Ten Bärlauch Recipe Ideas

April 7, 2009
by Jack McNulty

Bärlauch is everywhere in spring. The forest floor becomes an aromatic green carpet, filling the air with a familiar garlic-like scent…and just about every food you can image is enhanced with this lovely herb. Here are ten of our favorite ways to add a boost to some spring recipes.

One of spring’s defining moments in Switzerland is the emergence of bärlauch. Take a casual walk through most forested areas, and you will almost immediately encounter a beautiful green carpet…and a nose full of the unmistakable scent of garlic. You may even notice a few people wandering through this bed of greens pulling up fistfuls of the stuff…and wondering what exactly they may be doing with it.

Well…these foragers know how valuable a bit of bärlauch can be in the kitchen – and, it’s free for the taking.

Bärlauch also appears frequently in just about everything in restaurants, grocery stores and butchers. So, if you’re really not up for the experience of gathering, then simply hunt around and you won’t be far away from something with bärlauch in it.

The experience of bärlauch is at its best, however, when you do a bit of your own foraging…but, be aware – there are a few dangers you should familiarize yourself with before heading out into the wild. Bärlauch is often confused with two similar-looking plants, which are not so nice to your system if you mistakenly consume them. You can have a look at the pictures in the Tages-Anzeiger article from 2008 to get an idea of the similarities, or read a bit more about bärlauch dangers in our website.


Still interested…perhaps even wondering what to do with bärlauch?

Excellent…here are ten ways we like to use bärlauch during the spring to add a boost to our favorite recipes…and just in case bärlauch is not your taste – well, go ahead and substitute almost any leafy green herb or vegetable in any of the recipes…


bärlauch butter

One of my favorite ways to preserve the fresh flavors of a leafy green aromatic herb is to make a simple compound butter and freeze it. It’s an instant sauce just waiting to be used. This recipe will make about 175 grams.

10-12 fresh bärlauch leaves, washed well
150 grams butter, cut into cubes
1,5 tsp. sea salt

Put the butter into a food processor and process until light. Remove the butter to a working bowl and refrigerate for about 20 minutes. Dry the bärlauch leaves well, then slice them very fine. Fold into the butter along with the salt. Roll the mixture into a log form and wrap tightly with plastic. Refrigerate for up to one week, or freeze the butter – it will keep for about six months (if freezing, consider portioning the butter into smaller sizes and use only as needed).


bärlauch mayonnaise

Ahh…the flavors of spring – bärlauch and asparagus! Serve this mayonnaise with poached white asparagus, and only make enough for immediate consumption. Do not keep freshly-made mayonnaise longer than one day under refrigeration. This recipe makes about 2,5 dl.

2 egg yolks
2 tsp. white wine vinegar
1 Tbl. dry mustard
2 dl. peanut oil
1 dl. olive oil
4-5 Tbl. chopped fresh bärlauch
lemon juice
salt and pepper

Combine the egg yolks, dry mustard and vinegar in a bowl. Mix until well combined. Begin adding the peanut oil very slowly while whisking. When the mixture begins to thicken, add the remaining oil in a steady stream while constantly whisking the mixture. Add the olive oil last, taking care not to over work the mayonnaise. Adjust the flavors and consistency with lemon juice, salt and pepper, then add the chopped bärlauch. Refrigerate for one hour. If the mayonnaise becomes too thick, thin it slightly with water to reach a consistency you like.


bärlauch rocket pesto

I love making pesto…especially when using the traditional mortar and pestle method. The combination of bärlauch and rocket produces a vivid green pesto – with an intense flavor. A pesto I favor over the Ligurian-style basil pesto, which can oxidize and turn a bit black. This recipe makes enough for about six servings.

1 bunch fresh arugula (about 100 gr.)
1 bunch fresh bärlauch leaves (about 15 leaves), washed very well
1,25 dl. olive oil
3 Tbl. pine nuts, lightly toasted
½ clove garlic, minced
60 gr. parmesan cheese
60 gr. pecorino sardo
sea salt and ground black pepper

For the blender method: Put rocket, bärlauch, olive oil, pine nuts and garlic in processor. Process until uniform and creamy. Transfer mixture to a stainless steal bowl and fold in the grated cheese. Season with salt and pepper after the cheese is added.

For the mortar method: Lightly mash the garlic with a heavy knife handle, just enough to split and loosen the skin, which is discarded. Chop the rocket and bärlauch roughly. Add the chopped leaves to the mortar with the garlic and some of the pine nuts. Using the pestle with a rotary movement, grind the ingredients against the side of the mortar, adding more nuts as the mixture gets ground together. Begin adding the cheeses when the mixture is paste-like, and grind them evenly into the mixture using the pestle. Add the olive oil in a very thin stream, beating it into the mixture slowly. When all the oil has been incorporated, check the seasoning and adjust with salt and pepper.


bärlauch-rocket tortelloni

Making fillings with bärlauch and ricotta cheese produce a very flavorful ravioli or tortelloni. This version uses rocket in the mix, which will tame the bärlauch, but also add a bit of sharpness. The sauce for these tortelloni should be acidic and fatty – we like using roasted tomatoes and a good fruity olive oil. This recipe will make enough for 8-12 servings.

