I like to cook. If you’ve been paying attention or look at my archives, you’ll see evidence of that fact. A significant portion of the posts I’ve made thus far on the site have been recipe posts. In a lot of these posts, I’ve mentioned being unable to find American ingredients in Munich.
Sometimes I can’t find an ingredient at all, sometimes I can find a decent substitute, and sometimes I’m able to find it after a bit of searching. In this post, I will be talking about all three scenarios. To those of you back in the States, you may be wondering what ingredients would actually be “hard to find American ingredients in Munich”. Let’s start there.
Hard to Find Ingredients
So, what type of American ingredients are hard to find in Germany? Going further, I guess an underlying question is what exactly is an “American” ingredient? For the purposes of this post, that will mean a few things.
- Ingredients that are part of typically American cuisine – BBQ especially. They seem to “love” BBQ sauce here at least, or claim things are BBQ-style. Most of it is a lie. BBQ here rarely stacks up to the average joint back home. Also, BBQ sauce is pretty expensive here too and seen as something special. All the more reason to make your own sauce and dishes!
- Ingredients from prevalent cultures in the US – specifically Mexican and the various Asian cuisines. Although, lots of times it’s easier to find some Asian ingredients here in your average supermarket. These things will be more expensive than in the States, though. Food here is cheap, but “specialty” or “exotic” foods are typically more expensive.
- Ingredients which are also common here, but in other forms. For example, brown sugar, baking soda and baking powder, vanilla flavoring (no extract!), etc. Actually, that seems like a bunch of baking things. I guess that would mean that baking here is quite different – which it is. I’ll elaborate more on these later in the post.
How to American Ingredients in Munich
This is the hard part. How do you know where to find these ingredients, or how do you know if you can find them at all? This is where I’m trying to help. Here, I will keep a list of the types of stores where you can find certain ingredients or certain types of ingredients.
In general, if you can’t find an ingredient in the little international aisle at your local Rewe, Penny, or Lidl, google it. Many people (including me) have posted to reddit, ToyTown, and other forum sites asking the very same questions you would have. Many nice and helpful people have answered. However, these things change over time. Stores close, tastes change, and there may not be a thread about your particular ingredient in your particular area. Still, the search is worth it.
If searching doesn’t reveal a clear answer to you, it’s time to head to a bigger store. Large supermarkets like real (a couple locations around Munich) and GALERIA Kaufhof (at Marienplatz) have a much wider selection of goods. Looking in the specific section for your ingredient (i.e. baking aisle for that special flour) is a good idea, as well as visiting their larger international sections.
Finally, you can find some American ingredients in Munich at ethnic grocery stores. As there have historically been lots of Turkish migrants here, you’ll be able to find Turkish grocery stores scattered through the cities. They’re a big help, and I’ve also seen some Asian supermarkets around. Keep your eyes peeled, and ask around for these stores – they’re a great resource!
Located American Ingredients in Munich
- Baking Soda: American baking soda is different from the typical “Natron” you’d find here. The chemistry is different and I’m not quite sure exactly how so I’ll leave that out. They key is, you can use Natron, but you’ll have to do a little bit of experimenting to find out how exactly how much to use. Fortunately, you can find your good old Arm & Hammer baking soda at those larger supermarkets in the international section.
- Baking Powder: This stuff is different here too. The typical “Backpulver” in every supermarket is different from the typical baking powder you find Stateside. Backpulver isn’t “double action” like the stuff at home, so again you’ll have to adjust your amounts, I usually just about double the amount in the recipe, and it seems to work pretty well. The instructions on the packet can help you out too.
- Spicy peppers: Germans aren’t used to the type of spicy from capsaicin. This makes fresh jalapenos, serranos, chilis, or anything of the sort difficult to find. Typical corner supermarkets rarely have them, but you can occasionally find them at the bigger shops. I’ve had some luck at Aldi, Simmel and Edeka, and real. However, I’ve only seen jalapenos, habaneros, and chilis. I haven’t been able to find some other types of peppers that I love (ancho chilies and serrano peppers, to name a couple).
- Cheddar cheese: Cheese is different here, and while it seems to be getting more popular, cheddar has been hard to find in the past. It wasn’t at any of the neighborhood supermarkets down the street from my previous apartment. I have been able to find it at a couple of places near my new place. Tengelmann and Simmel and Edeka seem to have it all the time. Sliced Irish cheddar from Kerrygold is common, but I’ve also found blocks of white cheddar. In any case, the selection of cheese just isn’t the same.
- Cilantro: You’ll find it called Koriander here, just like the English call it coriander. They’re both wrong. It’s cilantro, dammit! Anyway, it’s a bit harder to find cilantro in those little plastic containers with cut sprigs of various fresh herbs. I recently bought a small little cilantro plant I’m going to try and keep alive to solve this problem for good.
- Brown Sugar: Sure, Brauner Zucker is common here…but again it’s not the same. There is a difference in the moisture content of the sugar compared to the normal brown sugar you’re used to using. In the States, it holds more moisture, whereas here it’s completely dried. This hasn’t really affected me at all, but I’m sure it could affect some precise baking if you’re making a large amount of something. I have no idea where to find American brown sugar. Sorry!
- Many, many more to come…
I hope that I’ve been able to help someone who’s just moved to Munich, or any other German city, especially here in old school Bavaria. Finding some American ingredients in Munich can be hard, but if you’re persistent, you’ll be able to find them or a substitute. Good luck! Let me know what ingredients you’ve had trouble finding where you live!