Austrian and German Recipes/ Christmas/ Dinner/ Easter/ meat

Rouladen (German Beef Rolls)

3 December 2022 | Last Updated: 5 December 2022 By Aleksandra

Rouladen are a classic German comfort food made with rolled beef stuffed with bacon, pickles, onions, and mustard. First they´re pan-fried then simmered in the most delicious red wine gravy until fall-apart tender. Serve them with Spätzle and German braised red cabbage for a perfect meal.

Rouladen with gravy on a white plate, sprinkled with parsley.

What are Rouladen?

Rouladen is a German dish consisting of thinly sliced and pounded strips of beef meat, rolled up, stuffed with mustard, pickles, onion, and bacon, and simmered in a rich gravy. In Germany they are most often called “Rinderrouladen” which means “beef roll ups”, because there are also cabbage rolls (Kohlrouladen).

Rouladen are eaten through the year but are also often served for important occasions such as Christmas.
Rouladen are also served in neighboring countries, such as Austria, Hungary, Switzerland, Italy (well-known Braciole) or Poland (zrazy).

Rouladen means in German roll ups. Singular is “eine Roulade” and plural is “Rouladen”.

You can hear the pronunciation here.

Ingredients

Here´s what you need to make this amazing dish:

Labeled ingredients for Rouladen.
  • Meat: you will need thin beef slices to make Rouladen.
    What cut of beef is best for Rouladen? Use top round beef roast (also called topside) for Rouladen. You can ask your butcher to cut it for you. You want long thin slices, about ¼ inches (6mm) thick, 6 inches (15 cm) long and 4 inches (10cm) wide. Thinly sliced flank steak or rump roast (silverside) would also work. Round beef roast will be sligthly more tender.
  • Bacon – is added for flavor and to add some fat to the Rouladen because the beef cut that is being used is rather lean. I prefer using thin-cut bacon for this recipe.
  • Pickles – you may think this is a weird ingredients but I´m telling you – it is truly the best. It works so well with the meat and also adds acidity and amazing flavor to the gravy. Do not omit pickles! I used German sweet and sour pickles, you can use dill pickles.
  • Mustard – use German mustard if you can find it. If you can´t, you can also use Dijon mustard but don´t use American yellow mustard.
  • Onions – any kind. I used yellow onions.
  • Red wine – use and dry red wine that you like to drink. It shouldn´t be expensive but also don´t use the cheapest stuff that doesn´t taste good on its own.
  • Corn starch – is used to thicken the gravy. You can also use flour. Corn starch produces a gravy that is more translucent and flour produces a gravy that is more opaque.
  • Beef broth – good quality beef broth is the KEY to the most amazing gravy. I´ve written more about it below where you can also find an easy recipe for homemade beef broth.
  • Carrot, celery, onion, garlic – flavor the broth.

How to make Rouladen step by step

Flattened beef steak on a wooden board. Beef fillet with mustard.

STEP 1: Make the Rouladen:

Place the meat slices on a wooden board, cover with plastic wrap and pound with a meat mallet until a little bit thinner than 1/4 inch (6mm) to create long and thin strips of meat. While flattening the meat be gentle to not make any holes in the meat.

STEP 2: Season the meat with salt and pepper on both sides. Spread a thin layer of mustard on one side of the meat.

Flattened beef steak topped with mustard, bacon, pickles and onions. Rolled up beef steak.

STEP 3: Place 1-2 slices of bacon on top (as much as will fit in a single layer, if you can fit 2 slices bacon side by side – use two pieces or cut them to fit).

Place 1-2 pickles (cut thicker ones in half lengthwise or 4 parts) and 1-2 tablespoons of diced onions on top of the bacon.

STEP 4: Roll up the meat and secure with toothpicks or kitchen twine. The rolls don´t need to be rolled very tightly, just enough for the meat to keep its rolled shape (if the mustard is leaking out, it will just flavor the gravy, it´s fine).

Rolled up Rouladen ready to be cooked. Seared Rouladen in a white pot.

STEP 5: Repeat with the remaining ingredients.

STEP 6: Cook Rouladen:

Dice the onion, peel the carrot and cut into slices, chop celery into slices, mince the garlic.

Heat the oil in a large pot (preferably Dutch oven or thick-bottomed pot with a tight fitting lid) over high heat.
When hot, cook the Rouladen in batches until well-browned on all sides (shouldn´t be overcrowded or won´t brown properly). Transfer to a plate.

