Käsespätzle (Cheesy Spaetzle With Caramelized Onions & Crispy Shallots)

February 26, 2020
7 Ratings
Photo by Rocky Luten. Food stylist: Samantha Seneviratne. Prop stylist: Veronica Olson
  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Serves 4 to 6
Author Notes

During my year studying abroad in Salzburg, Austria, I ate plenty of amazing, uniquely Austrian things: seeded breads and marzipan-filled pastries, hoppy beer, tart potato salad, käsekrainer (cheese-filled wursts) from street vendors, and more schnitzel than I’d care to admit. But the dish that I found there—and now, crave more than any other—isn’t really that different than one of my American favorites. Maybe its familiarity is why it’s so beloved to me.

The dish is käsespätzle, an Austrian relative to mac and cheese. I first had this dish at the Salzburg Christkindlmarkt, one of the annual holiday markets that take over Europe from November to January. With a tiny disposable wooden fork in hand, I dove into the cheese pullable dish: Pillowy, noodle-like spätzle mixed with Gruyère and caramelized onions, then topped with crispy shallots. It’s pure magic.

Since returning from my Salzburg, I have searched high and low for this dish at restaurants near me, but have had little luck. So I decided to figure out how to master it on my own, perfecting it over the course of two years. After attempts with too much cheese (I never thought I’d say those words), not enough flour, or pans full of burnt onions, I finally mastered the dish that I missed so much, and I’m excited for you to try it, too.

When preparing this dish, there are a couple of things to keep in mind: First, you don’t need a fancy spätzle maker—a colander with big holes or a flat vegetable grater both work wonderfully. Second, the batter is pretty forgiving: If it’s too thick to go through the holes, add an extra tablespoon of milk. And if it’s a bit too thin, add a tablespoon of flour and gently stir it into the batter before trying again. A rubber spatula or plastic bench scraper works well to help nudge the batter into the boiling water.

Käsespätzle can be served as a main dish or a side, perhaps alongside schnitzel or a roast. No matter which route you take, if you want the true Austrian experience, serve it with a vinegary side salad full of paper-thin cucumbers and big leaves of butter lettuce—the perfect way to cut the richness. Whether you cook it for a weeknight dinner or an Oktoberfest celebration with friends, this dish will transport you to the Alps (Steigl beer in hand) any day. —Delaney Vetter

What You'll Need
  • Spätzle
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • Mix-ins & Toppings
  • 3 tablespoons salted butter, divided
  • 1 medium yellow onion, cut in half and sliced very thin
  • 1/2 cup shallots, sliced very thin (about 2 shallots)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup Gruyère cheese, shredded
  • 3/4 cup Emmental cheese, shredded
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped chives
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Make the caramelized onions: In a small sauce pot, melt 2 tablespoons of butter on medium heat. When butter is melted, reduce heat to low and add the onions. Cook for 60 minutes or until deep golden and caramelized, stirring every 5 minutes.
  3. Make the crispy shallots: Heat vegetable oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots, stir constantly until deep golden. Quickly remove and place onto paper towels, sprinkle with salt immediately.
  4. Make the spätzle: While preparing the batter, fill a 4 quart pot with salted water and bring to a boil. In a medium mixing bowl whisk together eggs and milk until combined. Add salt and flour and whisk until smooth (it should resemble thick pancake batter—if it's too thick, add a tablespoon of milk at a time until it gets to the right consistency; if too runny, add flour a tablespoon at a time until it's thick enough). Once water is boiling, pour a quarter of the batter through a spätzle maker into the water (if you don’t have one, vegetable graters and colanders with large holes work just as well). Once the spätzle float to the top, let them cook for 4 additional minutes, until tender. Strain and remove with a slotted spoon, set aside on a big plate, and repeat with the rest of the batter.
  5. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter in a cast-iron (or other heavy-bottomed, oven-safe) skillet over medium-low heat. Add the spätzle and sauté until they begin to take on some color. Remove from heat and stir in ½ cup of Emmental and ½ cup of Gruyère, plus the black pepper and caramelized onions. Sprinkle over the remaining 1/4 cup of each cheese, place the skillet into the oven, and bake for 15 minutes until bubbly and golden. To serve, top with crispy shallots and chives.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Delaney Vetter
    Delaney Vetter
  • nancy essig
    nancy essig
  • Alberto Tirrito
    Alberto Tirrito
  • Sinnott_K

