And FYI California folks…Trader Joe’s which has tons of stores in southern California and doing really well as a privately owned company is owned by Aldi…google wikipedia! Andhere in Austria, Aldi is called Hofer!

  3. Chocolate Chips…never did find any. I also had a hard time with refried beans…But finally I found that my local Rewe carried some from the “Fiesta” (I think? one of the common “mexican” brands).

    • My local Kaiser’s in Berlin carried something called “American Cookies” (in English) that were chocolate chip. They weren’t half bad. Kaiser’s also carried refried beans and Mexican chips, but the chips had some weird flavoring I’ve never seen in the US (or Mexico). I think the brand was also Fiesta, but I’m not sure.

      I think some of these things may be local/regional. In a big city like Berlin it may be different than in a smaller town or rural area. I know that the list would also be different for Austria and Switzerland.

  4. This is a great blog. I`m German and lived in the US for 2 years. Now, back in Germany, I keep missing freshly ground almond butter and Reed’s Ginger Brew or any other strong Ginger Ale. On the other hand I was happy to find Marshmallow Fluff here – of course outrageously expensive.

  5. I apologize if I wander to far off topic…but this is food we’re talking about here!

    When I first moved to Berlin, I didn’t know the word for garlic (Knoblauch). It’s definitely one of those words you need to know, because you certainly can’t pull it out of your ass in a pinch, and trying to explain the concept of garlic in German to grocery store employees…well, it was pretty comical. I’m pretty sure my broken German included phrases like, “It’s Italian” “It’s round” and “it smells.” … Not very helpful.

    In any case, one of the things I missed dearly was Dr. Pepper. Maybe I wasn’t looking in the right places, but I only found it once in Ka De Ve, and it was more than pricey!

    And not to be too picky, but I live in NJ…so pizza was always a bit of a disappointment for me, even comparing the frozen stuff we have over here.

    As recompense, I’d like to offer one food done best in Germany…Döner! We have similar kebabs and such in the US, but it’s something about the bread they use, combined with the sauces and the meat. It’s heaven, and I’ve considered flying thousands of miles just to get another bite.

  6. While we have yet to add graham crackers or cheez-itz to our package, I can you tell you how you get some of those hard to find American items! 🙂 For the past couple of weeks, my boyfriend and I have been working on a care package online shop with American foods!! We offer quite a few hard to get treats all in one, you can have a look below.

    It’s called American Expat Box (www.americanexpatbox.com). Of course we hope to continue to add new products and have more themed boxes, but here is what we have been able to offer so far! Have a look and let me know what you guys think, feedback will help us improve it!

Leave a Reply