For An Upgraded Brat, Get Creative With These 14 Toppings

bratwursts with toppings on table
bratwursts with toppings on table - Static Media / Shutterstock / Getty

Bratwurst is a widely available and very popular type of German sausage -- most people have probably heard of it, even if they have not tried it. However, it is much less likely to understand exactly what bratwurst is. That is partly because there are so many regional varieties. Generally, bratwurst is a relatively coarsely ground sausage typically made with pork; it can also be made with veal, beef, or a blend of meats. There are recipes for bratwurst that go back centuries, so while there is a great deal of variety in how the sausage is created and seasoned, it has certainly stood the test of time. Additional ingredients vary, but are typically salt, pepper, and marjoram, though nutmeg, white pepper, and garlic are also popular add-ins. No matter what goes into the sausage mix, bratwurst is typically grilled or broiled and eaten on a bun, hot dog style.

Anything grilled and put on a bun, of course, needs toppings. Bratwurst is traditionally topped with other German preparations like sauerkraut or mustard. To be sure, you can't go wrong with these ingredients on a brat. But half the fun of dressing a sausage is in the variety of it. What else can you use to adorn a bratwurst to yield delicious results? You can start here.

Read more: 26 Best Toppings To Add To Your Chicken Sandwich

Mac And Cheese

mac and cheese dish with spoon
mac and cheese dish with spoon - Say-cheese/Getty Images

Shredded cheese or cheese sauce is a common sausage topping offered at restaurants and stands, and though you might be grosses out at first, it actually does make a lot of sense. Think about it: The flavor of salty, seasoned pork pairs wonderfully with all kinds of cheese varieties. Bratwursts are one of many sausages that work well with this topping, and they are often paired with a beer cheese sauce. But while sauce, or a pile of the shredded stuff, makes for a great sausage topping, try turning things up a notch with mac and cheese. The nutmeg-spiked flavor of bratwurst goes well with all kinds of cheese blends common in a macaroni and cheese sauce, like cheddar, Swiss, and Gruyère.

The noodles give it added heft, making it easier to pile on top of your brat than a thin sauce. Plus, when grilling up at home, it just makes more sense; instead of having to make a separate sauce for the brats, you can take a scoop from the dish of mac and cheese that is never far from a barbecue.

Potato Chips

potato chips in wooden bowl
potato chips in wooden bowl - Nadiia Borovenko/Getty Images

By now, many people out there are hip to the fact that potato chips are a great way to elevate your everyday sandwich. With that in mind, consider the bratwurst. Bratwurst and potatoes are longtime partners; German potato salad often incorporates or tops the spiced sausage, and bratwurst is frequently served with a side of French fries. The fatty, savory meat just works well with the salt-loving starch. Try a crunchy, flavor-packed spin on the combo by reaching for a bag of chips.

Not only will potato chips add a delightful, crispy texture to the sausage, but they will also soak up the delicious juices from the meat. Plus, it is one of the easiest possible toppings since all you need to do is open a bag. Well, that, and pick a flavor; sure, you could go with a classic plain chip — but consider the sour cream and onion chip or a spicy jalapeño chip. Or, you can opt for a kettle-cooked chip for a sturdier, crunchier bite you'll enjoy.


bowl of kimchi
bowl of kimchi - Fudio/Getty Images

From simmering in its briny liquid to being nestled alongside it in a bun, bratwurst gets along well with any type of sauerkraut. A German national dish, sauerkraut is a fermented cabbage dish enjoyed as both a side and as a meal all its own. But Germany is certainly not the only place with a penchant for fermented cabbage: One of Korea's most famous and traditional foods is sauerkraut's spicy sibling, kimchi.

Sauerkraut is a very traditional topping for bratwurst, and the salty-sour fermented flavor cuts through the fattiness of the sausage. Kimchi can do the same thing as a sausage topping by swapping the typical sauerkraut flavorings, like caraway, apples, and juniper, for ginger and Korean chili. If you have tried kimchi before, you know its spicy, fermented flavor is delicious and borderline addictive; it seems to pair well with almost anything. Its fresh, crunchy leaves are certainly right at home with warmly spiced bratwurst. The chili brings heat, while the tangy cabbage brings a cooling, refreshing element to the sausage dish.


hot dog with chili
hot dog with chili - Fdastudillo/Getty Images

Chili and sausage go together in more ways than one. Sausage is a standby flavor-boosting ingredient for canned chili. In the ubiquitous chili dog, chili helps lift the pork product. It adds heft and moisture, while its warm and oft-spicy seasoning brings more complexity to the simple dish of a hot dog in a bun.