240 gr. white unbleached flour (12,5% protein)
160 gr. semolina flour
4 eggs, mixed
2 Tbl. olive oil
pinch of salt
1 large bunch fresh rocket
equal quantity fresh bärlauch
1 egg
salt, pepper, freshly grated nutmeg
500 gr. fresh ricotta, drained of excess liquid
50 gr. freshly grated parmesan cheese
50 gr. freshly grated pecorino romano cheese
4-6 Tbl. breadcrumbs (ground matzo meal works best)

Combine the flours in a large bowl. Add the mixed eggs, olive oil and a pinch of salt. Mix the dough until the it is smooth, elastic, and springs back when lightly pushed with a finger. It should be kneaded for about seven minutes. Cover in plastic wrap and rest the dough for a minimum of 30 minutes.

Clean rocket and bärlauch well, removing all of the thicker stems. Chop the greens roughly and place them in a large bowl (don’t chop them too fine). Add the egg, seasonings, ricotta, parmesan and grated pecorino. Fold the mixture together and add the breadcrumbs (start with the lower amount and add more if the mixture seems too wet). With a spatula fold the mixture together. Season well and refrigerate until ready to use.

Roll the dough out to your desired thickness (if using a pasta machine, roll to the number 6 setting). Cut out 6-cm rounds, and place a walnut-sized piece of filling in the center of one round. Lightly coat the round with water or egg white, then fold over to form a half moon shape. Make sure to seal the ends well. Bring the two ends together (the flat long side should be facing down, and you should bring the two ends down, then form together) to form the tortelloni shape and stick together. Cook for about three minutes in boiling salted water or freeze immediately.


bärlauch-parmesan custard

These little appetizers are delicious when topped with one small pork sausage. This recipe will make about 8 small portions (roughly 1/4-dl each).

60 gr. parmesan cheese, grated
2 eggs
1 dl. milk and cream mixture (use about 2/3-milk and 1/3-cream)
grated nutmeg and white pepper
4-5 leaves fresh bärlauch, chopped

Heat the milk and cream mixture until just about boiling then remove from the heat. Mix the eggs well, then slowly add about half of the hot milk mixture to the eggs, then add this mixture back into the remaining hot milk. Stir well and add the parmesan cheese. Season with nutmeg and white pepper, then fold in the chopped bärlauch. Fill the small ramekins about 3/4-full and place in a baking pan on a paper towel. Add boiling water to the pan until the water reaches about one half of the way up the ramekins. Bake immediately in a 180° C oven for about 15 minutes.


bärlauch popovers

Popovers are very popular on the east coast of the USA…probably an adaptation to the more famous Yorkshire puddings of England. Mixing some bärlauch into the batter just before baking produces a lightly scented popover…which we like to serve with soup. This recipe makes about 24 mini-popovers

3 large eggs
2,5 dl. milk
3 Tbl. butter, melted
130 gr. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. salt
ground pepper
1/2 bunch bärlauch (about 10 leaves), finely sliced
butter for the muffin tins

Generously butter the mini-muffin tins with butter. Beat the eggs lightly, then add the milk and melted butter and stir to combine. Gradually stir in the flour, salt and ground pepper. Stir just until the mixture is smooth – be careful to not over mix. If you have some lumps in the batter, then be sure to strain into a clean bowl. Stir in the finely sliced bärlauch. Pour the mixture into a large measuring cup and pour into the muffin cups. Fill each cup almost to the top. Bake for 35 minutes, without opening the oven door. Remove the popovers and quickly cut several slits into the top of each popover, then return to the oven for about 5 minutes. Immediately remove the popovers from the muffin tin and enjoy hot.


bärlauch and asparagus frittata

This frittata again mixes the classic spring flavors of bärlauch with asparagus to produce this light frittata – perfect for a light meal during the afternoon or evening. This recipe will make one 9-cm frittata or two smaller ones.

