At theology school, I wanted to understand different Christian doctrines and the way of life led by different religious groups. I was particularly drawn to the Mennonites and not just what they believe in but what they eat. While researching Mennonite foods, I visited several Mennonite communities, spending weeks in different parts of the country and spending time with their families. I was pleasantly surprised by their hospitality and way of life, and I learned more about how they food; many misconceptions about the Mennonites were quickly quelled. Last week, my theology students wanted to learn more about Mennonite foods. Most thought the Mennonites only ate bland, unrefined foods and no pork. Based on my research and interaction with the Mennonites, I could answer their questions comprehensively. So, what is Mennonite food?
Some of the common Mennonite foods served in Mennonite homes include traditional food options like Swiss Mennonite apple fritters, Laotian Mennonite Spring rolls, Zwieback, and meat-filled buns. Mennonite foods are majorly made with vegetables, whole grains like barley and oats, dairy, fruits, and other non-meat foods. While some eat organic meat once or twice weekly and pork occasionally, Mennonites avoid meats since the church disallows meat.
In this post. I’ll share more insights into the meaning of Mennonite foods and what some of the traditional Mennonite foods are. So, let’s get right into it!
What do Mennonite-style foods mean?
The Mennonite style of food or Mennonite cuisine is considered the food unique to the Mennonites and associated with this Christian denomination. Their food is inspired by their origin, with the Mennonites being one of the protestant groups that came out of Switzerland and the Netherlands in the 16th century during the Protestant Reformation. Mennonite foods are primarily influenced by Russian, Prussian, and North American dishes. Also, most of their foods closely resemble the Pennsylvania Dutch and the Swiss Mennonites, with Amish glazed donuts, German beer sausages, apple fritters, and shoofly pies being some of the common foods they serve.
It’s worth noting that despite these influences, Mennonites eat many plant foods, mainly because they are primarily farmers. Their foods contain many potatoes, peanuts, beans, tomatoes, cabbage, carrots, sweet pepper, maize, and coriander. They also eat many fruits that they cultivate on their farms.
What foods do Mennonites not eat?
While Mennonites are technically forbidden from eating meat, these individuals still indulge in organic meat products occasionally. They also eat pork and drink coffee, contrary to popular belief. It’s worth noting that while the Mennonites don’t take coffee from Starbucks or electric coffee makers, they often opt to drink coffee made with French Press or even use a pour-over coffee brewing method.
Notably, the conservative Mennonites don’t drink alcohol, but most of the younger generation of Mennonites drink alcohol today.
Which are the typical ingredients in the traditional Mennonite foods?
The most common ingredients used by Mennonites in their foods include organic foods and ingredients like cheese, butter, creams, vegetables, potatoes, oats, barley, maize, tomatoes, peanuts, breads, and fruits. They also use cabbages and sausages.
While most of the conservative Mennonites don’t eat meat, modern Mennonites eat meat often, and use meat products for different ingredients and meals.
What are the best places to enjoy authentic Mennonite traditional foods?
If you want to have the best, most authentic experience Mennonite food experience, we recommend visiting a Mennonite home or community for that real and perfect experience. There are many Mennonites communities around the world, like in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Canada, Africa, and Asia, and visiting any of these communities will give you the perfect and the most authentic experience.
You may also get a chance to live with them and eat at their homes, and this will give you a raw and unmatched experience that will not just blow your mind but also your taste buds.
What are some examples of Mennonites traditional foods: 9 Mennonites Traditional foods to try out today
Grieva (Mennonite Cracklings)
For a filling breakfast meal in Mennonite country, you may like their grieva. It is not the simplest meal, but it’s filling and delightful, and you’ll keep asking for more. The cracklings represent the pork pieces left over after making lard. The cracklings make up the filling, and it’s served in a hollow bun, creating a beautiful mesh of flavors that will keep you asking for more.
Note, however, that this meal takes a lot of time in its preparation, but the result is an incredible mash of bun and pork once the fat is drained out. You can also use some of the oil set aside to butter up the bun.
Vareniki or Mennonite Glums Wareniki
This is a meal made of Cottage Cheese Perogies, and the Mennonites have specialized in making the perfect perogies as potato fillings. This traditional Mennonite food is made with sauerkraut, potatoes, hamburgers, and sourdough made with sour cream, which are also the stars of the meal. And as the name suggests, these cottage cheese perogies are made with a lot of cottage cheese and grated cheddar cheese.
The cottage cheese perogies are served with sauteed red cabbage, fried crumbled bacon, heated whipping cream, sour cream, sauteed onions, fried ham slices, or farmer sausages.
Schmaundt Fat (Cream Gravy)
Cream gravy is the other traditional Mennonite food you may want to try, especially if you are looking for something savory, creamy, and fun. This creamy gravy is made of rendered fats from meats like bacon or sausages. The gravy could also be made from the meat drippings from frying or roasting meats. These fat drippings are combined with flour, making the thick yummy gravy. Note, however, that if you visit someone’s home and they make you this gravy, they must like a little extra because it takes a bit of time to make the perfect cream gravy.
