Smoked sausage is an incredibly versatile ingredient. It’s produced in various forms and owes its popularity to its unique flavor, an extended shelf life, and overabundance of recipes to use them with.
Creole and Cajun cuisines use smoked sausages in the US, particularly the spicier andouille, but other smoked sausages can be an excellent alternative. The most basic recipes include the traditional gumbo and jambalaya, but these dishes are only the start.
You can essentially use sausages like most fresh meats and make as many dishes as you like. The best part about smoked sausage is that you can eat it as is, without any previous preparations.
Here are my top tips on what to do with smoked sausage.
The Versatility and Types of Smoked Sausage
Smoked sausage comes from many areas, and each one has a distinct aroma. The unique blend of meats, spices, and curing methods distinguishes one kind of smoked sausage from another.
You’ll find that if you made the same dish with different types of smoked sausage, the resulting tastes would be unrecognizable. Even the baseline taste depends on the type of meat used, be it pork, veal, beef, lamb, poultry, or even mixed meat sausage.
The most common smoked sausages in the US are the andouille sausage, a Cajun cuisine staple, and the traditional Polish smoked kielbasa. Andouille sausage is traditionally made from pork and use garlic, pepper, wine, and onions to bring the necessary flavor, and aroma Cajun and Creole cuisines are known for. Kielbasa is more versatile and can be made from various or even mixed meats but usually has a milder flavor.
These sausages have a distinct flavor palette, although the preparation methods won’t stray too far from the norm if you’re familiar with essential sausage recipes.
It’s possible to use any type of smoked sausage as a replacement for another one, but that will shift the flavor slightly as a result.
If you don’t know what to do with smoked sausage, the most straightforward answer is to cut them up and eat them with any side dish you like. The smoking process removes harmful bacteria in the meat and prevents further bacterial growth, making them safe for consumption without additional preparation.
Basic Smoked Sausage Dishes
Smoked sausage can be used as the primary protein for any breakfast dish. If you’re strapped for time, you can simply serve the sausages as is, adding some toast, cheese, or vegetables to complement the dish and make it fuller.
You can use the sausage as a substitute for hot dogs. Kielbasa is usually the same shape and width as a regular hotdog, allowing it to fit snugly inside a bun. Use any condiments you prefer. Smoked sausage is generally a healthier alternative to hot dogs since they contain fewer processed ingredients. It also has plenty of taste on its own and don’t require many additions to make the meal more flavorful.
Smoked sausages can also be used to add protein to dishes that lack them. The all-popular mac and cheese can be improved by adding bite-sized chunks of sausage into the mix. You can let the sausage cook for a bit in the oven alongside the mac and cheese, or you can stir it in when the meal is complete. It all depends on personal preference.
Thinly sliced smoked sausages can also make for delicious pizza toppings, and you can choose the smoked sausage you like to enhance its flavor. The sausage will crisp up in the oven and taste much better. Sausage pizzas don’t require many other toppings, and smoked sausage effectively can replace (or be used in conjunction with) pepperoni.
Since sausages are already prepared and seasoned, you don’t have to fix an elaborate meal to make the best of them. You can prepare peas, mashed potatoes, or mushrooms to get an excellent, healthy meal within minutes. If you have some time to prepare fries (or have a bag of frozen fries in the freezer), you can lightly char the sausage in an oiled pan for a few minutes and have an excellent combination of meat and potatoes to indulge in while watching a movie.
You can also use smoked sausage to reduce the cooking times for soups and stews. Most of the time involved in cooking soup comes from preparing fresh meat. Since the sausage is pre-cooked, there’s no need to worry about undercooked meat in the stew.
Smoked sausage is also filled with flavor and aroma, requiring very few additional spices to provide a filling meal. When cooking soups with smoked sausage, add it last to the pot and only cook until the rest of the ingredients are adequately prepared.
Cajun Dishes With Smoked Sausage
Perhaps the most popular way to prepare smoked sausage is in Cajun cuisine. The rustic andouille sausage is a perfect fit. Since this sausage is already packed with flavor, other ingredients add the necessary texture and nutrients that it lacks.
Some of the most well-known Cajun dishes with smoked sausage are gumbo and jambalaya. Both dishes are very versatile, and the recipes aren’t set in stone. This allows you to mix and match the flavors you like and combine them into relatively quick and straightforward meals to prepare.
Cajun recipes are often relatively simple, which makes smoked sausage an incredibly versatile ingredient. Chances are, if you have some vegetables and starchy ingredients at home, you can make an excellent meal even if you’re a novice cook.
The best aspect of Cajun cooking is that you can mix and match whatever is left in the pantry to make a filling, flavorful meal. Smoked sausage is an excellent addition to this cuisine since it comes prepared and pre-seasoned. It also has a long shelf life, so you can buy in bulk and cook meals when you need them.
