Rote Grütze (rote gruetze) is a wonderfully simple and delicious German dessert that's a bit like a red berry pudding or compote. The mixture is packed with bright, juicy chunks of fruit and it pairs perfectly with vanilla sauce, cream or ice cream. No wonder its a summer favorite.
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Growing up in Scotland, we didn't have quite the range of summer fruits grown locally that some warmer climates have. However we had some of the best berries around and I always loved going to pick some, as well as eating as many as I could.
Germany has similar summer fruits and I have many memories of enjoying berries and cherries in Austria and Germany over the years, from picking Alpine strawberries on hikes in the Alps, picking out beautiful berries from the markets and being presented with a bowl of freshly picked cherries at a bed and breakfast in Germany.
This red berry dessert feels like an ode to all those wonderful fruits. It's easy to see why it is sometimes considered a German national dessert.
Where is Rote Grütze from?
Rote Grütze is from Northern Germany, specifically the area around Hamburg. It's an old traditional dessert that is believed to date back to the Middle Ages. You might also see it written as Rote Gruetze if you are unable to use special characters to get the umlaut.
The name translates as "red groats" as it was originally made with cereals or grains as a kind of porridge. These days, you more typically use a starch to thicken the mixture, usually either corn starch (corn flour) or sometimes potato starch.
You'll also find this dish in neighboring Denmark where it is called "Rødgrød" which translates as the same thing. Historically, the borders have moved around so it's not surprising the dish is found in both places.
How you serve it is probably more defined in Denmark - it's usually called Rødgrød med fløde which is red porridge with cream. The dish regained popularity there in the 19th century since the red and white matched the Danish flag. Denmark, too, claims it as a national dish.
What berries are in Rote Grütze/ Rote Gruetze?
Traditionally the main thing is that the fruit you use are red, but other than that you can vary the exact mix. In Germany, red currants and raspberries are in most versions and to me feel the core fruits. Strawberries are also popular, and you might also add some cherries.
In Denmark, strawberries are probably the main berry and you might add rhubarb in with it. Raspberries and currants are also common.
You could also use blueberries or blackberries, though technically these no longer keep it red. You might find Blaue Grütze in some places using just these blue/purple berries which will also be delicious. If you are less bothered about sticking to red, then feel free to mix some other berries in.
How to make Rote Grütze
As I already mentioned, this is really easy to make. It also has the advantage that you can prepare it ahead of time. Most traditionally, you make this using fresh berries but you can also use frozen berries to make this. This means you can enjoy those summery flavors any time of year.
You start by preparing all of the fruit - wash everything well, then remove stems and stones. Picking the red currants from the stems can seem a little tedious but it is quicker than you might think. Cut any larger fruits like cherries and strawberries into smaller pieces.
The sauce part of this fruit pudding is essentially thickened fruit juice. Some cook some or all of the fruit first to make this, but I go with the easy way using bought red fruit juice, such as cherry juice. It's a little less fiddly this way and lets you control how much you cook the fruit.
Once you have prepared the fruit, use some of the juice to make a slurry with the corn starch. Set this aside, then warm the remaining juice, sugar and vanilla extract to bring it to a simmer.
Then add the corn starch slurry and the fruit that takes a little longer to cook - strawberries and cherries, plus blackberries if you choose to use some. After cooking a couple minutes, stirring so that the mixture thickens evenly, add the other fruit and cook a few minutes more.
Top tip: cooking with corn starch
Corn starch (corn flour in UK/Australia) can form lumps if you add it directly into a dish, particularly if the mixture is warm. So, to help avoid that, you form a slurry with a small amount of liquid first. In this dish, you reserve some of the juice and whisk it with the corn starch to form a smooth liquid.
The slurry can quickly settle out, so make sure you mix it again shortly before adding to the main dish.
Tips for preparing this dish
While this is generally really easy, here are a few pointers to help it turn out well.
- Apart from the raspberries which break down easily, think of the size of chunk you want in the end dish and dice larger fruit accordingly. I usually cut cherries into quarters and strawberries in half, quarters or smaller depending on size.If it gets too thick, add a little water to thin it out.
- Make sure you don't skip making the slurry with some juice and corn starch.
- The fruit should be just softened but not completely broken up. This is more of a compote, not a jam, with nice chunks of fruit in it. It should only take a couple minutes once all the fruit is in to get there.
- If it gets too thick, thin the mixture with some water. The corn starch does thicken over time so the longer you cook, the thicker it gets. Also, remember it thickens a little more as it cools.
- It's worth noting that this is typically a little on the tart side so I haven't added all that much sugar. To me, this is great as it is, and I used tart cherry juice. If I used a sweeter juice, I would use less sugar. To other tastes, though, you may want a little sweeter so taste towards the end and adjust.
How to serve Rote Grütze
While as I mentioned, in Denmark you typically serve rødgrød with cream, in Germany you will find a few different ways of serving. It is probably most popularly served with vanilla sauce (Vanillesoße). Often, you serve both chilled, though you can also serve both warm.
You might also serve this with cream, either simply poured or whipped, or with some ice cream on the side. You can enjoy it just as it is or with a topping, and either chilled or warm - the choice is up to you.
If you have leftovers, you can store this in the fridge for a couple of days. You can also place in a container and freeze it. Defrost before using and I suggest you warm it on the stove as the texture may be a bit off as it may have separated out a little. Warming should help fix this, adding a little water if needed if it becomes too thick.
Rote Grütze is such a wonderfully simple and delicious German berry pudding that its not hard to see why it's a summer favorite. This beautiful red berry compote takes only a few minutes to make and is just as quick to enjoy. A true celebration of summer berries that we are more than happy to join in. Try it soon and you'll soon no doubt agree.
Try these other favorite summer desserts:
- Finnish blueberry pie (mustikkapiirakka, a lovely mix of fruit, a creamy filling and cookie-like base)
- Cherry ice cream (one of our favorite summer fruit ice creams, though I have more!)
- Eton mess (a classic easy British dessert, combining fruit, cream and meringue)
- Plus get more dessert recipes and German recipes in the archives.
Rote Grütze (red berry pudding)
- 1 lb berry mix see notes
- 1 cup sour cherry juice or sweet cherry/berry juice
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 tablespoon corn starch corn flour
- 3 tablespoon water approx, as needed
- Wash the fruit well and prepare as needed for each fruit - remove red currants from the stems, hull and chop strawberries, remove stones from cherries and chop. Chop larger fruits to roughly the size you want in the final dish.
- Pour around ¾ of the juice into a pot/saucepan and add the sugar and vanilla. Warm over a medium heat to bring to a simmer, stirring now and then to dissolve the sugar. Meanwhile, add the corn starch/corn flour to the remaining juice and whisk to dissolve and combine.
- Once the juice and sugar mixture is simmering, give the corn starch mixture another quick stir (as it can settle out) then add to the pot. At the same time, add the fruit that takes longer to cook (cherries and strawberries, plus blackberries if using). Cook for around 2 - 3 minutes, stirring pretty constantly so that the mixture thickens evenly.
- After a couple minutes, add the red currants and raspberries. Cook for another 2 minutes or so so that the fruit softens but doesn't break up too much (you probably want to break larger raspberries a little bit but not completely). If needed, add in a little water to thin the mixture if it becomes too thick. Remember that it will thicken a little more as it cools.
- Once the fruit is softened but not completely broken up and the sauce is a good thickness, remove from the heat. Allow to cool a couple minutes then divide between serving dishes. You can either serve warm or refrigerate half an hour or so to cool completely. Serve with vanilla sauce, cream or ice cream.
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