300 gr. green asparagus, sliced into 3-cm pieces
1 tsp. sea salt
1 Tbl. olive oil
2 shallots, minced
4-5 Tbl. fresh bärlauch, chopped
4 eggs
5 Tbl. cream
30 gr. gruyere cheese
50 gr. parmesan cheese

Prepare the asparagus by blanching them in boiling salted water for about 3 minutes, then immediately refreshing in cold water. Drain well. Pre-heat the broiler to 210° C. Heat two small pans, or one large pan in the oven with plenty of oil. Slowly cook the minced shallots in olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the asparagus and heat through, making sure everything is well-mixed. Combine the eggs, cream and cheese together then add the asparagus and shallots. Remove the hot pans (remember…they have hot handles), wipe out the excess oil, then add the frittata mixture to the hot pan. Place in the oven on the top shelf and broil for 12-14 minutes, until the mixture is set and the top is golden.


bärlauch dumplings

Dumplings are very similar to gnocchi or spätzli. In this case, I have used a basic choux pastry recipe, added the chopped bärlauch and poached rather than baked them. They produce wonderfully light gnocchi-like dumplings, which can be added to a soup or tossed with a sauce. This recipe makes about 30-50 small dumplings.

1 dl water
60 gr. butter
60 gr. flour
2 eggs
1 Tbl. Dijon mustard
½ tsp. salt
2 Tbl. chopped bärlauch
1 Tbl. chopped chervil

Place a pan with parchment paper in the refrigerator to chill. Combine the butter and water in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. When the liquid is simmering and all of the butter has melted, pour in the flour all at once and stir vigorously over low heat, until the batter holds together and pulls away from the sides of the pan. Stir in the eggs, one at a time, adding one only after the previous one is completely incorporated. Work in the mustard, salt, and herbs. Fit a pastry bag with a 1 cm tip. Add the dough to the bag, and gently squeeze out portions into a pot of simmering water. The small dumplings are done when they float to the top. Remove from the water and toss with your favorite sauce, or reserve to include in a soup.


bärlauch spätzli

The flour in making spätzli is quite important. I like to use the common Knöpflimehl found in most Coop locations throughout Switzerland. If you don’t have access to this flour, then substitute a fine semolina flour. This recipe makes enough for about 4-6 servings.

10-15 bärlauch leaves, very well washed and roughly chopped 2 tsp. sea salt
2 Tbl. yogurt
1,25 dl. ice water
2 eggs
225 gr. Knöpflimehl (very fine semolina)
50 gr. rye flour
nutmeg, freshly ground

Place the chopped bärlauch leaves and sea salt in a food processor or blender and chop well. Add the yogurt, ice water and eggs. Process until the mixture is well combined. Add the flours and mix until well incorporated. Place the batter in a clean bowl, cover with plastic, and rest for at least two hours. Cut into boiling salted water until spätzli floats, about 3-5 minutes (smooth out on a wet cutting board, and cut in thin strips with a wet long spatula into the water). Cool in ice water, or place in a bowl and coat with soft butter, or oil. To serve, sauté over medium-high heat in a non-stick pan with oil and butter.


bärlauch gnocchi

These beautifully-colored gnocchi get their bright green color from chlorophyll, which has been extracted from the spinach. You can leave this step out if you want a gnocchi that is lighter in color. Use other herbs or chopped greens as alternatives. If you are preparing these in advance, go ahead and cook the gnocchi and cool them on a large tray coated with olive oil. You can keep the gnocchi refrigerated for 2 days, but make sure they are well-coated in olive oil. To re-heat, bring the gnocchi to room temperature and drop into boiling salted water for 1-2 minutes (until they float). Serve immediately. This gnocchi version is excellent served in a broth (tomato broth for bärlauch gnocchi), or simply tossed with browned butter and sea salt. This recipe makes about 6 servings.

75 gr. fresh winter spinach leaves
200 gr. all-purpose flour
50 gr. buckwheat flour
3 gr. baking powder
150 gr. fresh ricotta
3 egg yolks
50 gr. grated parmesan cheese
50 gr. milk
2 Tbl. chopped parsley
4 Tbl. chopped bärlauch
1 tsp sea salt
ground black pepper and grated nutmeg to taste

Begin by extracting the chlorophyll: Chop the washed spinach leaves roughly. Place all of the leaves in a food processor and add just enough water to create a wet paste. Process well. Strain the puree through a towel into a clean pot. Reserve the dry ingredients for another use. Add up to one dl. of water, then gently heat the mixture until just below the boiling point. By this time, the chlorophyll should have separated and risen to the top. With a very fine sieve, scoop out as much of the separated chlorophyll as possible, letting it drain slightly. Reserve in a small clean bowl. Mix together the flours and baking powder in a large bowl. In a separate, mix the egg yolks and milk, then stir in the ricotta. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture with the parmesan cheese, chopped herbs, and seasoning. With your hands, mix everything together well, but do not begin to knead the dough. Bring a large pot of water to a simmer and add plenty of salt. Roll out ropes of the gnocchi mixture about 1-cm thick. With a knife cut the rope into pieces no wider than 1-cm. Simmer for 3-5 minutes, strain well, and enjoy immediately.