Red wine is being added to sauteed vegetables in a pot. Reduced red wine sauce with vegetables in a pot.

STEP 7: Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the carrots, onions, and celery. Cook for a couple minutes until softened. Add the garlic and tomato paste, cook for 30 seconds.

Add the wine.

STEP 8: Cook until reduced at least in half. Scrape all the brown bits at the bottom of the pot – they will give lots of flavor to the gravy.

Beef broth is being added to Rouladen in a pot. Cooked Rouladen on a white plate.

STEP 9: Add beef broth, bring to a boil.

Add Rouladen back to the pot, cover the pot and cook over low heat (the sauce should only simmer) until the beef is very tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Turn the Rouladen halfway through the cooking time and pour them a couple of times with the sauce.

The cooking time will depend on the thickness and cut of the meat so you may need to check if your Rouladen are done a little bit sooner or need a longer cooking time (for up to 2 hours).

You can also cook the Rouladen in the oven but I think it´s more convenient to cook it on the stove you don´t need to run on the oven.

STEP 10: When the Rouladen are done, transfer them to a plate.

Strain the sauce. You can discard the vegetables or serve them with dinner.

Some German recipes call for mixing these vegetables and add them to the gravy in order to thicken it. I personally don´t like such gravy.

Gravy is being thickened with corn starch. Rouladen are being warmed up in gravy.

STEP 11: In a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of corn starch and 3 tablespoons of cold water. Add to the sauce, bring to a boil, and cook for a couple minutes or until the sauce is thickened. Check if the sauce needs more salt and pepper (it shouldn´t, but it´s better to check). If it´s too salty, you can add more beef broth (preferably unsalted) or a small amount of water.

Remove toothpicks or kitchen twine from the Rouladen.

STEP 12: Put the Rouladen back in the pot and cook briefly in the gravy until heated through. Serve.

Enjoy!

Overhead photo of Rouladen in dark gravy on a white plate.

Homemade beef broth

The key to an amazing gravy is a good-quality beef broth. If you want to use a store-bought beef broth, try it first before using it in this recipe. Many store-bough beef broth taste really bad. Even if you make this shortcut version of beef broth, it will still taste much better than anything you can buy at the store.
A quick (for a beef broth!) beef broth recipe:

  • meat: 3 pounds (1.5 kg) meaty beef bones (you need to have bones AND some meat, not one or the other)
  • vegetables: 1 onion, 2 carots, 1 celery rib
  • spices: 1 tablespoon tomato paste, 2 bay leaves, some fresh herbs such as 1 twig rosemary, a couple of twigs thyme and parsley, 4 cloves garlic, 13 black peppercorns, 2 small pieces of dry mushrooms (if you have some)
  • additionally: 2 tablespoons frying oil, 1/2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (helps extract calcium from the bones), 12 cups water (3 liters)

Method: Heat the oil in a large pot. When hot add the meat. Sear on all sides over high heat until well-browned (you can also bake them in the oven for about 45 mins at 400°F/200°C or until browned but searing in the pot is enough).

Add peeled and chopped veggies, cook until browned. Add all the other ingredients, gently bring to a boil then simmer (it should only cook very slightly) at least for 2-3 hours (meat should fall off the bone) or even up to 6-8 hours for a deep flavored broth. Don´t salt the broth, it´s better to add it unsalted to the sauce and then you can season the sauce if you think there is not enough salt.

If you salt the broth and then it will reduce while cooking Rouladen, the gravy can turn out too salty!

Even if you sear the ingredients in a pot (instead of baking them) and then you will cook it for 2-3 hours (3 is better) it will still be amazing. It will have great flavor and great mouthfeel that is provided by natural gelatine that is in the real bones.

Storage

Rouladen are perfect to make ahead and reheat beautifully. They taste even better the next day or even on the third day. You can make them ahead even before an important occasion and they will still be amazing.

How to reheat Rouladen – simply cook them briefly in a pot, turning them in the gravy until heated through.

When storing the Rouladen, make sure to store them together with the gravy (they won´t dry out and will be even more delicious).

Rouladen also freeze well. Freeze them with the gravy for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight then warm up as described above.

What to serve with Rouladen:

Rouladen with gravy, braised red cabbage, and Spätzle on a beige plate.

