Hearty dumplings, satisfying potatoes dishes, meaty mains and sweet wild berry desserts. The traditional Tyrolian cuisine is a perfect mixture of traditional Austrian dishes and alpine specialties. Seasonal products from local farmers provide a strong basis for creating meals you’ll never forget. However, it’s a known fact that some dishes will never taste as good as THAT one day up on the hut when you arrived hungry after a long hike… But our recipes to bring Tirol into your kitchen might help fill the gap until your next trip.
How And Where To Find The Best Food in Tirol
Don’t trust tripadvisor and never blindly book a table at the most prominent spot in town (or up on the mountain in our case). Reliable sources are your hosts, owners of small delicacies and locals you meet during your trip. As so often: small huts with short menus often serve up the best meals.
Book a Food Tour or join a Cooking Class
A great way to start familiarising yourself with the local cuisine is by booking a food tour, although there aren’t lots around. However, during summer some tourism organisations will host workshops on wild herbs, mushrooms or backstage visits to small producers.
While some hotels do offer cooking classes, you might have to book a private one to really dive into it. In this case you’ll direct you to my friends at Futterkutter in Innsbruck and Anjo from Regiothek – both restaurants offer cooking classes on request for small groups.
Join a Food Festival
Ever heard of the crowning of the radish queen? Well, it for sure is a fun day of entertainment, food stalls and photo opportunities. You can even wear your Dirndl or Lederhosen, but don’t worry if you don’t own any!
However, most food festivals in Tirol are usually during harvest time in September/October.
List of food festivals in Tirol
- Radieschenfest all about radishes and their queen in Hall in Tirol in April
- Haminger Markttage – strong apple focus in Haiming at the end of September
- Bio Woche – organic farmers produce week in Hall in Tirol
- Krautinger Week cabbage schnaps week in Wildschönau at the end of September
- Knödelfest… dumpling festival in Sankt Johann in Tirol in September
Eat in a Hut on a Mountain Top
To be fair: it doesn’t have to be on the very top of a mountain. Just pick a hut that requires you to hike at least a little and that locals would recommend. If you’re starting in Innsbruck, why not hike to the modern Umbrüggler Alm on Nordkette (30min hike) or Patscheralm (10min if taking the cable car to the middle station)?
Some huts that belong to the Alpenverein carry a special badge „So schmecken die Alpen“ – which is a good hint, you might be in for a treat.
What to eat when in Tirol
In the alps the seasons are strong and seasonal plates change every few weeks. Keep an eye out for these specialities and produce:
- January – Roots & cabbages, go for eat cheese and meat based dishes: Kasspatzln, Gröstl,
- February – Re-energize during long ski days with a Kaiserschmarrn
- March – First radishes grow on the fields
- April – Salads are back, first wild herbs & start of ramson (wild garlic) picking season!
- May – Fresh vegetables from the farmers, Elderflower picking season!
- June – Strawberry season in the Inntal valley, first spring potatoes
- July – First local mushrooms such as chanterelle
- August – Moosbeeren wild black beeries, other mushrooms to watch out for: ceps, parasol, wild champignon, bovist
- September – start of harvest festivals! Cranberry picking season after the first chill
- Oktober – Start of Törggelen season, a tradition many restaurants and huts have adapted around Innsbruck, best time to eat wild deer meat, venison & also chamois.
- November – Martini goose on November 11th is a classic
- December – Kiachl, Zillertaler Krapfen & Tirteln at the christmas markets. Roasted chestnuts.
Must Try Food from Tirol
Knödel – dumplings: fried cheese, speck & spinach dumplings
Usually dumplings in Tirol are based on eggs, milk and old white bread cubes. They are boiled or steamed. The ones with Speck (Speckknödel) inside are served plain, spinach dumplings (Spinatknödel) usually come with melted butter and parmesan cheese on top. If you see beet root dumplings (Rohnenknödel or: Rote Beete Knödel) on the menu, make sure you give it a try as well!
„Tiroler Knödel“ are usually dumplings with Speck inside.
„Knödel Tris“ is a set of three dumplings, which are served with a salat or Sauerkraut. Sometimes a Tris can also be two different kind of dumplings + ravioli (Schlutzkrapfen).
Kaspressknödel – fried cheese dumpling
Kaspressknödel are cheese dumplings with a mixture of cheeses (Graukas is a must!), which are flattish and fried. They originate from the region around Innsbruck and there probably isn’t a hut that doesn’t serve them. However it’s something that you won’t find in other alpine regions, so make sure you taste them while you’re here!
Schlutzkrapfen – ravioli style filled pasta
The half-moon raviolis are typically filled with cottage cheese, spinach, salt, pepper and a hint of nutmeg. They come with tons of melted butter. If you’re not a fan of drowning pasta, make sure you ask for „butter on the side“.
Schlipfkrapfen are a thicker variety from Osttirol, they are filled with potatoes, onions, herbs and (not always) cottage cheese.
Käsespätzle – Spaetzle with melted cheese
The „Austria mac and cheese“ dish uses more rustic, mountain cheese (think gruyere) and onions as toppings. A veeeeerrry satisfying meal on cold winter days.
Kaiserschmarrn – fluffy pancake pieces
A well known dish among anyone with a sweet tooth. It originates from Bad Ischl (Salzburg, not Tirol) and legend has it it was invented for the emperor himself around 100 years ago. It’s widely available and often it will take 20 minutes to order, because those fluffy delights of torn up pancake pieces take a while to fluff up and cook.
While in Vienna Kaiserschmarrn is served with apple sauce or plum sauce, in Tirol it’s often wild cranberry compote. Check out this easy recipe how to make Kaiserschmarrn at home!
Gröstl – fried potato slices, bacon, meat & onions
A typical left-overs dish, which comes with a fried egg on top. There is also a „Knödel Gröstl“ which follows the same idea, but uses sliced dumpling left-overs instead of potatoes.
Kiachl – deep fried doughnut pastry
Kiachl are common on Christmas markets throughout Tirol. Sometimes restaurants will serve them once a week or you might see them at food festivals as well. Typically you get them either with Sauerkraut or sweet with cranberry jam. Committed foodies should try them with Sauerkraut and a little bit of sugar on top.
Kirchtagskrapfen – deep fried poopy seed pastry
Deep fried half moon pastry filled with poppy seeds, pears & plum. Usually only available in autumn/winter, some smaller bakeries will sell them as well as stands at markets.
Zillertaler Krapfen – deep fried pastry with cheese filling
Zillertaler Krapfen is a savoury deep fried pastry filled with potatoes, milk, butter, cheese and sometimes cottage cheese. They strong taste of Graukäse is to be expected!
More foods coming soon…
Vegetarian/vegan food options in Tirol?
As a vegetarian you’ll find it rather easy to navigate around meat simply by sticking to cheese related dishes. When ordering dumplings in a soup you might want to ask what kind of stock they use.
As a vegan options can be slim to none on mountain huts. Salads might be the only option along with bread. Polenta is traditionally only made with water (no milk/cream) so this could also be an option with vegetables or mushrooms.
However more and more vegan foods are coming to Tirol and quite a few huts are now offering at least one vegan option. If you’re planning on staying the night you should definitely ask in advance when making the booking.
Great vegan restaurants are: Guatz Essen in Zillertal and in Innsbruck: Olive, Green Flamingo, Futterkutter for lunch, Oniriq (gourmet cuisine).