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German Vocabulary for Food Preferences and Allergies

German food is all about tradition, flavor, and culture. It connects people to their relatives, friends, and new places. Anyone who’s enjoyed a spicy smoked sausage from a food stand in Germany will vouch for this. 

This is no cause for concern if you’re a vegetarian because Germans aren’t Vegetarier feindlich (hostile) by any means. Their seafood dishes are among the most delicious in the world and they have their fair share of amazing veggie concoctions.   

If you want to learn how to express your food preferences, food allergies, or intolerances, you’ve come to the right site. This article will also help improve your understanding of German food and culture.

Allergy Words and Phrases 

Before we get into these, it’s important to differentiate between a food allergy and food intolerance. Most physical reactions to specific food products are not caused by an allergy, but by intolerance. The two are often confused as food intolerance and allergy can cause similar symptoms.

A real allergy leads to an often severe immune system response involving different organs in the body. In contrast, symptoms of food intolerance are usually less serious, frequently involving only digestive problems.

People who are intolerant of a certain food can eat small amounts of it without any issues. Reactions can be prevented as well. For example, lactose intolerant people take lactase enzyme pills to help with digestion. With an allergy, this is not possible. 

So, on with the phrases: 

I am allergic to peanuts Ich bin allergisch gegen Erdnüsse. 
I am allergic to milk Ich bin allergisch gegen Milch.
I am allergic to dairy products Ich bin allergisch gegen Milchprodukte. 
Do you have anything dairy free?  Haben Sie etwas ohne Milchprodukte?
Where’s the toilet please? Wo ist die Toilette bitte?
I’m intolerant to gluten  Ich habe eine Gluten-Unverträglichkeit / Ich kann Gluten nicht vertragen.
I am allergic to eggs  Ich bin allergisch gegen Eier.  
I’m allergic to gluten  Ich bin allergisch gegen Gluten.
Do you have anything gluten free? Haben Sie etwas Glutenfreies?
I’m allergic to seafood Ich bin allergisch gegen Meeresfrüchte.
I’m allergic to shellfish Ich bin allergisch gegen Schalentiere.
I’m intolerant to lactose  Ich habe eine Lactose-Intoleranz / Ich kann Lactose nicht vertragen.
Does this contain dairy/shellfish/wheat/ nuts/gluten/? Enthält das Milchprodukte / Schalentiere/Weizen/ Nüsse/Gluten/?
I have an allergic reaction Ich habe eine allergische Reaktion.
Do you have any allergies (formal)? Haben Sie irgendwelche Allergien? 
Do you have any allergies (informal)? Hast du irgendwelche Allergien? 

Getting Help

If you have a true allergy and you’ve consumed a particular allergen, you will need to get help. Needing emergency medical care in a country, in whose official language you aren’t fluent, is a plight we wouldn’t wish upon anyone. Still, you need to know the relevant words and phrases, so here we go!   

I need an ambulance Ich brauche einen Krankenwagen / einen Rettungswagen!
I need emergency assistance Ich brauche Nothilfe!
I need to take medication Ich muss ein Medikament nehmen.  
I need a doctor Ich brauche einen Arzt. 
I need a doctor urgently Ich brauche dringend einen Arzt!  

Words for Disorders

You might find the following words helpful. IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) is very common in Germany. There are thousands of e-books in German on Kindle about Reizdarm, which is the German word for IBS. 

Celiac disease is Zöliakie. “I can’t eat anything with gluten because I have celiac disease” would be “Ich darf nichts glutenhaltiges essen, denn ich habe Zöliakie / weil ich Zöliakie habe” in German.

Words for Intolerance

The German word for intolerance is Unverträglichkeit. To use it in a sentence, you need the word for “tolerate”, which is vertragen. “I am dairy-intolerant” - Ich kann Milchprodukte nicht vertragen

Here is a list of the most common intolerance-related words.

Fructose Fruchtzucker (literally fruit sugar)
Histamine Histamin
LactoseLaktose
GlutenGluten
Wheat Weizen
Grain Getreide
Rye Roggen
Carbohydrates Kohlenhydrate
Potatoes Kartoffeln
Pasta Nudeln
Rice Reis

Symptom Words

Constipation Verstopfung
DiarrheaDurchfall
BloatednessVöllegefühl
Nausea/sicknessÜbelkeit

These are all used with the verb haben. Not sure who needs to know this but “I’m constipated” is Ich habe Verstopfung in German.  

As you probably know, other common triggers are flour, onions, and garlic. In German, we would say this as follows: “Einige haufig vorkommende Auslöser sind Weizenmehl, Zwiebeln und Knoblauch.”

German Food Measurements

Americans experience a lot of confusion because in Germany, the metric system is used. There are no gallons and ounces here. Instead, Germans have grams (Gramm/g), liters (Liter/l), and kilograms (Kilogramm/kg).

To cook and go grocery shopping in Germany, these are the main measurements you need. Temperature is measured differently too – in Celsius (same word in German) and not Fahrenheit. 

Some German recipes use teaspoon (TL/Teelöffel) and tablespoon (EL/Esslöffel).