You can elevate the classic chili dog using a bratwurst instead of a hot dog. The chili will complement that bratwurst just as well, if not better, than with a hot dog. Not only that, but it is a great excuse to incorporate other great bratwurst additions: Onions, cheese sauce, and peppers are all potential toppers in a chili dog recipe. While there is nothing wrong with a vegetarian chili, a beef-based chili would be more faithful to the meat lover's dream that is a chili dog. You can go for canned or homemade, but be sure to get it nice and hot before you pour it on your brat.

Baked Beans

baked beans in cast iron pan
baked beans in cast iron pan - Candice Bell/Getty Images

Pork and beans go hand in hand (duh). The salty, rich meat and legume combo is not only a staple of budget eating but is also a seriously delicious lesson in simplicity. Honor that tradition by topping your next bratwurst with some delicious baked beans (canned, homemade, or otherwise).

In recipes like bacon and brat canned baked beans, the garlicky, savory sausage balances the sweetness of the beans. That same balance makes baked beans a great topping for bratwurst. Baked beans are rich and sweet but also have smokiness, tanginess, and, often, a bit of heat. That complex and comforting blend of flavors is a classic match for grilled or smoked meats, especially pork. Piled on top of a brat, the sweetness of the beans and their creamy texture contrast the flavorful pork perfectly. You can always grab a can of baked beans at the store — some people even prefer them cold straight from the can. Or, you can make some from scratch, like these Dr. Pepper baked beans.


sausages and apple slices
sausages and apple slices - Margouillatphotos/Getty Images

If you know, you know: Apples are the perfect complement to sausage. The two have been cooked together for hundreds of years because the fruit and pork balance each other so well. Apples' sweet, bright, caramelized taste works perfectly with the umami-packed, super-savory sausage. Bratwursts are perfect for this combo since the warm spices that season the sausage meat are a great pairing with apples.

You can use apples to top your bratwurst in a couple of ways. Stewed or baked apples will work; you can season them as you like. If you are already grilling your bratwurst, you can cut your apples into rings and toss them on the grate. It is a straightforward approach that will result in smoky charred apples and smoky flavor to the fruit. Or, perhaps simplest of all, you can use store-bought or homemade applesauce. It is easy to spoon on top of a bratwurst and will have the brightest, most refreshing flavor.

Cream Cheese

hot dog, cream cheese
hot dog, cream cheese - The Image Party/Shutterstock

Admittedly, this may be a tough sell if you are not from Seattle. But a Seattle-style hot dog -- a hot dog with cream cheese slathered on the bun -- is a proud tradition of the Pacific Northwest city for a reason. Something about the cream cheese adds a fresh element, and it is even better when combined with other toppings like peppers and tangy mustard. While the rules of what makes a true Seattle dog are hotly debated, the cream cheese is the absolute must-have of the dish. Beyond that, Seattle dog stands vary in their selection of toppings as well as the meat itself, with some offering hotdogs and others offering sausages.

Bratwurst, a sausage that works well with cheese, would offer a German twist on the Seattle style. Plus, common Seattle dog toppings like jalapeños, onions, and spicy mustard are brat fan favorites. To go the extra mile, use a bialy-style bun, which is made from the same kind of dough as a bagel.

Pickled Mustard Seeds

mustard seeds on white background
mustard seeds on white background - Natalya Zavyalova/Getty Images

While mustard is a go-to condiment for all kinds of sausage, it is especially loved as a bratwurst topping. The sweet, tangy flavor works remarkably well with the seasoned sausage without overpowering it. If you opt for mustard at the toppings bar, try adding pickled mustard seeds instead for a spin on a classic.

Mustard spread is derived from mustard seeds, and various added ingredients result in various types of mustard. All mustard, however, combines seasonings, vinegar, and mustard seeds. You can strip down the elements of the condiment into something new and interesting by topping your brat with pickled mustard seeds, instead. They bring sweet, spicy, super-tangy mustard flavors and even add a delightful texture. As you bite into the mustard seeds, they will release the pickling liquid, like little beads of flavor. Plus, some people call pickled mustard seeds "mustard caviar," which can bring some class to your cookout.

Chow Chow

plate of chow chow
plate of chow chow - Greg Kelton/Getty Images

If you have not heard of chow chow before, it's about time you did. Chow chow is a Southern relish that makes use of all kinds of summer produce. Green tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, and onions are pickled in vinegar, along with a variety of other vegetables and seasonings, and transformed into a delicious and economical condiment. It is often paired with grilled meats and will be right at home on a bratwurst.

Sweet, savory, spicy, and tangy all at once, chow chow can be used like a classic pickle relish and will bring the complexity of the produce used to create it. It is a fresh ingredient that goes great with a burger and will be an unexpected yet welcome addition to a bratwurst. It adds a crunchy, flavorful brightness to the fatty sausage and its brininess cuts through the greasy mouthfeel. Its frequent presence at Southern barbecues is a testament to just how well it pairs with pork products like bratwurst.

