Ever wonder about the difference between salami and bologna? For that matter, what exactly is in these popular lunchbox staples? In our salami vs bologna matchup, you’ll learn the answers to these queries, as well as several more.
Salami vs Bologna
Salami is a blanket term for a broad variety of cured Italian sausages, usually made from pork. Bologna is another Italian sausage, but it has a smoother texture and a milder flavor. True Italian bologna is called “mortadella,” and it bears only a scant resemblance to its American counterpart.
What is Salami?
The word salami comes from the Latin “salumen,” which refers to a combination of cured meat products. It’s a broad term, to be sure, but that’s an apt description nonetheless.
In general, you can expect salami to be made of finely minced pork, along with high-quality pork fat. When it’s done properly, the fat should blend in with the meat and stick to it, so that you don’t notice fatty bits in each individual bite.
Other meats might be included in the mix, depending on the type of salami you’re dealing with. The seasonings may vary as well, but garlic, fennel, mace, black pepper, and wine are all common additions.
Speaking of the types of salami available, there are so many that it’s difficult to keep track of them all. Genoa salami, seasoned with wine and herbs, is popular in the United States. Hard salami, a smoked salami that contains beef as well as pork, is also common.
In Italy, things can get complicated if you’re used to American terms. The cured meat that we know as pepperoni is called salame piccante over there. ‘Njuda, a spreadable salami, hails from Calabria and also has a spicy flavor profile.
What is Bologna?
This is a more complicated question. The product that’s known as “baloney” in the US is essentially a mystery meat. It can be processed from pork, beef, chicken, or turkey—the label should specify which meats the product contains, but it’s often more than just one.
Baloney has a smooth texture, similar to that of a hot dog. It’s easy to find, generally affordable, and appealing to young children. All of these factors combine to make it a popular lunch meat in the US.
Authentic bologna, meanwhile, comes from the Italian region of the same name. To confuse the issue, this true version of the popular sausage is called mortadella, and it differs a great deal from the baloney you’ll find in US supermarkets.
Mortadella is a cured pork sausage that resembles baloney in a superficial way, as both are light pink in color. However, baloney can have a rubbery mouthfeel, whereas mortadella is perfectly smooth. It also has superior pork flavor owing to the cubes of lard that are included in the product.
Sometimes, butchers will add other bold ingredients such as garlic and pistachio when making mortadella. Green olives are another common addition. This gives the resulting sausage a distinctive appearance—you probably won’t confuse it with a different product.
Baloney vs. Bologna
Why do we pronounce the word “baloney” when it’s spelled “bologna”? Though there’s a distinct difference between American supermarket baloney and true mortadella, this wasn’t always the case. So when did the change come about?
The likely explanation is that when the product was brought to America by Italian immigrants, people with different accents had trouble pronouncing the word. Enough people called it “blarney” or “baloney” to result in the common pronunciation we know today.
Salami vs Bologna: The Ultimate Showdown
When you inspect a slice of salami that’s been cut crosswise, you’ll see that it has a mottled look to it. What you’re seeing is the finely ground meat interspersed with specks of fat, and perhaps some of the peppercorns or other spices included in the recipe.
The color of salami can vary, depending on what type it is. Salami piccante will be dark red because it includes hot red peppers, but Genoa salami is a paler pink shade.
As we mentioned, bologna has a smoother texture. Mortadella may have large white flecks or pieces of pistachio, garlic, or olive, but the prepackaged stuff you’ll find in the supermarket is usually a uniform light pink color.
Salami contains a number of seasonings that give it a pronounced flavor, no matter what type it is. Since some varieties, such as hard salami, are smoked as well as cured, they’ll have an even more nuanced flavor profile.
By contrast, bologna’s flavor is fairly mild. That’s not necessarily a bad thing—it can serve as a great template for your favorite mustard or sharp cheese. But if you’re consuming it without any accompaniment, you might find it a bit on the bland side.
Since both of these meats are highly processed, neither one can be considered health food. However, salami contains higher traces of many essential vitamins and minerals, including calcium, magnesium, potassium and iron.
Bologna does have one nutritional benefit in its corner: The meat is lower in sodium. Since this type of product is relatively salty to begin with, though, this is a small victory. It’s best to enjoy both of these meats in moderation.
If you’re hoping to save money, bologna is the clear choice. The per-pound price for prepackaged bologna runs from $1.50 to $3, depending on the brand.
Meanwhile, premium salami products can fetch up to $20 per pound. There are prepackaged brands available, but even they aren’t cheap—you’re bound to pay at least $5 to $6 per pound, even for the more generic stuff.
This category is a toss-up. It’s generally easy to find both salami and bologna at supermarkets—even smaller convenience stores. That said, if you’re looking for real mortadella, you might have a more difficult time, especially if you live in a rural area.
The Bottom Line
The good news here is that you’re unlikely to confuse salami with bologna, even at first glance. Though they’re both highly popular deli meats, they have enough differences—both aesthetic and flavor-wise—to make them easily distinguishable from one another.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!
Hi there! I’m Darren Wayland, your BBQHost. My love of great barbecue inspired me to curate this site as a resource for all my like-minded fellow pitmasters out there. When I’m not researching and learning all I can about the latest tips and techniques, you can find me at the grill—that is, if you can spot me at all through the clouds of sweet-smelling smoke. And since you asked, yes, that probably is barbecue sauce on my face. Welcome to the party!