If you need a pork sausage substitute, you’re in luck. There are plenty of alternatives available, and you might even find that you prefer them. Let’s explore the possibilities.
Pork Sausage Substitute
Depending on the recipe, you might be able to substitute seasoned ground pork for sausage. If you can’t use pork for ethical, religious, or dietary reasons, there are sausages made from other products. Turkey, chicken, beef, and lamb sausages are all viable alternatives. There are even “sausages” made from plant-based products.
Pork Sausage: A Primer
Most of the sausage you’ll find in the supermarket is made from pork, unless it carries a different label. In fact, pork is basically considered the “default” meat for sausage—if the label doesn’t specify which meat is used, it’s safe to assume that it’s pork.
Pork sausage is ground pork meat that’s mixed with spices to give it an intense flavor. The common meat-to-fat ratio is 80 to 20, although some people prefer to use a 75-to-25 blend. This yields a juicier—albeit unhealthier—product.
While pork is a good source of protein and other essential vitamins and minerals, sausage is best consumed sparingly. The fat content, along with high levels of sodium, combine to make this a no-go for some diners.
Why Look For a Pork Sausage Substitute?
As we pointed out, sausage isn’t the healthiest option on the table. Some people might be trying to cut down on saturated fats, while others are concerned about sodium intake. In these cases, swapping out pork sausage for a leaner alternative is a good option.
There are also cultural factors to consider. Many folks don’t eat pork for religious reasons. Others simply prefer not to consume meat at all.
For obvious reasons, it’s important to determine why you’re looking for a pork sausage substitute before you make the swap. A strict vegetarian, for example, wouldn’t be happy if you served them turkey sausage instead. Keep this in mind when making your plans.
A Word About Casings
If you’re thinking about swapping out pork sausage for an alternative, pay attention to whether the product includes casings or not.
Casings are the thin membranes that hold sausages together. They’re essential if you’re preparing sausages on the grill, but less necessary if you’re browning the meat for a sauce or stew.
With fresh sausages, you can remove the meat from the casings if necessary. Fully cooked sausages are another story. It’s possible to dice the meat into small pieces, but it won’t have the same texture.
Depending on how you plan to prepare the sausage, this might not be an issue. As long as you understand the parameters of your chosen recipe, you should be able to find a product that works for you.
Possible Alternatives To Pork Sausage
Depending on the recipe, you can swap out pork sausage for a number of different ingredients. In this section, we’ll explain which substitutes would work best in certain situations.
Despite what some novices believe, ground pork and sausage are not the same thing. While both products contain ground pork, there are important distinctions between the two.
Ground pork is just what it sounds like—pork that’s been ground into mince. In order to be classified as sausage, the mixture needs to have other seasonings added, not to mention a decent amount of fat.
That doesn’t mean you can’t use ground pork as a pork sausage substitute. On the contrary, if you don’t have any sausage on hand, but you do have a pound or two of ground pork, this could be your best bet.
Let’s say you’re making a soup or a casserole, and the recipe calls for sausage without the casings. You can easily substitute ground pork in this case, but you might have to adjust the seasonings to avoid making the dish too bland.
Similarly, if you want to fry up some sausage patties for breakfast, try mixing ground pork with salt, minced garlic, and fresh sage. In fact, you can experiment with whatever fresh herbs and spices you have on hand.
Remember that you need to cook ground pork to at least 160 degrees before it’s safe to consume. If you want to test the seasoning when making homemade “sausage” this way, fry a small test patty first, then make any adjustments you think are necessary.
Also, bear in mind that you might have to add a bit more fat to the mixture. This is true especially if the ground pork was made from a lean cut like the loin or tenderloin.
While pork is a dark meat and turkey is a white meat, turkey sausage makes a fine alternative to pork sausage. Turkey meat is hearty and rich, especially when taken from the legs and thighs, and studies suggest that its flavor is closer to pork than chicken.
Try grilling up a few turkey sausages at your next cookout, and set them out alongside buns and various mustards. Grilled peppers and onions make excellent toppings as well. You might be surprised at how quickly they disappear.
The difference between turkey sausage and products made from ground pork is even less noticeable if there are other ingredients involved. That means you can substitute turkey sausage in most recipes without noticing a thing.
When making turkey sausage at home, remember that the product will be too dry if there’s not enough fat included in the recipe. That’s a concern with any type of sausage, but it’s even more critical when you’re using poultry as the base.
Most shoppers consider chicken sausage and turkey sausage to be interchangeable, but there’s actually a slight difference. Both are made from poultry, but chicken sausage tends to be even leaner and milder in flavor.
Meat processors try to spruce up the neutral flavor of chicken by adding bold ingredients to the mix. It’s not unusual to find chicken sausage that’s flavored with sun-dried tomatoes, black olives, or jalapeno peppers.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but you’ll need to make sure that these additions won’t interfere with the flavors of your dish. Fortunately, if you’re just grilling the sausages and serving them as is, this shouldn’t pose much of an issue.
Again, make sure to boost the fat content when making chicken sausage at home. In fact, if you want to make your own poultry sausage on a regular basis, it’s a good idea to keep a supply of homemade schmaltz on hand at all times.
Beef or Lamb Sausage
Beef and lamb are both classified as red meats, just like pork. However, these meats are even richer, with distinctive flavors. That makes it harder to use these sausages as substitutes for pork products.
Consider adding beef or lamb sausages to the mix when you’re cooking for diners who can’t consume pork for religious or ethical reasons. If you’re looking to make a substitution in a specific recipe, it’s better to use a poultry-based sausage instead.
Since we think of sausage as a product made from ground meat, veggie “sausage” is a stretch. That said, we recognize that it’s the only alternative for some people. Plant-based products are also healthier, as long as they don’t include a ton of additives.
Look for vegetarian sausages made from beans, soy, or eggplant. The prepackaged brands can get creative with their flavors, so make sure they work with the preparation technique you have in mind. As with all sausage types, it’s better to make your own.
Pre-Cooked vs. Raw Sausage
No matter what type of sausage you buy, if it’s made from ground meat, check to see whether the product is fully cooked or not.
Pre-cooked sausages only need to be heated to an internal temp of 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Raw products, meanwhile, will need to attain a serving temperature of at least 165 degrees before they’re safe to consume.
Ground meat differs from whole muscle cuts in this respect. The bacteria that causes food-borne illness resides on the surface of the flesh, so as long as you sear the exterior of cuts like steak and pork chops, you can consume the meat at medium rare.
With ground meat, you can’t tell which meat was on the surface before it was all ground and mixed in together. That’s why you need to cook the meat thoroughly in order to be safe.
Remember, too, that poultry should cook to at least 165 degrees in any case, even when you’re dealing with whole muscle cuts like breasts and thighs. Take extra care when preparing fresh sausages made from chicken or turkey.
The Bottom Line
Although there’s nothing quite like the flavor and juiciness of a good pork sausage, you do have alternatives when this isn’t an option. Once you’ve experimented with enough different types, it will be easy to make the selection that works best for you.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!