Words to Describe Food

This small section is dedicated to words describing food. In German, it’s Essen beschreiben. This is a common way to express feelings and perceptions of food.  

süß sweet
lecker tasty
bitterbitter
sauer sour
scharf spicy
salzig - saltysalty
schwerheavy (not only for food)
leichtlight (not only for food)

How can Grocery Shopping Help You Learn?

Every trip to the grocery store can help you learn something if you have time to read labels and remember product names. You can make progress at home as well. Write down a list of things to buy using the help of a German-English dictionary or your textbook. When you get to the store, use your list to find what you’re looking for. 

In many stores, the best meats and cheeses are only available from behind a counter. That is, you have to ask for a slice of this or half a kilogram of that. This is true for fruit and vegetable shopping as well. In German, you don’t say “of” like in English. For example, a slice of cheese would be “eine Scheibe Käse”, without the translation of “of”. Here are some useful phrases: 

ein Stück Kuchen – a piece of cake

zwei Kilo Äpfel – two kilograms of apples

300 Gramm Schinken – 300 grams of ham

German Words for Likes and Dislikes

To say you like something, you use the words “mag” or “esse gern”. Examples: 

  • Ich esse deutsches Essen gern. - I like German food.
  • Ich mag türkisches Essen. - I like Turkish food.

You can add “really” or “quite” to “like” with sehr:

  • Ich mag dieses Essen sehr gern. – I really like this food.
  • Ich esse es sehr gern. – I quite like (eating) it.
  • Ich gehe in deutsche Restaurants sehr gern – I really like going to German restaurants.

Another word you can use for ‘like’ is gefallen, but the word order changes: 

  • Mir gefallen verschiedene Gerichte. - I like different dishes.
  • Mir gefällt es, in Restaurants zu gehen. - I like going to restaurants.

To say you don’t mind (nichts gegen etwas haben) something: 

  • Ich habe nichts dagegen, zu Mittag spät zu essen. - I don’t mind eating lunch late.
  • Ich habe nichts gegen ein spätes Abendessen. - I don’t mind a late dinner.

Expressing Dislikes

Ich mag nicht or ich esse nicht gern means you don’t like (eating) something. For example:  

  • Ich esse Milchprodukte nicht gern. – I don’t like dairy products.  
  • Ich mag Eier nicht. – I don’t like eggs. 
  • Ich mag Kuchen nicht. – I don’t like cake (people like this do exist).
  •   Ich hasse gekochte Eier. - I hate boiled eggs.
  • Ich hasse es, morgen früh zu essen. - I hate eating early in the morning.

Giving Your Opinion

Here are the most common ways to express your opinion in German.

“In my opinion” is Ich bin der Meinung, meiner Meinung nach, or meines Erachtens.

Example:

  • Ich bin der Meinung, dass italienisches Essen gesund ist. - In my opinion, Italian food is healthy.

“I think is ich denke or ich meine. 

Examples:

  • Ich denke, dass es wichtig ist, viel Gemüse zu essen. - I think that it’s important to eat lots of vegetables.
  • Ich meine, dass es keine gute Idee ist, das Frühstück zu verpassen. - I don’t think it’s a good idea to miss breakfast.

“I’m sure that” is ich bin mir sicher, dass… 

  • Ich bin mir sicher, dass es gut für dich ist, Vegetarier zu sein. - I’m sure that being a vegetarian is good for you.

Finally, you can use the following adjectives to express an opinion on food:

dreadful - grausam

  • Das Hauptgericht war grausam. - The main course was horrible.

Disgusting - eklig

  • Der Fisch war gut, aber die Pommes waren eklig. - The fish was good, but the fries were disgusting.

Delicious, tasty - lecker

  • Probiere die Fischsuppe. Sie ist lecker. - Try the fish soup. It’s delicious.

Excellent - ausgezeichnet

  • Ihre Weinliste ist ausgezeichnet. - Their wine list is excellent.

Fantastic - fantastisch

  • Das Mittagessen am Freitag ist fantastisch. - The Friday lunches are fantastic.

Amazing, wonderful - wunderbar

  • Die Mahlzeit im neuen Restaurant war wunderbar. - The meal at the new restaurant was amazing.

Ways to Say What You Prefer

Prefer - Vorziehen 

  • Ich mag B, aber A ist mir lieber. - I prefer A to B. 
  • Ich mag britisches Essen, aber französisches Essen ist mir lieber. - I prefer French food to British food.
  • Sie zieht vegetarisches Essen vor. - She prefers vegetarian food.

I’d rather - Lieber (again)

  • Er mag Fisch, aber Fleisch ist ihm lieber. – He likes fish, but he’d rather eat meat.

Hope you enjoyed our article! Please share your thoughts in the comments section. We’ll end this article with a popular German food joke: 

“Schatz, was gibt es zum Essen?" 

"Nichts!" 

"Das gab es schon gestern!" 

"Ich hab auch für zwei Tage gekocht!"

About the Author Daniela Kirova

Daniela Kirova is a German and English language teacher, translator, and copywriter. She finished school in the US and holds degrees in English / German linguistics and psychology.

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