Hamburger Labskaus – a delicacy with a bad reputation.
This Hamburg specialty is underestimated. One of the reasons for this is that it lacks the right attention and often the right ingredients are not used. We want to change that!

A weighty topic – that is immediately clear to us.
Therefore, we best hand over the case right away:

Thorsten’s mother Ursula turned eighty in 2020.
She lives in Hamburg with her dog Lu, loves good food and socializing with her Nienstedten gang.
She is also often one of the first test eaters for our new recipes.

Here’s her recipe for our Cook for 2! and Friends column.


Preparation time

1½ hours


Time needed

45 minutes


for 2 persons

Kitchen know-it-all

Labskaus - Kuddelmuddel, sailor's yarn and scurvy
Already the origin and meaning of the name “Labskaus” is unclear …

My favorite variant, from an English dialect: Lob’s Course | Food for Boors
Other sources believe the name comes from a Norwegian term for: Easy to chew
From Lithuanian comes: Labas kaušas | Good bowl
And finally, in Low German we find Lappen – belly flap piece of beef – and Kaus | Bowl.


There is also confusion about the ingredients. There seems to be agreement essentially only on the basics …

  • Cured beef
  • Beetroot
  • Gherkins
  • Potatoes – are used at least the majority, but just not everywhere …

… as well as how to deal with it:
Off into the meat grinder!

Because the consistency is beyond reproach. Uh, well almost …
Labskaus is a porridge.

The addition of potatoes is – especially in the German area – of course a must.

And then it already becomes colorful:
Fish in? Or to this?
Which fish?
Onions in? Or to this?
Cured beef – not basic after all – but corned beef?
Maybe ground beef?
Or pig? Lamb? Reindeer …?
But not porridge – but soup? Or a stew?
A spread?

As you can see, it’s complicated.
The Danish Gammel Danske Kaus – also a terrific name, I think – likes to substitute pork for beef, for example.
But the Danes don’t put it through a meat grinder, instead they dice the meat and serve it on slices of mixed bread. Seems to me more along the lines of Smørrebrød (A top notch idea for a variant).

Norwegian lapskaus, on the other hand, also contains turnips and root vegetables – the tendency there is more toward a kind of potato soup.
It is also to use whale meat 😳 or optionally reindeer meat instead of beef as an ingredient.

In Britain’s Scouse – a Liverpool variant – Labskaus is understood to be more of a stew, sort of like Irish Stew.
Here, in addition to potatoes, they use pearl barley and root vegetables, in which beef or lamb on the bone are slowly cooked.

One thing seems certain:
Labskaus is a seafaring dish.
They used ingredients that were easy to store on a ship and easy to prepare.
The obligatory fried egg was available – the sailors always had chickens with them on board.
However, I do not believe in fish as a side dish // herring, pickled, salted, filleted, rolled / maties / stockfish / … //. At least, I don’t think it was particularly sought after by sailors at the time because of its ubiquity.

Sailor’s Yarn

Here in Hamburg, I’ve been told time and again that Labskaus is a kind of “weekly overview”.
That is, the ship’s cook simply dumped the week’s leftovers into a big pot and boiled it all down to a thick porridge. This does not create a good image … and is not true.

I do not want to claim that a ship’s cook, possibly at the behest of his skipper, did not proceed in the same way in order to satisfy the bear’s hunger of the sailors at low cost. But that had nothing to do with Labskaus.


There was a great shortage of vitamin C on the high seas.
This deficiency inevitably led to scurvy. And very quickly. This lasts only 2-4 months.
Scurvy leads to tooth loss in addition to exhaustion and depression.

Pickled cucumbers and beet contain vitamin C.
They were also easy to store in barrels on ships on long voyages and, like cured beef, kept for a long time.
In this way, the labskaus became, so to speak, a medicine.

And – let’s come back to consistency for a moment:
Whether porridge or soup, both forms can be easily consumed by toothless sea bears …

Hamburger Labskaus

We are thankfully not plagued by such worries and cook labskaus because we like it so much.
Our variant is, of course, the Hamburg Labskaus.
With Bismarck herring. About which there would also be so much to tell … but this kitchen know-it-all is already quite long, and thus that is another story, which should be told another time …

Kitchen sounds

If you want to get into the right groove while cooking – here’s the soundtrack to match.
Pack, people !!! Another great Hamburg specialty …

Ingredients Hamburger Labskaus

  • 300 g cured beef brisket (be sure to order from the butcher)
  • 500 g potatoes (floury)
  • 2 gherkins from the jar
  • 1 large onion
  • Beetroot from the jar
  • Salt, pepper, nutmeg
  • Butter

Hamburger Labskaus: Ingredients | Cook for 2!