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel when preparing a classic gumbo with smoked sausage. The “holy trinity” of vegetables (diced onion, bell pepper, and celery) works perfectly well in conjunction with the andouille sausage.
However, you can replace andouille with other smoked sausage types. If the sausage you chose isn’t spicy, you can always put more spices into the gumbo itself. However, don’t go overboard since you might overpower the sausage.
For example, you can use any mix of vegetables alongside celery, bell peppers, and onions. Carrots are a perfect fit, adding more color and a delicate sweetness to the dish.
The cooking process is relatively simple. Sauté the vegetables in an oiled skillet until they are tender, then add flour until you get a blended roux. Add broth and smoked sausage, stir, and leave to cook.
The gumbo needs to cook for a few hours until it is done, so be careful not to put it on too high of a heat and frequently check up on it.
With jambalaya, though, there are no limits. The only specific ingredients (in addition to sausage) are rice and any assortment of vegetables you might have nearby.
Traditionally, jambalaya requires both meat and shellfish, but you don’t have to be so strict and can use whatever proteins you want.
Smoked sausage is best fried at the beginning of the dish alongside other vegetables. This lets the aroma out and flavors the rest of the dish accordingly.
Cooking times of smoked sausage jambalaya are relatively short since the meat doesn’t have to cook throughout, making it a perfect meal when you’re pushed for time.
Simple Sausage and Potatoes
One of the less inventive but equally delicious Cajun-inspired meals is simple potatoes with sausage.
To prepare the base, you’ll need a can of potato soup and a can of chicken broth (to add flavor and substance to the meal). If you want to add more seasonings, look for garlic powder, salt, and pepper. After the sausage and potatoes are cleaned and cut up, all the ingredients simply go into one crockpot and cook for up to six hours, depending on the type of sausage used. However, since we’re using pre-smoked sausages, the meal could be done in significantly less time.
While andouille smoked sausage is a centerpiece of Cajun cuisine, other sausage types are prevalent worldwide. Dishes using sausages exist in many European and Asian cultures, and you can use traditional Polish sausages to bring the taste of Europe to your plate.
One of the more unique dishes to use smoked sausage with is German apple sauerkraut. The peculiar thing about this meal is the combination of sweet and sour.
To achieve that, you’ll need some sauerkraut (pickled cabbage), apples, and cut-up sausage. The sauerkraut needs to be drained of some of its fluid to remove the unnecessary salt, as it will unbalance the meal. The apples will add sweetness and acidity, based on the type of apple you use.
The meal also requires sautéing an onion on a skillet, then combining the cut-up pieces of apples, sausage, and sauerkraut until it’s fully cooked. Do note that it will take at least a couple of hours for the cabbage to soften completely, although the entire meal won’t be bad if you don’t cook it thoroughly.
If you want to go for a slice of the Atlantic islands, I recommend making a rougaille (or rougail). This dish is a fusion of French, African, and Indian cuisine, bringing together tomatoes, spices, aromatics, and sausages.
You’ll need to use tomatoes and tomato paste, as the raw tomatoes will add the necessary liquid to simmer the dish. For aromatics, onions, garlic, and ginger are staples, but you can add smoked paprika, turmeric, thyme, cumin, and even cayenne pepper if you want a dose of heat.
The process for making rougaille is relatively simple. Sauté the onion on an oiled skillet (use olive oil or butter for best flavor), then add the rest of the ingredients and simmer on low heat. Rougaille is best served with a side of rice to add the needed starch.
Can You Go Overboard?
Smoked sausage is prepared by curing meat and spices with curing salts (nitrogen salts). Additionally, some people are concerned about the smoking process’s residual effect on the food’s quality.
The mass manufacturing process for smoked sausage is tightly controlled. While some of the ingredients, notably PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), are known carcinogens, the permitted quantity of these ingredients is essentially too low to pose a health risk.
What you might be worried about when eating cooked sausages are the added salts, though. Since different curing processes call for a varied amount of salts, you can consult the package to check your salt intake and stay on the safer side.
Generally speaking, smoked sausage is an excellent ingredient and is just like any other cured food – good in moderation.
If you’re wondering what to do with smoked sausage you have in the fridge or pantry, chances are the rest of your fridge and available ingredients can guide you on what to make for the next meal.
Smoked sausage is great breakfast food, adding protein to fuel your day. It also makes an excellent replacement for other meats when you don’t have the time to cook fresh meat for hours. Since it’s usually cured, you generally don’t need to cook them or prepare them in any way (although a good sear is never a bad option to add more flavor and enhance the existing rich aroma).
Cajun cuisine is particularly fond of smoked sausage since the long shelf life allows you to use seasonal vegetables year-round. If you don’t have the traditional andouille sausage, don’t fret. Other smoked sausages will do the trick, and you only need to add a bit of cayenne to replicate the heat.