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Knockwurst vs Bratwurst: How Do They Differ?

Maria Foster
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by Maria Foster

If you are a fan of sausages, learning more about German sausages is super entertaining  because, truth be told — there’s nothing else like them.

Today, we are going to focus on two of the most famous German sausages: knockwurst and bratwurst. People often confuse them, but to say both are identical in Germany would be like arguing that all cheeses are the same in Italy.

So let’s see what makes them unique! Here’s everything there is to know about the juicy and flavorful German knockwurst and bratwurst.

Difference Between Knockwurst and Bratwurst

The main difference between knockwurst and bratwurst is their taste. The kick of knockwurst is significantly more intense and rich with paprika, mace, and garlic. The flavor of bratwurst is considerably more delicate, with a smokey flavor and little hints of well-chosen spices like marjoram and nutmeg.


That being said, the flavor of German knockwurst and bratwurst is only the tip of the iceberg for them! There are more differences hidden in these delicacies than you would have ever expected, like their composition, texture, serving style, and many other qualities that make them unique.


So let’s further examine knockwurst and bratwurst and learn everything there is to know about these well-known sausages, beginning with the meaning behind their different names.

The Etymology of Knockwurst and Bratwurst

The literal translation of the word knockwurst is “crackle sausage.” Our best assumption is that the crackling is really the pop you hear when you bite into or break the sausage.

On the other hand, bratwurst is a combination of the words braten, meaning “to fry,” and wurst, meaning “sausage.” In contemporary German, bratwurst is often referred to as fried or to be fried sausages.

Recipe of Knockwurst and Bratwurst

Both varieties of sausage are made from a combination of pork, beef, or veal. There are no specific guidelines when it comes to the meat combinations for knockwurst and bratwurst — you may get these sausages produced with any combination of these three types of meat!

However, traditionally, bratwurst is more often made from pork and beef, whereas knockwurst is traditionally made from pork and veal.

While the meat isn’t much of a notable difference between these two sausages, the seasoning is something that really makes knockwurst and bratwurst stand one from another.

The seasoning on knockwurst is intense. It contains salt, white pepper, mace, paprika, coriander, allspice, and coriander. Most significantly, the key ingredient of knockwurst that makes the main kick in terms of flavor is always garlic!

On the other hand, garlic with bratwurst is quite uncommon. Overall, bratwurst has very little seasoning and is flavored with a subtle mix of well-chosen ingredients. Typically, these classic sausages contain only a small quantity of nutmeg, salt, marjoram, and pepper. Caraway, small amounts of garlic, coriander, ginger, and cardamom are other non-traditional flavors used in bratwurst.

Size of Knockwurst and Bratwurst

The knockwurst is a petite, bulky sausage. The reason behind its compact size is that it’s meant to be eaten by hand instead of being enjoyed in a bun like most other varieties of sausage.

On the other hand, bratwurst is a longer and thinner sausage. Therefore, it has the perfect shape for a hot dog roll or a bun.

Texture of Knockwurst and Bratwurst

The bratwurst is a firm sausage, with the meat minced to a chunky rather than super fine texture. The casing, however, is thin, so it’s much easier to bite into it.

Knockwurst, on the other hand, is ground very finely, giving it a significantly smoother texture. The case is thicker and makes a cracking noise when you bite through it.

Color of Knockwurst and Bratwurst

The bratwurst sausage has a light pink tint that almost looks white. In contrast to bratwurst, knockwurst typically has a more orange or red tinge.

Serving Knockwurst and Bratwurst

Knockwurst are often eaten plain, without any seasonings or toppings. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t more ways to enjoy this garlicky sausage! Serving knockwurst with boiled potatoes, bacon, and onion sauce is the traditional Bavarian way. There are also pasta dishes and winter casseroles that use knockwurst as well.

On the other hand, the bratwurst is typically served on a bread bun with a drizzle of mustard and some fried onions. Braising the sausages in beer and onions is a common way to serve bratwurst. Others choose to serve it with nachos, casseroles, kebab skewers with vegetables, or creamy mashed potatoes.

