German beef Rouladen are beef rolls filled with bacon, onion, pickles and mustard. They are braised until tender and topped with the gravy they create. It's a wonderfully comforting and delicious traditional meal.
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German foods have a bit of a reputation of being on the heartier side, between sausages, various potato dishes, schnitzels and more. Much of this is due to the agricultural heritage, where meals needed to sustain them on the fields.
While this dish maybe isn't exactly light, the preparation is much more elegant than some. And the delicious flavors make any indulgence completely worthwhile.
While these days it is now considered more of a special occasion dish, originally this would have been considered peasant food. This is because it uses a lesser cut of meat, just as with sauerbraten (a kind of pot roast with a rich sauce). In both, the preparation ensures the meat becomes wonderfully tender and flavorful.
Where are rouladen from?
While this particular dish is pretty consistently considered German, the origins beyond that are not very clear. The name at least comes from the French "roulade". "Rouler" in French means "to roll", though the application is broader in France. A French roulade can apply to a range of things from meat dishes to desserts like a Swiss roll.
In Germany, you'll find just a few forms of Rouladen. This beef version is also called "Rinderrouladen" to distinguish it and is probably the most popular throughout the country. In the Berlin area, stuffed cabbage rolls or "Kohlrouladen" are also popular.
How to make this dish
As with many traditional dishes, you'll find a few variations in how this is prepared, but they are relatively small. Some don't use pickles and some pre-cook the onions. Some mix the bacon with ham, and the cooking sauce can vary a little.
The most popular way to prepare this is to use very thin, long slices of beef. First, you spread them with a layer of mustard. You then put bacon, thinly sliced onions, and chopped up pickles on top. Roll the beef up with all the fillings inside and then either pin it together with a cocktail stick or tie it with twine.
After this you then brown the beef rolls on all sides, deglaze the pan and add liquid that you then braise the beef in, low and slow. Once cooked, you thicken the cooking liquid to form the gravy.
See how they come together in the short video!
In terms of the cooking liquid, some add vegetables to make it richer, while others simply use water that absorbs the flavor from the beef. Some recipes add a few herbs though this is less typical.
Here I've used a little red wine to deglaze the pan and add some flavor before then using water or beef stock, as you prefer. This combination is easy yet provides plenty of flavor to the end gravy.
How to serve rouladen
Being such a comforting dish, and particularly with that lovely gravy, you typically serve this with a side that is equally comforting and good at mopping up gravy.
One of the most popular choices is potato dumplings (kartofelknödel or kartoffelklöße) as well as spaetzle (a kind of small dumpling/pasta) or mashed potato.
Beef Rouladen make a wonderfully flavorful, comforting meal and would be perfect to serve for an Oktoberfest meal, or any occasion you choose. They are easier to prepare than you might think and while they take a little time, it's mainly hands off cooking and most certainly worth the wait.
Try these other favorite German dishes:
- Bacon onion spaetzle (a small pasta/noodle)
- German pancake soup
- Schweinebraten (pork roast with beer)
- Plus get more German recipes in the archives.
- 14 oz beef topside or flank steak, as 6 thin slices around ¼ inch thick min 4x6in (400g)
- 2 tbsp mustard either Dijon or for a slightly sharper flavor, a sharp German mustard
- 6 slices smoked bacon or less if the slices are large
- ½ onion
- 3 dill pickle spears
- 1 ½ tbsp butter
- ¼ cup red wine 60ml
- 1 ½ cups water approx, 360ml
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- salt and pepper
- Pound the beef slices lightly to tenderize and cut the pieces of bacon, if needed to be a little shorter than the long length of the pieces of beef. Thinly slice the onion and cut the pickles into matchstick lengths.
- Spread each of the slices of beef with a thin layer of mustard. Top each with a slice of bacon then place a few pieces of onion and pickle towards one end. From the end with the onion and pickles, roll up the beef tightly so all of the fillings stay inside then secure the end with a cocktail stick, or alternatively tie two loops of twine around the roll.
- Preheat the oven to 325F/165C.
- Warm the butter in an ovenproof dish with a lid large enough to hold all of the rouladen in a layer, over a medium-high heat. Brown the beef rolls on all sides well, turning as needed to brown the other sides. If your dish doesn't have a lot of space, brown in batches. Remove the beef rolls from the pan once done and set aside.
- Deglaze the pan with the the red wine, scraping any of the browned bits from the bottom (they help add flavor). As it starts to simmer, add most of the water (or stock) and warm through. As it starts to simmer, add back the beef rolls, and a little salt and pepper, cover the dish with the lid and place in the oven.
- Cook the rouladen in the oven for around 90 minutes, turning now and then so they don't become dry on any one side. If the liquid becomes too low, top it up slightly.
- Once cooked, remove the beef rolls from the cooking liquid and set aside to keep warm. Mix the cornstarch with a tablespoon of water and add to the cooking liquid. Warm over a low heat and stir to thicken into a gravy, then remove from heat.
- Remove the cocktail sticks from the rouladen before serving then drizzle over the gravy.
If you prefer, you can cook the rouladen in the sauce on the stove over a low heat - overall timing and turning now and then remains the same. Just if you do this, you'll need to take extra care that they cook evenly and don't brown too much on one side.
See some of my favorite cooking tools and ingredients in the Caroline's Cooking Amazon store.
I first shared this recipe for German Beef Rouladen on the Curious Cuisiniere site where I am a contributor.