German Bread Dumplings (Semmelknödel)

German Bread Dumplings, or Semmelknödel, is a simple but flavorful Bavarian side dish that is especially delicious when smothered in gravies or sauces. Made from bread soaked in a mixture of eggs and milk, these dumplings gain their distinct taste from the addition of finely chopped onions, aromatic parsley, and the optional inclusion of savory bacon bits.

German bread dumplings or semmelknodel in a bowl.

What To Serve With German Bread Dumplings (Semmelknödel)?

German bread dumplings semmelknodel should be served smothered in gravies, cream sauces, pan sauces, or directly in hot soups.

  • In soup! This is SO good. Add a couple of bread dumpling balls into a hot bowl of soup or bone broth. You can even cook them directly in a flavorful bone broth instead of water and then serve them with a sauce or gravy.
  • Gravy! Any gravy. Pour it over these dumplings. Mushroom gravy is a favorite of mine.
  • Sauces: cream sauces, cheesy sauces, herby sauces — it all works.
  • Roasting juices. If you’re roasting meats or frying them, the pan juices are delicious to pour over these dumplings.
  • With saucy meats like chicken paprikash.
  • Alongside traditional German main courses like bratwurst and sauerkraut, sauerbraten and rouladen.
  • Alongside other German side dishes like spaetzle, cheese spaetzle, potato dumplings, and rotkohl for a traditional German feast.

My recipe includes bacon, but you can easily leave it out. Try my traditional German liver dumpling soup for a twist on the dumpling.

Ingredients, Notes, & Substitutions

The quantities of each ingredient are listed in the printable recipe card; this section will help you make the best German bread dumplings with what you have.

All of the ingredients needed for semmelknodel or German bread dumplings.

Bread | Stale, hardened bread, diced into small cubes. I bake sourdough bread regularly and freeze all the old bits and any failed bread experiments.
Liquid | I use milk, but you can use water too.
Butter | Just a bit to give a hint of buttery taste.
Onion | I prefer yellow onion, but any onion will do, as will shallots.
Bacon | Optional but highly recommended. Mince bacon into very small bits and cook until crispy and brown before being added to the bread mixture.
Eggs | Eggs help to bind the bread dumplings while also increasing the protein and nutrients.
Spices, Seasonings, Herbs & Extras | Fresh parsley, sea salt, black pepper, nutmeg, and extra breadcrumbs if needed.

Instructions (Step-by-Step With Photos)

Prepped ingredients for bread dumplings.

Finely shredded green parsley.

Step 1: Chop the stale bread into small cubes and place in a large bowl. Pour the milk or water over the bread, cover it, and let it sit for 20-30 minutes or until softened.

Prep all of your veggies and other ingredients: finely mince the onion and parsley, and finely dice the bacon.

Minced bacon frying in hot pan.

Minced bacon frying in hot pan with tiny, minced onion added.

Step 2: As the bread is soaking, heat the butter in a frying pan on medium-low and then add and cook the bacon until halfway done before adding the onion and cooking them until they are transparent and the bacon is fully cooked and crispy.

All of the ingredients being mixed in bowl.

Step 3: Your soaked bread should be ready by now. Make sure it is not soggy by squeezing out any excess liquid.

Add the cooked onions and bacon to the bread, along with the eggs, parsley, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. 

The finished bread dumpling mixture.

Step 4: Knead the mixture with your hands until thoroughly combined, breaking up as many of the bread cubes as you can until it’s a soft and chunky-smooth consistency. 

If the dough is too wet, add breadcrumbs (not flour).

The uncooked semmelknodel bread dumplings on paper.

Step 5: Wet your hands to prevent the dough from sticking and form knödel about the size of a golf ball or just slightly larger (they will expand slightly when cooked).

Press the Knoedel firmly between your palms to make sure they’re nicely compact and round.

The finished bread dumplings in a bowl.

Step 6: Bring a large, wide pot of lightly salted water to a very light simmer – not boiling but just on the verge of boiling with tiny fizzy bubbles floating up. 

Carefully lower the bread dumplings into the water with a slotted spoon and hold them for a few seconds before releasing them.

Let them cook for 15-20 minutes, and then carefully lift them out with the slotted spoon.

Hint: Do not at any point let the water boil or you risk your bread dumplings losing their shape and falling apart. 

German bread dumplings or semmelknodel in a bowl.

FAQ

Storage, Freezing, & Reheating

Refrigerating German Bread Dumplings: Allow the bread dumplings to cool to room temperature after cooking. Place them in an airtight container or wrap them individually in plastic wrap. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.

Freezing German Bread Dumplings: To freeze, first cool the dumplings completely. Wrap each dumpling tightly in plastic wrap, then place them in a freezer bag or an airtight container. Freeze for up to 2-3 months for best quality.

Defrosting and Reheating: Thaw the dumplings in the refrigerator overnight when ready to use. To reheat, steam them or warm them in a microwave until heated through. Alternatively, slice and pan-fry for a crispy texture.

