While Central Europe spans different nationalities and climates, some culinary traditions can be found all across the region. The cuisines have had exchange with the Nordic cuisine, French cuisine, Italian cuisine, Balkan cuisine and Russian cuisine.
The North European Plain has temperate climate, allowing for rich grain harvests and dairy farming; fruits and vegetables have traditionally been fewer than south of the Alps. The Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth dominated the region during the early modern era and was over time displaced by the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Austrians developed a haute cuisine inspired by France and Italy. While the potato was introduced in the 17th century for its flowers, it took some centuries to become the most important staple crop.
The Ashkenazi Jews used to be a significant minority in Central Europe. Most of them emigrated to North America and Israel in the 19th or 20th century, or perished in the Holocaust. Dishes such as bagels and gefilte fish originate from Central Europe.
The region was divided during the Cold War; while the west got influx of imported food as well as foreign cuisines, the eastern countries depended on domestic ingredients; of which many were rationed. The abundance of tropical fruits such as bananas in West Germany, compared to the scarcity in the East, was one of the most visible differences between the countries.
With the fall of the Iron Curtain and the expansion of the European Union, most of the world's foodstuffs are available across the region.
Emigrants have taken their food to other parts of the world, contributing to North American fast food with dishes such as the hamburger and the Wiener sausage.
Germany is the region's most populous country, with various landforms. German cuisine has local varieties such as Bavarian cuisine and Franconian cuisine. Germany might be among the most cosmopolitan countries of these, with high presence of foreign cuisines and fast food.
Liechtenstein has a cuisine similar to Switzerland and Austria.
Poland is famous for its kluski (unfilled boiled dumplings) and pierogi (fried filled dumplings).
The Czech Republic stands out for sweetened main courses. It is world-leading in beer consumption, and home of the Pilsner beer.
Slovakia has a cuisine typical to the region with halušky, a potato dumpling, as an iconic dish, and sheep milk products.
Hungary has the spiciest food in the region, with paprika as an omnipresent seasoning.
Slovenia is the crossroads of the three major European cultures, with flavours of the Balkans and Italy.
Most meals are based on meat, with pork being most common. There is a rising vegetarian/vegan community, especially in the western and more cosmopolitan cities. Lamb, mutton and game are common in mountain regions. Sausages are common across Central Europe. The schnitzel is a meat dish with varieties around the region.
Dairy products such as cheese are common, both from cow, sheep and goat milk.
Seafood is common in the coastal waters of Germany and Poland, with freshwater fish appearing inland.
Bread of different cereals is a staple in Central Europe, and served as part of most meals.
Pastries and cakes such as the Strudel are common.
Potatoes are the most common staple beside bread; they are boiled, fried, or used as potato flour.
Dumplings are based on flour or potatoes, filled or unfilled, boiled or fried.
Fruits and vegetables are traditionally fewer and more savoury than in southern Europe. They are usually pickled, and occasionally fermented, such as sauerkraut. Hungary makes great cucumber salad (uborkasaláta).
Central Europe is part of the European beer belt, with high consumption of beer of all kinds and qualities. Lager beer is the most common type.
Each country has a range of distilled beverages. Plain and seasoned vodka is popular in the Slavic countries. Pálinka, brandy often made from apricots, and slivovitz, a plum liquor or liqueur, are also popular.
While wine is made in Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Hungary is the region's best known wine country. Tokaji is a famous wine region in Hungary and Slovakia, known for sweet wines.