This traditional German Beef Rouladen is wonderful comfort food and perfect for an Oktoberfest. Rouladen is simply tender steak, seasoned with mustard, onion and paprika and wrapped around a pickle, served with a lovely pan gravy.
Rouladen is classic German food, with thin slices of beef, rolled up with mustard, onion, bacon and pickle. (Rouladen is based on the word Roulade, meaning “rolled”.)
While Rouladen is a traditional German dish, there are as many different versions as there are German Omas. I’ve detailed some of the options in the Ingredient Notes below. This is the version I love, with grainy mustard, a bit of paprika, lots of bacon (to keep it moist!), a bit of chopped onion and a pickle in the middle.
These are quickly seared on the stove-top, then popped into the oven to cook slowly, until tender and flavourful. Then simply thicken up the gravy on the stove-top at the end, serve and enjoy!
Beef – If you are lucky, you will find “rouladen” cut beef at your grocery store or butcher, which takes all the guesswork out of it :) Of course, when I went looking for it, there was none to be found. It’s quite easy to find very thin round steaks though, so that’s what I went with. Go for a top or topside round steak or a flank steak.
Mustard – I love grainy mustard (the type with the seeds visible), but there are other mustards that would be lovely here. A nice German mustard, such as Loewensenf™ or Inglehoffer™ would be nice. Use one you have or one you simply enjoy.
Pickle – you will want to use a dill pickle of some sort. I went with baby dills here, though you can use a large dill pickle and cut it into quarters, if you like. Look for a nice German dill pickle, if you can.
You may notice the pinkish in the centre of the rouladen, which may make you think the beef isn’t cooked. That’s the bacon, not undercooked beef. When checking your rouladen for done-ness, be sure to note that :)
Be sure to taste your gravy at the end and season generously with salt and pepper, as needed. If the gravy tastes flat, it needs salt!
What to serve with Rouladen?
You can serve your rouladen and gravy with mashed potatoes, German potato dumplings or spaetzle. I enjoy mashed potatoes, flavoured with a little sour cream, myself. On the side, cooked red cabbage is very traditional, but you can’t go wrong with some simply boiled or roasted carrots, either.
Get the Recipe: German Beef Rouladen
For the rouladen:
- 4 boneless round steaks, very thin, about 4 inches wider x 7 inches long
- Salt and pepper
- 4 Tbsp whole grain mustard, or Dijon, regular yellow mustard
- 8 slices bacon
- 1/2 cup onion, finely diced
- 4 baby dill pickles, halved or larger dill pickles quartered. Sweet pickle is also an option here.
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
For the gravy:
- 2 cups beef broth
- 2 Tbsp red wine, can omit or replace with a couple of teaspoons of red wine vinegar
- 1 Tbsp tomato paste, or ketchup, in a pinch
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard, or regular mustard
- Pinch paprika
- Salt and pepper, to taste
To thicken gravy:
- 2 Tbsp cornstarch
- 2 Tbsp cold water
- Chopped fresh parsley
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- Prepare the rouladen by pounding out the beef until about 1/4 inch thin and about 5 inches wide by 9 inches long. Sprinkle the beef slices with salt, pepper and a sprinkling of paprika. Spread 1 Tbsp of mustard over each of the 4 pieces of beef. Place two pieces of bacon over each piece of beef, side by side, trimming any part of the bacon that extend over the ends. Scatter each with diced onion, dividing evenly between the four pieces. With the widest end of the short side facing you, place two pickle halves end to end about 1 1/2 inches from the end. It's ok if they stick out the side at this point. Take the end closest to you and fold it up and over the pickles. Continue rolling by lifting and rolling until it is completely rolled. Take a skewer and secure the end of the roll to the main part of the roll, so it doesn't unroll. Trim any excess pickle sticking out the sides so it is even with the sides of the roll. Roll up the remaining beef pieces similarly.
- Stir together the gravy ingredients in a medium bowl and set aside.
- In a Dutch oven or large, heavy bottomed, oven-proof dish with a lid, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the beef rolls to the pan, skewer/seam side down. *Don't over-crowd the pan. Do in batches if necessary. Sear for a few minutes until lightly browned, then flip over and sear the other side. Place the rolls on their sides if necessary to sear the entire outside of each of the rolls.
- Once rolls are browned, add the prepared gravy mixture to the pan. Stir gently to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Bring liquid to a boil over medium-high heat, then cover pot and place in the preheated oven.
- Cook, covered in the oven until tender, about 1 - 1/2 hours (depending on the size of your rolls), flipping rolls over a couple of times during the cooking period.
- Remove pot from oven and use tongs to remove rolls to a plate. Carefully remove the skewers from the rolls and discard, then cover the plate loosely with aluminum foil ,while you thicken the gravy.
- Place pot on the stovetop over medium-high heat. Combine cornstarch and cold water in a small bowl and add to liquid in pot a bit at a time, stirring between additions, until gravy thickens to your taste. If necessary, mix up and add a bit more cornstarch/water to gravy if not thick enough. Taste gravy and add additional salt, pepper and paprika, to taste.
