This article is not up to date anymore. I maintain a better, longer list of ingredients on All About Berlin: Where to find foreign cooking ingredients in Germany.
After moving to Germany, finding all the right ingredients to make my favourite meals and desserts has been an exercise in frustration. I expected basic cooking and baking ingredients to be the same across the world, but I was sorely mistaken. If you are an American or a Canadian trying to share your favourite recipes with your European friends, this post is for you.
This post is regularly updated with new findings, and naturally accepts suggestions.
Baking powder is fairly easy to find in German grocery stores. It is called "backpulver" and it's usually sold in small 15 gram (1 tbsp) packets.
Baking soda translates to Backsoda, but it is usually sold as natron or natrium bicarbonate. You can find it in some supermarkets by looking for green Kaiser Natron boxes. You can also find many more options on Amazon.de, including the classic Arm & Hammer or 5kg buckets for science projects.
Vanilla extract translates to Vanilleextrakt, but you will have more luck looking for artificial vanilla aroma. It's called Butter-Vanille, and it's sold in packs of small glass vials. You can easily find these in regular supermarkets. I frequently use this one in my recipes.
Yeast is called Backhefe, and it can be found in most grocery stores. It is usually sold in 7g packets.
Powdered sugar is called Puderzucker or Staubzucker. It can be found in most supermarkets, but you will have to look carefully, as it's usually sold in small 250g boxes rather than paper bags.
Brown sugar and brauner Zucker are two completely different things, and brown sugar simply doesn't exist in Germany. You can make it yourself by mixing Zuckerrübensirup with sugar in equal proportions, or you can buy the somewhat similar Vollrohrzucker. I have ruined a few recipes by picking the wrong kind ofVollrohrzucker, and after some trial and error, I recommend REWE Bio Vollrohrzucker. If that fails, Amazon also carries it.
North American mozzarella is not something you will find in German supermarkets, and many Europeans take offense to its very existence.
Italian mozzarella is readily available in small water-filled packets, but it bears little ressemblance to the mozzarella blocks found in the US and Canada.
The German term for good old 'murican mozza is "Schnittfester Mozzarella". It is usually sold pre-shredded as "Pizza Käse" or "Gratinkäse" in most supermarkets. The taste is similar to what you would find back home, and it works perfectly on pizza or nachos.
Some Facebook users also recommended scamorza as an alternative.
Poutine cheese and that squeaky cheese you find in dépanneurs simply don't exist in Europe. End of the line. However, white oscypki are very close to the real thing. Unfortunately, it is found exclusively in the Tatra mountains. A Facebook user also recommended beyaz peynir as an alternative. Even if it does not replicate the taste of le fromage qui fait squick squick, it has a similar squeaky texture.
American cheese, the "radioactive yellow" burger topper that's also known as Kraft Singles, can be found in most grocery stores.
When it comes to cheese, Europe offers a much greater variety at rather low prices, so I urge you to throw a new kind of cheese in your shopping basket every once in a while.
Despite living in an officially metric country, Canadians still use imperial units in the kitchen. Few Germans know about ounces and pounds so European recipes are naturally measured in grams and millilitres.
Most recipe websites let you switch between imperial and metric units, but do not forget that cups also work differently. A metric cup is 250 millilitres, while a US cup is 236.
Europeans usually measure food by weight, rather than by volume, so a cooking scale is a must-have in any German kitchen.