Vegans and vegetarians in Germany: A quick guide

Vegans and vegetarians in Germany: A quick guide

by Anne Walther

Updated January 31, 2023

Being in the land of sausage and beer may sound like a challenge if you follow a plant-based diet, but nothing could be more of a wrong assumption about Germany! Many Germans pay attention to their diet and its impact on the environment, so vegetarianism and veganism have been on the rise in Germany for decades. The annual campaign of Veganuary, where participants follow a vegan diet for January, is joined by almost a million Germans each year, and big companies like Deutsche Bahn and supermarket chains offer additional plant-based options during that time. Curious to find out more? Here’s a quick guide on everything you need to know about being vegan or vegetarian in Germany.

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Veganism in Germany: History and numbers

Even though Germany is famously known for its love of sausages and other meat-based specialties, vegetarianism and veganism have been on the rise for many years. In fact, companies release more vegan products to the German market than in any other country in the world and the number of vegans grows by more than 12% every year. 

Vegetarianism in Germany has a long history: Pharmacist Theodor Hahn famously became vegetarian back in the 1850s and continued to advocate for meatless diets his whole life. Not much later, in 1890, the first vegetarian organizations were founded in Leipzig. Now, more than 100 years later, about 5% of the German population are vegetarian and 1% are vegan, with meat consumption constantly decreasing each year. You can read more about all these statistics here.

German vegan cuisine

Yes, Germans love their meat – but they are no strangers to meat substitutes! For example, influential meat producer Rügenwalder started offering vegetarian and vegan alternatives for their meat products in 2014; as of 2020, they offer more vegetarian options than those with meat. 

In addition to the meat substitutes, German cuisine has quite a lot to offer for vegetarians! For example, the annual asparagus season is all about eating vegetables, there are plenty of typical German dishes without meat, like Sauerkraut or Hefeklöße, and German pastries are not something you want to miss out on! 

Finding your way around as a vegan

Veganism and vegetarianism has come a long way in the past 10 years in Germany: Finding soy milk may have been a challenge then, but now most supermarkets offer a huge variety of plant-based foods. To make your grocery shopping experience even easier, plant-based products in Germany have a “vegan” or “vegetarian” label on them, so you really can’t miss them. Even in small towns, stores usually have a vegetarian section these days.

Depending on the region, finding vegan options in a restaurant may be a bit more challenging: In the bigger cities, every place should have a meatless dish, but in a smaller village, vegans might have to ask if there’s anything on the menu for them. But don’t worry: Even if there is no dish available on the menu, the chef will always be able to cook something nice for you – so just go ahead and ask!

  • Haben Sie auch eine vegane Option? Do you have a vegan option?
  • Können Sie das vegetarisch machen? Could you make this vegetarian?
  • Könnte ich das ohne Fleisch haben? Could I have this without meat?

To meat or not to meat

If you follow a plant-based diet, you will surely not be alone in Germany. After all, there are about a million other vegans in the population to help you find your way around. But even if you are on your own, German supermarkets, restaurants and food producers have come a long way in offering meat alternatives. Enjoy your meal!

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Anne is a German freelance writer and communication consultant. In addition to her job, she is the founder and coach of the Dutch not-for-profit organization CLUB Coaching. Due to her work, she resides in both Germany and the Netherlands. Whenever her time is not occupied with communication in all its forms, she spends time with her six pets, gardening or being creative with fashion and design. You can follow her on LinkedIn.

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