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Wurst, schnitzel, kebab: A guide to Austria's most popular street foods

Shannon Chaffers
Shannon Chaffers
Wurst, schnitzel, kebab: A guide to Austria's most popular street foods
All kinds of sausage snacks, like these Bratwurst, are Austrian favourites. Photo by Beatrix-Andrea Balogh on Unsplash

Austria may not be well known for its street food culture - if you don't live here, but there are a lot of tasty snacks that you can grab on the go. From sausage stands to Döner spots, here's how to navigate the takeaway food scene.


Wurst or kebab? Schnitzel or pizza? Whether you’re rushing to a meeting during a busy week of work, or coming back late after a weekend night out with friends, you’ve likely found yourself indulging in one of many of Austria’s various street food specialties.

But you’ve probably never had time to think about how this wide variety of options emerged. This article uncovers the various cultural influences that have given rise to some of Austria’s most iconic street food offerings. 


Würstelstands line the streets of major Austrian cities like Vienna, and have done so since the 1960s. As you can probably guess, they specialise in selling Würste, or sausages. 


The Frankfurter, one of the staple sausages at Würstelstands, has quite a complicated backstory. In other parts of the world it is known as a Wiener Wurst (Vienna sausage), and as these duelling names suggest, both Frankfurt and Vienna played a role in its inception.

When Frankfurt-based butcher Johann Georg Lahner moved to Vienna in 1805, he added beef to the traditional pork recipe used in Germany, and sold his creation as the Frankfurter. While this moniker remains in use in Austria today, outside of its home country, the sausage has taken on the name of the city in which it was invented. 

A sausage stand in Vienna.

A 'sausage stand' in Vienna. Photo by Benjamin Kaufmann on Unsplash

Of course, the Frankfurter isn’t the only type of sausage on offer at a Würstelstand. Also popular is Käsekrainer, a pork sausage with melted cheese inside, and Bratwurst, a crispy sausage made from veal, pork, and sometimes bacon.  

READ ALSO: Seven common myths about Austrian food you need to stop believing



The Wienerschnitzel is one of Austria’s most signature dishes, so naturally they’ve found a way to make a  street food version. In German, Schnitzel translates to a cut of meat the size of a hand, and Semmel means roll. Thus, the Schhnitzelsemmel converts the classically oversized Wienerschnitzel– made from veal that’s been pounded, breaded, and fried– into a portable sandwich, which you can top off with lettuce, cucumber, tomato or onions.

Fun fact: Schnitzel can also be made from pork or chicken, but if you are ordering Wienerschnitzel in Austria, you can be sure there is veal beneath the breaded exterior: Austrian law stipulates that only schnitzel made from veal can be called Wienerschnitzel

READ ALSO: How the Wienerschnitzel became an Austrian icon

The Schnitzel.

The Schnitzel is an Austrian classic. Photo by Lukas on Pexels.


Another Austrian street food favorite is Leberkässemmel. Originating in Bavaria, Leberkäse is known as the German version of meatloaf: it is made from ground pork and beef, along with bacon and potato starch. A Leberkässemmel consists of a thick slice of this meatloaf placed on, you guessed it, a bread roll. It's often eaten with mustard and pickles. 

While the term Leberkäser literally translates into “liver cheese,” and the dish does sometimes contain liver, the actual meaning of the term is quite different. “Leber” comes from the German word “laib,” which means a round or oval-shaped loaf, and Käser comes from the Bavarian word kas or käs, which means a compact mass.

Döner Kebab: 

The Döner kebab is another Austrian street food staple that has its origins in Germany, but its long term roots go back to Turkey. In Turkish, kebab means roasted meat, and Döner means “to turn around.” Taken together, the term indicates how the Döner kebab is made: a rotating vertical spit roasts the chosen meat, typically lamb, which is then shorn off once cooked. This technique originated in Turkey, although it has similarities to the Greek gyro or Arabic shawarma

The concept of making this dish portable by putting the meat, along with vegetables and a flavourful sauce, in a pita bread is believed to have emerged in Germany in the 1970s thanks to Turkish immigrant Kadir Nurman. Germany's Turkish community grew significantly in the 1950s-70s as part of a Gastarbeiter (guest worker) programme. Whether Nurman is actually the originator of this meal is disputed, but its popularity is not: the dish has since spread across Europe, and can be found at kebab stands throughout the continent. 

Kebab is a very popular food in Austria (Photo by T Foz on Unsplash)

Ice cream (and Apfelstrudel):

Those with a sweet tooth should check out Austria's many ice cream spots. You'll find lots of traditional Gelato cafes around the country, which are beginning to open their doors again after the winter period. And the capital Vienna has some amazing choices, such as Eis Greissler and Eissalon Tichy. Plus, if it's summer, take advantage of the great coffee places to order a Wiener Eiskaffee.


And, okay, Apfelstrudel might not be typically offered at food stands (you're more likely to find this in a coffee house or restaurant although they are served to go too) but this dish is so important to Austria that we can't ignore it! Strudel means whirlpool in German, a nod to the swirl-like composition of the desert, which is made from a thin dough stuffed with a filling of apple, brown sugar, lemon, cinnamon, and topped with powdered sugar. 

The German name belies Apfelstrudel’s Turkish influence, however. The Turkish pastry baklava, which came to Austria during the time of the Ottoman Empire, is thought to be a major inspiration for the strudel.

READ ALSO: Caffeine, war and Freud: A history of Vienna’s iconic coffee houses

Pizzas and Asian food

Austria, and particularly Vienna, is a very multicultural place and you can find evidence of that in the street food. Besides the stands selling Austrian traditional foods such as sausages, or kebab, you can also find spots that sell pizza (by the slice) or sushi and noodles almost everywhere. Most times, even, a food stand will offer all of it, appealing to all crowds.


Now you know the story behind some of Austria’s most popular street foods. And as you can see, while street food is known for its ease, many of these delights’ path to Austria has been anything but straightforward. 



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