Rote Grütze – a German compote of woodland berries

When I was pregnant with our first child I travelled often to Hamburg and developed a manic craving for the famous Hamburg Rote Grütze, a sort of melded mix of red berries. Back in Hamburg again last week I went out for supper to a German restaurant opposite the station. After a hearty plate of fresh fish and beer, served appropriately by a character who looked none other than Captain Birdseye, we moved onto the pudding and my enthusiasm for Rote Grütze was immediately rekindled.

Translated, the name means red groats (groats being oatmeal… as in John o’ Groats) but over time the starch element has morphed from groats to cornflour. In Denmark it’s known as rødgrød. The Russian and Polish version is called kissel.

My version of Rote Grütze doesn’t have quite so much glop as the traditional German version.

It goes brilliantly with breakfast cereal and, as an elegant pudding topping a panna cotta.

It’s also good on vanilla ice cream, or just simply with ordinary whipped cream (perhaps with a little vanilla and sugar).

Both panna cotta and Rote Grütze need about four hours chilling time. Rote Grütze will keep in the fridge for a week.

Sometimes I substitute rhubarb for the cherries, with great success. If you do this you may need to adjust the amount of sugar.


How to make a traditional Rote Grütze

For a traditional Rote Grütze boil 850 ml/3½ cups/1½ pints of water. Add 450g/1 lb morello cherries, and the same quantity of red currents and raspberries and 100g/½ cup/4 oz golden caster sugar. When it’s soft enough rub it through a sieve if you want (I tend not to bother). Mix in a tablespoon of cornflour dissolved in a little water, keep heating, and stir for a couple of minutes. Leave to chill.

Saucy Dressings’ less-glop recipe for Rote Grütze


  • 1 litre/4 cups cranberry juice (or you can use some of the syrup from the tinned cherries and make up the rest with the cranberry juice
  • 240ml/1 cup dry red wine
  • 150g sugar
  • 4 tbsps cornflour (aka cornstarch) (nb – maybe it should be 6 plus more water…the more the gloppier)
  • 2 tbsps cold water
  • 1 tin (approx. 250g drained) stoned black cherries, drained (you can use the juice as described above
  • 60g dried sour cherries
  • 250g/8 oz raspberries (can be frozen), black and redcurrants, or blackberries


  1. Bring the cranberry juice up to the boil
  2. Mix the cornflour with two tablespoons of cold water and mix to a smooth paste, then add the red wine and go on mixing, keeping it smooth
  3. Stir in the cornflour and the berries and the cherries into the cranberry juice
  4. Leave to cool minimum four hours – even better overnight


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