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What Are Vienna Sausages?

Vienna sausages are small, slender parboiled sausages traditionally made from pork and beef in a casing of sheep's intestine, then given a low-temperature smoking. They're a staple in European and North American cuisine, often enjoyed as a snack or appetizer. Curious about their origins and how to best savor these bite-sized delights? Dive deeper to explore the world of Vienna sausages.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Vienna sausages are a type of sausage traditionally made in the Austrian city of Vienna. They are closely related to Frankfurters, sausages produced in Frankfurt, Germany, and food historians believe that the original Vienna sausage was probably produced by a butcher who had traveled to Frankfurt. Modern Vienna sausages are typically found in canned form in many parts of the world, and they vie with Frankfurters for the claim of being the original hot dog. Some producers also make miniature sausages which are used on appetizer platters; these mini sausages are sometimes of dubious quality.

Humans have produced sausages for thousands of years. Like all sausages, Vienna sausages are made by grinding up meats and spicing them before stuffing the meat paste into a case. Sausages have traditionally been cured so that they can travel and be stored, although fresh sausages are also available directly from butchers. Various nations have developed their own unique sausage recipes and traditions, ranging from the hot wind-cured sausages of Szechuan Province in China to French blood sausage.

Germany has a long sausage-producing tradition.
Germany has a long sausage-producing tradition.

Germany has a long sausage-producing tradition, often with pork, since wild pigs were once abundant in Germany. In the early 1800s, Viennese producers started making Weinerwurst, which translates as “Vienna sausage.” It would appear that these Wieners, as they are affectionately called, were probably inspired by German sausages. They are characterized by a mild flavor and a slender, long shape which makes them ideally suited to use as a street food.

Vienna, Austria, is the home of the sausages named after the city.
Vienna, Austria, is the home of the sausages named after the city.

Sausages have been served on various breads and buns in Germany for a long time, and German immigrants brought the tradition with them to America. In the 1800s, German butchers in the United States started making an assortment of sausages ranging from kosher all-beef Wieners to pork Frankfurters, and these sausages were often offered on buns as street or amusement park food, along with an assortment of condiments. The hot dog, one of America's favorite foods, was born.

True Vienna sausages do not resemble the canned variety popular in the United States.
True Vienna sausages do not resemble the canned variety popular in the United States.

Some consumers associate Vienna sausages with bland, rubbery canned sausages with an unremarkable flavor. However, less processed sausages with more zest and spiciness can be found in some parts of the world. These sausages are generally cured, and some may be smoked as well, depending on the butcher who produces them. These comparatively more fresh Vienna sausages pair well with chewy sourdough buns and spicy condiments.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Learn more...
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Learn more...

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Discussion Comments

AnswerMan

@mrwormy- I agree with you on the canned Vienna sausage brands in general. I'd be willing to try the better versions, but I can never find them around here. I think some vendors sell authentic Vienna sausages at Oktoberfest, though. I like a lot of other German sausages, like liverwurst, so maybe it won't be as wretched as the stuff in cans.

The other day I found cans of "imitation Vienna sausage" on a store shelf. I thought about that for a minute. I'm not even sure what goes into regular Vienna sausage, and there's already an imitation version of it?

mrwormy

I have to admit I've never tried the higher-end Vienna sausages described in this article, but I absolutely detest the canned variety I find in grocery stores. I remember going on a backyard camping trip with a friend when I was a kid, and he brought along several cans of Libby's Vienna sausages. I'd never had them before, so I thought they were going to be like miniature hotdogs. Boy, was I ever wrong. They had no chew to them at all, and the flavor was beyond terrible. I've never opened another can of those things in over 50 years.

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    • Germany has a long sausage-producing tradition.
      By: Gerhard Egger
      Germany has a long sausage-producing tradition.
    • Vienna, Austria, is the home of the sausages named after the city.
      By: Bokicbo
      Vienna, Austria, is the home of the sausages named after the city.
    • True Vienna sausages do not resemble the canned variety popular in the United States.
      By: aboikis
      True Vienna sausages do not resemble the canned variety popular in the United States.