With popularized Oktoberfest foods being heavy on carbohydrates, finding healthy Oktoberfest recipes may seem like a feat. However, many menu items can be made healthy with a few subtle ingredient switches.
Thinking outside the box can help you honor tradition while also staying healthy. Join us as we reveal healthy Oktoberfest menu ideas, including tips on incorporating traditional German dishes and beer-infused favorites.
What Is Oktoberfest?
Oktoberfest started as a wedding celebration, honoring the marriage of a Bavarian prince to his princess in October of 1810. The royal nuptials were apparently a site to behold, as the five-day event involved tens of thousands of invited city citizens and concluded with a horse race.
A year later, a festival was held in the same location to commemorate the event and grew in subsequent years to include beer halls, booths, and tents, along with carousels, swings, and carnival attractions.
Eventually, the city of Munich, Germany, took over the event and introduced more opportunities for food and drink—beer, in particular. Although the horse races reportedly ended in the 1960s, modern Oktoberfest celebrations keep the event's spirit alive through carnivals, cooking, agricultural competitions, and classic Bavarian brass band music.
Today, Oktoberfest is celebrated in many cities worldwide, especially those with a large German influence or population. The name is a bit of a misnomer since the event typically lasts over a two-week time period beginning mid-September and ending on the first Sunday in October—but that hasn’t slowed down the enjoyment of traditional Oktoberfest foods!
Traditional Oktoberfest Foods
Since Oktoberfest has been celebrated for over two centuries at this point, it’s developed a unique assortment of traditional foods. Large “beer tents” at the main festival in Munich tend to have their own menu, similar to a restaurant, while smaller tents serve specialized items—like local cheese or baked goods.
Classic foods, like bratwurst, are often available. And seafood dishes, sides (like German potato salad), and baked goods also grace the menu.
Many sources describe Oktoberfest as a carbohydrate-heavy festival, free-flowing with beer. Although this doesn’t necessarily sound like a “healthy” environment in terms of food choices, there are some nutrient-rich foods that can be found.
Healthy Oktoberfest Menu Ideas & Tips
Since Oktoberfest essentially provides festival foods and concession stand-style snacks, you may be wondering if a healthy Oktoberfest meal is even possible. Luckily, keeping a few tips in mind can help you stay healthy while making food choices—just remember your “ABCs!”
Avoid Added Oils
Many Oktoberfest foods are fried in oils rich in saturated fats—the kind we should limit in our diet. Basically, these oils increase the number of calories in a meal without providing much nutritional value. Limiting your intake of foods with saturated fats can help you make healthy choices that align with your lifestyle.
Be Mindful of Alcohol-Infused Items
As mentioned, beer is a big part of Oktoberfest. In general, it’s recommended to moderate your intake or abstain altogether, and “lite” or “light” beers tend to have fewer calories than regular brews.
For at-home events, you can also opt for homemade concoctions—like the German-inspired Radler—which allow for better control of the ingredients involved.
Consider Condiments & Cooking Methods Carefully
Did you know that cooking methods can considerably affect a food’s nutritional value? Fried food may be a hallmark of food festivals, but it’s not the most nutritious option.
Instead, seek out meats and dishes that are grilled, steamed, or baked. Better yet, make it healthier at home!
Another aspect to keep in mind is condiments. The calories in condiments can cause a meal’s overall count to increase quickly, so best to use low-sugar condiments like mustard when possible. Luckily, German mustard is already a popular pick, as is the probiotic-rich pickled topping called sauerkraut.
Healthy Oktoberfest Recipes: Appetizers & Sides
Whether you’re hosting an Oktoberfest party or simply celebrating with a fun meal at home, these appetizers are must-haves to ease you into your meal.
Sour Red Cabbage
A common side dish during the celebration, German red cabbage is well-loved for its perfect balance of sweet and sour flavors. For an Americanized version, try Purple Cabbage and Apple Slaw, or use red cabbage in a Healthy Cabbage Slaw recipe.
German potato salads tend to be vinegar-based, as opposed to the mayonnaise base used in most American recipes. Naturally, a Mayo-less Vegan Potato Salad fits right in on the Oktoberfest menu! For an authentic set-up, be sure to serve it warm.
Since dill is featured prevalently in German foods, dill cucumber salad is a no-brainer. This cool dish is especially great in areas where the weather is still warm during late September and early October.
Although it’s usually thought of as a trendy brunch item, avocado toast can also pay homage to Oktoberfest. Surprisingly, salmon rolls appear on some Oktoberfest menus, so smoked salmon makes for an apt avocado toast topping. Layer daikon (white radish) on and garnish with dill to honor classic Oktoberfest flavor pairings.
Beer Cheese Dip
Of course, beer-infused recipes are very popular among festival-goers. Beer Cheese dips pop up on many menus, but can often be made healthier at home. Sneak some more nutritional value in by making a vegan version, which uses blended raw cashews as the creamy base.
