So you’re attending Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany and you’re vegan. You don’t know a schnitzel from a sausage, but you’re pretty sure that this festival famous for its beer and meat isn’t going to be hospitable to your dietary preferences. If you’re like me last year, you’re searching the internet trying to figure out how many meal bars and nuts you need to stuff into your purse or pockets so you don’t go hangry. Thankfully, since 2013, the festival has gotten more vegetarian and vegan friendly. With a little bit of planning ahead of time, you can order ein Maß (one “mass”, or liter, of beer) with a tasty vegan entree.
First, pick your tent
Not all tents are equal at Oktoberfest if you’re vegan. There are fourteen big tents and twenty small tents. Each tent has its own theme or style and is associated with a specific brewery. Only a handful of the tents have options for vegan food. The following tents are the ones I identified during my research last year and things might have changed. If you’re attending I’d encourage you to visit the tent’s website to be sure they’re still offering vegan fare this year. Most tents will post their updated menus in late August or early September.
The Big Tents
The Schottenhamel is one of the main tents at Oktoberfest, where at 12pm on opening day the mayor of Munich taps the first keg signifying the start of the festival and the time when beer can finally be served. The only vegan option on the menu is a red pepper dish with lentil and pumpkin filling.
This is a fancy tent with a horse theme. Marstall is old German for the royal riding school. You can find the menu from 2017 on the downloads page of their website. The two vegan dishes offered in 2017 were a salad and a grilled quinoa loaf.
This small tent had a number of vegan options on it’s menu in 2017 including sellerieschnitzel (celery schnitzel!), gemüse-goulasch mit spätzle (vegetable goulash with spatzle), schokomousse (chocolate mousse), and more. I wish I had the chance to check this one out, maybe next time!
Ammer’s Roasted Duck and Chicken
I know, I know. Why would you go here if you’re vegan. Well, you may be with friends and you need to keep your options open so you’re not the vegan pain in the ass. I wasn’t able to find a menu for this tent, but did find this article from 2013 where they touted vegan additions to their menu including a vegan red wine.
Same deal with this one. They advertise vegan and vegetarian option on their website, but couldn’t find a hard copy of the menu to verify what they offer.
Next, get a table
You can’t order food at Oktoberfest unless you’re sitting at a table inside of tent. I repeat, you cannot order food or beer unless your butt is in a seat at table. Depending on what day and week you’re attending determines how difficult or easy securing a table will be. I was attending Oktoberfest on opening weekend in 2017, which is arguably one of the toughest weekends to snag a table.
You can try to reserve a table, but from what I understand it’s near impossible for tourists and other out of towners to do so. The official Oktoberfest website has a handy FAQ on getting a table which recommends getting there early in the morning. Even though the big tents can seat 10,000, once the tents reach capacity there’s no getting in.
So just how early is early in the morning on the opening weekend? Well, the gates open at 10 AM, but a line starts forming around 6 AM. My travel companions and I donned our dirndls and lederhosen to stand in line in the rain for four hours until the gates opened. By the time we got there a little after 6, a long line had already formed but it was nothing compared to the line that grew behind us and wrapped around the block. In retrospect, we probably didn’t need to be there that early but we had never been before and didn’t want to risk not getting a table. I would like to say that people are generally respectful of the line, but we experienced some serious line jumping shenanigans during our wait.
Once it gets closer to opening time there’s quite a bit of jostling to get closer to the gate and once the gate opens there’s a mad rush to the tents. My husband and friends sprinted ahead to secure a table at the Winzerer Fähndl tent, while I huffed and puffed to keep up. (Dirndls are made more for looks than breathing.) Inside the tents there’s an area of reserved tables and an area of free tables. Be sure to grab a free table and not one with a reservation time or you’ll be kicked out once the reservation holders show up.
Then, order some beer and some grub
Now that you’ve got your seat, find a menu. They’re scattered on the long tables for sharing. Don’t count on finding an English menu. Google translate is your friend and downloading the language ahead of time saves you on data.
It’s unlikely that the servers are going to know the ins and outs of the menu ingredients and may be unable to answer any questions you have, especially if it’s busy. Most of the menus at Oktoberfest are well marked with allergen info, so even if something isn’t explicitly labeled vegan or vegetarian you can make a good guess using the allergen markings and Google Translate.
Ordering Food and Drink
Beer is served starting at 9am everyday of the festival except opening day when it’s served after the first keg is tapped at noon. Food service times will depend on the tent.
When you’re ordering drinks, they only come in one size and that is a Maß. Ordering ein Maß (pronounced ‘mas’) will get you one liter of beer. If you’re a lightweight like me, you might want to opt for a radler, which is half beer, half lemonade. If beer’s not your thing you can find a tent that serves wine or champagne, like Marstall. And the tents have non-alcohol options like apple juice, lemonade, and soda as well.
When you’re ordering food, pointing goes a long way to make sure you’re ordering what you intend to. I’d recommend trying to snag a seat at the end of a table so you can be closer to the server when they come round. Trying to shout your order down a long table in a loud beer hall may not produce great results.
You pay when your food and drink arrives so make sure you have your cash ready to go. Yes, it’s all cash only, there are no cards accepted at the tents. And tip your servers! They have a hard demanding job, especially on the busy weekends. Tipping well also ensures that they’ll come back regularly to take the order for your next round.
Outside of the tents
The Oktoberfest grounds are over 100 acres and there are many booths and stalls outside of the tents to purchase food and snacks. Whether or not there are vegan options will really depends on the stall or booth. I didn’t have much luck looking up the info ahead of time.
Pretzels are pretty much everywhere, but they’re unfortunately washed with egg making them vegetarian, not vegan. You also might be able to find the occasional meal outside the tents. I happened upon one that was advertising a vegan sandwich.
Or cheers! If you’re attending Oktoberfest this year I hope you enjoy it and feel less stressed finding vegan food. I had a great time with my husband and friends and didn’t go hungry.