14 Reviews

Sinnott_K September 20, 2022
This was absolutely incredible. Devoured quickly in this home.
ah97 December 28, 2021
Looks like a decent recipe, but on google this shows up as a video, when there's clearly some completely unrelated video linked. Fix your SEO.
Lori July 5, 2020
I have some store-bought spaetzle. How much would I use for this recipe?
Delaney V. July 5, 2020
Hi Lori!
I didn't test the recipe with store bought spaetzle (I've never used that kind but I'll have to try it out!) What I would do is boil however much will cover your cast-iron pan you'll be using halfway, my guess would be around 2 cups but being unfamiliar with the size of the store bought variety that's just a guess :) I hope you love it!
Traveler July 5, 2020
Could I use orzo instead of spaerzel?
Delaney V. July 5, 2020
Hi! I never tested the recipe with orzo but I don't see why not! The one thing I would be careful with is the done-ness of the orzo, if I were you I would boil them with a tablespoon of olive oil to prevent sticking until they are not quite cooked through, drain and cool and make sure the orzo is very dry before adding to the pan with the cheese. This should prevent too much sticking and not super overcooked smushy pasta :) Would love to know how this works out!
Traveler July 5, 2020
Thank you so much! I tried spaetzel several times in Germany and didn’t really care for it, but the rest of the recipe sounded wonderful. I’ll give it a try.
louise.haagen June 7, 2020
Some tips:
1. The origin of the Spätzle lies in Swabia (a region in the South of Germany) and not in Austria. Swabians can get really angry seeing misinformation like this. There are even jokes about them getting physical when someone claims Spätzle did not originate from Swabia.
2. It is much easier using the oven to prepare Kässpätzle. You layer your batches of cooked Spätzle with the grated cheese in a bowl and put it in the oven to keep it warm.
3. Kässpätzle are traditionally a maindish. I would consider the combo Schnitzl and Kässpätzle very strange. But you could serve plain Spätzle as a side dish. (E.g. pork roast)
Delaney V. July 5, 2020
Hi Louise!

Thank you for your comment I appreciate your feedback! I'm sorry if referring to Austria was offensive in anyway (my grandmother is German and grew up there so I understand how important accuracy of these things is), I did not intend to claim Austria as the origin place-it is a dish I first experienced in Austria and that many Austrians consider an Austrian dish when asked (in my experience) and I really hope no one would be physical over a dish yikes! It is cooked in the oven in this recipe as well and I agree very easy to prepare that way. I've had it as a main dish as well but many restaurants served it as a side since it is so rich. I'm sorry if my description of the recipe was interpreted differently than it was intended but I hope you'll give it a try, it reminds me of a place I miss a lot which is why I developed this recipe :)
nancy E. July 17, 2020
There are parts of Schwabian that do extend into Austria, depending on which part you come from, this could be refered to as an austrian dish,
My Mother is Schwabish and an excellent cook. So many delicious foods from Schwabia
HeatherandTim May 4, 2020
The batter did NOT work going through a colander, even after trying to thin it out. The end result (after 2 batches to get enough to eat after it was just stuck in the colandander) was so bad I couldn't eat it, which is unheard of in our house, especially with something smothered in cheese.
Delaney V. May 5, 2020
Hi Heather! I'm so sorry it didn't work out for you!! It took a lot of tests to get it just right so I'm so bummed you didn't get to experience it in all of it's cheesy goodness! If you are up to try again I would suggest trying with a box grater or a colander with really large holes it helps a lot. Again so sorry it didn't work out as intended, that is always so frustrating. I hope you'll be able to try it again :)
Alberto T. July 5, 2020
you could try pushing the batter through the collander with a rubber spatula, a ladle or a plastic bowl scraper. That's how we typically do it in a smaller restaurant when we don't have a "Spaetzle" maker (looks like a cheese grater with a sliding basket above it that you drag back and forth, pushing the batter through the holes into the water.)
Delaney V. July 5, 2020
Hi Alberto!
That's why I do as well :) Works like a charm!