Last Updated on 6 months by Tim
German potato noodles are my favorite potato side dish. Caramelized on the outside and fluffy on the inside. These potato noodles are similar to Italian gnocchi, the main difference being the shape.
German potato noodles are often referred to as finger noodles because of how they look. But that’s not what their old Swabian name ‘Buabaspitzla’ refers to. The word ‘Buaba’ means little boys and the boys ‘Spitzla’ aren’t their fingers. I’m sure with a little imagination you can quickly figure out what body part of the little boys these potato noodles resemble.
These noodles have already been invented long before the potato became a part of Swabian cuisine. They’ve been purely flour-based before someone had the idea to prepare them with a potato dough. The main reason why they became potato-based is that flour was always expensive and scarce in Swabia. Potato noodles were originally a way to stretch the valuable flour with the cheap potato. Nowadays, they are most commonly potato-based because most people prefer the potato version.
I don’t know about the history of gnocchi but I believe that their story of origin is very similar to the one of the potato noodle. As you might know, French gnocchi are still prepared with a flour-based choux pastry while the Italian equivalent is made from potato dough. I guess the people in Paris must’ve been wealthy enough to have a steady supply of flour so they didn’t need to stretch the dough with potato.
The Building Blocks of German Cusine Series
This article is part of my basics series, which will introduce you to key ingredients and preparation methods. You can find all these articles in the ‘Basics’ category of this blog. Listed below are the articles that have yet been published in this series:
- Swabian Pretzels (‘Schwäbische Laugenbrezeln’)
- Kratzete, Eierhaber
- Duchess Potatoes (‘Herzoginnenkartoffeln’)
- Ribbon Noodles (‘Bandnudeln’)
- Muesli (‘Müsli’)
- Breakfast Bread Rolls (‘Weizenbrötchen’)
- Potato Puree (‘Kartoffelbrei’)
- German Potato Dumplings Bavaria-style (‘Bayerische Kartoffelknödel’)
- German Potato Dumplings Thuringia-style (‘Thüringer Kartoffelklöse’)
- German Bread Dumplings (‘Semmelknödel’)
- German Potato Pancakes (‘Reibekuchen’)
- Potato Noodles (‘Schupfnudeln’)
- German Boiled Potatoes (‘Kartoffeln’)
- Homemade Beef broth (‘Fleischbrühe’)
- German Pancakes (‘Pfannkuchen’)
- Homemade Semolina Soup Noodles (‘Hartweizen-Suppennudeln’)
- Chicken Broth (‘Hühnerbrühe’)
- Spaetzle (‘Spätzle’)
The best potato variety for potato noodles
Potato noodles are readily available in the convenience section of all major grocery stores in Germany. However, they always have too much starch added to them which makes the inside rubbery rather than fluffy. The store-bought noodles are also very thick and don’t resemble the traditional shape. Potato noodles only taste good if you prepare them fresh at home.
It’s best to use starchy potatoes for this dish so that, when mixing the potato dough, you need to add less potato starch to it. The less extra starch and flour you add, the better your potato noodles will be in texture and taste. It’s best to use a coarsely milled wheat flour for this dish. That way the potato dough won’t be sticky when you work with it. In Germany, it’s called ‘Spätzlemehl’ or ‘griffiges Mehl’. Maybe you can also find it under the name of dumpling or pasta flour.
The potatoes need to be cooked shell-on and peeled while they’re still hot. The inside needs to be dry. If you peel and cut the potato before cooking, it will be watery and tasteless. Moist potato dough is hard to handle and requires the addition of much more flour and starch.
You can, of course, use your potato masher to mash your potatoes. But I prefer using my spaetzle press or potato ricer for this task. This ensures that your potato dough will be completely smooth and doesn’t get overworked.
The potatoes will remain hot for quite a while after cooking. It’s fine to let them cool down a little before you start kneading the dough (that also prevents your egg yolks from curdling). But make sure to mash or rice them while they’re still hot to ensure a smooth texture.
Potato dough should only be briefly mixed
When incorporating the flour and starch into the dough, work as fast as you can and don’t overwork the dough. You don’t want to develop the gluten. The inside of the dough should remain fluffy. If you knead it unnecessarily, the dough will also get sticky and hard to handle. Just mix the dough until it comes together and
Working in batches, roll the dough out into a long sausage and divide it into 1-inch squares. Roll these squares into a finger-like shape that gets thinner towards the sides using the palm of your hand.
It’s important to blanch the potato noodles before pan-frying them. Make sure your blanching water is lightly salted and that it is just lightly simmering. Water that is boiling heavily could make your potato noodles fall apart. The potato noodles are cooked once they float on the surface. You can then gently drain them and leave them to dry a little on your kitchen counter. Be gentle as blanched potato noodles are very fragile. They will firm up once cooled and pan-fried.
How to serve German potato noodles
Serving the potato noodles couldn’t be easier. Just heat some clarified butter over medium heat and saute the potato noodles until golden brown on both sides. If you don’t have any clarified butter on hand, substitute a neutral cooking oil.
For a buttery flavor, I reserve some regular butter and put it in at the end so that it won’t burn. If you have some excess oil in the pan, make sure to drain your potato noodles on a paper towel so they aren’t greasy on the outside.