Did you make this recipe? RATE THE RECIPE or tell me in the COMMENTS how you liked it! You can also add a photo of your dish. It would make me very happy and will help other readers. Thank you!!

Rouladen (German Beef Rolls)

Rouladen are a classic German comfort food made with rolled beef stuffed with bacon, pickles, onions, and mustard. First they´re pan-fried then simmered in the most delicious red wine gravy until fall-apart tender. Serve them with Spätzle and German braised red cabbage for a perfect meal.
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Rouladen with gravy on a white plate.
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Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 45 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 15 minutes
Servings 7 Rouladen
Calories 295kcal
Author Aleksandra

Ingredients

for the Rouladen:

  • 7 thin slices beef top round steak about 1/4 inch or 6mm
  • 1/3 cup German mustard
  • 10-12 slices thin-cut bacon
  • 14 mini cornishons/gherkins German pickles, or dill pickles
  • 1 small onion
  • salt and pepper to taste

for the gravy:

  • 2 tablespoon frying oil
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 2 cups good-quality beef broth
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch

Instructions

Make the Rouladen:

  • Place the meat slices on a wooden board, cover with plastic wrap and pound with a meat mallet until a little bit thinner than 1/4 inch (6mm) to create long and thin strips of meat. While flattening the meat be gentle to not make any holes in the meat.
  • Season the meat with salt and pepper on both sides. Spread a thin layer of mustard on one side of the meat and place 1-2 slices of bacon on top (as much as will fit in a single layer, if you can fit 2 slices bacon side by side – use two pieces or cut them to fit).
  • Place 1-2 pickles (cut thicker ones in half lengthwise or 4 parts) and 1-2 tablespoons of diced onions on top of the bacon.
  • Roll up the meat and secure with toothpicks or kitchen twine. The rolls don´t need to be rolled very tightly, just enough for the meat to keep its rolled shape (if the mustard is leaking out, it will just flavor the gravy, it´s fine).
  • Repeat with the remaining ingredients.

Cook Rouladen:

  • Dice the onion, peel the carrot and cut into slices, chop celery into slices, mince the garlic.
  • Heat the oil in a large pot (preferably Dutch oven or thick-bottomed pot with a tight fitting lid) over high heat.
  • When hot, cook the Rouladen in batches until well-browned on all sides (shouldn´t be overcrowded or won´t brown properly). Transfer to a plate.
  • Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the carrots, onions, and celery. Cook for a couple minutes until softened. Add the garlic and tomato paste, cook for 30 seconds.
  • Add the wine and cook until reduced at least in half. Scrape all the brown bits at the bottom of the pot – they will give lots of flavor to the gravy.
  • Add beef broth, bring to a boil.
  • Add Rouladen back to the pot, cover the pot and cook over low heat (the sauce should only simmer) until the beef is very tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Turn the Rouladen halfway through the cooking time and pour them a couple of times with the sauce.
  • The cooking time will depend on the thickness and cut of the meat so you may need to check if your Rouladen are done a little bit sooner or need a longer cooking time (for up to 2 hours).
  • When the Rouladen are done, transfer them to a plate.
  • Strain the sauce. You can discard the vegetables or serve them with dinner.
  • In a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of corn starch and 3 tablespoons of cold water. Add to the sauce, bring to a boil, and cook for a couple minutes or until the sauce is thickened. Check if the sauce needs more salt and pepper (it shouldn´t, but it´s better to check). If it´s too salty, you can add more beef broth (preferably unsalted) or a small amount of water.
  • Remove toothpicks or kitchen twine from the Rouladen.
  • Put the Rouladen back in the pot and cook briefly in the gravy until heated through. Serve.
  • Enjoy!

Notes

  • Please try to make homemade beef broth for this recipe. Even the shortcut version of beef broth will taste better than anything you can buy at the store. If you want to use store-bought beef broth, please try it first to see how it tastes and then use it in this recipe. A recipe for a homemade beef broth can be found in the body of the post (scroll up).
  • Rouladen are perfect to make ahead and reheat beautifully. They taste even better the next day or even on the third day. You can make them ahead even before an important occasion and they will still be amazing. Store them in the fridge for up to 3-4 days together with gravy.
  • Calories = 1 serving (1/7 of the recipe). This is only an estimate! You can count about 1 beef roll per person (this is what we eat) but for heavy-eaters you may need two.
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