If you want to get in the spirit of Oktoberfest, or are looking for an easy tasty dip, obatzda is a German beer cheese dip that’s perfect for spreading on your pretzels, and more! This recipe was created in partnership with the dairy farm families of New England.
At this time of year, many raise a glass of beer to celebrate Oktoberfest both in Germany and beyond. A number of years ago now I managed to attend the ‘real’ Oktoberfest in Munich. It’s held in a huge fairground area and is a mix of beer tents, rides and stalls. It’s quite an experience, and one I’d recommend to add to your to-do list if you haven’t been already.
Some facts about Oktoberfest
- It’s the largest public fair in the world.
- It was originally a celebration of the Bavarian crown prince Ludwig’s wedding, that the people of Munich were invited to. Everyone enjoyed it so much, it become a tradition.
- It’s now over 200 years old.
- Only beer brewed within Munich city limits according to the Reinheitsgebot (purity law, meaning only water, barley, hops and yeast can be used) can be sold.
- Despite the name, it’s mainly in September and ends the first weekend in October.
- Since German reunification, it now runs until the first Monday, German unity day.
- The event has grown and evolved with various new traditions added, like a ceremonial beer tapping and parades.
While there was a fun atmosphere, and the beer was great, the one downside I found was it was pretty hard to get a seat in most tents as they were all booked by corporate groups. However you can always visit the various beer halls in Munich any time of year where the oompah bands play most evenings, and it’s not unheard of for people to get on the tables singing. Who needs Oktoberfest as an excuse?!
Food to go with your beer
The food at Oktoberfest is also very much the type of things you’d find in beer halls and beer gardens throughout the year. Some are staples of German cooking, while others are more locally Bavarian.
Common fare includes sausages, of various kinds, either hotdog style or with fries. Appetizers include a bowl of goulash or German pancake soup. If you want a fuller meal, you’ll always find many pork options like schweinshaxe (pork knuckle) or roast chicken, often with braised red cabbage, German potato pancakes or speckbohnen (German green beans) on the side. Then if you want more of a snack, a pretzel (bretzel) with some of this obatzda on the side is a popular choice, and for good reason.
What is obatzda?
Obatzda is a simple dip that was apparently first made to use up some over-ripe cheese. It’s made by mixing a camembert-style cheese with butter, cream cheese and a bit of seasoning from onion and typically paprika and/or caraway seeds. The various additions balance out the stronger cheese flavor. Most, although not all, recipes add a bit of beer which helps thin it out a little as well as adding flavor.
In case you are wondering about a French-style cheese in a German dip, it’s all part of how dairy is adapted and adopted around the world. While there are many typical German cheeses, they also have adaptations of cheese from elsewhere, just as we do here. For example, you can find a Camembert-style cheese made right here in New England, just as ricotta, mozzarella and others are.
One of the great things about dairy is it has no season, so while you might find things like fresh produce locally some of the year, out of season they come from further afield. Meanwhile the majority of the milk we see in our supermarkets comes from New England, year round. And over 99 percent of milk produced in the region is either bottled or made into cheese, yogurt and other products (like ice cream!) right in New England.
A quicker way to make it
Traditionally, this is made by hand by in effect mashing everything together. As you might imagine, breaking up the rind of the camembert-style cheese can be a little tricky. However if you put everything in a food processor it’s a whole lot easier and takes mere minutes.
I love how flavor-packed this dip is from just a few ingredients. It has a wonderfully smooth, rich texture from the cheeses and butter. And being so dairy-packed, it’s got a good doze of protein too. While you’d traditionally eat it with pretzels, any bread would be great or why not try dipping some veggies in it as well.
Obatzda might be the perfect dip for any Oktoberfest celebration, but it would be just as good for any excuse you want to find. Packed with flavor, and easy to make, find your excuse to give it a try.
Obatzda (German beer cheese dip)
- 1/4 onion (large), approx 55g, or 2 shallots
- 4 oz camembert 113g, 1/2 a round (or similar camembert-style cheese)
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter 26g
- 1/4 cup cream cheese 65g
- 1 tsp paprika
- 2 tbsp wheat beer
- Peel and roughly dice the onion and cut the camembert and butter in to roughly bite sized pieces. Put everything in a food processor and pulse together until fairly smooth ad well-blended. Serve immediately, or you can chill and serve later - you will probably want to allow it to come to room temperature and stir before serving if you chill it as otherwise it will be much firmer.
Remember to pin for later!