Knockwurst vs Bratwurst Comparison Table

Place of originGermanyGermany
Name etymologyCrackle sausageFried sausage
Type of meatPork and vealPork and beef
Type of seasoningGarlic, salt, white pepper, mace, paprika, coriander, allspice, corianderNutmeg, salt, marjoram, and pepper, and occasionally caraway, garlic, coriander, ginger, and cardamom
SizePetite and bulkyLong and thin
TextureFinely groundCoarsely ground
ColorIn-between red and orangePale pink, almost white
Way of eatingEnjoyed as is, Boiled potatoes, bacon, and onion sauce, In pasta, In winter casserolePut in a hot dog roll or bun with mustard and fried onions, Braised in beer and onions, In nachos, Casserole, Kebab skewers

Nutritional Content Breakdown: Which One Is Healthier?

Looking at the nutritional table below, we can see that bratwurst is the healthier sausage alternative. The reason is that knockwurst beats bratwurst only in its calcium content.

On the other hand, bratwurst has fewer calories, carbs, fat, and sodium content while it’s richer in protein, potassium, iron, phosphorous, magnesium, zinc, copper, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and vitamin B6 content.

All in all, both sausages are fatty and calorie-dense; hence if you are trying to lose weight, you might want to skip these delicacies or eat them in moderate amounts. Plus, the sodium content is also something to consider because going overboard with overly salty foods might lead to high blood pressure and heart problems!

Knockwurst vs Bratwurst: Nutritional Profile

Category (100g)KnockwurstBratwurst
Vitamins & Minerals
Vitamin B60.1mg0.2mg

Can I Substitute Knockwurst for Bratwurst and Vice Versa?

 Garlicky knockwurst
Garlicky knockwurst

Yes, you can absolutely substitute knockwurst for bratwurst and vice versa. Both sausages can more or less be enjoyed in similar recipes, side dishes, or simply plain, with some mustard or ketchup on top.

When choosing sides with these sausages, you may want to keep their flavor in mind. Note that bratwurst will have a milder flavor than knockwurst, so if you use bratwurst instead of knockwurst, you will definitely have more freedom when picking your side dishes and sauces.

Bratwurst sausages go well with fermented cabbage, known as sauerkraut, as well as coleslaw, salad, mashed potatoes, and roasted vegetables. Sriracha, honey mustard sauce, and spicy brown or Dijon mustard also go delightfully well with bratwurst.

When you use it in place of bratwurst, you’ll need to be extra careful with the pungent, garlicky knockwurst. It’s not a light sausage, and it will overpower delicate flavors.

So the ideal accompaniment for this sausage would be something like a potato salad flavored with onion and mustard. It would also taste wonderful when paired with a sweet dish that contrasts it, such as grilled corn or caramelized onions.


All in all, your particular preferences will determine which variety of German sausage you’ll use in your recipes!

The knockwurst sausage is renowned for its snappy smoky flavor profile. The bratwurst, on the other hand, has a very mild and delicate taste with very little spice. It serves as an excellent vehicle for additional flavors!

Knockwurst is the sausage for you if you want something with a little kick! But use a bratwurst if you like something lighter or dislike garlic.

If you want to serve your German sausages with a meal or as a side dish, consider how the flavors of each variety will blend with the rest of the ingredients.

While the delicate flavor of bratwurst is more likely to be overpowered by other components, the robust, garlicky flavor of knockwurst will dominate your meal.

So which one will it be? Knockwurst or bratwurst? There’s one way to find out – try them both and really taste their difference. Bon appetit!

About Maria Foster
Maria Foster
Maria Foster is a mother of 3 and she and her husband of 23 years share their home with 2 faithful dogs. Besides being CEO of the household and active in her community, Maria is the lead contributor to Food Champs and loves to try new food ideas and kitchen accessories to make easier and more delicious meals.
Maria Foster
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