For the garnish

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Bismarck herrings
  • Cornichons from the jar
  • Beetroot from the jar

Special kitchen utensil

  • Mincer (alternatively blender)

Matches …

… a fresh Pilsner.
And: afterwards an ice-cold Helbing.


If you can’t get Bismarck herrings – rolled herring will also do (but please not the ones from the jar, the ones from the fish counter are clearly the better choice).

I still prefer the Bismarck herring, its taste is incomparably finer …

Who does not get along now so at all with pickled herring, Matjes goes also. And whoever doesn’t like it now, can’t be helped. Omit fish … Courage ja nich . .. 🙂

My son Thorsten and his girlfriend Marion I invited me to write a recipe for your cooking blog. Actually, I didn’t have to think long about what it should be. ” Cooking a lá Mama, home cooking, Hamburg cuisine … that’s what we want,” they said.

“Aha ” – I thought to myself.
The two of them knew exactly what they wanted from me right from the start:

Hamburger Labskaus – cooked by mom

The right ingredients are important for a good Hamburger Labskaus. So first I consulted with my favorite butcher in Nienstedten.

“Mr. Hübenbecker, what piece of beef?”
And, “Should I pickle it myself?”
He knew advice and I ordered a good pound (I actually always make too much) of brined beef brisket.

A few days later I was able to pick up the package. Just by tasting a small piece of the brisket he had cured, it was clear that his tip was worth its weight in gold.
IMPORTANT: He gave me not only the brisket, but also the brine that I used to cook it with


Hamburger Labskaus with freshly cured beef brisket is not without its challenges. However, you can prepare it very well. It won’t hurt if they cook the brisket the day before. Through the meat grinder, they should turn the meat, however, only directly before preparation.

Remove the brined beef brisket from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature.

Place in a large pot, cover well with water and brine, and cook until tender, 1½ hours.

Pour off the broth.
Important, collect liquid, it will be needed later.

Allow beef brisket to cool thoroughly.

Cut into small strips.

Pass through a meat grinder, not too fine.

Peel potatoes and cook in salted water until soft.

Allow the potatoes to steam off. Then stomp.
Important: not as fine as for a puree!

Chop cured beef brisket | cook for 2! Put cured beef brisket through a meat grinder | Cook for 2! Hamburger Labskaus with mashed potatoes | Cook for 2!

Finely dice the gherkins.

Finely dice ⅔ of the beet (be sure to keep the juice) – keep the other third for the garnish.

Finely dice the onions and sauté in a little fat until translucent.

Mix mashed potatoes with the chopped meat, a tablespoon of butter, the pickled gherkins, the onions and – for color – ⅔ of the Beetroot together with its juice in a large pot.

If the mixture is too firm, add a little cucumber water and meat broth until a “mushy” consistency is reached.

Mix Hamburger Labskaus with Beef Brisket Mince and Mashed Potatoes | Cook for 2! Hamburger Labskaus with glazed onions | Cook for 2! Hamburger Labskaus with pickles | Cook for 2!
Hamburger Labskaus with beet | Cook for 2! Labskaus: make juicier with meat broth and cucumber water | Cook for 2! Labskaus with fried egg | Cook for 2!

Season with salt and pepper and some freshly grated nutmeg.

Simmer everything for about 10 minutes.
Important: Stir constantly to avoid burning.

Meanwhile, fry the fried eggs in a pan.

Hamburger Labskaus – Bringing things together

Arrange the lobscouse on preheated plates, garnish with fried egg, Bismarck herring (or just rollmops …), cornichons and with the remaining ⅓ of the beet, serve hot.

Arrange Hamburger Labskaus | Cook for 2! Bismarck herring to Hamburger Labskaus | Cook for 2! Hamburger Labskaus | Recipe | Cook for 2!

I like a cool blond beer with it and a short beer afterwards – a Helbing, for example.

Bon appétit,

Hamburger Labskaus Last Update: 2021-09-23T10:35:11+02:00 da Koch für 2! & Friends – Gast
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