Why Is Bratwurst White?

Dress your bratwurst with coleslaw or sauerkraut for a traditional German meal.
Dress your bratwurst with coleslaw or sauerkraut for a traditional German meal. (Image: bhofack2/iStock/Getty Images)

Bratwurst is a type of German sausage widely found throughout the United States. Distinctive because of its pale, white color, bratwurst has a milder, slightly sweeter taste than other sausages. The sausage's pale color comes from the type of meat and cooking process used.

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Meat Content and Cooking

Bratwurst is made from a blend of pork and veal. These meats are used raw to make the sausage and are naturally pale in color when cooked. The amount of veal to pork depends on the type of bratwurst made. Because of the widespread availability of these ingredients in Germany, different regions have developed their own takes on the standard bratwurst recipe. To preserve its white flavor, cooked bratwurst is not smoked, which keeps it pale colored.

Bratwurst Seasonings

In addition to the meats, bratwurst has a distinctive blend of seasonings. White or pale-colored spices preserve the color of bratwurst. The basic seasonings include salt, white pepper, onion and nutmeg. However, more complex versions can add coriander, sage, rosemary, marjoram and ginger. For most bratwurst, only small amounts of seasoning are used so that the sausage stays pale in appearance and keeps its delicate flavor.

Types of Bratwurst

Regional variations of bratwurst include long, thin sausages, such as the Frankische bratwurst, which is 4 to 8 inches long, as well as short, small sausages such as the Nurnberger rostbratwurst, which weighs no more than 1 ounce. There are also larger, heavily spiced variations, such as the Nordhessische bratwurst. Some bratwurst is made only from veal, such as the Kulmbacher bratwurst. Bratwurst sausages are sold either raw or cooked.

Cooking Bratwurst

Bratwurst can be grilled, pan-fried or boiled until fully cooked. Grilling and pan-frying lead to browning on the outside, transforming the bratwurst's color. To maintain the sausage's pale color, boil it until fully cooked. Boiling produces a softer, juicier sausage than grilling does, as less moisture evaporates. Seasoning the boiling liquid -- using beer to cook the sausages is one option -- adds extra flavor to the sausages. Serve cooked sausages on their own with a side of potato salad or combine the sausages with sauerkraut and grilled veggies in a bun.

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