Sausage Casing Alternatives: Everything You Need to Know

When it comes to making sausages, natural casings are pretty popular to use because they’re edible and perfect for making fresh sausage. But did you know natural casings are made out of animal intestines (like hog intestines)?

Maybe this thought doesn’t sit right with you, or maybe you have some sort of allergy. Are there some natural sausage casing alternatives that you can try?

Luckily there are, with primary examples being collagen casing, plastic casing, and even vegetarian casing. Here, I’ll dive into each type, and help you decide if any of these alternatives are right for you.

different types of sausages hanging at market

Natural and Synthetic Sausage Casings

These are the two most common sausage casing types.

The natural casing is made of animal intestines (large and small), stomach, and sometimes cecum, bladder, and esophagus. They’re edible and don’t contain artificial additives. In terms of shape, they’re usually a bit curved as they adapt to the sausage. Natural casings aren’t very easy to handle (like when closing to form links) since they’re not resistant to breakage. However, they’re pretty soft and easy to chew.

On the other hand, synthetic sausage casings can be made of materials such as cellulose and viscose. Of course, these are not supposed to be eaten. Butchers can handle them quite easily since they’re stronger than natural casings. You’ve probably seen them on frankfurter sausages.

cellulose sausage casing

Sausage Casing Alternatives

What sausage casing alternatives can you use if natural and synthetic ones aren’t an option?

Collagen Sausage Casing

It’s another common sausage casing type. It comes from animals, but it’s processed, and therefore considered artificial. In most cases, they’re edible, unless they’re too thick. Collagen casings are typically made of pig or cow tendons, bones, and hides.

Butchers often use them because they don’t break easily, and they’re less expensive than other types of casings. If sausages look uniform when it comes to shape and size, chances are the casing is made of collagen. You can use this type of casing for both fresh and smoked sausages.

collagen sausage casings

Plastic Sausage Casing

Plastic is easily recognized, and you shouldn’t eat it. People typically remove it after cooking the sausage, which needs to be done because this kind of casing is impermeable. That means it can’t be used for smoked sausages.

You may notice that some of the sausages will remain stuck to the casing after you peel it off. This can happen if the casing’s inner side is covered with a polymer that attracts meat protein. Plastic casings come in different variants, like polyethylene or nylon casings, typically used for bologna or luncheon meat. Some types of plastics casings can shrink during cooking, which means the meat will retain its moisture.

plastic sausage casing

Vegetarian Sausage Casing

There are veggie burgers, so why shouldn’t a vegetarian sausage casing be possible? As one of the newest sausage casing alternatives, it’s become quite widespread as there are also more vegetarians in the world now.

They have quite a long life if you store them properly in a plastic container and a dry place.

The vegetarian sausage casing is based on plants. Still, you might need special equipment to make it, but they don’t need soaking, unlike other types of casings. Note that cellulose sausage casings are also appropriate for a vegan diet.

No Casing

As a final recommendation, I should note that you actually don’t necessarily need a casing at all for making sausages. Yes, skinless sausages are a thing, and can be done to make fresh sausages without a casing. Click here to learn more.

In Summary

If you want to make a perfect, delicious sausage, it’s not enough to just buy quality meat. The casing can affect the sausage’s taste and tenderness, so it’s worth giving it a thought.

If you don’t see the natural or synthetic casings as the best fit for your sausages, you may want to consider the sausage casing alternatives I’ve presented in this article. Collagen, plastic, or vegetarian casing may work better for you. It’s time to pick your favorite!