Shelf Life: Freshly made bread dumplings are best enjoyed within a day for optimal taste and texture. However, when properly stored in the refrigerator, they remain good for 3-4 days. If frozen, they maintain quality for 2-3 months but are safe to eat beyond this period if kept frozen continuously.




 


What else can be added to these German bread dumplings?

Add a small amount of mashed potatoes, cooked polenta, or fried ham. Saute carrots and celery alongside the bacon and onions. Try making the dumplings with rye breads and potato breads.

What is a knodel in German?

A “Knödel” (often anglicized as “knodel”) translates to “dumpling.” It can be made from various ingredients, including bread, flour, potatoes, or semolina, and might be mixed with eggs and seasoning. Knödel can be either sweet or savory and is often served as a side dish with meat dishes, in soups, or as a dessert with sweet toppings or fillings. The savory versions might include meat, spinach, or other vegetables, while sweet versions could be filled with fruit, such as apricots or plums. The recipe and preparation method can vary significantly by region and family tradition.

How do you pronounce knödel?

The pronunciation of “Knödel” can be approximated in English phonetics as “K-nuh-del.”

What are the different types of dumplings in Germany?

In Germany, dumplings, or “Knödel,” come in various types, each with its unique ingredients and preparation methods. The most popular varieties include “Kartoffelknödel” (potato dumplings), made from mashed or grated potatoes, and “Semmelknödel” (bread dumplings), which utilize stale bread mixed with milk and eggs. “Mehlklöße” (flour dumplings) and “Grießklöße” (semolina dumplings) are also common, often served in soups or as a side dish. So are liver dumplings.

For dessert, “Zwetschgenknödel” (plum dumplings), filled with sweetened plums, are a popular choice.

Looking for other recipes like these semmelknodel? Try these:

German bread dumplings or semmelknodel in a bowl.

German Bread Dumplings (Semmelknödel)

German bread dumplings are a simple but flavorful Bavarian side dish that is especially delicious when smothered in gravies or sauces.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: German
Servings: 8
Calories: 149kcal
Author: Jana Dziak

Ingredients

  • 1 standard loaf of bread A standard loaf of bread can be 1 lbs, 800 grams, or 12-16 ounces. You can scale this up and down as you like, but different sizes work great in this recipe.
  • 1 cup milk Or water. You may need to use more or less.
  • ¾ cup bacon Finely diced, use up to 1 cup.
  • 1 large onion Finely diced.
  • 1 tablespoon butter Or other oil/fat of your choice.
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg Optional.

Instructions

  • Chop the stale bread into small cubes and place in a large bowl. Pour the milk or water over the bread, cover it, and let it sit for 20-30 minutes or until softened. Prep all of your veggies and other ingredients: finely mince the onion and parsley, and finely dice the bacon.
  • As the bread is soaking, heat the butter in a frying pan on medium-low and then add and cook the bacon until halfway done before adding the onion and cooking them until they are transparent and the bacon is fully cooked and crispy.
  • Your soaked bread should be ready by now. Make sure it is not soggy by squeezing out any excess liquid. Add the cooked onions and bacon to the bread, along with the eggs, parsley, salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
  • Knead the mixture with your hands until thoroughly combined, breaking up as many of the bread cubes as you can until it's a soft and chunky-smooth consistency. If the dough is too wet, add breadcrumbs (not flour).
  • Wet your hands to prevent the dough from sticking and form knödel about the size of a golf ball or just slightly larger (they will expand slightly when cooked). Press the Knoedel firmly between your palms to make sure they're nicely compact and round.
  • Bring a large, wide pot of lightly salted water to a very light simmer – not boiling but just on the verge of boiling with tiny fizzy bubbles floating up. Carefully lower the bread dumplings into the water with a slotted spoon and hold them for a few seconds before releasing them.
  • Let them cook for 15-20 minutes, and then carefully lift them out with the slotted spoon. Do not at any point let the water boil or you risk your bread dumplings losing their shape and falling apart.

Notes

Refrigerating German Bread Dumplings: After cooking, allow the bread dumplings to cool to room temperature. Place them in an airtight container or wrap them individually in plastic wrap. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.
Freezing German Bread Dumplings: To freeze, first cool the dumplings completely. Wrap each dumpling tightly in plastic wrap, then place them in a freezer bag or an airtight container. Freeze for up to 2-3 months for best quality.
Defrosting and Reheating: Thaw the dumplings in the refrigerator overnight when ready to use. To reheat, steam them or warm them in a microwave until heated through. Alternatively, slice and pan-fry for a crispy texture.
Shelf Life: Freshly made bread dumplings are best enjoyed within a day for optimal taste and texture. However, when properly stored in the refrigerator, they remain good for 3-4 days. If frozen, they maintain quality for 2-3 months but are safe to eat beyond this period if kept frozen continuously.

Nutrition

Calories: 149kcal | Carbohydrates: 4g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 69mg | Sodium: 261mg | Potassium: 136mg | Fiber: 0.3g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 170IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 51mg | Iron: 0.4mg
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