Beer Braised Onions

caramelized onions in white bowl
caramelized onions in white bowl - Liudmyla Chuhunova/Shutterstock

Bratwursts are often washed down with a German-style beer. In fact, the two go together so well that some people like to boil brats in beer. Beer is even a common ingredient in the sausage-making process for bratwurst itself, so it certainly is a key flavor pairing. Since beer works so well with sausage, it just makes sense to incorporate that flavor into your toppings. Beer-braised onions are delicious no matter what, but they would be especially satisfying on top of a brat.

Making beer braised onions is simple; cook down onions in butter and add a bottle of your favorite beer. Let it simmer until the liquid is mostly evaporated and the onions are jammy and caramelized. Just like that, you have made a condiment that is practically begging to go on a bratwurst. The sweet, malty flavor of the beer enhances the melt-in-your-mouth, buttery sweetness of the onions, which will take your bratwurst to another level of savory decadence. Use whatever beer you like, but picking a German brew wouldn't be a bad idea (we know we would recommend it).


hot dog with pineapple
hot dog with pineapple - Onur Celik Photography/Shutterstock

Now that we have covered that apples and sausage are a great match, it is time to introduce pineapple into the mix. The tropical fruit is already associated with pork via the controversial yet common combination of pineapple and ham on a pizza. Not to mention the perfection that is achieved in an al pastor taco, where shaved pork meets charred pineapple chunks. But the sausage world is also an arena where pineapple shines — it is a staple condiment for hot dogs in Colombia. The fruit is not only a popular topping there; a pineapple sauce is a key element of a Colombian hot dog. You can offer a twist on the classic Colombian combo by using a bratwurst, instead.

Pineapple's super-sweet, super-tart flavor works wonderfully in contrast to the heaviness of a bratwurst sausage. It is also sturdy enough to be grilled and will gain a smokey caramelization over the flames. Grilled pineapple rings or chunks are a great way to top a bratwurst. You can also go the Colombian route and transform the pineapple into a sauce that can be easily poured over the sausage.


sausage with coleslaw
sausage with coleslaw - Dreambigphotos/Getty Images

Sauerkraut is the fermented, tangy, caraway-spiked cabbage dish that bratwurst is usually associated with. But consider its super-fresh, barbecue favorite cousin, coleslaw, for a fresh, creamy cabbage-based topping.

Sauerkraut is made from preserved, fermented cabbage. Coleslaw, on the other hand, is a mélange of freshly sliced cabbage and other vegetables tossed with vinegar or citrus, herbs and seasonings, and mayo. It is a must-have at any summer event because it goes so well with meat and offsets the rich, smoky flavor of grilled meats.

By swapping sauerkraut for coleslaw, you get a cooling and creamy component on top of your bratwurst. The refreshing, bright flavor of coleslaw is still cabbage-forward, but it is a lighter option that you can quickly make at home or pick up at the deli. The fresh veggie element will be welcome alongside your bratwurst spread; sure, they are slathered in mayo, but coleslaw is packed with fresh cabbage, carrots, onions, and more.

Tonkatsu Sauce

bottle of Bull-Dog sauce
bottle of Bull-Dog sauce - Nyak zela/Shutterstock

Tonkatsu sauce is a Japanese barbecue sauce that is served alongside fried dishes like chicken or pork cutlets and vegetable tempura. Homemade versions of tonkatsu sauce can be made with a combination of ketchup, oyster sauce, and sugar, but you can also find a bottle of the product, like the brand Bull-Dog, at any Asian grocery store near you. Bottled versions contain a myriad of vegetables and other seasonings. It is a sauce that is well known for going well on top of almost anything, and bratwurst is no exception.

Tonkatsu sauce has a sweet, slightly tangy, and super savory taste that complements the fattiness of fried food. Those same flavors make it a great companion for bratwurst, as the German sausage has the same salty, fatty elements as tonkatsu's more traditional partners. Tonkatsu sauce also has a remarkable depth; it is far from a one-note condiment. You can even mix it with mayo for a creamier, milder version of the Japanese staple.

Curry Ketchup

currywurst sausage and fries
currywurst sausage and fries - Gkrphoto/Getty Images

Currywurst is a super popular fast food dish in Germany. It is very simple to make, too: Sausage is cut up and topped with curry-spiced ketchup (often, French fries get tossed in the mix, as well). The curry seasoning blend, which includes turmeric, coriander, ginger, and cumin, makes a perfect fusion dish with sweet ketchup and savory sausage. While it may be hard to find a currywurst stand in the U.S., it is easy to try it yourself by topping your brat with curry ketchup.

You can buy the stuff at some supermarkets, but making homemade curry ketchup is easy. Combine a ketchup of your choice with a few simple spices and pantry ingredients, and you have made your own curry ketchup that can last for at least a week in the fridge. Now, all that is left is to cook up your brats and top them with the ketchup; maybe even toss some fries on there, too.

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