Healthy Oktoberfest Recipes: Main Courses
And now, for the main event! Make dinner more meaningful by using the recipes inspired by traditional festival fare below.
Pulled Pork & Cabbage Slaw Sandwiches
For a healthier twist on pork sausage, serve pulled pork sandwiches. You can switch up the BBQ sauce in most recipes for a mustard-based one to make it inspired by German flavors.
Since many pulled pork recipes are already served with slaw, adding red cabbage in should be easy, and makes it even more traditional.
Goulash soup may sound intimidating at first, but is fairly easy to make. It’s a tomato-based soup that consists of ground beef, vegetables, seasoning like paprika, and sometimes contains elbow macaroni. Make a lightened-up version by simply adding elbow macaroni Turkey Chili to the last 10 minutes of cooking (while it simmers).
Bratwurst sans Buns
Bratwurst (brats) are an obvious choice for dinner, especially because their origin is believed to be German. However, classic hot dog options aren’t always the most nutritious options.
Instead, consider serving brats made of mostly lean meat, and try your best to add veggies or toppings like sauerkraut or pickled red cabbage on top. For a lighter, healthier take on hot dogs and brats, you could wrap in a lettuce “bun” or completely omit it—they have so much flavor already!
Roasted chicken is one of the most classic Oktoberfest dishes since it’s reportedly been served since the 1880s. For a modern take on this original dish, try incorporating rotisserie chicken into your next meal.
As mentioned above, salmon surprisingly makes it onto many festival and Oktoberfest-inspired menus. Healthy baked salmon cakes can be a great alternative to fried fish dishes, and German mustard can be snuck into the recipe.
Radish & Roasted Pork Pizza
Although it’s technically a Vietnamese and Italian-inspired food, Banh Mi Pizza features two ingredients you may commonly see throughout Oktoberfest cuisine—pickled daikon radish and pork.
If you’re celebrating multiple types of culture or heritage, this dish will surely be a crowd-pleaser.
Healthy Oktoberfest Recipes: Desserts
“Dessert” and “healthy” in the same sentence? Yes, you heard that correctly. With a bit of German influence, these sweet treats will satisfy cravings without adding excessive calories.
Pretzels often make an appearance at Oktoberfest. However, sugary sweet toppings can quickly cause calories to get out of control. Fortunately, Bavarian-inspired condiment companions—like mustard-based sauces—tend to make more sense, both for wellness and tradition.
To make pretzels healthier, try making them with whole wheat at home. If you’re set on a sweet sauce, try a Greek yogurt-based fruit dip.
Red Berry Chia Pudding
Red berry “pudding” (Rote Grütze) is a popular German dessert. For a tasty treat that doubles as breakfast the day after, make a Berry Good Chia Seed Pudding.
Since roasted almonds are found on many Oktoberfest foods, consider using almond milk (which the recipe calls for) and topping with roasted, chopped almonds to capitalize on flavor.
Bee Sting Cake
Bienenstich, or “Bee Sting Cake,” is another German favorite for sweet foods. It’s easy to understand why since the cake contains layers of vanilla, cake, and honey with caramelized almonds on top. Since cake takes a while to bake, try Honey Almond Cookie Crunch instead.
German Cheesecake Cups
Isn’t everything just cuter in a mini version? For a spin on Strawberry Cheesecake Wonton Cups, use Quark instead of Greek yogurt and cream cheese.
Quark is a popular European cheese product with a texture that lies somewhere between cream cheese and yogurt. It presumably makes German cheesecake (Käsekuchen) so creamy and delicious.
German Apple Pancakes
Apple strudel is, understandably, a big hit among festival-goers. However, baked goods can be overly sweet and sabotage health goals. Instead, try capping off your evening meal with a breakfast dish!
To make American pancakes more like their German counterparts, fire up the skillet and use a small amount of butter for cooking. For a flavor reminiscent of apple strudel, place spiced apples and raisins atop Cinnamon Apple Pancakes.
Although gingerbread is generally associated with Christmas, it also appears in many booths throughout Oktoberfest. German gingerbread is renowned for its soft, moist texture.
Start your holiday baking early this year to honor the festival with these gooey Gingerbread cookies. Simply leave off the icing to keep calories as low as possible.
Healthy Oktoberfest Menu: Final Takeaways
Oktoberfest is more than a drinking event— it’s a time-honored festival steeped in tradition. There’s plenty more than beer and baked goods at the table, too.
For the healthiest experience possible, consider making Oktoberfest-inspired foods at home, moderating alcohol intake, and opting for savory condiments (like mustard) over sugary add-ons.
How we reviewed this article
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Mercy Health. How to Make Healthy Food Choices During Oktoberfest. Blog.mercy.com. Published September 2022.
Portal München Betriebs-GmbH & Co. The History of Oktoberfest. Oktoberfest.de. Accessed August 2023.
The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. Oktoberfest. Britannica.com. Published January 2023.