The cooking process starts with cooking the farmer’s sausages with onions, followed by adding butter and cooking the mixture under medium heat until all the butter melts. Once melted, flour is added, and the mix is whisked continuously until you have a thick, consistent gravy. Salt and pepper are added for taste. The cream gravy is often enjoyed with potatoes, macaroni, or some homemade egg noodles or kielke, and sausage on the side.
If you are looking for the perfect Mennonite snack, you may want to try out the Galette buns. First, it’s pronounced as Ga-Le-Ta, and second, it’s one of the readily available snacks in most homes.
Gallet buns represent small, hard, and dry buns commonly baked for families before travel. Given the small size and the dryness of the buns, they are easy to transport and last considerably long, which is why they are perfect for trips lasting a couple of days.
Gallet buns are enjoyed over coffee or tea, and you can elevate the flavors of these buns by adding jam in the middle after breaking them. You could also eat the jam with hazelnuts, chokecherries, and saskatoons. Unlike other baked snacks, Gellete buns are relatively easy to bake since you only need the simple, readily available ingredients in your kitchen.
Kielke (Homemade Egg Noodles)
Egg noodles are also quite common with Mennonites, and several Mennonite homes make this meal. Kielke is the ideal meal for cold days, and it warms you up nicely from the inside without making you feel too full. To make the egg noodles, the Mennonites will use flour, salt, milk, and eggs, which are incorporated together to make pasta or noodles. The noodles are then dipped in a pot with boiling water, consistently stirred to avoid clumping, then strained. The noodles are then rinsed with cold water, which stops the cooking process. It’s often served with cream gravy, and it’s both filling and tasty.
Zwieback is the other popular traditional Mennonite food you will surely enjoy when you visit the Mennonite country. Zwieback refers to a two-layered white bun that’s traditionally roasted and then dried so it can be stored for months.
Notably, Zwieback was one of the staple foods eaten by the Mennonites during the migrations from Switzerland and the Netherlands to North America and other parts of the world. Jam and butter help elevate the taste of the buns, but when they didn’t have much on them, it was taken with water and tea.
Today, there are several variations of the Zwieback, with the Mennonites now specializing in making more baked buns served in the form of warm, soft rolls.
Mennonite Chicken Noodle Soup
The other nice and warm meal in a Mennonite home is the Mennonite chicken noodle soup. It’s a simple meal that is served hot.
The Mennonite chicken noodle soup is made with a whole chicken which is boiled in a large pot along with onion, salt, five spice, bay leaves, peppercorns, parsley, and salt to add taste. The pot is filled with water, and the chicken is cooked on high. The chicken is boiled on its own first, but before it is allowed to cook thoroughly, the top layer of scum that forms within minutes of boiling is scooped off, then the chicken is allowed to cook for at least 30 minutes. After which, the spices are added before the chicken cooks for at least 2 hours, depending on how tasty you want your chicken to be.
The chicken is then deboned, and the fat plus onions skimmed off the broth. The parsley is added last and cooked for 20 minutes. You can prepare the egg noodles as the chicken cooks, set them aside, add them to the chicken broth with chicken pieces, and enjoy. You could add some salt to taste. The best part about this meal is that you can enjoy it on its own, and it’s filling and yummy.
Plumi Moos (Cold Fruit Soup)
One of the most popular Mennonite desserts is the Plumi Moos, a cold fruit soup. Though it’s practically a dessert, it’s also a perfect drink for brunch or lunch.
This cold fruit soup is made with mixed dried fruits like prunes and dried apricots, raisins, cornstarch, and sugar. To soften them, these ingredients are cooked with water in a pot until soft, then the cornstarch and water are added to the fruit mixture, allowed to boil for an additional 5 minutes, then allowed to cool. This is then enjoyed as a fruit soup when cold.
Bubbat Balls (Old Fashioned Chicken and Dumplings)
This is the other staple Mennonite meal common in Mennonite homes as a main for dinner or lunch.
To make the Bubbat balls, you first need to make dumplings. You’ll need flour, baking powder, milk, salt, and eggs to start. For the stew, you need a whole chicken or chicken legs and salt, then mix them up and allow the meat to boil. As the meat boils, you add peppercorns and onions to the meat for flavor. The chicken cooks for at least 2 hours, during which you prepare the dumplings. Once done, debone your chicken as the broth cooks, then add the dumplings. The dumplings cook for about 20 minutes, then add the deboned chicken. Now serve and enjoy your stew.
Do the Mennonites eat store-bought and processed food?
Yes. However, Mennonites eat more homemade and homegrown foods, which are often organic. They buy different organic consumer foods and goods from retail stores, but Mennonites prefer organic foods.
Note that because of the diversity of the Mennonite groups and preferences, some are entirely against eating store-bought foods, while others don’t mind indulging in store-bought foods from time to time.
As a devout Christian, I have always been passionate about the Christian faith. This inspired me to pursue a degree in Religious studies and a Masters in Theology in college. I have also been privileged to teach 4 Christian courses in a college and university. Since I am dedicated to spreading the word of God, I am actively involved in the Church. Additionally, I share his word online and cover diverse topics on the Christian faith through my platform. You can read more about me on the about us page.