- To serve, cut rolls in half diagonally in the middle. Place halves on side mashed potatoes and spoon gravy over-top. Garnish with chopped parsley, if desired.
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Hi! I’m Jennifer, a home cook schooled by trial and error and almost 40 years of getting dinner on the table! I love to share my favourite recipes, both old and new, together with lots of tips and tricks to hopefully help make your home cooking enjoyable, stress free, rewarding and of course, delicious!
My Husband grew up with a German born Mother. She passed before I could ever meet her, but my Husband would always speak of her beef roulade. I made this for him one dinner, and he cried…literally cried. He said this dinner was just like his Mother’s. Thank you for this wonderful, well-explained, relatively simple recipe.
I’m so pleased, Barbara :) Thanks so much!
Fantastic recipe, one needs no other for Rouladen!
So glad you enjoyed it, Richard! Thanks so much :)
Thank you so much… my absolute favorite food.
So glad to hear, Ryan :) Thanks!
My German mother now puts a piece of cured sausage along with the bacon (next to the pickles). She also sautes the onions first. Plus I think she puts sliced onion underneath to help keep moist (though she does brown the rolls first); they cook down and get mixed into the gravy. No tomato in our gravy, though, and we use flour to thicken. I’m making this tomorrow.
I think there are as many ways to make this as there are German mothers :) Enjoy!
Delicious! Thank you for the recipe.
My meat was sliced thin so I didn’t pound it. I didn’t pre-brown the rolls or pre-heat the broth. I assembled everything in the morning and put the dutch oven into the refrigerator to marinate the meat, turning the rolls several times before baking. In the afternoon, I stirred the sauce, then popped the pan into the oven at 300 F for about 3 hours. Turned the rolls and stirred the sauce a few times. Simple easy, tender and flavourful meat.
So glad you enjoyed it, Heather :) Thanks so much!
Your recipe is just like that of my Mother in Law’s. She was from Koln (Cologne) and an amazing cook. I learned all my cooking from her as my mother was a clever Business woman but Not a good cook, also German.
Sauerbraten is a typical German meal, one of the best. I’m told it’s a dish from the Rhineland, but I think every area has its own version. To me, it’s the typical “German” dish that most people love. Thank you for your column.
I love Sauerbraten as well. Great comfort food :)
My mama comes from the Ruhr river valley and always used Dusseldorfer Senf (Lowensenf extra) for the mustard but I agree with using what you have in everything although Lowensenf isn’t that hard to find! No tomato anything and any beef including slices of a sirloin roast that could be pounded thin enough and big enough to hold the slice of pickle, onion and bacon. She’d brown it then cooked it in the pressure cooker so it was always ready in less than an hour with red cabbage also prepared in the pressure cooker and usually potatoes, mashed or whole. Gravy always thickened with cornstarch although flour would be fine!
It really is like food for the gods!
Thanks for this, Friedrich. I love hearing these stories of cherished food :)
Have just popped this into the oven…..want to say how much I appreciated ,when you wrote out the recipe, that for some ingredients you said “or”…… such as “or regular mustard”…. “or sweet pickle” …”or ketchup”….great when one doesn’t have the original item to have this choice!….can’t give you any stars for the taste yet but 5 stars for doing the above(-:
Made exactly as written. Absolutely delicious!! Looking forward to trying other recipes from your site!!
So glad you enjoyed it, Denise :) Thanks!
This recipe worked very well for me, having tried a few. I did however at the recommendation of a German friend for whom I was cooking, reduce the tomato paste slightly and add a little cream to the gravy using flour to thicken instead of corn starch.
I will try that next time :) Thanks!
Can you make this ahead of time?
Hi Barbara, I think it would be at it’s best made fresh. If you really needed to make ahead, I would under-cook the meat slightly, so you don’t end up with it dried out from re-heating.
My husband cannot eat pork. I have just recently moved to Germany and would like to make these for him. Do you have any suggestions on what to do about the bacon? Thank you
Hi JM, I think you could just skip the bacon and still have a nice dish.
One quickie version I know of used a chicken stuffing mix with the pickle and onion, so this might substitute for the bacon.
Am making this tonight so looking forward to it. My mother was from Kitchener so this recipe especially caught my eye ❤️
Hi Kate and yes, it would be a good substitute for the bacon, for sure. Do enjoy this. I spent a few years in Kitchener myself, so sampled many a great German dish, too!
I also omitted the bacon & made a mushroom stuffing which was simply delicious as well.
So glad you enjoyed it, Dianne :) Thanks!
I did this by accident once (forgot the bacon) My husband has never let me forget it, but the dinner was certainly fine!
You could try turkey bacon?
I used beef bacon because my hubby cant eat pork and it came out just the same.
Glad to hear, Tanya :) Thanks!