Classic Pennsylvania Dutch Dishes

In the heart of the Keystone State lies Lancaster County, a quiet area packed with farms, bed and breakfasts, and tradition. While best known for its thriving Amish communities, Lancaster is also America’s home for Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine. These dishes are best known for their comfort food feel and use of local, seasonal produce. Read below to discover traditional dishes that’ll stick to your ribs, warm you up, and certainly keep you full.

PA Dutch Side Dishes

The old Pennsylvania Dutch saying “7-sweets-7-sours” refers to the inclusion of both sweet and sour dishes in a meal to balance out the flavors. Here are several traditional PA dutch side dishes to help you maintain a balanced meal.


Scrapple consists of the scraps and trimmings of pork or other meat combined with cornmeal and shaped into a loaf. These loaves are then sliced and either served fried or frozen for storing. While some claim it’s an acquired taste, true Pennsylvania Dutch and pork enthusiasts consider it a staple at breakfast. Its savory taste can be paired with sweet condiments such as maple syrup, grape jelly, or applesauce. Or, keep it savory with the addition of ketchup or mustard.

Chicken Corn Soup

The heartier cousin of America’s classic chicken noodle soup, this staple side dish utilizes fresh produce in an irresistible way. Lancaster’s rolling corn fields yield a high volume of fresh, sweet corn picked at the peak of summer. In this dish, corn is combined with fine egg noodles and rivvels, or small dumplings, as well as diced hardboiled egg.

Red Beet Eggs

Red Beet Eggs

Red beet eggs, or pickled beet eggs, are a perfect lunch or picnic pairing. Using hardboiled eggs, this recipe combines beet juice, cider vinegar, sugar, and salt to create an unmistakable flavor. Plus, the deep red hue adds color to your plate for a visually appealing display.

Dandelion Greens with Warm Bacon Dressing

Dandelion greens are a great, often overlooked, seasonal dish enjoyed in the springtime. While the dandelion greens bring a slightly bitter taste, the warm bacon dressing combines sweet and sour notes with a salty bacon crunch to create a mouthwatering dish.

Apple Butter

Because of its rolling orchards and abundance of farmland, Lancaster County is home to traditional Pennsylvania Dutch apple butter. This creamy and flavorful spread is the perfect fall dish thanks to its use of seasonal spices including cinnamon and cloves alongside crisp apples, sugar, and apple cider. This thick, sweet spread is perfect for pairing with biscuits, sweet potatoes, cottage cheese, and sandwiches.

PA Dutch Entrees

These Pennsylvania Dutch Entrees continue to combine sour and sweet flavors to create balanced and flavorful meals.

Chicken Pot Pie

There’s chicken pot pie, and then there’s PA Dutch chicken pot pie. What’s the difference? Traditional Pennsylvania Dutch pot pie is not encased in a crust. Instead, this comfort food resembles a thick soup or stew. It’s packed with wide, flat noodles, chicken chunks, and hearty vegetables including onions, potatoes, and carrots.

Schnitz un Knepp

Schnitz means dried apples and knepp translates to dumpling. Put them together, and you have one traditional dish perfect for serving during fall or winter months. This dish consists of either ham or pork shoulder along with, unsurprisingly, dried apples and dumplings. Keeping with their sweet and sour matchups, this dish pairs tart apples with sweet brown sugar to create the perfect balance of flavors.



Spaetzle consists of an intriguing and delicious cross between small noodles and miniature dumplings. This egg-based pasta often includes a pinch of nutmeg and plenty of butter. After boiling and straining spaetzle, it’s traditionally fried in a skillet with butter before being served.


Gumbis is a filling casserole consisting of cabbage, meat, dried fruit (namely apples), and onions. While some mix all the ingredients together, others create careful layers similar to lasagna.

Ham Balls

The concept of this dish is very similar to a meatball. These meatballs are made with ground ham and sometimes ground pork. To get the perfect balance of sweet and sour, ham balls are typically topped with a sweet pineapple glaze.

PA Dutch Desserts

Assuming you and your guests saved room, there is no shortage of sweet desserts to end your traditional Pennsylvania Dutch meal.

Whoopie Pies

Two Chocolate Whoopie Pies

Whoopie pies come in a variety of flavor combinations, but this traditional dessert features two soft cookies or small cakes pressed together with a creamy filling in between. While traditional flavors include chocolate outer cakes with a white icing filling, modern variations include red velvet cakes, marshmallow creme filling, carrot cake with cream cheese filling, or chocolate cakes with peanut butter filling.

Shoofly Pie

While this dish was historically eaten at breakfast, today it’s consumed as a dessert. This PA Dutch pie is made with a molasses bottom and topped with a pastry crumble. While it’s referred to as a pie, this dish resembles more of a crumb cake than a pie with a traditional crust.

Apple Dumplings

Pair fresh, crisp apples with flaky dough to create an irresistible dessert. This fall time favorite features apples which are typically peeled, cored, and cut in half, mixed with a combination of brown sugar, cinnamon, and butter. This gooey, delicious mixture is then encased in dough and baked until golden brown. It can be served alone or drizzled with caramel sauce and paired with ice cream.

Church Spread

Traditionally served at Amish gatherings or after church services, church spread is a dessert condiment perfect for topping crackers, biscuits, cakes, and bread. This spread combines the sweet taste of brown sugar, corn syrup, and marshmallow creme with the salty, nutty flavors of peanut butter. Together, they create a spreadable concoction perfect for pairing with the rest of your meal.


Fat Tuesday, which refers to the day before Lent begins, is a holiday celebrated across the country with the consumption of doughnuts or, in Pennsylvania Dutch, fasnachts. Historically, fasnachts were made to use up any remaining fat found in the house in preparation for Lent. In fact, the German word fasnachts literally translates to “night before the fast.” Today, fasnachts can be covered in sugar, cinnamon sugar, or even icing. Or, stick to tradition by cutting these doughnuts in half and spreading molasses across the top.

Pennsylvania Dutch dishes are rooted in the deep traditions of family and farming. Many of these recipes stem from the heart of Lancaster County and are sure to invoke a feeling of comfort and warmth no matter where they’re consumed. From side dishes to desserts, these recipes represent centuries of tradition you and your guests are sure to appreciate.

Posted in: Kitchen & Cooking Tips|Recipes|By Rachel Jenkins
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